Category Archives: Poetry

Some Deep Spiritual Common Sense that Pervades the Universe

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

Why Is Poetry So Respectable an Itch?

Why is poetry so respectable an itch
And not so, beer
Or worse, whiskey which,
Too, provides rye verse, a peer

Perverse for its reputation only?
For from the spell of lonely
I cast or dwell in
With my poem I fell in

More with booze than muse:
I did but choose
To while in idle dream
My time away from seem.

The mood, once written, is broken
Just as Ginboy’s smitten token
Leaves ache and aching pain
When morning comes breaking again.

But it’s some consolation
From angels or some flower:
Last night’s lines were exhalation
Still redolent of power.

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 want to speak briefly of my poetry and how (and the fact that) I use it to clarify issues important to me, as a Sufi.

Of course as a Sufi (particularly my personal sort, these days*) I am quite free to decide things on my own, using my imagination and my own conception of religion a la Mohammed. That is, for instance, instead of following a catechism or other schism in the religious community, cleaving to one over another, I am free to pick and choose, inventing my own religion**

But I don’t want to veer off the main message of this post, which is how does my poetry fit in with my “Sufism?”

First thing that must be said (or admitted) is that my poetry is my Sunday School. It keeps me in line. You see, the thing with the poem is two-fold; one I am full of gratitude not just for saving me from the ignominy of writer’s block (there is always a new theme or better said, a descant on a familiar one (Was it Solomon or Goethe; I forget which, that said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”)

The second thing is it is tailormade for me who perhaps has only one principal virtue (I am like Oscasr Wilde and temptation***) which is by God there is one “shit I will not eat.” **** Which is I will not be a hypocrite. If an idea comes to me in a poem suchwise I proclaim it as if I were a prophet (a proper thing according to Emerson; See his Self Reliance essay) well then I am honor bound to be bound by the wisdom of it. It’s interesting how easy one finds it to obey what is prompted by a grateful heart.

And it’s not just gratitude for no writer’s block; no, it is the appreciation of the honor of having been invited by something divine whispering what to write in my ear. It makes one humble to the point of tears. And you can imagine then how less difficult it is to reorient oneself towards a new conception of the light. (Like any well behaved plant would do)

It is also a meditation, and a true meditation on anything is a relaxing thing.

That’s what I liked many years back when I first hit Guatemala and started studying art. Just the intense focus on the drawing came out as a meditation. And again I was grateful. Of course I hadn’t thought I could do art worth a damn and it turned out if you just focus right, the spirit comes through like my principal chez d’ouevre, my drawing of the Virgin Mary***** (funny I just typed her as the virgin memory! Must be a lesson there somewhere). See above drawing for that. Sabes que it made me a professional artist? I sold it for $150 dollars! True it was to my best friend’s wife but Kebi never buys what she doesn’t want.

Anyway I was astonished how well it came out. Even Ralph (the best friend) and his usually Eric-deprecating daughter averred it showed “an amazing sensitivity.”

And what’s a corollary to this latter? (and ladder!) It’s this: all God (or angels, or some deep spiritual common sense that pervades the universe) comes to your aid when you are on the right road.

And so my main point is, I use my poetry largely as a meditation and a vehicle to clarify issues of importance to me. Issues such as what are the most useful metaphors for God?  Or in my case since God is inherently unknowable by the finite mind (yo!), it makes more sense to me to think of “God” in terms of His or Her ambassador. As in Kindness is God’s ambassador. As in tolerance and humility is God’s ambassador. As in whatever whichever quality that moves the heart is God’s ambassador.

But my mainest point here is I had been hearing all my Sufi life about the importance of meditation and breathing exercises.  But I struggled with both of these. Now the above-mentioned is how I substituted a to me miraculous meditation. But alas, I have never gotten the hang of breath exercises, which Inayat Khan (see above stuff just below my drawing) places an embarrassing emphasis on. See the ****** below and I will tell you an example of my moron status when it comes to breathing exercises. But I at least have “solved” the meditation problem. A shame about the breathing exercises. (probably why I can’t levitate) But one out of two ain’t bad. Looks pretty good; in fact in baseball . . . But I digress, which is a sign it’s time to sign off for this time.

God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

*As opposed to days of old, when I was an official (read “mureed” accepted by a bonified murshid, or guru in lay terms, and of course previous to my ignominious boot from the order (yes thereby hangs an interesting tale you can read about here: https://rumi-nations.com/2021/01/28/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-3/)

**referring to: “Every man has his own religion.”

–Mohammed (as cited by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

***  “I can resist anything, except temptation.”

          –Oscar Wilde

****The reference is to E. E. Cummings’ poem panegyric to the pacifist (“I sing of Olaf”)

***** Interestingly there is a subsect of Sufis in Turkey’s Anatolian Plateau that evinces an intense interest in the Virgin Mary.

****** Go fiqir!  We Sufis were taught a trick for deciding an important life issue. It was called “fiqir.” In that, one imagines the breath as a playground swing with inhaling and exhaling at opposite ends of the described arc. We were told to keep that in mind while thinking of the important decision. And if while contemplating the proposed course of action the breath faltered, then that was a sign it was not a desirable thing.  And here’s the humiliating part: I couldn’t even maintain the swinging. My perverse mind would step in and immobilize it and I’d be stuck motionless at the bottom of the arc!

A Bit of a Trip from Playful

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Hazrat Inayat Khan

A Bit of a Trip from Playful

“Its is not until the ego is crushed that the simple
faith and perfect humility and innocence come which
you see in the face of your Master, your saviour. It
is not only his teaching which attracts us to Jesus
Christ, it’s his face of innocence. Any artist who
tries to paint a picture of him by intuition will
portray that simple innocence in the face of the Lord.
Not fatherhood but sonship has won the heart of the
world, and this is the first thing for a disciple to
acquire. And he does this by crushing his ego.”

Hazrat Inayat Khan (Discipleship)

“Suffer the Little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus Christ

I have been thinking that
Jesus’ talk of suffering children
Was from their spontaneity
Their sense of play

But I have seen
In my first grade class
Such innocent respect in children’s eyes

Now I come to think
It’s a bit of a trip
From playful
More I would call it solemn

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,
As many of you already know perhaps the most famous quote from Thoreau is, “Simplify!”

I mention this in reaction to a recent in the series of posts of the writings of the founder of my erst Sufi order, Hazrat Inayat Khan*

Today’s post was titled, “Believe in God with childlike faith; for simplicity with intelligence is the sign of the Holy Ones.”

And he goes on to elucidate:

The question arises: what is the manner of opening the heart? The way to it is a natural life, the life of the child, smiling with the smiling one, praying with the praying one, ready to learn from everyone, ready to love. The child has enmity against no one, he has no hatred, no malice, his heart is open. It is in the child that you can see the smiles of angels; he can see through life.

When the grown-up person is made ready, when he has acquired the attributes of the child, then he creates heaven within himself, he understands. The child with his innocence does not understand, but when a person with understanding develops the childlike loving tendency, the purity of heart of the child with the desire to be friendly to all — that is the opening of the heart, and it is by that blessing that he can receive all the privileges of human life.

Truth is simple. The more simple you are and the more you seek for simplicity, the nearer you come to truth.

Which reminds me of the old Shaker hymn: Tis a gift to be simple, Tis a gift to be free . . .”**

“I remember the blessing my spiritual teacher, my murshid, used to give me every time I parted from him. And that blessing was, ‘May your Iman be strengthened.’ At that time I had not thought about the word Iman. On the contrary I thought as a young man, is my faith so weak that my teacher requires it to be stronger? I would have preferred it if he had said, may you become illuminated, or may your powers be great, or may your influence spread, or may you rise higher and higher, or become perfect. But this simple*** thing, may your faith be strengthened, what did it mean? I did not criticize but I pondered and pondered upon the subject. And in the end I came to realize that no blessing is more valuable and important than this. For every blessing is attached to a conviction. Where there is no conviction there is nothing. The secret of healing, the mystery of evolving, the power of all attainments, and the way to spiritual realization, all come from the strengthening of that belief which is a conviction, so that nothing can ever change it.”

And by a “strange” coincidence I subsequently heard on tv in the classic musical Brigadoon (the first collaboration of Lerner and Loewe who brought us My Fair Lady) this quote which I then (as is my wont****) posted to Facebook:

“Sometimes the things you believe in are more real than than all the things you can see or understand.”

–Gene Kelly (Brigadoon)

And he goes on: “We read in the Vadan, ‘Simplicity is the living beauty.’ Mankind today has made life so complex that whatever one seeks after, one wants to find in complexity. All things in life which have importance, beauty and value are simple; and simplest of all things is the divine truth.”

God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

*Which is free and can be signed up for a daily dose of such here:
https://wahiduddin.net/saki/saki_new.php

**the hymn goes like this:

’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Interestingly, Wikipedia says this about it: “The song was largely unknown outside Shaker communities until Aaron Copland used its melody for the score of Martha Graham’s ballet Appalachian Spring, first performed in 1944.”

The Shakers were in my opinion a bonafied “spiritual” group. But they had a fatal flaw. They practised celibacy, and so after a time the group petered out (as it were) for the lack of fresh blood.

*** “simple!” there’s that word again!

****Indeed I am a collector of pithy quotes. If you look closely at this website you will see (above) a section called “Quotes.” You are hereby invited to check it out

What They Do to 33 Year Old Carpenters

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Meher Baba and “ThreeB” (for Baba’s Beautiful Baby) AKA Diane Cobb

PR3–131
Fair Is Fairest of Them All

In Sufism atheism doesn’t make sense
Unless our atheist has first tried God
(Tried the Sufi God)
Because fair is fairest of them all:

How can you judge a God you have denied
Before you even tried?
And here’s atheists thinking small thinking
They’ve got me in a cul de sac of argument

(No escape):
They say with their clever entrapment smile
“Which God?”
And so I say to that well deny this:

The God that would be beautiful to you
Try to talk to that God
(In the walk-in closet of your heart)
Because in Sufism one picks one’s God

One chooses a God from the heart
A God specially designed closer than antibodies fit
With their locking ports which admit no strangers
Even my atheist friend

Said she wished she could believe
These reassuring fairy tales
But she never tried to talk to God
Not even the version of Whom

She’d have liked to believe in
Not even to present her terms of belief
She might be surprised
It worked for me because

God made me a counter offer
I couldn’t defuse:
I was kissed (on the lips)
By a lunar eclipse

Gentle Readers,
As I have frequently mentioned, I was an official member of a Sufi order. (Read sanctioned by Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of Sufism in the western world–circa 1920)

But maybe some have wondered why just the seven years? (1972 thru 1979).
What happened?
Once in a post seven years ago I confessed it all. And I have a hunch my current followers don’t go back that far, or if they do, they have either forgotten it or (for their long memory) are obviously devoted fans who will forgive the occasional throwback.

So this is a reprise of my post seven years ago, talking about how I got ignominiously dismissed from the Sufi order in 1979:

Gentle Readers,

(Sorry to be so late with this post. WordPress changed how they do things and I only just learned how)

Since last week, I’ve found some Lud* photos to illustrate this. Last week, I featured a photo of Lud’s daughter “Three B” (after Baba’s Beautiful Baby,” a name Meher Baba gave her, which stuck, for obvious reasons) In the photo one could see she was radiantly happy to be with Meher Baba.

I have already posted chronicling how Lud had been so sweet to me when I was dismissed from the Sufi order by Murshida Duce. How he rushed to see me and though I could not believe my ears, to apologize to me, for having suggested I write the letter I did to Murshida. And it was also sweet to thereby know that if it had been up to Lud that never would have happened, and obviously so, since the letter I’d sent Murshida contained nothing I’d not already told Lud, and which had elicited from him nothing but his saying how impressed he was with my honesty. And, of course, stressing the need for a plan to address the issues.

I had been worried, of course, so I had called Lud before I sent the letter off to Murshida. (I think I’ve already told of Murshida’s “Christmas Present” that year. Of how we should each send her a letter saying if we were happy as Sufi’s, functioning well under the requirements, or were having problems, even to the point of not wishing to continue, thus offering what I would have called an honorable discharge).

And Lud said not to worry so it was an honest letter. But afterwards Lud said, it was indeed, too honest. He said, (by way of explaining that he’d never told Murshida about my issues), “I saw you had a good heart, and so I just assumed it all would work out.”

Who knows the value of having someone like Lud say that. Perhaps it was just for that, that I was a Sufi.

I don’t know how many of my gentle readers have ever been thrown out of a group like the Sufis. I remember Murshida saying she’d been asked if Sufis should shun ex-Sufis who’ve been dismissed from the order. She said that would be a horrible thing, since that’s when they needed friends the most. Of course, Murshida saying that, and it being taken to heart, well, while I did have pretty good luck with my close friends, and my wife, Sally, I certainly saw much evidence of being shunned.

And there were others not so close, who proved my friend then, as well. And if any are reading this you know who you are and please know too you have an honored place in my heart.

It’s so much easier to suffer judgment when the judgment isn’t shared by your friends, and even some objective observers. But, and I cannot emphasize this too much, the real psyche-saver in this was Lud.

As for the judgment police, I don’t judge anyone for judging. It’s not the worst sin I have forgiven. (Or committed) And fairness demands no double standards. And as I used to tell my first grade students, “I am the fairest of them all.”

But I cannot over-emphasize my intense gratitude for Lud sparing me that horrible feeling of judgment and then, ostracism.

Because (and here’s a confession) it was Lud I loved. Though Murshida too, in a way powerful enough to make me burst into uncontrollable tears at her funeral. But honesty bids me also say, that sure had come as a surprise to me.

The summer before that fateful Christmas, it was my thirty-third birthday. And little did I know then the foreshadowing it was when, the night of my birthday my mother woke me up in the wee hours, drunkenly phoning to say, “Happy Birthday! Just had to remind you what they do to thirty three year old carpenters.”**

Sure enough, six months later, I felt crucified all right. Talk about synchronicity . . .

When Lud was dying, a few years later, we started writing to each other; I offered to get a marrow transplant if it would help with his bone cancer. But he said it wasn’t that type of thing. I wish though I’d have had a first hand way to judge how much better it is to actually make a sacrifice for someone you love (this transplant is a painful process for the donor) than it is just to know that you would.


And I loved him. I still do, wherever he is now. I will always cherish my last memory of him after I’d been dismissed, with us saying goodbye hugging and both of us crying and me apologizing for not having been a better mureed, and him, incredibly, for not having been a better preceptor. You see, to Lud the hardest thing in the world would have been to be denied the Sufi order. And so he felt bad on my behalf, that that had befallen me.

But if any of my readers knew Lud, and would like to share their stories, I’d love to post them in a blog post. Not to worry if they are short bits. I have some short bits myself that I haven’t gotten to, as it wasn’t enough to develop into a theme for a post. But if we all got together we could maybe do a charm bracelet thing, with a succession of freestanding anecdotes, quotes, or what have you. But about Lud somehow. Sort of like make up for that ill-fated birthday scrapbook. (To read about that, see December 23 post, “The Kind of Tears You Get From Laughing Too Much.” See https://rumi-nations.com/2013/12/23/the-kind-of-tears-you-get-from-laughing-too-much/)
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Lud Dimpfl, my adored Sufi preceptor (assistant Murshid, or head guru)

**33 year old carpenters is of course a reference to Jesus’ age when crucified