Author Archives: Eric Halliwell

About Eric Halliwell

I am the creator and sustainer of rumi-nations.com, a website which features (among a few other things, like interesting and inspiring quotes, and Sufi stories) my poetry and illustrative blog posts, about one 1000 word essay a month. It is Sufi-themed, probably because for seven years I was an officially initiated Sufi mureed, in San Francisco circa 1970’s. My poetry has appeared in these publications: Penwood Review, Ascent Aspirations, Umbrella Journal, wordcatalyst.com (since defunct), Shine Journal, Ashé Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, and Tipton Poetry Journal. I can be reached at estlin3@yahoo.com.

It’s Nice to Shed Those Tears Again

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Hazrat Inayat Khan, founder of my Sufi
order

In re Introductory Poem:
Since it turns out this post is poetry-themed, I start with a poem about being a poet or not. It is a sad poem for me because the Gail of the dedication is dead these three years. But though bittersweet, somehow it’s nice to shed those tears again.

New Start–188

The Artist Scared Me With Her Smile

–In memory of Gail

I was pursuing the artist grail
And my erst best friend Gail
The artist

Scared me with her smile
To be good she said
You really should bleed

Through hundreds and hundreds
Of drawings and when
You’ve got a style

There you go from then
But I think I’d rather be
A poet

All I need
Is God and a pen:
I already am a style

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
While I do start each blog post with one of my poems hopefully illustrating some point in the prose blog post, I wish to make an announcement:

Any who would like to be reading my current day by day (usually Sufi-themed) poetry production, are invited to friend me on FB (Eric Halliwell, Panajachel, Guatemala).

Like just for example, this recent one:

The Miracle of Something to Do

“ one realizes that life is a continual phenomenon.
Then every moment of life becomes a miracle;
a searchlight is thrown upon human nature
and all things become so clear that one does not
ask for any greater phenomenon or miracle;
it is a miracle in and of itself.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan

It’s ironic this notion one hears about
of having nothing to do
And then get depressed over that

(Bless me who is steering this ship?)

Because that there accidie ennui thing
That angst hanging over your head
Is by God something to look at

Like an alchemist does with gold

It’s something to examine
An object of interest
(like a heartbeat is to a doctor)

Unless of course you don’t value your life

Enough to care about the quality of it
And so mirabile dictu you have in your hands

The miracle of something to do

And while I am at it, on this theme of seeing example poems of mine, maybe I should devote this blog post to promoting the other sections (non-blog stuff).

And so why not start with the Poems section? It’s at the leader bar atop the main page for rumi-nations.com (YO!)

So if you click on the poems button it shows a list of possible themes .
Like perhaps, flowers, in which you might find this poem:

Where the Flowers Are

what if a much of a which of a wind
gives the truth to summer’s lie;
bloodies with dizzying leaves the sun
and yanks immortal stars awry?
–E. E. Cummings (One Times One)

Do you ever wish you were invited
To an educated cocktail party where
You could ask an entomologist
About insect instincts like

How a bee scout does a figure eight dance
In the air and bingo they all know
Where the flowers are or ask a zoologist
Why each tiger in the wild

Needs forty square miles of territory
And what would happen in the same space
If there were two tigers?
Is it that they are territorial and only

One would survive the wrestling mismatch
Or there just aren’t enough zebras
Per square mile to meet their zebra
Needs and so they’d starve?

Or maybe you want a party astronomer to ask
About job-killing black holes and that planet
That I hear is a giant uncut diamond
And of course a physicist who could say how

Things were before the big bang on the other
Side of that microscopic om point through which
The universe sprang like a genie from a bottle
(To grant us wishes)

And why it’s all radiating outwards
Like spokes in Ezekiel’s wheel or some real
Estate bubble that some dark day will burst
Like fireworks when the sky falls like Niagara?

Or if you are fond of animals and find spiritual connections in the bonds that can be formed with them, maybe click on the animals button and something like this will pop up:

When God Speaks Through the Eyes of Animals

It is so sweet
When God speaks
Through the eyes of animals

I saw a dog in the streets
Of Antigua, Guatemala:
Unbelievably skinny
Bones protruding

My heart was hurting;
So I gave him chicken
I’d had in my mochila

I looked back as I went on
And the dog for all his need
Found it more important than eating
To stare at me all my way out of sight

Maybe he was thinking
How sweet it is when God
Speaks through the kindness of strangers

You get the idea.

Maybe another time I will promote the STORIES section. (To the right of POEMS) Lots of (to me anyway) interesting anecdotes from the Sufi tradition. Usually serious but the MULLAH NASRUDIN section is pretty funny.

There is also a QUOTES button. I collect interesting and inspiring quotes. And there are a large array of them, divided into three sub-sections: THE WRITING LIFE (to inspire writers). Thirdly (and longest) consists of quotes from the founder of my Sufi order, HAZRAT INAYAT KHAN, and the third is simply classed as; THE REST, ALPHABETICALLY. This is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in which you never know what you will get.

And of course I will here mention my featured quote on the frontispiece of the website:

“Things always look different from higher up.”
–Clint Eastwood (A Fistful of Dollars)

Which is a good one to end on.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

Giving This Famous God a Dare

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A Reprise of My Painting of Meher Baba

Giving This Famous God a Dare

–To Allan Y. Cohen

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
–Bob Dylan (It’s Alright, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding)

At age eighteen
I made a deal with the night air
Under stars and the influence
Of a desperate sense

I was tired

Like someone swimming at sea
So I didn’t care about talking to the air
Pretending God was real or even
Giving this famous God a dare

They say God won’t make deals
You have to love Him first
(First water, then the thirst)

But I swear it’s not gone to my head
Instead after forty years still
I’m heart over heels
On my knees crying

For no longer dying

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

I have the impression that none, or few, of my now 582 blog followers have actually read the “About” button (see atop the main page of rumi-nations.com).

And so since it in itself is pretty much a blog post, I dedicate this July post basically to a reprise of that, which gives an overview of my life and how it led to becoming a Sufi mureed, and to this website and blog..

So, here goes:

When I was five my mother had me declared a “ward of the court” and placed in a sort of orphanage, (same principle, but often parents were living, as were mine, but who for various reasons couldn’t or didn’t want to continue in the parental responsibility realm) paid by the state to provide my room and board, board not being so difficult because being farmish, Mrs. Hunt raised most of the food in house. Farmish because of raising rabbits, chickens, the odd hog and a cow, etc. and she got some other cash from when the children were expected to do what work our age level and physical state permitted.*

Five years later my mother took me and my three brothers back, but within six months released us again, this time into the custody of my father, whose new wife had stars in her eyes and notions of child-rearing experiments thinking to (like Aunt Polly in Mark twain’s Tom Sawyer) “civilize” us. These family experiments bounced us around on average every six months or even a year, dispersed among various family members on my mother’s side, punctuated by episodes with my father’s newly subsequent wives. (He ended up with four).

As it was difficult under these circumstances to make and keep friends, I became very lonely. Later, when I was eighteen and a student at UC Berkeley, I had a “religious” experience, which delivered me from this loneliness. I had until then been an atheist, mostly to please my two older “freethinking” brothers, who were then my only friends.

However, as a student at Cal, I was allowed free psychological counseling and had the good fortune to be the patient of Allan Y. Cohen, a newly minted Ph.D. from Harvard, who’d just had his own Odyssey, having been under the tutelage of Harvard psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (latterly denombre Baba Ramdass) at Millbrook, famous for prescribing the rampant use of LSD under the philosophy of “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

This Allan Cohen, had since become a Sufi and a follower of a mystic, Meher Baba, and was dedicating himself to the furtherance of Meher Baba’s crusade against drug usage.

I had then a fierce chip-on-my-shoulder way of testing people (partly why I hadn’t any friends).** And when I’d come for an appointment after the night before showing up stoned at one of his anti-drug lectures, exhibiting what most others would have taken to be insulting behavior such as heckling etc., he invariably reacted with good humor. He simply looked vastly amused that I would find any fun in that sort of thing.

As for whether I might believe in his metaphysical stuff, he didn’t seem to care. Not viscerally. Though with helpful enthusiasm if and when I ever showed any interest.

Which was fortunate, in that any sort of proselytizing would have driven this atheist away. But I came to respect his unorthodox shrink methods and noticed the pictures on his wall of Meher Baba and Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of Sufism in the western world, which aroused my curiosity. And as I became curious about this curious man, I began to ask questions.

Like who were the pictures of?

Now, you must know that the Sufi philosophy or at least the Hazrat Inayat Khan brand of Sufism–pretty much the only kind I’ve studied, (apart from the 1000 year old wonderful Sufi treatise, by the Sufi shaykh Hujwiri, Kashf Al-Mahjub, which translates as The Revelation of the Mystery)–features the opposite of proselytizing, almost to the extent of indifference, except for the reinforcement of any pre-existing enthusiasm. Queries are answered, but unless there are follow-up questions, the matter is dropped.

I think Allan Cohen created a sort of Buddhist vacuum, that pulled me in.

So I asked if there was anything I could read by way of an introduction. But even after reading his suggested mystical writings, *** intriguing and plausible though they were, still it was just an intellectual concept. I guess I was like a later dear friend, an atheist who admitted to me she would surely like to be able to believe such stuff, but couldn’t believe in fairy tales, thank you. It is an interesting question what leads one to such a belief. Meher Baba has written (familiarly, to me at least) about a state of “divine desperation.”

Well, one night in 1968, visiting a friend in Portland Oregon, with the television blaring news of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, I was feeling so lonely that I went for a walk under the stars, and started to talk out loud saying things like I felt stupid talking to the air but as there weren’t any witnesses, okay, I’d give it a shot. I simply said, I was desperately sad and lonely and if Whoever you are would take away that feeling, I would believe. And instantly I was ecstatic. It was as if God was afraid I would change my mind, and struck while the offer was there. Tears streamed down my face, I was so happy, so grateful. And I went on to become a Sufi, in the same order that Allan Cohen was in. After seven years things happened and I moved on, but I have considered myself a Sufi ever since. And I can justly claim to be that since the essence of this Sufism is the belief that God is only accessible through an experience in one’s own heart, independent of priests and intermediaries.

Of course, this intense, ecstatic feeling wound down after a few days, but it is still there today, as a floor beneath me that I feel I can never fall through. It is rumored in Sufism that the best virtue is gratitude, and I do have that, though many troubled waters have since passed under the bridge.

But in my generative years, as Erik Erikson would say, I wish to share these Sufi ideas which I have come to love and which are the inspiration for my poetry. This “about” section begins with a poem I wrote concerning the situation I’ve just described, and my gratitude. (See above)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*such as getting up before sunrise to feed and water 100 rabbits, or things like being farmed out to local walnut growers to harvest walnuts, for which Mrs. Hunt the Wagnerian lady from Oklahoma who ran the place was paid so much per stuffed gunny sack of walnuts. Or on Hallowe’en stuffed into a car and ferried all over the rural countryside to (like honeybees) collect large quantities of candy most of whch Mrs Hunt confiscated to furnish her baby showers or other such social life.

**To see how I’d gotten so feisty check out the Johnny Cash song “a Boy Named Sue.” Or to put it otherwise, I got tough from having been abandoned and as I say, bounced around.

***Mostly Meher Baba’s three volumes of “Discourses.”

Of Such Is the Kingdom of Happiness

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New Start–134

The Sacred Duty to Be Happy

Sure we hear all the military talk
About enforcing discipline
Dry stuff it is too so of course
I prefer to bother with yet wet babies

Who have not gotten confused from the blather
Of the bathwater
I mean sure it’s a wonderful thing
This discipline

But it’s an unmilitary irony that
The discipline we are most duty bound to enforce
Is the one that stands with happiness
Which doesn’t betray happiness

Like Benedict Arnold did when he turned
Over his fort to the British
And we must not turn over our heart
To its enemies

Which though legion (and ironically un-American)
All bear this mark of Cain:
This ignoring the cries of our purple
(Yes wounded) heart

Whose oak leaf clusters symbolize
Wood from the true cross
Testifying to the sacred duty
To be happy

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
If you go to the word cluster on the right look for “happiness.”

It’s in pretty big letters, is it not? Which means there are lots and lots of emphasis (read blog posts) on that.  Which you can access by clicking on the word.

Indeed still embedded (with redirects bringing you to the final product: rumi-nations.com) in my title files for this blog is the original concept (yes I was going to call the blog “Happiness Poetry.”

And an early post (circa 2013) was one titled, “Sufism, the Science of Happiness.”

Because it is a science in the sense of you keep trying things, and gradually the water runs clear, the gold appears, more and more types of gold.

It’s a long haul of course. I have done a lot of mouthing lately about doing “my next” post about reincarnation. (But like the carrot on the donkey stick it seems to recede each time when juxtaposed with a new idea.

Like today’s out of the blues try at discussing the concept of happiness. (Happiness uber alles!)

This popping up is not surprising since happiness has been a big question mark (you might say, an obsession ) for me all my thinking life (starting when I was a grown up adolescent.)

Which brings us to my famous acid trip back in the day.*

I was a hippie in Berkeley and so I took some LSD. But at least I used it for a purpose. One night I meditated all night (on acid!) pondering the issue of why I didn’t have many friends (just one, really) and consequently was lonely. Well I had an insight. Maybe people were repelled by the fact that I insulted them (for instance). Also you must know I had taken to wearing bell bottom pants and a pea coat imitating the Beatles (thinking it would make me cool) It was cool all right at least insofar as my reception from people. Who knew they didn’t like phonies?)

That night I got the gut for naught feeling of the shallow nihilism of posing as what I was not.

So, two upshots.

Two resolutions.

As for the problem of posing (in this case via clothing options) I hit on the simple expedient of always wearing the same clothes. So I bought sets of jeans and blue work shirts, which became my de rigueur attire. My uniform, you could say.

And as for the friend problem, I would try a radical experiment. I would be sweet to people instead of insulting. (who knew?)

I guess this begs the question of why was that ever even an impulse.

I think it’s a chicken and egg thing. I was mean to people out of resentment for feeling they didn’t like me. And they didn’t like me because I was mean to them. (Full disclosure: I had a chip on my shoulder perhaps related to my mother putting me in an orphanage for a few years–age five through nine.

Anyway, it worked. That night’s epiphany pulled me out of the quagmire. Of course it helped a lot when I noticed it  was fun being nice.

I guess this leads to a discussion of gratitude but this post is too long in the tooth to add a different theme.

So happiness has always been my goal. Except in the eighties I took one of those human potential seminars and they had everybody write down what was their bedrock goal, and I wrote “inner peace.”

But then maybe of such is the kingdom of happiness.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I do not of course recommend LSD but I was a hippie (In Berkeley!) and inspiration is where you find it. See, I figure God in a pinch can make honey out of horseshit. And the LSD did give me what felt like a powerful focus on the issue. But my older brother Jim the musical genius, now he took massive doses and perhaps not coincidentally became certified insane and died young in a mental hospital.