Tuesday, November 02, 2010


How poor are they that have not patience!
Othello.Act ii.Sc.3.
William Shakespeare

Sometimes I find my patience is not what it probably ought to be. Usually when I see one of the people I guide going back over the same old ground I stand aside and just watch and wait for some kind of realization to appear for them. Occasionally, however, I do feel a flash of impatience and wonder why nothing seems to work. It is embarrassing that I should feel this way as I know better. Everyone moves at their own pace and I have absolutely no way of knowing what that pace will be. Nor do I have any right at all to hurry the pace. In fact that would be exactly the wrong thing to do. All I need do is remember the incredible patience Pir Vilayat had with me. It’s those flashes of unreasonable impatience that this article is about.
Another manifestation of my impatience is driving in this town. After 30 years of the hectic pace of New York City, Scranton, PA seems way too slow. Anyone driving 20 MPH or less on a New York City street would probably be pushed to the side of the road, but here it is the norm. I have been observing my emotions when I am behind one of these people, it is not pretty. You would think after 35 odd years of working on myself through spiritual practices that I would be constantly serene and calm; not so. After all these years of discipline I still find my impatience and anger surging to the surface. Will it never go away?
Since this is such an annoying question for me I thought to do some research in Hazrat Inayat Khan’s works. He has a lot to say about patience but here is something that he said that surprised me, though I suppose it should not have: “It is a great difficulty that the people in this land of America are losing this quality of patience more and more every day, because Providence has blessed them so much. They have conveniences, they have comforts, they are the spoilt children of Providence, and when it comes to having patience, it is very hard for them.”
And he’s right. That was written almost 100 years ago and it applies even more today than it did then. A hunter/gatherer type person absolutely must be patient; the game will only come when it comes. A farmer must be patient, planted crops take their time, sheep can only grow wool so fast, and a chicken lays only one egg a day. But here in America and in Europe and probably in other parts of the world that are enjoying the benefits of industrialization, impatience is the rule.
One of the things that I constantly stress to the people I guide is that there are three ingredients necessary for a spiritual life. The first is discipline, you must decide to do it and then follow through. The second is courage as you will be often faced with the need to reevaluate your opinions. And the third, and probably most important is patience. To expect something to happen just because you have decided you want spiritual experiences is probably not going to be very useful. Never-the-less it is how we often feel. What is happening, of course, is that our culture tells us that we can have it NOW because we can get INSTANT CREDIT! WHY WAIT? Of course that is not how it works in spirituality but the idea is so deeply ingrained in us that we have difficulty feeling otherwise; thus my flashes of impatience. I am one of the spoilt children of providence; so much for spiritual advancement.
Here is what I really think; this is an incredible opportunity. Yes, primitive man was patient; what choice did he have? We, on the other hand, have many choices, some might say too many choices, but that is how it is and it is possibly our greatest challenge. We have this wonderful opportunity to truly challenge ourselves and to use the world around us as our measure against our own internal truths. Screaming through the windshield at some 90 year old woman driving 20 mph, who does not hear you anyway, is an opportunity to have a look at your own experience. How does it feel? What is the source? Can you calm yourself and just wait? Working on patience then becomes a true spiritual practice.
We tend to think that spiritual practices must be unique or exceptional in some way, that they must have some kind of ancient mystical significance but, the truth is, almost any discipline is a spiritual practice if it shakes you out of your complacency and gets you closer to who you really are.
I will continue to work on my patience, noticing and occasionally catching myself in some silly impatient reaction. I hope you do the same.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, October 23, 2010


”The course of human life involves so many disappointments, so many failures, so many heartaches, that no one can avoid doubting.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I want to talk about something that keeps coming up but is kind of difficult to describe. I will do my best however; because I think it is very important. What I have noticed over the years is that when a person is first initiated into the Sufi Order there is an initial period of excitement which is almost always followed by a crash. Perhaps this is only my experience but I have to wonder if others have not noticed it as well. What seems to happen is that a person will be initiated and be very enthusiastic for a week or a month and then they crash, they step back, they often disappear. This is not always true, not every time, but it is often true. I have long puzzled over this as I have also noticed this tendency to withdraw in myself.
I suppose at the beginning it all seems very romantic and exciting. You have just done something very unusual in our culture. You have decided to follow a path that you have no real understanding about, but there is something that draws you and you want more. It may be the magnetism of the guide, or maybe the exotic nature of the discipline, or some other reason. So you decide to do it, get initiated. That’s when the doubts start to creep in. I guess it is possible that there are some very rare individuals who never have a single doubt, but I have never met any. The question then remains, what to do about it?
Perhaps at the beginning, when the doubts start to creep in, a person has no real choice. The habitual personality will exercise its right to stay with its habits. This is probably why Pir Vilayat was constantly urging his murids to push on through. Never the less, we are stuck with who we think we are and, since we have just done something very out of the ordinary, our personality will naturally rebel.
Personalities, which are really our sub-conscious responses to the world, are pretty fixed in their attitudes. We learn early in life how to protect ourselves from the vagaries of the world. These protections and responses do not have to be sensible, not at all, but they do have to be reasonable to us. This is basic information that everyone who works with the mind knows. So we are somewhat fixed in our ideas of ourselves. Then we decide, for whatever reason, to challenge our inner mind, our sub-conscious, by taking initiation with some spiritual group or teacher. Almost the first thing to happen is our sub-conscious goes, “Wait a minute, this is not part of our world!” Then we have various choices. One choice that I see exercised a lot is to disbelieve what just happened and turn away from the teacher or group, telling yourself that they are stupid or unjust or something. At the other end of this spectrum is to go into some kind of funk for a little while, then to shake yourself and get to work on the psyche using the practices given. And then there are all of the varieties of experience in between these two extremes that are possible.
I guess it is normal enough in this world of disappointment to have doubts about something new that is out of the ordinary. We hear so much about people who are duped into some absurd cult that we worry and the worry brings doubts. I wish that I had an answer, but I don’t. About all that I can say here is that the only true way to find out if you have been duped or not is to follow through and watch the teacher or guide. Do they live a life of service? Or do they use people with no thought of return? It is up to you to judge. I would be very grateful for any comments that anyone might have as this is a great puzzle to me.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Practical Sufism!

My book is now available from Amazon
Or you can order it direct from Quest Books.

I am very happy with this new version of my book.

May Light and Beauty continue to manifest within us all.

Phillip Gowins

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


"There is a mystical outlook, there is a mystical significance, there is a mystical point of view which is different from that which we call a practical point of view. Things of great significance are beyond what we call our practical point of view."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I rode a city bus the other day and deliberately sat in a seat reserved for seniors. It is still a bit odd to think of myself in this way. Most of the time I do not remember that I am 65 but then I see a sign, Admission $8, seniors $6 and I remember.

I think that most people who follow some kind of spiritual path have an automatic aversion to being labeled. Of course we all have them in all sorts of ways but we pretty much don’t like them or at least I don’t. Some labels you must simply accept, male or female, tall or short, etc. Other labels seem presumptuous as if you can only fit in this one box or possibly a limited number of boxes. Politicians do this all the time of course since they are sure that people have only a limited scope of understanding.

On the other hand, spiritual type people enjoy certain types of labels. We like to be seen as calm. Also we are prone to believe that we look younger then our peers who do not meditate, this probably only matters to those over 40. And I suppose most of us like to think of our primary label, I am a Sufi, I am a Buddhist, I follow Jewish mysticism, or whatever that primary label might be, Wicca maybe or a follower of The Course in Miracles or something similar. There are lots of labels like this that we certainly approve of.

I am seriously beginning to believe that all of these labels really only have one reality and that is separation.

I received an email the other day on my hypnosis site. It was from someone who is interested in hypnosis but he has a very strange take on it. He is convinced that most people who need hypnosis have an evil entity hanging around them and the hypnotist’s job is to exorcise this demon. I had to ponder this for a couple of days so I did not reply to him in a rude fashion. But wow, how limiting is that? While it is true that entities who attach themselves to people occasionally do exist, it is much rarer then some would like to think. And, despite what Hollywood would love us to accept, all they really want to do is to talk. What this kind of attitude does is severely limits the scope of the help a therapist can offer. And it shows very little understanding of the truth of our existence. In fact such an attitude assumes a type of reality that I find depressing. What this person really wants is to be a hero, another label. He wants to be able to say that he has the answer to all of life’s problems.

There are many people out there with similar claims. What they want is to be seen as heroes and to be able to claim heroism. This is understandable. We all want to be acknowledged in some positive manner by those around us. I admit to feeling a thrill of pride when I know I have helped someone. I have come to accept this as part of my make up. I also recognize that this is going to be true of anyone who is in the healing profession. We do it because we are led to be healers but we also have pride in what we do. And there is nothing wrong with this. What is wrong, I believe, is when we take a label and demand that this label be everything that we are and that all those around us must accept our version of the label.

I suppose labels are necessary so people know how to approach you and I guess that is helpful in a certain way. But it is also important that, once the approach has been made, that the communication be allowed to go beyond any pre-assumption that may have been in place initially. In other words let the person before you be all that they are, not just whatever you may think their labels imply.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hello Friends,
Yesterday I was interviewed by Voice of America Radio about the upcoming publication of my book, Practical Sufism. You can listen to the interview here: http://www.voiceamerica.com/voiceamerica/vepisode.aspx?aid=47983

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


“When we live in harmony with the ways of Divine Presence, allowing loving-kindness, generosity and compassion to flow freely into the world through all that we do and say, then this journey called life becomes a great pleasure.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

“I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy; the second is economy;
The third is daring not to be ahead of others.
From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity;
From humility comes leadership.”
Lao Tse

Humans are not by nature generous. According to Will Durant, the famous historian, humans have three basic imperatives; acquisitiveness, pugnacity and sexuality. The first because a hunter gatherer needed to get things in order to survive; pugnacity because fighting off other predators was the norm; and random sexuality because that was the deep physical impulse. This is how we lived for maybe a million years, no one really knows. But when we began to gather in larger groups certain moral standards were necessary in order to create some kind of harmony within the group. And generosity, among other moral customs, was born. For instance, it turns out that in many so called savage cultures, when a man made a kill it was his duty to call out as loudly as possible that he had done so that others within hearing might share in the food. But, as civilization slowly appeared and the idea of individual property took hold, generosity became a struggle.

Personally, I like civilization. I am quite happy with my lap-top which would not be possible in a nature culture. I like the idea of complex philosophical discourse, which is not possible in a culture that has no abstract words. I like my dentist and would not want to give up health care. So, this thought of generosity being a struggle seems to me to be a challenge for humanity in its current stage.

When I was living in New York City I made it a point of giving money to homeless people. At first I would always look at their shoes and if they had new shoes I would not give them anything. But then I realized that they may have just been given shoes by some homeless shelter. So I stopped worrying about that. Then I saw some homeless guy using a cell phone and that kind of freaked me out but then I realized that they are easy to buy. So I stopped worrying about it altogether and just gave money when I felt like it, regardless. And that is when I began to understand generosity.

Generosity is really very simple. It is sharing. We lost generosity when we declared that one person might have more property then another. It was a necessary phase, no doubt of that, but it does not mean that we should not continue to discover the many possibilities still open to humanity. We tend to believe that the way things are is the way they will always be, subject to minor modification. But why would we think that? Empirical evidence would seem to say that change is the only constant. We spend centuries building a city which can be destroyed in an hour or so by natural causes. Why would we think that anything is permanent?

If it is true that change is the only permanency then discovering the core of one’s being is essential.

Generosity is not just financial; it is system wide, so to speak, through all that we do and say. Initially generosity must begin with oneself. It is no good to begrudgingly offer a handout to someone in order to prove something, that is not generous at all, that is a kind of arrogance. Instead look to yourself. Do you see yourself in a loving generous way? Or, do you see yourself as deeply flawed with no recourse to healing? Think about it and then tell me.

One more thing; Pir O Murshid stated in the quote above that living in harmony with the Divine Presence is the key to allowing our generous loving nature to flow. And he states that the pay off, so to speak, is life becoming a great pleasure. It’s true. And it still starts with the self. Allowing one’s self to recognize that it is a part of God, a part of the Intelligent Universe and one has the right to a loving fruitful life is the first step towards becoming the vehicle with which the Divine Presence can in fact flow outward into the world.

The next article will deal with practical ways to create generosity within.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, May 24, 2010


"You have been invited to the banquet, why are you eating the scraps under the table?"
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

The above quote from Pir Vilayat is one I frequently repeat to people. It is often a surprise when I quote it to someone and they realize that they have been doing the very thing, avoiding the banquet. I also realize that I am as guilty as anyone. Why do we do this?

There seems to be a cultural imperative in our society that says that we are not really allowed to be honestly spiritual. I suspect that this is partially because the priest class, of whatever religion, including Islam (which is not supposed to have a priest class but does anyway) tends to need to maintain an air of superiority as if they somehow have an intercessory role with God. This leaves the rest of us more or less out in the cold not really allowed to be truly spiritual since we must go through an intercessor. That's part of it. Another part is the aura of disappointment that pervades our whole culture. I have spoken about this before and intend to keep speaking of it. Basically it says that you are not worthy unless you have things, expensive things. Conversely, you can rail against things and feel superior to the materialists while at the same time secretly suspecting that you are not worthy. That may be an even worse position. Another aspect is probably feeling that the banquet is a hustle. It's not really real. We have so very many stories of people being duped by various invitations, Scientology and Krishna Consciousness come to mind immediately but they are certainly not the only ones. The invitations from various groups totally assured of the rightness of their positions is huge. The means of discovering their legitimacy is limited.

A fourth aspect is a general sense that the men and women who sit in caves for 20 or more years, isolated from the world, in a constant state of meditation and prayer, are worthy. We must live in the world and are therefore, by definition, not as worthy. Ultimately you know that you are not allowed at the banquet, even though invited.

Whew, that's a lot. And I can probably come up with more but you get the idea, you can make your own list. By now you should be seeing that all of the above is an illusion. It is various aspects of the world desperately needing to convince you that you need an intercessor or that you are simply not up to it. The simple truth is that the invitation exists and it speaks directly to your heart.

There is a place in each of us that knows we belong. Whatever baggage we happen to be lugging around will want to deny this knowledge but it is there. I do not know about other esoteric groups but when a person is initiated into the Sufi Order International, the very last thing we say to them is, "Welcome to your spiritual family." I have seen people break down and cry at hearing these words; these simple words of welcome. To be told very sincerely that you are welcome can seem amazingly profound to the person, so common in our culture, who has felt isolated their whole life. It seems to be that a person can decide to stay isolated and alone and separate if they like, that is free will. Or they can decide to become part of a loving family if they so choose. And then what happens is that their psychology will change the group as they insist that their version of reality have some form of validity within the group. Still the invitation is there. What it really means is surrendering to that inner knowledge that you personally are a part of the being of God or part of the Intelligent Universe or however you would like to state it. And, as a part of the whole, you have the right to the banquet. What you do not have a right to do is to demand that the menu be exactly what you think it ought to be. That is the rub and causes more problems then just about anything else.

So, join the party, sit down at the table, sip the wine of ecstasy, sample the delicacies of forgiveness and detachment; but be aware that though your task is to relax, observe, learn, and decide for yourself; it is not to demand that others conform to your idea of what should be on the table. That is a no no.

The very first spiritual instruction I ever received was, "There are no rules!" This means to me that not only are the rules others state not valid but also any rules I might make up are also not valid. So? What is valid? The banquet; the communion with other souls, all souls. If there is a rule it would be to treat every single person, including yourself, as a friend. To do otherwise would be to deny the basic nature of God, which is that we are all in this together. Our only solid evidence of anything at all is that we all exist here, now. All the rest is speculation, interpretation and assumption that our spiritual experiences have any validity beyond our own selves.

Crawl out from underneath the table, sit with the other kind souls and dine. Once you do this all the rest of the things that seemed so very important will fade away and the simple joy of being with others who welcome you into their midst will be yours.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, May 15, 2010


"One cannot pretend to be a mystic; one is born a mystic. No doubt a mystic may develop in life, that is another thing, but if one thinks that one can imitate a mystic one is mistaken, one can never do it. Mystics apart, can a person imitate a singer and sing correctly, or imitate a painter and paint well, or a poet and make poetry? Never, either one is or one is not." Hazrat Inayat Khan

The above is an excerpt from Volume XI of the collected works of Hazrat Inayat Khan, from a chapter entitled The Mystic's Nature. Whenever I read something like this I have this impulse to turn around to see if anyone is looking over my shoulder and laughing at me. I don't really have that image but sometimes it feels like it. While it is true that a certain amount of self questioning is important, we tend to think that our sense of ourselves is really quite as it should be. Then we run into something that says, "What makes you think you are so cool?"

One of the pieces of advice that I continually give to meditation students and even sometimes to hypnosis clients is to admit to who you really are. What is meant by that piece of advice is that we are all magnificent in our own beings. For the people who are drawn mysticism it also means that we each have the depth within us to manifest the mystic, it is a matter of unveiling that mystic within and the first step to that is to admit that it exists. Or, as I often find myself saying, it's gotta be somebody, turns out it's you. On the other hand, as Pir O Murshid says above, imitation is probably not possible.

So, how do you know if you are discovering the mystic within or not?

The initial impulse is to look for some kind of sign, a minor miracle for instance, something to tell us that this impulse we have is real. At the same time we have all encountered people who are pretending and we certainly do not want to do that, or do we? Is a little pretense okay?

I once told Pir Vilayat that I was advising my students to pretend to a state so they could get some kind of feeling of what it must be like. He was not happy with me. He was very clear in saying that the experience must be authentic and not the product of pretense. So I asked how do you know. And he said that you just know, it is a matter of inner knowledge. At the time, this was some years ago, I was a bit confused and worried that maybe I was not really understanding the whole thing. I was questioning my own experiences, which I suppose is normal enough. After some years it became apparent that the experiences were real and I could relax, but it did take some time.

Am I a mystic? I don't know. I sometimes know things but as often as not I am wrong. Ultimately it seems that none of this matters. As Pir O Murshid says above, either you are or you aren't. So maybe the real key is to be content with who you are.

I do not know of a single person, up to and including the Pir, who does not have some messy stuff in their lives. Every one of us lives here, on this planet, which is filled with confusion, bad information, missteps, etc., etc. One of the major steps in discipleship is recognizing that your teacher/guide is human; that they make mistakes and have all sorts of issues. And once you get through that shock, you can relax and just do the work of discovering your true being. So, even though your personal life is a mess and the things you wish often do not turn out as you feel they should, never the less; keep going, do not give up. Becoming the authentic self that you already are and allowing the being within to emerge in a calm, serene manner is the true task at hand. We are all in this together and it can be fun if only we do not take ourselves too seriously.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Sunday, April 18, 2010


"The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without a dignified ease."

"Our validation of ourselves is so precariously suspended upon our self-image, so that we are safeguarding it as best we know by either parading an inflated psychological demeanor or lying low to evade confrontation - humility as inverted tentative pride. Little does one know most times that one is not only deceiving others but oneself."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I have noticed lately that the smaller a person's world view the more likely they are to be indignant about trivial matters. This was brought home to me recently in a fairly benign manner. I was at one of the many four way stop intersections that abound in Scranton. I waited for one car on my right to go and was about to go myself when I realized that the car on my left was also moving into the intersection, so I stopped. For some reason the young woman driving the car thought I had challenged her I suppose and I could see her yelling at me, though I could not hear the words. Obviously, in her world, I had committed an unpardonable sin even though it was a very simple thing. I didn't mind letting her go. Her passenger, as they were passing in front of me, made a rude gesture, which we are all familiar with. My impulse was to return it but that was instantly supplanted by humor and I smiled at him, which I suppose was disconcerting. Well I don't really know what his reaction was to my grin but this tiny incident was the source of my idea for this article. There was really no reason for the young woman to get upset. This kind of misstep happens all the time at these four way intersections and most people accept that occasionally it will occur and someone will have to give way. Usually one person will make a small gesture and the other driver will give a thank you wave and go through the intersection but not this young woman. And that caused me to wonder why?

Obviously I have no idea if my analysis of the young woman's motivation is correct or not. Maybe she was just having a crappy day and lashed out at the most convenient target. Still it was a place to launch this article.

The most important part of any observation like the one above is when you look at yourself and see if you exhibit similar behavior. It may not be at stop signs but do you find yourself getting annoyed or downright indignant over meaningless circumstances? That is what I found myself doing after the incident. How often do I find myself irate over something relatively insignificant? I had to admit that I do, not all that often, I am much better then I was when I was younger, but I do. Once again I am secretly embarrassed and now am displaying it for all to see. I wonder if this is the inverted pride that Pir Vilayat speaks about. Whew, it certainly does get complicated doesn't it?

We, as humans trying to live our lives, are constantly assaulted by all sorts of opportunities to be smaller then we really are. My teacher used to say that we see ourselves as lowly worms when we are really magnificent celestial beings. Be that as it may, we still look for validations of all kinds. And sometimes our validation comes with false indignation. What to do? The very first thing to do is to simply admit that your self image might need a tiny bit of rearranging. I think that a major mistake that people make is in thinking that, because the work looks impossible, to attain some kind of elusive perfection, then it cannot be done. I hear it from people all the time. It's a kind of wail, "I am a mess and will never get better!" Such thinking will remain true as long as you feel that you cannot become the being you have always been intended to be. The good news is that you get to keep some flaws.

Muhasaba, the practice of self examination of the Sufi's, is not intended to embarrass you, though it will. What it is intended to do is to give you perspective. It is as if you stand outside of yourself and watch this silly person attempt to get it right and you notice what it does. That's it. Beating yourself up is optional of course but not really all that effective because then you get into the afore mentioned inverted pride thing. So, just notice, be aware and slowly, slowly you will begin to shift who you think you are to who you really are – a glorious vice-regent of the creative force of the Universe.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, March 29, 2010


I have had several people mention to me that they cannot seem to post comments. It is true that Google has made it way too complicated. However, if you post your comment as Anonymous and sign your name I will know who it is and it makes no difference to anyone else.
Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Ask any Sufi you know what Sufism is and you will get an answer. Ask another and you will get a different answer. Go on line and look up the many Sufi sites and each one will tell you what Sufism is and they will all be different in some way, often in significant ways. Ask a scholar of Sufism and you will get an academic answer filled with convolutions, comparisons and allusions that leave you gasping for air. Some will say that it is the mystic aspect of Islam and that you cannot be a true Sufi if you are not a Muslim. Others will say that is not true and that many people over the centuries have embraced Sufism without embracing Islam. And on and on go the discussions and arguments.
It seems to be one of the major traits of humanity to need to define things. And, we will almost always define things or ideas in light of whatever cultural baggage we happen to be toting around. This is a problem when the thing we decide to define defies definition. There’s alliteration for you. In any case, it is certainly a possibility that if Sufism has so many ideas about what it is then it is probably true that the definitions that appear are almost certainly based on the opinions and ideas of the people doing the defining.
Way back in the dawn of time, when I first discovered Pir Vilayat and Sufism, I thought that I knew what it was. To me it was the path I had been looking for, the teacher I needed and the means of unraveling all the strange experiences I had been having for the previous ten years. I really did not care at all about its origins or any of the definitions. I only cared about processing the inner turmoil and creating something understandable of my life. I liked the idea that it was ancient and not some New Age thing that someone invented from their own ideas of what ought to be. And, I really liked the fact that occasionally Pir Vilayat would say that he did not know something but would find out. Then I began to study Sufism seriously and discovered all the controversy, all the opinions, all the insistent definitions. So what is it? The problem seems to be focused on which direction we approach the idea from.
From our ego's point of view Sufism must conform to our cultural understandings. We need it, or any spiritual discipline for that matter, to be recognizable by our sense of self. It can be exotic as long as we are able to accept its exotic nature as something we can process internally. It can be defiant if that is our tendency. Witness the apparent need of some Western followers of Sufism to adopt Arabic dress even though it is pretty inappropriate in a Northern climate. There is also a tendency to display our commitment in other ways and demand that others recognize our enthusiasm. And I could go on. But that is not where this started. It started with the idea that Sufism is and should always remain individual, that's why it is mine.
My Sufism does not care about tradition or the need to define. It seems to me that, if a person wants to do all that then that is okay, but it is not for me. To me it is what works. As some of my readers know, I have a very extensive library of Sufi literature. It is helpful in that it gives me inspiration and I enjoy the mental stretching I must do in order to understand some of the references. But, as Pir Vilayat once instructed me rather sternly, you can't get it from books. You get it in the here and now. Yes, we rely on practices that have been developed over the centuries and God bless all the beings who worked so very hard to create these meditations and practices but, we also live in the present. We live in a complex culture; perhaps the most complex ever and our needs are quite different from a seventh century seeker. And we know more.
In the seventh century a person's outlook would be pretty truncated and the world view would have been quite limited but not now. In the 40 odd years that I have been paying attention we have seen the availability of spiritual literature and access to meditation techniques explode in a manner unprecedented in any other age. So why look to the past?
As near as I can tell from this extensive library of mine, Sufism has always been about being in the Now. Its major proponents wrote books yes, but the great majority of followers were living in the present moment, content to be who they were while continually working on the self in order to understand and become the whole integrated human they were meant to be. At least that is the ideal that comes forth in the literature.
This is what I have finally come to understand. We need to define ourselves but this very defining ends up limiting our potential and undermines the very core of our being by insisting that we must conform to a definition. If we can let go of the need for definition for even a moment then the freedom that is our soul's truth can shine forth and all that we are becomes the reality that we all seek.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, March 15, 2010


"The pull of the future is stronger than the push of the past."
Leonhard Euler

We were in the car the other day, listening to the one of only two classical stations available to us. The DJ announced that the next piece would be Grieg's Piano Concerto and I automatically hummed the first few opening notes. This is probably not unusual for a classical music buff but I had no idea that this information was stored in my memory. I like classical music but I cannot say that I ever bothered to really learn who was who, etc. It really surprised and pleased me when the opening bars came and they were the notes I had hummed. I am still pleased and a bit excited to realize that something that I had known, the power of the inner mind, and that I use all the time in my hypnosis business, was actually true in a way that I had never suspected. The second part is that right now, in this moment, I have no clue what those notes are. So were did it come from?

One of the things that we tell a new hypnosis client is that the inner mind, what Freud called the Id, is the store house of every single experience we have ever had. Every thought, action, event, etc., is stored in there. This information is available to us but only on a very limited basis. It seems that the human mind has a very heavy set of filters that keep us from being overwhelmed by trivial or even important information. We don't remember things because we apparently do not need to. Or that is the way it seems to work. It would follow then that a person with a so-called photographic memory isn't really remembering things we would ordinarily forget, he just has selective recall of information that we also have but are blocked from accessing. In the hypnotic trance however; it is quite possible to access almost anything, probably including being able to hum the whole Grieg Piano Concerto, not just the opening bars. It also means that the innermost aspects of our beings, the truth of who we are is also available for access.

From the Sufi point of view, none of this really matters. It does matter that we heal our psyches but for a totally different reason then the one you may imagine. As the quote above implies, the future already exists. In all esoteric systems everything that ever was, is, or will be exists within the Celestial Dream of Creation. This is a tricky idea to hold in our minds but there is one way of seeing it that can be helpful. I was talking with a student the other day and I found myself saying something new. I said, "The Future Self looks at the present Self and says, 'We have to do something about that.'" In other words, the future Self remembers the present self and recognizes the things that the present self must do in order to become the best future Self that it possibly can be. It is not easy to think of memory as being fluid and existing in all the dimensions, all the time. And those who subscribe to predestination might say that there is really nothing they can do to alter what will be. But that is not true. The future Self exists yes but in the present we are determining the quality of that future Self. We are creating the future even though it already exists. This is the place where we separate the true mystics from the wanna-be's.

I am very fond of saying to people that spirituality is not about puffy white clouds and pink bunny rabbits. Lovely as that image is, it is wishful thinking. We cannot deny that life is a struggle and we are continually challenged to uncover an ever deeper means of observation that understands this struggle in an ever widening manner. It is like a spiral of awareness that continually grows – if we are truly paying attention. Or you can pretend that your particular way of seeing is the only right one and continually demand that the world conform. It should be obvious even to the most hide-bound New Age believer that that does not work. Therefore it might be a better expression of our potential to continually work on one's Self in service to the future Self that is looking back on the current self and remembering what could have been. How's that for a confusing sentence?

The future Self will have the very same filters that we currently have and may only remember small snap shots but deep in its psyche will be the programming that we are currently shaping in our deep desire to become who we really are.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Saturday, February 13, 2010


The pleasures of life are blinding; it is love alone that clears the rust from the heart, the mirror of the soul.
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I can distinctly remember when I was very small having many invisible friends around me. Actually, I could see them but no one else could. So I was convinced by the authority figures that they were my invisible friends. Upon reflection, I am pretty sure they were Djinni or perhaps nature spirits come to play with the lonely boy. We lived in a tar paper shack, literally, at the end of a dirt road. There were no other children close so I was alone a lot of the time. But I had my friends. Then, when I was sent off to school at five years of age, and the bright interest of the world overtook me, they disappeared from my waking consciousness.

I suspect this kind of thing happens to everyone to a greater or lesser degree. We have these beings around us all the time but the world is so bright and interesting that we cannot see them. We can also come to a place where we see the bright pleasures of the world as ugly and somehow wrong.

Part of the urge to follow some kind of spiritual path seems to be the inner knowledge that there is something wrong. Depending on how willing we are to learn this urge can be a very powerful motivation. We begin to see that the world around us is at least partially artificial and we can get very distressed. In the young this awareness tends to become militant in its outward manifestation. The young accuse everyone around them of not seeing the indignities many humans suffer and they are sure that they are the only ones to correct all of these ills. A more mature person might be a bit reticent to tilt at the first windmill they see and instead begin to look within for a personal solution.

Many, perhaps most spiritual paths urge the retreat from the pleasures of the world. Even within Sufism, which claims to have feet in both camps, heaven and earth, there is this urge to turn away from physical reality as somehow corrupted and become hermit like. We do live in the world but we tend to look upon much of it with a kind of disdain. We love quite selectively despite the ideal to love unconditionally. On the other hand we also have this instruction to continually examine our motivations, thoughts and actions. So perhaps this has the effect of gradually teaching us that the world exists and all the beings within it are struggling to understand why it is so complex and difficult. And, it is our job to not only understand the truth of physical reality but also to aid in enhancing the experience for all, not just those we approve of. It seems that not only are the pleasures of life blinding but maybe the disappointments and resentments are even more so.

I was thinking the other day of an acquaintance of mine who is openly contemptuous of just about everyone. This person has a very acerbic tongue and will tolerate no points of view different from theirs. Yet they still profess to the Sufi ideal. How can this be? It would seem that they are totally blinded by their own disappointment in life. I suppose we all fall victim to this way of being. It is extremely difficult to change our attitudes when we have invested so much energy into creating them. Yet change we must. To polish the mirror of the heart requires removing the rust which we have so earnestly deposited there. All that rust on the mirror is not something imposed from without, we are the ones responsible for its existence. My little boy self, in his innocence, had no difficulty seeing beyond the physical. Obviously, he was heavily influenced by the adults in his life to begin to ignore the beings around him but he still did turn away from his best friends, the unseen beings. Now, to recover that lost vision, I must take responsibility for all of the actions and responses that I created in order to conform to the view of those around me. And, in doing that, maybe I can also aid others in seeing beyond the physical and possibly polishing their own mirrors. It is truly what we are meant to do.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, January 25, 2010


"At the imagination of the spiritual ideal, many people are very afraid, as someone is afraid on the top of a high mountain when looking back on the immense space. It makes them fear, because they have always seen narrow horizons. The wide horizon has an effect which gives them a shock."
Hazrat Inayat Khan

If you are really paying attention to your own spiritual life surely you have noticed that the tendency is to become complacent and accept what you know is spiritual truth. It seems to be unavoidable. We also tend to shape our spiritual ideals in a way that is acceptable to us so that there is no confusion or difficulty. It doesn't seem to matter the depth of a person's realization, at some point we will decide that we know and cease to explore. And, as near as I can tell, the smarter a person is, the more likely they are to do something like this. I suppose because a smart person is convinced that their horizon is vast while a less smart person may realize that they still have things to learn. This is a totally non-scientific observation mostly based on my own journey.
As noted in the last article, I just recently figured out that it was okay to be smart. Having realized this I also had to admit that I always knew it but was afraid that others did not. Which is kind of reverse egotism I suppose. That said, I also realized a few other things. And one of them was exactly what Pir O Murshid stated above. I was sure that a vast horizon was mine but I was wrong. My horizon was/is severely limited to my idea of how the Universe sees me and how I relate to it. That was a very creepy feeling to realize I had severely limited myself. Now I have to think how to explain.
One of the things that is very important to understand about spiritual work is that it is totally okay not to know. In fact, the state of awe is one of those places that is fundamental to spiritual pursuits. That's easy to say, being there is something else entirely. I just saw a live theatre version of Mark Twain's "The Diaries of Adam and Eve." Clemens makes a very interesting point. In the story, Eve defies God and takes the apple. Clemens points out that Eve, in her total innocence would not really relate to 'Forbidden'. What could that mean to her? She had nothing to compare it to. So she takes the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and mankind is born. Without her innocent discovery of pain we never would have existed, according to Samuel Clemens that is. In the same way, in our sophisticated knowledge we are also innocent of true wisdom. As long as we limit our selves to what we are sure we know then we are separating ourselves from the true source of being and demanding that our peculiar version of reality be acknowledged. In other words, as Pir O Murshid says above, we are afraid. That's what I mean by creepy. Here we are all self satisfied and thinking we know what we are doing and whammo, some kind of revelation of transformation happens and we have to start all over again. Who wants that? Not me – yet I keep doing spiritual practices and doing the inner work. But I have to wonder over and over if I have slumped into complacency. It is very worrisome.
For people who are spiritual guides another aspect of this is recognizing that we often do not take our own advice. All too often I have been in conversation with someone, gave them really good advice that they found useful and then realized that the advice I gave was for me as well.
All of this has a singular meaning to me. You might find some other meaning but to me it says we are all struggling to find that place of interface between Unity and Separation. There is no doubt that we find ourselves in a constant state of separation. The evidence before us is testimony enough. Unity on the other hand is elusive and, as has been stated many times, it is all consuming once found. As Pir O Murshid states above, when I truly think of the spiritual ideal, I get scared. Letting go of separation is scary. On the other hand, when I can push through my fears, Unity seems so very beautiful.
This fear we all seem to experience is really a kind of poignant reminder that our beings and how we relate to the Universe and our immediate environment are always going to feel uncomfortable at some level. Apparently that is how it is supposed to be. This discomfort is our signal that we are doing something right.
So, challenge your complacency, demand the discomfort especially if you are responsible for others. Our journey is barely begun and the unveiling of humanity's potential still awaits us.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Monday, January 18, 2010


"The mind is not only the treasure house of all one learns, but it is creative by nature. The mind improvises upon what it learns, and creates not only in imagination, but finishes its task when the imagination becomes materialized. The heavens and the infernal regions - both - are the creations of the mind and both are experienced in the mind."
Hazrat Inayat Khan

One of the more important aspects of doing hypnosis work is freeing people from self imposed limitations. Often these limitations are deep in the sub-conscious and the person is not even aware of them. However; the fact that the person has sought out a hypnotist or some other kind of healer is a sure sign that the person knows something is off and they are probably ready for the next step. The question then is, what is it?
Obviously we do labor under some limitations. Our bodies must breathe occasionally in order to maintain themselves. If we do heavy work we must take in more calories in order to replenish the energy expended. And so on. All of this is obvious. What is not so obvious is the many limitations we impose on our minds in order to feel comfortable within our environment. They are not obvious because to us they seem normal. If you think about it, it is a pretty long list but I am not going to elucidate them, I am just pointing out that the list of accepted limitations is there; you can probably create just as extensive a list as I can. Instead I am going to ask you to pick the single most common limitation and have a look at it within yourself. What is that? You may well ask. As anyone in the healing profession will tell you it is lack of self worth.
Look back at Pir O Murshid's statement above and think on that while also noticing any sense of unworthiness you may have. It is truly amazing what the creative aspect of our minds can do. They accept a value and then they materialize it. I do hope that you understand that an all powerful dictator is coming from exactly the same place of unworthiness as a casper milquetoast. They are both wallowing in unworthiness but just manifest it differently.
I was made very aware of this tendency within us the other day when talking to a friend about my own creative impulses. I was babbling away when I suddenly stopped and realized something. I realized that, after all these years, I had finally accepted, more or less, that I am smart. What a relief! To just accept that you are capable and that what you say might actually be useful to others. What I had not really realized was just as I stated above – the assumed limitation was quite hidden. So, when I realized I was smart I simultaneously realized that for years I had felt otherwise. And, I realized a substantial part of how we seem to be built stays in hiding from our conscious selves.
So, what is the next step?
There is no single answer but there are many things one can do. Modern culture is partially based on the understanding that all of what is continues to be revealed. We understand that discoveries are possible even probable so why not also understand that what is within us can also be discovered, unveiled, exposed to us. The instant you decide that a hidden limitation is only a very thin layer covering something magnificent, that is the instant that awakening truly begins.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Friday, January 08, 2010

How the relationship changes both

"Friendship is a word which we all use in our everyday language, and yet it could take one's whole life only to realize its meaning. However learned a person may be, however pious, spiritual, or experienced, if he has not learned the nature and character of friendship he has not learned anything. This is the first and the last thing we have to learn." Hazrat Inayat Khan

There is something that I always tell people who ask me to be their spiritual guide. Well, there are several things, I have a list, but one of the things is that, just like any relationship, this relationship will change both of us. I also make it really clear that asking questions, any questions, is not only allowed, it is encouraged. As a result of this, some of my students take it upon themselves to keep me in line, so to speak. I do not object to this either. I used to as I was following the traditional model of the guide/seeker relationship, but I soon found that did not work for me.
Most spiritual teacher/student relationships tend to be traditional; or so I have observed. I have done no polling about this and am only going by my personal observations.
When a person is given the responsibility of being a spiritual teacher it is natural for them to emulate the model that they have before them of their own teacher's behavior. In my case the model was Pir Vilayat. He had a certain style probably necessitated by the huge number of people that he had initiated over the years. Also his basic training would have been in the Indian model of Guru – Chela relationships. The Guru is the teacher and is above all judgment. The Chela is the devotee and his/her job is to be totally devotional. Since Chisti order comes from India, it is not surprising that this is the model, more or less, that we use. To his credit, Pir Vilayat did often state that he did not want to be seen as or treated like a Guru, but it happened none the less. He did instruct his representatives to maintain a kind of distance between themselves and the students and to make sure that we kept a more or less aloof attitude. This was not said specifically but the message was clear. That was okay for him, he had this automatic regality about him that told you without a word being said that you were in the presence of a King. For others it tended to be something put on that may or may not have really fit. The problem, as I see it, with this model is that it is difficult for the teacher to admit to the student that the teacher also is affected by their interaction.
I have noticed in my own evolution as a guide that I am becoming less and less worried about appearances. And that is what the Guru/Chela model really is, an appearance of some kind, a sort of comfort zone where everyone knows their role. This works I suppose as long as everyone agrees but hard feelings arise when someone disagrees.
All too often, in this budding culture of Western spirituality, have I seen damage done because of the attempt to impose an Eastern model on our sensibilities. Why do I say budding? Because we are still trying to figure out just how we are going to do it. For the past century or so those of us with a need for a deeper spiritual experience have been struggling to integrate Eastern knowledge with Western secular attitudes. At times we go way overboard. In India it is fine for a person to don a saffron robe, in Des Moines it is silly looking. There is an impulse, I suppose, to display evidence of one's affiliation by the uniform but it really isn't necessary. Using some kind of uniform is not necessarily a bad thing but it does separate you out from your fellows in a kind of arrogant manner, as if you are somehow better because of your uniform. You may not feel that but others will so why do it? I think it may be that we are slowly coming to the realization that it is the inner work that is important and not how you are perceived by others.
Perhaps it is evident by this point that the evolution of Western spirituality is still going on. Where it will end, if it does have an ending, is still an unknown. What I firmly believe however is that it will become more and more a cooperative partnership between teacher and student. Yes it is true that the teacher often has technical knowledge that the student does not have. Yes he/she will also have access to intuition that the student has yet to develop but the words of Pir Vilayat about one's guide continue to reverberate within me and I have to believe he meant exactly what he said.
In regards to finding one's guide he always used this phrase, "To see yourself in another yourself who is better able to manifest that which you already are." How much more clear would we have to be to see that all the guide is doing is helping you to access what is already within you. And, in the doing, the guide will also find spaces within him or herself which are also opening, manifesting, unveiling. It is a cooperation.
I suspect that this line of thinking bears more inspection. So I would be glad of any input that may come from my readers.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir