Sunday, June 24, 2007


I read the following quote in a book I am reading and wanted to share it with you. It is from a chapter in the book titled "How Sufi's account for their being called Sufi's"

Yusuf ibn al-Husayn tells us that he asked Dhu'l-Nun: "With whom shall I associate?" He answered: "With him who possesses nothing, and does not disapprove of any state thou happenest to be in; who does no change when thou changest, even though that change be great: for the more violently thou changest, the greater is thy need of him."

(The Doctrine of the Sufis – Abu Bakr al-Kalabadhi – trans. Arther Johan Arberry
Kitab Bhavan,
New Delhi, India 2000 from page7)

One of the things that we strive for when treading the spiritual path is unconditional acceptance of the state of the person before us. But, Oh man is that hard. What the author of this piece, which was written around 960 CE, is pointing out is who a person should seek as a guide and with whom such a seeker should associate. One can assume that, in finding such a person, the people around him/her will be in various stages of understanding unconditional acceptance. They will therefore provide support for the one who is struggling to understand; which is the whole point. I am tempted to think that we have an intrinsic emotion that urges us to seek out such people. The knowledge may be intrinsic but if you think about it, it is obvious that there is also fear and a tendency to reject such people as unworldly, or strange, or damaging to our culture, etc. It is the reason that prophets almost always come to a bad end. The problem is that such people do not see the universe in the same way that the rest of us see it. This is a good thing since hanging with such people will expand our point of view. It is also challenging since hanging with such people will question our point of view. Not that such people will confront you deliberately but you cannot help but notice that your personal point of view is askew from theirs. At this stage a couple of things will happen. One, obviously, is admiration or even deep devotion to the one who is the exemplar of that which you desire to understand and perhaps become a bit of yourself. Another is resentment which can come out in all sorts of ways. Another is fear which I already mentioned.

There is a really interesting aspect to this fear that has intrigued me ever since I figured it out; it is the fear of change. I first noticed this phenomenon in myself not long after I joined the Sufi Order. I realized that there was a part of my personality that was seriously resisting the normal progression of spirituality in my being because it was terrified of having to change the personality. I was afraid because I had no references for how my personality should be if I were to suddenly become somehow more spiritual or something. How do you act when everything, all of your ideas about how the world works, suddenly changes? I think that one of the current difficulties in what we call the New Age movement, which subscribes to much of what Eastern spirituality has to teach, is that - when we are confused over just how to act - we tend to pretend. In a simple world, one without mass communication, no phones, etc., there is ample room for the inner work and for repose and, one assumes, for communing with nature. Our world is not simple, it is far from simple. Yet I notice that there is a kind of imperative that insists that simplicity should rule. In fact, I suspect that in that a simpler universe that we assume existed, things were just as complex though they may have been quite a bit slower. Humans seem to have a talent for making things complex, no matter what the condition is.

It is possible to imagine what it might be like to be that person who is possession-less and is endlessly tolerant of every person that appears before him. What is their inner life like? Can you emulate their calm accepting demeanor? Can you imagine yourself with such attributes? If you have such attributes how will it change you? Being in the presence of people who can do all of this can be a great blessing or at least it can give you hints as to how you might become who you really are.

"That purpose is accomplished when a person has risen above all these things. It is that person then, who will tolerate all, who will understand all, who will assimilate all things, who will not feel disturbed by things which are not in accordance with his own nature or the way which is not his way. He will not look at them with contempt, but he will see that in the depth of every being there is a divine spark which is trying to raise its flame toward the purpose." Hazrat Inayat Khan

One of the people I guide once said something to me that really struck me as quite profound. She told me that she had been puzzling over this guide business. She had been trying to figure just what it meant to have a guide and she told me she had finally figured it out. She said that the guide holds the being of the student in trust until the student can manifest it themselves: which is a pretty good retelling of that 1100 year old statement above.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, June 09, 2007


"Dreams and inspirations are open proofs of the higher world."

Hazrat Inayat Khan

I had a memory the other day that I would like to share.

A few years ago, on a nice summer's day, Majida and I decided to take a drive. We headed for the other side of the Hudson, to Nyack, NY, to look in the little shops over there. As we were crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge I noticed a bright red Ferrari in front of us. I have always been an admirer of sports cars and nothing says sports car like a Ferrari. So I was kind of paying attention to it as we drew closer and I paid more attention as I began to realize that there was something odd about the car. Ferrari lines are very distinctive and I suspect that every one who drives, while they might not instantly recognize the mark will still realize they are seeing a rare automobile. You know how when you are looking at something familiar you expect it to look a certain way and when it does not your mind will still insist that it does until the rational mind steps in and identifies the differences? Well that is what my mind was doing. I knew something was off but couldn't really see what it was. Then it resolved.

The top was down on the Ferrari, it being a beautiful summer's day and the driver looked to be a slightly over weight young man. What was wrong was that the right side mirror was turned fully in on its springs and the young man was, every so often, glancing over at the mirror to watch himself driving a Ferrari. What an image. I instantly made up a story for the young man. He had been asked to deliver this car to someone and was taking advantage of the opportunity to admire himself driving a car that he never would be able to afford. This is the story that I instantly made up in my mind. I have no idea if it is true. For all I know the right side mirror was defective in some way and he was glancing at it every so often to reassure himself that it had not fallen off. Or perhaps, like me, he had the habit of constantly sweeping his mirrors with his eyes and kept looking over out of habit. But I like the idea that he was admiring himself.

One of the things that I find myself constantly saying to people I guide is that it is important that they admit to who they are. We have this idea in our culture – the Judeo-Christian Ideal of humility that says that we are never to think of ourselves as special. I can clearly remember my mother saying that she/he is above him/herself, meaning that they were being prideful. We all have gotten this message in some fashion. Some of us have decided that we will ignore the imperative and go ahead and be special. There are any number of seminars and self help workshops that a person can attend that encourage a person to be special. There are people who make a very good living encouraging others to acknowledge their specialness. Still, I suspect that most folks who attend these seminars and become very enthusiastic for a moment or two, even for a weekend eventually find themselves struggling with the same sense of unworthiness that they had before they went to the seminar. However, their very willingness to go to the seminar or buy the books says something very important.

I am going to go ahead and assume that anyone reading my blog regularly will have some kind of idea about a creative force in the Universe, something which I have come to call Divine Intent. Given that position we could extrapolate that we are each a unique aspect of Divine Intent. So why would you feel unworthy?

Our young man in the Ferrari was definitely seeing himself as special, even if only for a moment. The human spirit has this deep desire to know itself as glorious yet we have imposed rules on ourselves that say we are not to do so. So we get confused. And then we have all the information that we absorbed early in our lives from our family and our culture. What to do, what to do?

My teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan had a saying that I am very fond of quoting, "You have been invited to the banquet, why are you eating the scraps under the table?" It is a truly amazing aspect of this Divine Intent that there is a very large portion of creation that simply refuses to believe that it has the right to acknowledge itself as other than unworthy. One could even make an argument that the most violent sections of our world, the fanatics, are really expressing their grave doubts in the most destructive manner possible, like three year old children acting out their disappointment at not being given the candy they think they should have. It is a strange paradox of emotional destructiveness taken to the nth degree. I hurt; therefore, I will hurt you. And all the while the banquet sits there waiting and the beings that are partaking of it are patiently waiting for you to realize that you too belong at the feasting table.

So you can gaze into the mirror of the Ferrari or purchase the latest pair of designer jeans or any of the myriad things that our world provides to help you over come your feelings of unworthiness – or you can accept that you are the magnificent being that you are and set about learning how to manifest that which you already are.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I was going to write more about tradition in my next blog but something has come up that sets that subject aside for a bit.

On Saturday May 19th, at around 11 AM, my mother died. I guess for someone my age, 62, this is not that unusual an event and I was not that surprised but still it is strange. At the beginning of that week I had talked to her on the phone, she lived around 5 ½ hours from me and she asked my advice about going to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing and was almost immobile, having even more trouble moving about. I agreed that she needed to go to the hospital and called her friend to make sure that was going to happen. Two days later I drove up to see her. I also wanted to talk to her Dr. about what was really taking place and to speak to a social worker about the possibility of moving her to a facility closer to me. I had these visions of taking her great grand children to visit her in a nursing home, thereby cheering her up. There is nothing like a bouncy four year old girl to cheer someone up. I thought many things during the three days I was up there, in Watertown, NY. Another thought that kept creeping into my mind was what I would do if she died on the way while I was driving her to the hypothetical nursing home close to me. It was not a thought that I wanted to have but it kept slipping in.

She was very uncomfortable. She had been struggling with myasthenia gravis for many years and the disease was advancing in her body. In case you do not know, myasthenia gravis is a disease that creates anti-bodies that interfere with the signals that nerves give to muscles. Because of this disease she was now unable to swallow, her throat muscles were not getting the signal to contract. The hospital inserted a tube directly into her stomach, called a Peg of all things, in order to get nutrition into her.

I stayed in her little apartment and went several times a day to visit her. Whenever I visited I would find her sitting in a chair beside her hospital bed. So far as I know the staff left her there as moving was also very uncomfortable for her. She looked so much like she was sitting there waiting.

We did not have much to talk about. It was odd really. Here I am a spiritual teacher of sorts and I cannot talk to my mother about death. I really have no idea what her thoughts were during these last days. I suspect she was aware that the sand was running out but she did not make any reference to death and I did not feel it was my place to bring it up if she did not want to. So I bought her a large print bible. She really liked that and hugged it to her chest. I do not think that she actually opened it but she did hold it as a kind of talisman.

Almost the last thing she said to me was, "I want to go home," meaning her apartment but I sensed a sub-text as well. She was tired and wanted it all to end.

On Friday of that week, I drove back home. On Saturday her friend called me to tell me she had died. Apparently the hospital staff was taking her to X-Ray to check on the location of the Peg. She was chatting with the technicians when she just stopped.

I cannot say that I have been close to my mother. There was never much overt affection in our small family and over the years I kept my distance for many reasons. Still I did call her occasionally and visited her when I could. Every few months I would drive up to see her, listen to her discussion of her various neighbors many faults, and drive back home. I knew she was increasingly uncomfortable in her body and kind of knew that the moment of separation from physicality was approaching. But the reality is very strange.

I would like to write something deep and philosophical at this point but nothing really comes to mind. So much has been written about death that I doubt there is anything that I can add It is the natural order of things and something in us knows that it is okay. It is obvious I suppose. For me it is okay.

The day after she died my wife and I drove back up to Watertown to sort through her things and make the various arrangements necessary. Most of her furniture we gave away, keeping just a few small things. I think I was in some kind of numb state so Majida more or less took over and made sure things were done. I did what I was told to do. People would say, go here, do this, go there, do that and I would do as I was bid. And everything got done.

And now? Now I feel normal I guess. As I said, it is strange knowing that she no longer inhabits a body here on Earth. I did get a sense of her right after she left. I had this fleeting vision of her in her 40 year old body feeling quite happy. I liked that.

Love and Blessings, Musawwir