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