Friday, February 20, 2009


Some years ago I was at Kennedy airport with my teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. We had to take a long walk between terminals and I took the opportunity to ask him a question that had been on my mind for some time. I tend to puzzle over very broad patterns in how humanity evolves and, at the time, I had been thinking a lot about the coming age and the effect on the relationship between men and women. I was aware that patriarchy had been the main force for several thousand years but I could feel a slight slippage in its power. From my reading of history it was obvious that matriarchy had at one time been the norm and had been replaced by patriarchy starting around 3000 - 4000 years ago. It seemed to me that, as modernity really took hold, the next phase would be one of balance between the sexes. So I asked Pir Vilayat if this would be so. He got this very disgusted look on his face and said, "No, matriarchy will be the next stage." He did not seem at all happy about that idea so I did not follow up with any further questions. But I never forgot his answer, an answer that came out of an extreme honesty, even though the answer was not one that he liked. I can only speculate why he might not like what he saw in this regard so I will reserve my ideas and only build on my own thinking for the purposes of this little essay.

As I have noted elsewhere in my writings, we tend to see the world and humanity's place in it with a very myopic vision. We tend to believe that what is taking place currently is the way that things always have been and always will be. Very few people that I know ever read any history, or even understand that psychological evolution is the norm rather then the exception. We want things to be stable, even if they are uncomfortable or difficult because change is terrifying. I have worked with many people over the years and one thing that I have found is a basic resistance to discovering the true magnificence of being. People would much rather continue to believe they are small and ineffective against the forces arrayed against them. It is ever so much easier to resist change. This is always the first illusion to overcome, that you cannot do. Once that barrier is breached then it becomes a struggle between terror and elation, fear and excitement at all the possibilities that suddenly appear. And Pir Vilayat's declaration is certainly in that style. I have no doubt that, had he lived, he would have gradually become a champion of the coming age.

Some definitions are in order now. Simply put, patriarchy is a vertical ordering of society. Someone is in charge in each social group and there is a scramble below them to decide who is next in line and so on. Verticality of decision is the norm in this model. Pretty much every society on the planet is ordered in this fashion, with the possible exception of some very remote primitive tribes who still hold to matriarchy. Matriarchy on the other hand is horizontal. There is little verticality in decision making, with the exception of listening to wisdom when it is needed. Consensual expression is much more normal and people tend to support one another rather then look for ways to best them. In patriarchy there are winners and losers. In matriarchy there is no contest, only discovering how to agree and support all members. Obviously there are lots of variables in the two ways of being but these are the essentials.

Pir Vilayat was very fond of saying that we are the midwives of the coming age. What he meant by this, I believe, is that our actions will either hinder or assist what is going to take place. Our actions, to some degree, determine not only the rapidity with which the shift is instituted but also the actuality of how it will be experienced. It is very obvious to me that people are afraid, that they sense the coming changes and are afraid. It is the subliminal reason for the high degree of fundamentalism currently in vogue. This I believe. But there are more subtle signs as well. Within spiritual groups, which should know better, there is a definite resistance. Almost all of the traditional groups are falling back on a patriarchal model, with someone in charge, several other someone's jockeying for power roles and the assumption within these groups that the only way a person can be successful within the group is to advance up the ladder of responsibility; which is obviously still the vertical way of doing things. Doing one's best to simply be friends with every one who appears before you is an ideal that is not practiced very much. But, this is very much what is needed.

I think I need to be very clear here. I am not advocating ignoring specific talent. I know for instance that I have a talent for guidance that others do not have. I do not have a talent for many other things and I admire those who do. We do not need some kind of perfect communism. What we do need is simply to see that friendship is normal. Admiring a friend for their talent does not mean that one is also envious and looking for ways to make them small so we can feel big; or worse, ignoring talent that does not fit within the need for power and domination over others. This whole essay is really about noticing what is taking place, without blame, without rancor, without needing to be right, without prejudice. Notice without judgment. If you do that I believe that you will find possibilities within yourself that have been dormant for a long time, maybe f or eons.

If Pir Vilayat was correct, and I believe he was, then we have a very real responsibility to revise the way we think about ourselves and our relationships in a very basic way. Give yourself a moment to examine how you really feel about those around you. Are you content to leave people be who they are or are you constantly looking for how you are better, etc.? We are culturally bound to the latter but the former is where the action is. It only remains to be seen how well we can implement what will take place in the coming age, with or without our cooperation.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Thursday, February 12, 2009


The other day a young friend of mine used this phrase. She is Nicaraguan so I thought it was something from her country because it is not a common American saying. But it turns out that it just popped into her head and she said it. So I said I would make it the title of my next blog.

Her spontaneous little cliché reminds me of something that I realized quite awhile ago. I believe it was triggered by something Pir Vilayat said. You may have the greatest of talents but if you do not study the technical side of your talent it will remain potential and never be realized. For instance; you may hear the loveliest of symphonies in your head but if you do not learn to play piano or violin or something, they will never be heard by others. Taking it further; you might even do something quite excellent but if you neglect continual practice your skill or talent will fade.

"Every soul has a definite task, and the fulfillment of each individual purpose can alone lead man aright; illumination comes to him through the medium of his own talent." Hazrat Inayat Khan

I was talking to my best friend the other morning. We were wondering just what the next step for humanity is and how we can best implement our small part. We have conversations like this a lot. One of the conditions that we did note in this particular conversation was how prone people who follow a spiritual path are to assume that they have the answer. It is like a kind of arrogance of knowledge. The idea seems to be that once a person has done a bit of study of one of the various mystical disciplines and has perhaps had some deep meditative experiences, then that person has the right to declare their superior understanding of how the Universe actually works. And then, having made this declaration, work seems to stop. It is an odd but true aspect of personality. A further point is that the system that this person has adopted to display superior knowledge is fixed and needs no renewal. This is patently not true. You may have a talent for esoteric understanding but you still need to oil it from time to time; or else it gets rusty and creaky and annoying to others when you try to use it. And that is just as true of any discipline as it is of the individual.

The most important point I want to make is that there is nothing at all special about being on a spiritual path; it is just what you do. Someone has to do it, it turns out it's you. Every single person on this planet has purpose. We may not recognize it as such, especially if it appears to be extreme or an aberration or worse, harmful of others. Part of the struggle of life is recognizing that it is okay to be who you are but it is not necessary to insist that others recognize it. As it happens, people often do insist and this creates conflict and conflict causes suffering.

You may note here that the sort of person who would insist that others do as they do will also insist that these other victims do their oiling for them. In other words they will demand that all around them support their particular, inevitably limited, vision of what is. Even worse, they may demand that it is God who has dictated their vision. It would seem then that the lesson to be learned from my young friends spontaneous cliché is that we each must look to our own psychic and spiritual needs and allow others to do as they must for themselves. We may not agree, or even understand but, as long as there is no harm being done, then it is best to allow people their quirks.

One of the things that I most appreciated about Pir Vilayat, my teacher, was that he would often iterate the ideal that we were free to accept or reject what he was saying. His teaching was designed to give a person freedom, not to harness them to a particular point of view. And that is my message to you – be free – but do not neglect your gifts.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


It has been a very interesting year. We have been settling into our new city and into our new home. But I have been feeling the need to get back to the blog. So I will start off with something I heard this past Sunday.

Majida and I go into New York City about once a month. We go for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons is to take a Tai Chi class on Sunday mornings. The class is given by this little 85 year old lady who was a student of Chen Man Cheng in the early 70's. We cannot get to our old teacher, Ed Young, because he only teaches on Monday night and that is impossible. So we go to his old friend, Maggie Newman. Her style is a bit different from his but just as effective. We do enjoy her classes. She was the one that I heard the title of this blog from.

She speaks very softly so her class of about 20 people was gathered close around her. She was talking about a specific aspect of the Tai Chi form when something reminded her of a story she heard from her chiropractor. Just a little story but poignant none the less. He was telling her about an old woman he knows, in her 90's. She was having memory problems but, when asked if it bothered her she said no, as long as she had consistency of awareness she was fine. What a marvelous thing to say.

On the same day I happened to open a book of Hazrat Inayat Khan's and found the following quote.

"The mystics say that there are three steps to the goal: right life, true life and truth. A person who loves to live a right life and who tries to do it, even if he is not a contemplative or meditative or religious person, must certainly arrive at that high stage, at that goal which is the ideal goal; for within man there is truth, and the seeking of man is truth. Therefore right living helps him to realize truth."

Over the past year it has become more and more apparent to me that the things we do to prove to ourselves that we are this or that are the most important things we do. One of the things that people in the spiritual business do is remind ourselves that we are spiritual because of our outward signs of spirituality. "I meditate every morning" or "I love to take retreats," or "I read spiritual books," or any of a myriad of reminders that tell us that spirituality is a part of our lives. I suppose all of these things are important but, as Pir O Murshid notes above, not really all that necessary. If you are drawn to meditation then you meditate. If you are not drawn then don't do it. But, as the lady noted, the most important thing is not any of these outward signs. Consistency of awareness is the most important spiritual practice there is. Buddhists call it Mindfulness, Sufi's call it Muhasaba (Pir Vilayat defined this as examination of conscience), I call it paying attention.

If you are paying attention, consistently asking yourself what you are doing at each moment then you will get very close to living in the moment. It is a difficult practice because it demands absolute internal honesty on your part but just because it is difficult does not mean it should be avoided; on the contrary, knowledge of self is the result. And the best part is no one need know you are doing it.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir