Tag Archives: Angst

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 Cure for Gloomy Heart Shadows of Loneliness

Lud Dimpfl's Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

How Close We Always Are to Tears

“Eric, your problem is that you had an expectation.”
–Lud Dimpfl (Sufi preceptor)

Have you ever been cruising along
On an even emotional keel and then
Some hidden expectation gets shattered?
And you are surprised

It after all came out of the blue
Which surprise is truly odd
Since we’ve all had the blues
And even the sky is a regular thing

It makes you wonder about surprises
Sudden unwelcome surmises
And just when you’d thought
You were over that drought

But still (As in waters running deep)
One has to admit it’s a useful sting
To see how close we always are to tears
How far we are in arrears vis a vis the stars


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 draw your attention to my dedication of the above poem to Lud Dimpfl (rhymes with blood,–short for Ludwig) my erst beloved Sufi teacher. I am in the top row, the only guy in front of the left white doorjamb. The framed object on the wall above is a quote from an old Jewish proverb, that says, “God forbid that we should ever have to bear all that we are capable of bearing.”

And now, to the post!

As you who are regular readers probably know, this blog is often about poetry production. Or any artistic production, actually, which is a cure for unhappiness, at least if (and I stress this if) the art in question is an expression of the heart. Though I do tend to stress poetry because that’s where most of my artistic experience lies.

Of course the heart can go both ways. (It can be manic depressive, bless its heart).

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. Which needs to be emphasized, especially if, in the case of the lows (as opposed to the highs one can reach–even approximating ecstasy) this expression is a curative thing.

Okay just as an example, take the above poem I wrote a few days ago, just after I had a curious reaction to the news that a lady I had never met or talked to, was suddenly announcing she had a boyfriend. (It took me by surprise because I could swear there had occurred some mild flirting before this) A handsome guy in fact! (I saw his pic, and how ya gonna compete with that?)

Now she lives in California and I live in Guatemala. Not that that has stopped me before. Twice in fact in recent years, I got involved with ladies in California, where I visit every year to see friends and family. And I would have abandoned my cushy poetry-rich environment and beautiful garden which I enjoy here, to move to be with these ladies. (Asi son nosotros romanticos)

And this merely online (and to reiterate, slight) flirtation was with a lady who didn’t even live in the parts of CA where I normally hang out. But a tenuous possibility existed by the fact of Amtrak which within a two hour scenic ocean view route would have gotten me to where she was.

We romantics don’t need much more than that to hang our hat on.

But this was an unconscious hope that I hadn’t really known was there, or certainly that, if frustrated, was powerful enough to spoil my day with gloomy heart shadows of loneliness.

But it was instructive-constructive! My instinctive reaction these days is when my heart is moved, I turn it into a poem. Yes, the very poem posted above.

Amazing how sad I got! (I speak several sad languages–I’m a sad polyglot. Not so bad as it sounds but don’t get me started on ecstatic stuff)

Good job my last ten years worth of on the job poetry training has blessedly taught me how to turn everyday living into fodder for meditating on the great scope of things, which it turns out is a cure for sadness. If only for these two reasons:

The mere expression of the heart is cathartic. It lets off steam. The heart feels listened to. (Probably the main secret why talk therapy works)

And in my case, since I am pretty much a full time poet these days, it gave me a theme to write about and the emotional charge needed to produce good art.

It reminds me of a scene in a favorite movie, Children of Paradise.*

An actor has just lost his woman to another man, and suddenly he has hitherto unfelt pangs of jealousy. Does he let that bum him out? Hell no! Now, he says, he can play Othello!

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*97 % on rottentomatoes.com
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Home Cooking

Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle



Home Cooking

I was always afraid of something
And even after my youth’s epiphany
I’d look at my new reality
And sure it called like something pure
And it did smell of home it’s true

But I was afraid of it too
It was still as if I was told to die
And trust to some resurrection
But lately it’s just choices
Cut and dried choices

Choices between something obviously
Fraught with pain and angst
And something so good I can’t accept it
I guess

Because I don’t feel I deserve it
But I am trying to be able to
Say okay I do love home cooking
I do and yes
Yes thank You I will have a care

And just a little slice of that
Wonderful smelling pie
And I’ll just sit over there
With my pie
And cry


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, to set the tone for today’s overarching metaphor, I suggest this from the wonderful singer, Judy Collins:


At last a new post!

Here’s how it came about:

But I must first ask you this, were you ever trying to take a nap but your foot was starting to cramp? And coincidentally just before that, you had a blog idea which had kept at your psyche?

Well, sometimes in my cosmology someone or something is trying to tell me something. Maybe in the Robert Frostian sense about walls (“Something there is that doesn’t like a wall”)

Or God knows why but just now I was wondering about my stalled blog post output. (Though not stalled poetry-writing wise, as my Facebook friends will attest)

And as I lay there, words just kept coming like a recurrent surf and somehow were aligned in a sort of why not try something off the top of your head configuration? Why not indeed since some possible opening words kept coming at me.

Let me give you an example. Which also segues into the theme of this post, another biographical musing.

I have been cooking all my life* but about twentyish years ago I decided to throw away the cook book. Sure, I would consult to make sure I had the right amount of baking powder to flour ratio, and such.

And maybe a bit about oven temperature. But maybe also because it freed up my creative juices, my improvisational acting skills**or such, but I suddenly really enjoyed cooking. For a while I could do no wrong. My specialty became breads and vegetarian soups. (The secret turned out to be to add high quality veggie bouillon cubes until it had a rich taste.)

My bread then I called “red bread” because I used so many steamed and squashed-flat (blender emulsified) beets, that it came out red. Or at least the dough did. Though it did tend to turn brown in the oven. But always with leftist twinges around the edges.

I even extrapolated this idea to an idea of a cookbook based on improvisational techniques whose specialty was using up whatever was handy in the refrigerator. I was either gong to title it “Fry by the Seat of Your Pants” or “Drive-By Cooking.”

People started saying I should open a restaurant. And I even got an idea of specializing in soups, salads, fresh bread and rolls, and desserts (I could make a mean apple pie, though most people raved more about my bread pudding.)

For instance when I lived in Antigua, the erst capital of Guatemala (before the terrible terremoto of 1789) about ten years ago, I had a friend, cierta Sharon, who would come over for lunch insisting on a bread pudding dessert. And in exchange, she would read and comment on about forty of my latest poems. (She had been a high school literature teacher).

Anyway the idea was I wouldn’t need waitresses because it was serve-yourself all you could eat (I was going to give it a fancy French pun for a name: “Place Pigout,” based of course on the famous Paris Street, Place Pigalle.)

See, I used to be a finish carpenter whose specialty was adding charm to a superficially funky situation. For instance reusing old used hard woods like the ripped-up dance floor in the being-remodeled old Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. I inherited it as a carpenter working on the remodeling, and used it to restore the let’s call it vintage old Bay Area house I later sold to enable me to move to Guatemala.

I figured I could do the same to an eyesore of a restaurant.

The idea was to rent a funky dump and transform it a la Cinderella, and have nice art prints on the walls, hanging plants, and soft romantic lighting. And keep costs down by only serving soup and a salad bar, and all the fresh bread you could eat. Dessert and wine of course was extra. But it was mostly serve yourself so I wouldn’t need any servers besides perhaps me and (If I got lucky) a girlfriend/wife kind of deal.

A chic but cheap romantic night out was what I figured.

But in the spirit of a favorite John Lennon quote, (“Life is what happens when you are making other plans”) I never got around to it, my theory as to the why of that being that’s because I would have been too successful and so would never have given it up to be a poet. That’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it.

You could call that a failure I suppose, but life is funny that way. My old Sufi Murshida used to say, “Failure never let anybody down.”

In my case, for instance a succession of “failures” whether in romance or for instance having tried to become a nurse, had (like falling dominoes) the upshot of me escaping to Guatemala and devoting myself to my metaphysical poetry and blog posts. Indeed I wrote about this series of events in several of the missing blog posts. But as I keep saying, I have back-ups, at least as in word documents, and I am gradually reintroducing them.

So Gentlefolk, I have finally written a new original blog post (as opposed to reposting something from the past which was as I keep mentioning, unaccountably erased from my website).

After all, as faithful readers from the past almost three years know, I do often digress to situations from my life. Always of course with some set of Sufi themes involved.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*When I was a child of four, (speaking of flour) I had a natural curiosity about cooking and I asked how muffins were made. No doubt it was mentioned about flour but from that I’d got it into my head that you put a flower in each space in the muffin tin and mirabile dictu! next morning it had segued into muffins.

**When I was a Walnut Creek Sufi in the seventies, we had a Sufi club of improvisational acting aficianados. Every month we would meet under the aegis of one of our Sufi members, who was a professional all-around theater person. (These Sufis, as befits our Sufi-section derived from Moinuddin Chishti–that is to say, those whose route to God went through the arts–featured a large percentage of artists, e. g. poets, singers, musicians, composers, dancers, actors and allied performing artists, painters, and even a puppeteer.)