Tag Archives: Angels

The Heart Is an Infinite Thing

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw


When You Feel Alone In These Woods

It isn’t much
it’s just a hunch like an illumined
Yet apparently ill-omened over
Or undertone in those movies

You don’t know where it comes from
Yet you know something is up
(There is something in the line of the trees
Or how the breeze rattles the leaves)

Like in Wyeth’s painting that suddenly
Alert-to-danger dog
Beside the sleeping woman
So it’s got your attention

When you feel alone in these woods
But the ominous coloration
Like the deep red of turning rose petals
Turns back black lavender then on to

Cream then light steps out to your rescue
And says
Sorry I scared you like that
I had to get your attention


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,
In case you haven’t noticed, this is a personal blog, though also advertised as a poetry and Sufism thing.* But that’s to be expected since this stuff is personal to me, as a Sufi poet.

And so I tend to write about what is going on in my mind and heart. And a good thing too, or soon I would run out of material. But the heart is an infinite thing, much like how a kaleidoscope never runs out of different patterns (or snowflakes either, for that matter).

Which as I say tends and bends toward Sufi themes.

So too, this website and blog features “Sufi” poetry. I do have a plausible claim to that, since indeed I was officially initiated into a Sufi order founded in 1912 by the renowned mystic Sufi Murshid (and acclaimed musician from Hyderabad) Hazrat Inayat Khan. And I even lasted seven years there!

Which is why atop every post are two of my favorite Inayat Khan quotes, his invocation, and his prescribed daily mantra. See above–which is always good advice, because as my featured quote on my main page says, “Things always look different from higher up.” (Clint Eastwood–For a Fistful of Dollars)

But I digress.

I suspect this is never going to be a hugely popular blog, because it is so personal to me. And I tend to focus on what other people might think of as small beer stuff. For example (and indeed for what started this post) I was thinking about signs. Little tiny signs, perhaps, but if you got even a short note from a beloved in the mail, it tends to be cherished. And well, let me stop beating around the bush and come to the point.

I am referring to little whiffs of angst, little daily frustrations, and small disappointments, that (oddly) leave the heart feeling blemished.

I take these to be signs. In fact I just wrote a little poem about that:

Say Hi to Angels

What’s nice is when stuff goes awry
Especially when it’s unaccountably awry

Because then you know
That angels are playing with your head

That’s why it’s then your big chance
To say hi to angels

Sure, on one level this could be dismissed as trivial stuff, but to me it is a sign post. I think it’s not for nothing that these days I have a low tolerance for even traces of angst. Or rather a low tolerance for not exploring what’s going on, once I receive such a sign.

You know Jesus for instance prescribed a constant vigil never knowing, he said, at what hour he may appear. Well, I have come to see these whiffs of angst as a message from God. That is to say an anti-message, a sign that God had gone missing. Not AWOL, I mean it’s all on me. It’s like the bumper sticker said, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”

And this angster stuff has a clear message, a kind of SOS, a sign of mayday.

I guess it’s to me like reading tea leaves is supposed to be. (if you know what to look for)**
And here’s a poem I wrote day before yesterday, which is along these lines:

The Rapt Gift of Second Sight

Perhaps you remember the old trick
Of opening a bible at random
And thus hitting upon a certain apt verse
Or the famous I Ching thing

Where you throw sticks of yarrow stalks
And then read the rede from those?
Or tarot cards too I suppose
Now I used to be a cynic but in everything

I am a cynic until I understand the reason behind
Even in math when my teacher was
A good woman who loved math
And could explain the truth behind the graph

Well I suddenly got the highest grades
And now I understand about tea leaves
Coins tossed and such:
It’s much more a matter of plausible deniability

See if angels sauntered down and spread around
Diamond wings and things and rang golden chimes
And sang bars from the music of the spheres
Well what would the common lot worship

Who love the warship rumpus of gaudy fireworks?
No–God (and all the seer stars)
Want you to worship the subtlety of cupid darts
That lurks embedded in our hearts

Not the detracting distracting of tinsel on the tree
Overlooking the Christmas glow below
The rapt gift of second sight
(Your compass in the night)

Anyway my point is angst is a good thing if you take it as a signal. Just as pain is nature’s way of telling you your body is in danger. And as we know, knowledge is power. And to quote Don Juan in Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell, “To be in hell is to drift. To be in heaven is to steer.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*As for the definition of Sufism, well, let’s just say it is the religion of the heart. If all the dogma or mystical theories, statements, et al of priests rabbis, gurus of all stripes were on one side, and what your heart told you were on the other, it’s a simple and always choice.

You go with your heart.

Indeed I remember once asking my beloved preceptor Lud (short for Ludwig, rhymes with blood) Dimpfl, what we should do if the advice of the Sufi Murshid or preceptor, was in conflict with our interpretation of what our heart told us. Lud said, you follow your heart. And he said we do ask however that you keep our advice handy on a shelf, and take it down from time to time, dust it off and see if it may make more sense this time.

Just that.

Which I thought was quite the reasonable request! One (among many) reasons I am so fiercely devoted to Sufism.

**Inayat Khan was always talking about how the wise could read the leaves in the trees. Maybe it’s something in the way of the wind that shook the branches or God knows what but the sages he said could read the word of God in such things.

Indeed I read I think it was in a book by Idries Shah that for the Sufis of old there was a convention in which the wind was a metaphor for a message from God.

Idries Shah devoted his life to bringing Sufism to life before the public, yes, even down to the amazing and amusing Nasrudin stories–of which you can find a sampling in this website’s main page Stories button, if you scroll down to Nasrudin. I recommend it. It’s a true kick, his sense of humor and how thereby mystical truths are revealed. Shah was an interesting man–for more info see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idries_Shah

The Kind of Tears You Get From Laughing Too Much

Lud Dimpfl with Filis Frederick

Lud Dimpfl with Filis Frederick

There Are a Lot of Angels Back Home Who Miss You

“Light can penetrate any amount of darkness
but no amount of darkness can penetrate light.”
–Meher Baba

A lot of people get a lot of mileage
Out of not liking evil:
They expend a lot of energy
Announcing it and especially so

When they discover it in somebody disliked
And they’re very proud of that
But the road of sanity
(That’s to say happiness)

Is not negation:
It’s better to like something good and
Better still if you find it in one you like
Like yourself

Because as Meher Baba also said
There is no evil–just lesser and greater
Degrees of good because evil is like cold
It’s just a matter of less heat

And very subjective
(Ask an Eskimo)
And focusing on looking for
And denouncing evil is to look for

What doesn’t exist
(Except in an insane dream)
And by focusing on something
That really exists (however small)

You are following Theseus’ thread
Out of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth
And as you focus the thread gets thicker
Stronger and more hope-like

More rope-like: you are escaping
Which is a good thing too because
There are a lot of angels back home
Who sing about how much they miss you


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.”


August 28, 2016:
This is another re-instated blog post from those which mysteriously and suddenly went missing. There were over a hundred posts in all dating from April Fool’s Day, 2013, and as I have occasionally mentioned, the vast bulk of them were wiped out by some apparently malicious entity who got access to the inner workings of my website. And as I have promised, I am gradually (and laboriously) reintroducing them, from back-up files. This is one in a series of those. Also, I should add, this whole debacle explains the gaps you will see in the Archives section. Today’s is occasioned by it being of a piece with the one I reposted yesterday or was it Friday? (Because it had to do with my old beloved and departed Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl)

And expect another one very soon, on the same Lud tears and laughter theme.

Note regarding the above photo of Lud and prominent Baba follower Filis Frederick: I once had the privilege of driving her across the San Francisco Bay Bridge with the probable destination of the old Sufi Center on Van Ness in San Francisco. What I remember is her upbraiding me for not keeping both hands on the steering wheel. You would think being criticized wouldn’t be such a good memory. But it turned out to be a pleasant memory if only as proof I’d had the privileged position of Chauffeur to Filis Frederick. Kind of like if you had been slapped by Bette Davis you would have hurried to get your face photographed while it was still red.

But back to regular programming:

Gentle Readers,
Do you remember the classic movie I Remember Mama? It’s a catchy title and that’s probably why it’s stuck with me. And probably why just now I had thought of titling this post, I Remember Lud, (short for Ludwig, rhymes with blood–my old Sufi preceptor from the 1970’s.)

Because Lud was memorable.

Heart things always are. (Have you noticed?) Too bad scientists (or as E. E. Cummings called them, a “one-eyed son of a bitch”) can’t see the compelling evidence in that mere fact. An artifact of evolution I suppose they suppose. As if there’s a greater survival or fertility rate associated with tears.

Not that there aren’t some honest scientists who do their Euclidian homework and realize it’s all dependent on which axioms (a priori, inherently unprovable givens) one wishes to use as a logical springboard. The classic case being Euclid’s “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Now I’ve heard rumors that Mr. Non-Euclid posited alternatively that the shortest distance between two points is a curved line. Which understandably leads to some weird and (to me) incomprehensible theorems though I adored geometry and aced it in high school. But you get my point, that an honest scientist reveals his axioms.

But I digress.

So, back to tears. And back to Lud Dimpfl, my Sufi preceptor. As it happens my favorite Lud stories have to do with his tears.* But in this case they were the kind of tears you get from laughing too much.

For the first story, (as they say in the Victorian novels) you must know that it was Lud’s birthday, and his Sufi class was planning a birthday party. I was in on the planning meetings, and got excited about the idea for a gift someone suggested. The idea was for everybody to write down their favorite Lud sayings, or Lud-oriented vignettes and write and paste them (if there were ancillary photos or art, paste those too) into a scrapbook which we would present to him at the party.

Wow I thought what a great idea. Especially since I felt I had a Duesenberg of an idea. It was a quote which I thought was Lud’s own but I soon found out he’d been quoting someone. It was in a private pre-nuptial interview Lud wanted to give me and my imminently new bride, Sally. (This was of course after my divorce from the original wife Judy, whom I’ve mentioned before.)

Lud wanted the meeting to advise us about finances. I think it was rather obvious that he knew more about such stuff than we did. Of course we were much younger. In my memory the thing he most wanted to emphasize was how greatly our expectation (read confidence) could be of use, since it was mental attitude that mas que todo influenced how financially secure you were.

And to underline his point he said, “There’s money out there, lying in the streets.” Which you can see was an interesting statement coming from a religious tradition which emphasized the distinction inherent in Jesus’ dichotomy of God and Mammon.

Sally and I were impressed. Largely since it reinforced that it was not a zero sum game. We could prosper and it would add to, not subtract from the general prosperity.

In any case it gave me a dynamite and authentic quote to amuse Lud with, on his birthday.

But someone (the lady whose job it was to supervise entering in the scrapbook the guests’ contributions) was not thinking it would be amusing. In fact I could see she had severe doubts that perhaps it didn’t show Lud proper respect. She wanted me to see what others had contributed to the scrapbook. These were mostly not quotes from Lud (I thought that was the point! A personal tribute) Now to me that was ironic in that what they were mostly putting in was not Lud quotes but stuff from Ramakrishna or Rumi, or other spiritual masters. As if our aim was not to celebrate or amuse Lud, but rather to educate him. Which I felt was too presumptuous even for a birthday present.

But she put doubt in my mind. I would have rather died than insult Lud. So I asked Sally what she thought and she saw immediately that Lud would be vastly amused.

So I insisted.

And the Sufi in charge, she said, “As you wish.” with an air of resignation.

So then picture poor Lud. Seated in front of thirtyish or fiftyish people and given his scrapbook present. He looked through it, reading stuff and desperately trying to look appreciative, and find an example to hang his hat on.

And then he came to my quote. Maybe because he could recognize my singularly messy handwriting, he just started laughing. And laughing. And laughing (Looked like a dam had broken). And then came the tears.

Finally, when he could speak, he said it wasn’t really his quote and told us the story of how he’d heard it, explaining the amusing context.

I looked back at the Sufi who’d been such a skeptic and she seemed to be squirming in her chair. Because she loved Lud too and saw her mistake. That in fact it was Lud’s laughter and tears that was his birthday present and she’d almost sent it packing.

Next week: one more tears and laughter Lud thing.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Apart of course from the one I recently mentioned in which Lud wept, talking to his Sufi class, when he told of his frustrated wish to have been allowed to live in the primitive ashram Meher Baba kept in India. (That in exchange for his cushy life as a senior research chemist.)