Saturday, October 31, 2009


"True change is very natural. it is not like buying something new but is an organic experience that, once implemented, seems totally normal." Me

"I have the right to grow and become who I am and I have the obligation to use the potentials I was given." My Friend Karin

An editor once told me that I could not use my own quotes to begin a chapter in one of my books. Somehow that is a bad thing. But I don't see why. I am quotable after all.

I have just finished going through my book, looking for places I want changed. There were not many but the ones I want changed are important to me. Oh, if you did not know, Quest Books is going to republish The Sovereign Soul next year. They will re-title it as "Practical Sufism: A Field Guide to Spiritual Life". I like that title because it is much closer to my original intent. I never wanted the book to be a paean to Sufism. It was always intended to be much broader and be accessible to anyone on any spiritual path. So, I went through the book looking for the few references that I wanted to change. There weren't many as the original editor did a great job. There were just a few things that I missed from the first publication that are now fixed.

I was talking with someone this morning who expressed a bit of dismay to me. They noted that they often feel as if something is just about to happen or some form of inner change is taking place and then, poof, the energy dissipates and it seems as if nothing happened; which is when I said the quote at the beginning of this blog.

It is something that I have just begun to really understand. We in the West tend to think of spiritual change as some kind of thing we can acquire through effort. In a way that is true but we also tend to think of it in much the same way as we would if we were to purchase a new roof for our house. The men come, the old shingles are tossed in a dumpster and the new shingles installed. Then we can look at our new roof with happiness, even though we are annoyed that the workmen crushed a favorite rose bush. But then, after awhile we stop admiring our new roof and the rose bush grows back, slightly different then before but still the same plant. That is the process as I see it. However; spiritual change is not quite like that.

I wonder if it is strange that someone like me is still finding new aspects of spirituality to observe and marvel at. I hope it isn't strange because I am continually discovering newness. What a wonderful life this is that we can continually explore and create and discover. I was very aware when writing my first book that once published, it became a kind of fixed icon with no chance for continual growth. It was stuck. Much like scripture is stuck with no chance of revision or change or growth. But humans are not stuck, not at all.

The chance to go through my first book and make some of the changes was an interesting experience. I can see many places where the way I think and feel now is slightly different from the way I felt when I first wrote the book. There is nothing totally dissimilar but there are some subtle differences that perhaps only I would notice. It is still a good book.

Our changes are organic. As long as we continue to pay attention things will happen. We may not notice them as discreet experiences but they happen just the same. Maybe the important thing is to realize that what we are doing is totally natural and it is our insistence on evidence that is a barrier to this natural process. Just let it happen.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Friday, October 16, 2009


"When you can think of yesterday without regret and tomorrow without fear, you are near contentment."
Author Unknown

"I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."
Greek Platonic philosopher (396 BC - 314 BC)

I want to thank everyone for their responses, public and private. It is always good to examine our assumptions in the face of an unusual concept and the concept I posed is apparently unusual enough to evince some interesting commentary.
Several people wrote privately to me and one publicly and asked about the Christian concept of the perfect, all knowing God. It is true that God, in whatever shape or form you prefer, is in fact omnipotent and omniscient. God is also learning and curious and waiting to see how things turn out. It is the basic paradox of existence. It is also true that a paradox can be upsetting to the psyche. But see if you can get hold of this one. I believe it is extremely important.

Another thing that was asked was how we can examine our actions each day to determine the good, the bad and the ugly. I was asked if there is a practice or meditation that one can use to do this examination. Yes there is a practice; in Sufism it is called Muhasaba, examination of conscience. What you do is pay attention to your thoughts. So that when resentment or regret or disappointment appear you notice it. That is all that is necessary. The idea is to give actual attention to your thinking and emotions. When we think we generally do not give thought to paying attention to the thinking, we just do it. And much of our thinking is unnecessary. So, paying attention will give you the information you need to discover your own inner processes and begin to alter them.

I want to give a caveat here about the above instruction. It is not magic, it requires real effort. If you take it seriously you will notice moments of extreme discomfort as you struggle not to give blame but just to notice that you want to give blame, and so on. This is an interim phase that must be gone through as you train yourself to pay attention.

I mentioned resentment above. Resentment is a cousin of regret. It's not the same but it is related and can often be intermixed with regret. Pir Vilayat often said that the great barrier to realization was resentment. But he also said that there was at least one circumstance that he resented deeply that he could not shake. He simply could not forgive the person he resented. And he obviously had a pretty deep realization. So perhaps it is again a matter of being aware.

And that is probably the whole secret to all of these questions, awareness. The more you are aware of your emotions and modes of thinking, the closer you will come to a basic calm attitude about your life. And that, my friends, is exactly what the Pir was talking about when he mentioned becoming a co-creator. If you are calm, then all around you have the possibility to also be calm or calmer. If you are agitated and unsure and constantly waiting for the next problem to arise, well then that is what you create around you. Which means, according to this general theory that we are all part of God, that God is agitated and uncomfortable?

I find more and more that I much prefer to say The Intelligent Universe rather then God. God, as a word, has so much baggage attached that it ends up being useless. However, as members of the Intelligent Universe, we certainly do have the right to co-create. We are intelligent beings, participating in a Universe of unlimited ideas; therefore we might as well do something useful.

So, work on your awareness, notice what you feel, how you think, how you respond to those around you. Do not, I repeat, do not beat yourself up when you find something inappropriate. Just notice. In this way you will slowly change the patterns of behavior that seem so ironclad but are really just chimera of the mind.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Friday, October 09, 2009


"The perfect man uses his mind as a mirror.
It grasps nothing. It regrets nothing.
It receives but does not keep."
Chuang Tzu

"Oh my Beloved, fill the cup that clears
Today of past regrets and future fears.
Tomorrow? Why, tomorrow I may be
Myself with yesterday's seventy-thousand years!"
Omar Khayyam

I should explain that last line. In Sufism, depending on the source, there are either 22,000 or 70,000 veils before the face of God. Omar Khayyam is probably saying that he is waiting for the clarity that will remove all these veils and reveal his true self to his current self. That would be a very common theme in Sufi poetry.

Now, getting to the point of the blog:

We all do stupid stuff occasionally. You cannot be human and not eventually do something that you would rather you had not. Often they will be things that, in the moment seem, if not totally okay, at least somewhat responsive to whatever is taking place. Thinking back on my own regrets I can see that I probably could not have acted in any other way at that time. In retrospect these events seem foolish or harmful or downright idiotic but, at the time, they seemed normal. So, in a way, regrets are reevaluations of events that are now gone and cannot be changed.

My very first Sufi teacher, besides Pir Vilayat that is, was a woman named Iman Ibranyi Kiss. I also had a Sufi guide named Azimat, who gave me my spiritual practices, but I lived in the same community with Iman so she became my de-facto instructor into the mysteries of Sufism. She was fond of saying that she had the right to rewrite her personal history. I puzzled over this because I knew she had had a rough time in the early years and I wondered how she could rewrite it. What I did not realize then was that she meant she was rewriting her attitude toward the events that had taken place. Iman was killed in a car accident at a very young age. I still miss her.

Iman's idea that we can rewrite our history intrigued me for many years. I have a number of incidents in my life that I deeply regret and I could not see how I could experience them as other then awful. I still have trouble with it but occasionally I can see her point.

Imagine for a time that your life, not as you perceive it but as it actually is, is one long dream of God. From this point of view your experiences, however you judge them are also the experiences of God. Among the billions of experiences occurring every day, yours still have value because God, in the Sufi point of view, is kind of like a massive computer, absorbing data and processing the results into a coherent idea of its own existence. This is at least one point of view of the mystics, there are obviously others. But it is helpful. If you can hook into this point of view, even briefly, it gives you a completely different take on some of your more stupid or silly actions. You get to see that they are also the silly or stupid actions of God. And isn't that interesting?

From this we can extrapolate a certain idea about the true nature of reality and our place within it. If we are of the being of God, each of us is an active participant in the drama of the Universe, so every action of ours is also a part of that drama. So, all the stupid stuff we do is also a part of that drama. What do you think is God's point of view in all of this? A part of God, kicks his dog, or beats his wife or causes an accident. What can God be thinking to do such a thing? What does God learn?
It is a great puzzle. It becomes a difficult problem when we begin to realize that we are contributing to the over all knowledge of God, even when we do something silly. Is this our goal then to continually disappoint ourselves? With each regret, disappointment is right there helping. So, do you think that God is disappointed?

The Sufi point of view is that God is simply interested. God watches and experiences and learns and constantly evaluates in some manner that we do not understand. So perhaps it is possible for us also to see in this way and not be quite so hard on ourselves.

So, examine your regrets and see if you can see them as simply a part of your being. You learned, hopefully, and you now know not to do that again; which means that God also learned. You might say that God has been learning the same lessons over and over again and it may look like that but there has been a very slow evolution.
Next blog we will look at this a bit deeper. In the meantime your comments will help me write the next blog.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, October 03, 2009


"Limitations and boundaries are inevitable in human life; forms and conventions are natural and necessary; but they none the less separate humanity. It is the wise who can meet one another beyond these boundaries." Hazrat Inayat Khan

Can you imagine being totally free? Completely unfettered by any of the various concerns, responsibilities or restrictions that plague you daily? Is it annoying to know these boundaries exist or are you comfortable with your life as it is?

Our limitations are obvious. We have bodies which must eat and breathe and bathe occasionally. We have relationships that are wonderful or annoying or both. And we have the whole experience of living in an increasingly complex world of amazing possibility and incredibly difficult choices. All of this is happening and all the while we are also feeling the inner impulse to understand ourselves and our environment in an ever deepening way. It may be that we are so involved in solving the puzzle of limitation that we ignore the call from within but it is still there.

I was talking to a friend the other day and mentioned the theme of my next blog. She said that to her limitations is a vase holding her potentials. I liked that very much. It embraces the knowledge that limitations exist while also realizing that they do not limit one in the ultimate sense. She also said that if we didn't see our limitations we'd have nothing to compete against, to grow. And perhaps that is what I want to point out.

I suppose it is inevitable that when a person has a spiritual guide one of the impulses is to tell them all your troubles. And it is certainly valuable in the sense that it gives the guide indications of what the person needs to work on. Sometimes the troubles are pretty difficult and there is not much that the guide can do other then express their sympathy and support. Most of the time however the troubles or limitations are the sorts of challenges that give the opportunity for deeper self discovery and expansion of awareness; often though it does not feel like that.

What we tend to do is give much of our attention to the many obstacles in the way. We know that if only this or that or the other were not in our lives we could be so much more aware or spiritual or successful or happy. What is interesting is we also know that this is silly. Never the less we use these perceived limitations as definitive excuses not to push through and discover our true self. Personally I believe this a self protection mechanism. We protect ourselves from becoming because we might find that the limitations we are so fond of are no longer important and, if that is the case, we will not know what to do or who we are. Then what is the answer? Are we doomed to forever feel as if what we want is unobtainable because we are afraid to release our ideas of our limitations? And just exactly what is a wise person as mentioned above?

I do not know as there is a precise answer to any of those questions but I do know that what is needed is courage. Each person must find their own way. Even a revered spiritual guide can only suggest. The guide can never tell you exactly what you must do. In the first place that is very inappropriate and in the second the guide can never really know all of your inner processes. What the guide really does is honor your being. And, when you think about it, having your being honored takes you beyond all limitation and into the realm of the wise.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir