Category Archives: Poetry

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.

The Nuts and Lightning Bolts of Getting Happy

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My painting of Meher Baba

 

 

 

New Start–85

Imagine Something Mysterious

Imagine something mysterious
Imagine a situation where you saw
That what you’d needed and was necessary
Even what you’d merely wanted

(Due to blindsight that’s not always the same thing)
Was always or usually supplied
(Especially if you looked back and died with laughter
After twenty years of wisdom and hindsight)

By an invisible and nearly silent agent
And when you tried to speak to it
You felt good for the effort or just
For the lack of hell of it even though

Perforce your speech must have no response
Like we do get from friends be it a smile
Or a laugh or tears no not that sort of friend here
But friendly anyway with scent of heaven on her

Know what I mean? Think upon it . . .
No? Why so? you may yet say
Well that’s the mysterious part but somehow you knew
Through some subtle undertow of knowing

It’s love that fits like gloves that makes your ego glow
(Like stars are flame-sublime when showering)
And then you sigh–you want to dance and sing
And cry at the same time

~.~.~

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,
First, I apologize if I have been arrogating Sufi philosophy and passing it off as my own. I hope it’s understood that I merely have been exposed to Sufism officially for seven years in the 1970’s, and as such, studied Sufis such as the founder, Hazrat Inayat Khan (circa 1920’s) and the more recent co-founder, Meher Baba. (Who dropped his body in 1969).

My reading of that study was that my adopted form of Sufism has an implicit or (again, more recently) explicit belief in reincarnation. Which “we” talked a bit about last time. Enough at least to open the reincarnation door or can of worms as is sometimes the case. Thus I had every intention of dedicating this post to reincarnation.

However,

This morning I got let’s call it a door knocking thing such as I get when a poem is there. And it’s against my religion not to answer such calls dropping any famous “other plans.“* And so I will postpone the reincarnation chat in favor of what I was thinking about this morning. But first I had to ponder, was it a poem I was writing or would it be so long and unwieldy-windy (as is my wont) that it would be too long a poem. (Generally I write poems of a page or less. My working hypothesis there is that’s a function of attention span limitations)

But I fancy myself a good prose writer (I got an A plus in college!) and so when the words they just kept on coming and then head-smackingly I realized by golly very soon a new blog post is due. So you do the math and here we are about to consider a chat about my hobby, a mere matter of the nuts and lightning bolts of getting happy. You see I had a sad semi-abandoned childhood, and devising Rapunzel-type hair ladders to climb out of there has come to be a constant and absorbing hobby.

Pero estoy andando por las ramas (Beating around the bush)**

But back to describing my “hint” to start writing. It was a little kick in the butt I felt from (I suspect) some weak legged small thing with fairy wings. Sometimes I think the path to wise is just to start focusing in on subtlety. I say “start” because that’s all that’s needed since the Theseus-type thread you saw glimmering on the ground is made of golden but blasted to a strength more like steel.

But I digress. (Yes, like a tigress defending her cubs)

So we were talking about subtlety. I often play a game I call subtlety du jour.

Which is to home in on myself. ( I am a handy and willing model) Yup play detective. Everybody is a crack detective you know, when it comes to what they really want. And all my life I knew I wanted to be happy. That was what it was all about.

And here’s why I stick to Sufism: It could be paraphrased as “The Science of Happiness.” And everyone claims to be seeking that . . .

But to examine “happiness” you have to see it in action. And so you have to poke through to beyond the veils.

Let me give you an example, from my own life. I get ennui. Fortunately it’s getting subtler (My theory is that’s because I am getting wiser)

Ennui used to be losing a wife and having to wear sunglasses at work for a year so people wouldn’t trouble me with questions like “What’s wrong?” or why have you been crying? Or much later, even waiting by the phone hoping for a call from some probably succubus I thought I was in love with.

It had looked too real! But it lacked an important earmark of love (the cure, in Sufism, for ennui and worse) to wit: Peace. Or at least the piece of peace behind even tragic things.

So I pretended I was a doctor and then got hip to the admonition, “Physician, Heal thyself!”

And so I made it my hobby to study myself. Of course you have to love yourself in order to cure yourself. But I always remember the line from Desiderata: “You have a right to be here, no less than the trees and the stars.”

You know what Inayat Khan thought was the best meditation? The one a mother has, thinking of her child, caring for her child, or (just for entertainment) watching day by day how their heart is unfolding. He said she doesn’t need training in focusing her attention. Love taught her that.

And when you come to love yourself, you become to yourself as your child. And so let’s now stipulate that a good hobby (to focus on) is getting rid of any angst of clouds that block your sun.

An example? Well how about impatience?*** It’s interesting to analyze where that comes from, and fun to concoct cures (Remember, in this hobby we are doctors)

And the synthesis is simple just for instance wonder at what’s the big deal, a little delay. Which incidentally can (amusingly) be used to commune with angels or with any of other such messengers from God (like the trees and the stars).

Which is a lot more fun (and energy-generating) than the false feeling of succumbing to an angst who thinks he’s boss. And who can blame him, considering what he has been so regularly allowed to get away with?

God Be With You,
Eric Halliwell

Ps And now I am going to boldly state that the best cure I’ve found for filling spaces invaded by impatience is make it like a blue mosaic, fill those gaps with your conception of God (and God man! use your imagination as a rope to climb out of hell in reverse, like with Rapunzel’s hair. And get the hell out of there!)

*I refer to the tragic John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”

**I confess, living in Guatemala all these years has given me an itch to throw in Spanish. But I wonder is it pretentious? I tell myself E. E. Cummings sprinkled his poetry with lots and lots of French not to mention Greek and with its bizarre looking alphabet!

***Inayat Khan said that patience was the most important virtue!