Thursday, September 28, 2006

Facing Your Self

There is this very common statement within most of what we call the spiritual community. God is the person standing before you! When I started on this path, way back in the dark ages, this was a very startling statement for me to hear. On the face of it seeing God always before you sounds like a good thing to do. But what if God has bad breath? Or what if God has a very annoying personality, or is just plain nasty?
Maybe I should go back a little bit and define spiritual community. Quite frankly it can be anybody, from any tradition. I believe there is only one requirement and that is the willingness to learn more, to never fall back on a doctrine that no longer works and to always wonder what the truth really is. I guess that is more than one, that is three. But it does not get much more complicated than that. If a person is comfortable with these three precepts then all sorts of spiritual practices will work for them. It does not seem to matter very much what the practices are. What does matter is intent.
In the matter of discovering God standing before you in whatever guise you happen to find Him/Her intent seems to be critical. One of the aspects of spiritual practices that I find most disturbing is sentimentality. Sentimentality in spiritual practice is one of the aspects of what Pir Vilayat used to call Spiritual Bypass. By Spiritual Bypass I believe he meant what happens when a person has a real spiritual experience but then assumes that, as a result of this spiritual experience, all of the ails and problems of their life just disappear. This is when sentimentality can arise. There is nothing that I dislike more then someone coming up to me and telling me how much they love me or how they see the depth of my soul or something like that when it is obvious to me that they do not really mean it or, if they think they mean it, that they do not really understand what they are saying. There is a ring of truth that is unmistakable when a person is, not only totally sincere, but also knows exactly whereof they speak. There is no sentimentality in their voice, just truth. So, if the practice that a person is assigned or that a person decides to work on is seeing God before them in all conditions of life, the very real danger here is assuming that they are doing it.
As I said above, the key is intent. It is very easy to see the face of God in a baby for instance. All one need do is to look into their eyes of total innocence and the existence of angels is obvious, the joy of God in His/Her creation is apparent. But, if it is a cranky old woman who spits vitriol with every breath? That might be a bit harder. We might tell ourselves that we are seeing the being of God before us but our sub conscious will not believe it for a nano-second. So, what to do?
You keep at it. You notice when you fail and try again. The point is not to actually tell yourself you are seeing the being of God in each person who comes before you, but to actually do it. If you are telling yourself you are doing it you are not doing it. When you are doing it you are not aware of doing it, you just are in a state of seeing the being of God before you. There is no effort, just reality. What that means of course is there is no need to tell others of what you are doing. When you are thinking you are doing it the tendency will be to applaud yourself. Now, there is nothing wrong with applauding yourself. I am not one of those who think that proper humility is required in all forms of self expression and that you must never extol your virtues even to yourself; quite the opposite. I believe a lot of damage has been done by telling people they must be humble when what is really needed is to notice when they do something well. But, that does not apply to spiritual practices. For spiritual practices to be really effective the ego, that part of you that wants to reinforce its opinion of itself, must be set aside.
Ordinarily I am not a fan of the phrase, 'must be' but sometimes it is appropriate. Imagine for instance that you truly do see the being of God in the face of someone before you, should you congratulate yourself? Probably not. But it is our tendency to do so. We want to acknowledge that at last we pulled it off, at last we did what we have been demanding of our self. Normal enough. But not good enough.
I realize that the concept I am describing is indescribable but perhaps I have given a few clues. I will be curious to read comments.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Last night I took my 9 year old grand son to a Mets game. That's major league base ball to my international friends. I do not ordinarily enjoy major league sports. The hype is over whelming, the fans are absurd and the whole atmosphere seems artificial and simplistic. It is as if the world of whatever sport it happens to be has the only reality. And, in the US, the patriotic nonsense before the game starts makes me ill. Do other countries do this? Never the less I took my grandson for the experience. He, of course, loved it.
There is something quite magical about a large crowd of people all focused, well mostly focused, on a single thing. I love this energy when I am in a theatre watching a play with a few hundred people or at a musical concert of some type. The shared experience can occasionally become something quite magical, depending on the skill of the performers and the attentiveness of the audience. I have many times been in audiences where I felt this deep experience but never at a sporting event.
It isn't that I do not appreciate the skill of the competitors or the sometimes quite exciting feats of athleticism that one might see, no it is not that; I think it is the quite silly behavior of just about everyone involved except for the athletes, and sometimes them as well.
My son in law is a body builder. More then that, he competes and wins. I have been to a few of these events and the hype for them is no less than any other professional athletic event. In fact they are pretty strange. In the case of body building most of the audience is involved in the sport in some fashion, either as competitors, relatives of competitors or people seriously involved in body building who want to see the best. Since I am now an official relative I had to give some thought to my attitude. If it were not for Daron I would pay no attention at all. Since I know him fairly well for the good man and husband and father that he is I had to think about it a lot. Finally I realized that, for Daron, competition is extremely important but, it cannot be just anyone, it can only be against the best available – otherwise it doesn't count. And we get to watch.
All this leads me to conclude that there is something in the human psyche that needs this energy. We are competitive creatures and the best among us absolutely need to test themselves against others at their level. For the rest of us it can mean something quite different. So perhaps, as in my previous blog about the aggressive SUV driver, it is time, for some of us, to cease looking without for something to compete with and instead to look within for the true conflict. Most of us are not world class athletes. Some of us do enjoy competition at some amateur level but a lot of us just compete randomly in a most unpleasant manner. So ask yourself, what is your effect on those around you when you feel the need to compete?

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

The Photo is of my son in law, Daron Lytle, the day he won the 2006 Armed Forces Europe Body Building Championship.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More Fun

This past weekend I had more fun.  Majida and I went to the Abode to do the Universal Worship service.   After the service and after brunch in the dining hall I went to Omega Publications, the Abode book store to sign copies of my book.  More fun.

I had another fun thing happen this morning.  I was in a line of traffic, waiting for a light to change.  When it did change I was a bit slow off the mark and the fellow behind me started honking.  Then he pulled up on my right side to go around me, invective showing on his face as he cursed me through the closed windows of our two vehicles, forcing his way in front of me, so he was 25 feet closer to the next red light.  Of course he was driving an SUV.   My very first reaction was to leap from the car and challenge him to a fight.  That reaction was quickly suppressed for the silly idea it was.  My next reaction was to simply be angry.  Finally I settled on being amused.  Then I felt kind of sad.  This guy got seriously angry over someone being a little slow at a stop light.  He was actually mad, beyond angry and into mad.  The look on his face was full of violence and accusation.  It would have been appropriate if I had perhaps, well I can't think of anything bad enough to draw such a look.  Obviously he thought I had violated some illusion that he had about his personal importance and the importance of how he expects traffic to move.  The question is, why?  Why put all of this energy into something so minor, something which only existed in his mind.  All because I was a little slow.  What do you suppose this kind of expression is doing to his psyche?  Do you think he ever has fun?  

How many of us expect the world to react badly to the way we think it should be and then, in a kind of perverse delight, we express our disappointment or anger when our expectations are met.  What is sad about my friend from this morning was that he was expending all of that energy on something that existed only in his mind.  

One of the side effects of meditation is patience.  I used to be very impatient, not so different from the fellow this morning.  I was always looking for a reason to be offended.  And I often was offended.  As I recall the emotions, I think I was afraid that there was little or no adventure in my life and I needed to create some.  Sounds strange, but that is what I recall.  Then I began to meditate and do various spiritual practices and things began to change.  Not without pain I might add.  These changes only came because I began to realize that I was often inappropriate in my reactions.  

As patience is slowly discovered some very strange things happen.  All of the reactions that you thought you needed suddenly seem to be quite silly, but they are still there.  For me the anger was there, the disgust at minor illusory infractions, the constant need to be disappointed, all there.  At the same time patience was growing.   Things got pretty confused for awhile.  To tell the truth they were confused for quite awhile.  

Now that I am finally having fun I wonder why it took so long to realize that none of this is serious.  Or, put a better way, it is too serious to take seriously.  There are many things that are important but first among them is, "Do No Harm."   When you take the small things seriously then harm to someone results.  Instead see if you can find a way to allow things to happen that are not that important and give your attention to what is really important, your inner life.  

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Things

This past weekend I had my first book signing. It was at the Phoenix and Dragon book store in Atlanta, GA. The Phoenix and Dragon is an exceptionally nice spiritual book store, with lots of room and a very large selection. As such things go the event probably was pretty small. Maybe 15 people came for a short talk and then most of them bought copies of the book to be signed by me. To be perfectly honest it was an amazing experience.
How often in your life do you get to do something totally new and wonderful, something you might read about but never imagine yourself doing. Our popular literature is full of this sort of thing but we never actually think it will happen to us. I suspect that, for most of us, our idle speculation tends to run more in the direction of disaster, not new fun things. Well, I got to do something totally new and fun.
I am trying to think of something profound to say, some way to segue from the preceding paragraphs into some sort of teaching. But, nothing comes. It's just a lot of fun to be doing this. It is an opportunity that not many people get and I am immensely grateful. Grateful to the publisher for giving me this opportunity, grateful to all my friends who encouraged me and grateful for all the positive feedback I have received from new readers. WHAT FUN!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Room

Imagine you are in a room, four walls, ceiling and floor. There are no doors or windows and no adornment. Just four white walls, a white ceiling and a white floor. Imagine now that this is the limit of your reality, these six surfaces. Further imagine that you are floating in the center of this six walled construct as a bodiless consciousness, an energy field perhaps or a fundamental awareness that is not reliant on any form just yet, that will come in a moment.
As you – in your state of bodiless consciousness – gaze about your room - which can be seen as either prison or potential – you can begin to adorn the walls, floor and ceiling, with objects. These objects can be symbolic of opinions you hold, attitudes you adhere to, desires you pursue, or any number of thoughts or emotions that form the matrix of your assumed being – who you think you are. As you place each symbol the confines of your room seem to disappear and a vista of holographic choices appear to open for you. What we might see as your fundamental texture seems to cause the four walls to disappear as you – in the guise of pure consciousness – look out from the loci of your being into your life.
So what you have now are a series of holograms, three dimensional images, some very sharp and clear, some dim and difficult to focus on, still others only vaguely sensed.
Close in is your family, also close in will be the culture you were born into, how you were raised and all of the decisions that you made as your soul adapted to its surroundings. A bit further out in your hologram will be directions you took, moral decisions you made, assumptions you adopted as your body and mind matured. In other words, this is where you make the decisions as to how you will see the world, what your world view is. Notice that this layer of the hologram is just beyond that of family and culture. It is partially formed by these factors but it also relies heavily on your personal take on them. It will seem to be in line with what “should be” according to the close in symbols but will still be modified by your personal choices.
Further out will be the remote aspects of your culture – people you read about or hear about – the myths and icons that support your culture. Here also will be the enemies that support your cultures view of itself, the ones who are blamed for all the flaws your culture feels it self to have. It is the nature of individuals and groups to assign blame for all flaws on some outside agency and your hologram is no different.
Beyond this layer can be any number of symbols depending on what you have accepted as essential reality and the intelligence – divine or accidental – which supports or creates it.
This is the point at which you notice your body. Bodies are interesting things because we identify so fully with them. We really think that the body is more real than anything else. A body is also the major source of our illusion because it supports separation. We tend to think that our consciousness stops at our skin but think what the preceding imagery showed. With our imagination we can certainly think way beyond the body into all sorts of imaginal realms. We identify with our bodies as the center of the universe but, strangely enough, most of us do not really pay that much attention to them. Athletes do of course but even then I wonder how much they really are aware.
One of the keys to deeper spirituality is identified as manifesting in one’s body. It is a strange idea to think that, even though here we are, in this body, we do not really totally believe it. You can check this by thinking about how often you are in the Now, as opposed to projecting into the future or idealizing the past. To be totally in the Now, a person must also be totally in their body, aware of the molecules of air bouncing off the skin, aware of the flow of blood through one’s system, etc., etc. It is a super aware state of total attentiveness that places no reliance on any assumptions, past or future. There is even a Buddhist practice that uses this state of Nowness to take you into a deep meditation. It is called Sattipatana and it involves getting totally aware of all the bodily processes until one merges the body with the greater body of the Universe.
Going back to our original metaphor of the white room, what we then do is revise our holograms to better reflect this deeper awareness. And, the room gets bigger.
One of the signs of deep spiritual awareness is the expansion of your horizon. The world view that you hold recedes and your whole idea about things shifts. It is very easy to have a small truncated view of the world. It is very easy to just go along with everyone around you and accept that the world is thus and such. But, if you truly want to discover the truth of your own being, allowing Nowness to manifest is the essential ingredient.

Many Blessings, Musawwir