Tag Archives: Art Therapy

“I Too, Would Like to Weep”

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My Painting of Meher Baba

A Grudging Little Miracle

In Guatemala the water stops a lot
So it was foolishness baking bread
With no water to wash off my sticky fingers

So there I was with my hands
Fresh from the masa
Looking at the water faucet

Fully open but nary a drip
I had a choice of whine or risa:
I just laughed and an instant later

The water started again but only a trickle
Barely sufficient to clean my hands
And then it stopped again

It was a grudging little miracle
But instructive: We get what we need
(With the right attitude)

~.~.~

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 Reader,
(A rewrite reprise from 2013)

I will call you that, perhaps because (apart from apropos) Gentle Reader was the name of the (now defunct) magazine in England where my first published poem appeared. (See above)

Today I saw on You Tube a very short video of Kurt Vonnegutt’s advice to writers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmVcIhnvSx8). A key suggestion/point was to get to the reader as much information as soon as possible. So I start the blog rolling with this short bio that appeared in Umbrella, alongside my poem:

(http://www.umbrellajournal.com/fall2009/science/LikePicassoWhoNeverHadtoP.html)

Eric Halliwell has spent many years as student, carpenter, flunked-out nursing student (thereby hangs a tale) and then a first grade school teacher.

Through a tragic romantic misadventure he ended up in Guatemala where he lives on Lake Atitlan, writing poetry. It keeps him off the streets, or, rather, since there are no streets where he lives, off a dirt trail above the lake.

So that’s how I got to Guatemala, on Lake Atitlan, and the peace here seems to have facilitated a late blooming life-of-the-poet trip. In fact, I was just online and found an article (http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth.html?page=9) including Lake Atitlan on a list of ten most sacred spots on the planet. (I like that they use “sacred” as if it were objective fact. Because it is)

As you now see, my view is skewed toward the “sacred.” And as you might expect, my poetry is from a metaphysical, para precisar, Sufi perspective.

Yes, I was in a Sufi order in Walnut Creek, California for seven years. This order was founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died circa 1927. I will no doubt regularly regale you, my readers, with some favorite inspirations (quotes and stories) of his. Indeed I start each new post with both his invocation, and suggested daily mantra (see above)

I trust you will enjoy as much as I have, his lucid common sense and inspired ecumenical focus on what is, after all, the science of happiness.

So it’s no surprise that my poems have a Sufi (read very broad-based) theme. I’m not sure how familiar my readers may be with Sufism, which is best known by the writings of Sufi ecstatic poets such as Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Saadi, Farīd ud-Dīn Attar, Ibn Arabi, and Omar Khayyam (he of the Rubaiyat) .

I started out in Guatemala, hitching my wagon**to art (drawing, painting). But within a year, having read a book of poetry, Love Letters from God, by Daniel Ladinsky, I was inspired to try my hand at my own “ecstatic” poetry. It was ecstatic for sure in one sense: my intense happiness and gratitude to be given this sudden gift of a compulsion to listen to sweet stuff pouring out from my heart, and write it down and even presume to call it poetry. My touchstone for that is if it touches the heart. And we know that by the metaphor that we find in our salty tears, small miracles which are a microcosm of the ocean. We know by these small miracles when we’ve written a poem from the heart. And these small miracles keep coming regularly, like the lanchas on lake Atitlan.

Indeed the first poem I got published, (see above) dealt with such “small” miracles. (FYI that really happened)

In future/upcoming blog posts, I will muse (as it were) about metaphysical themes, about poetry writing, particularly proselytizing the art form, art in general, favorite heart stuff. The wonderful thing about Sufism is it has relevance to every interest. You know it doesn’t matter what pebbles you install in your kaleidoscope. So they be of translucent colors and you see to a light source.

As my late Grandma Dorothy used to say at bed time, “See you anonymous!”
God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

PS—In the original version of this post I was speaking of weeping, and though I seem to have edited that out, still this is worth mentioning: I am reminded of something from Jean Adriel’s memoir of Meher Baba **(Avatar). When she told her friend Princess Norina Matchabelli (yes of the perfume prince) that there was a holy man in the vicinity, and upon meeting him people would invariably weep. And Ms Matchabelli memorably replied, “I too, would like to weep.”

*Full disclosure: Ralph Waldo Emerson reference (“Hitch your wagon to a star”)
** Meher Baba, the silent Mystic, was co-founder (along with Hazrat Inayat Khan) of my erst Sufi order in Walnut Creek, CA (Sufism Reoriented) for a summary of the life of Meher Baba see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meher_Baba. For Hazrat Inayat Khan see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan

The Only Vacation

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Thomas Wolfe

 

New Start–30

Attend to Falling Water

“A voice, sleep-strange and loud,
forever far-near, spoke.”
–Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel)

Do you ever hear voices?
It has a bad reputation but what if
It’s an angel whispering in your ear?

This I suspect because I hear
Voices who say things like this:
Stop and listen

Watch for what glistens
Attend to falling water from
The deep well of the stars

Haul up those dippers
Put on some Cinderella slippers
Shield your eyes to see from afar

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

“There are many ideas which intoxicate man, many feelings there are which act upon the soul as wine, but there is no stronger wine than the wine of selflessness. It is a might and it is a pride that no worldly rank can give. To become something is a limitation, whatever one may become. Even if a person were to be called the king of the world, he would still not be emperor of the universe. If he were the master of earth, he would still be the slave of Heaven. It is the person who is no one, who is no one and yet all. The Sufi, therefore, takes the path of being nothing instead of being something. It is this feeling of nothingness which turns the human heart into an empty cup into which the wine of immortality is poured. It is this state of bliss which every truth-seeking soul yearns to attain.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan (The Privilege of Being Human)

Gentle Readers,
I apologize for the delayed post. I have been much under pressure all of January due to a complicated move. I still have boxes everywhere but my conscience is calling and so here we go:

This is a Sufi blog, and so it’s about love. Which is by definition a lovely theme. And there being various kinds of love, (as you may have noticed) I am pursuing various sub-themes. And it is a poetry blog, featuring my poems, (and those poems offered by readers in any comments) since that is both my meditation, and what I know about. If I know anything. Of course, this “knowing” is (I refer now to poetry) not to be disconnected from my audience. At least I hope not. Not if it’s successful, because good art doesn’t just lie in the heart of the artist. Good art is half in the audience. Just as electricity is a flow, an interaction between positive and negative poles. I mean I believe good art is good because the audience takes the ball tossed out by in this case the poet, and runs with it. Makes something of it in their own heart. I mean then, that if it’s good my audience turns artist and my poem is just the prompt, the jumping off place. And my personal belief is if it’s good, if it came from the heart, that is, it really came from outside oneself. Or outside one’s ego. It’s as if someone is whispering words in one’s ear and one is just writing them down, almost in a trance. And as soon as we think we’ve personally done it, something gets strained, damaged, and that voice is less likely to come again. Which is why I presume to call it a meditation, as who could call something not steeped in humility a meditation?

Of course, whatever “force” is doing the whispering, is privy to what I know, to my experience and just as in a kaleidoscope if you break it open there are only colored simple and translucent pebbles. But the light that passes through turns it beautiful. Gives it form and symmetry. But I and any poet, any artist, are just a set of tools for the use of this “voice,” this light. Which probably explains the refreshing response one has to making beautiful art. Hazrat Inayat Khan says in fact that all cure is a matter of getting outside oneself. It is the only vacation. And to get there requires a certain point of view. I called this the “romantic view” in a poem, which was one of my very first published poems (In 2007, in the Penwood Review):

The Romantic View

The romantic view
Is that if you give it your voice
It will speak

And also the romantic view
By definition

Reflects the heart
The way moonlight
Glints on glass

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

Instead of Despair, I Studied the Dancers

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Me and Mehera atop Arc de Triomphe

PR3–427

In Lieu of Despair, I Studied the Dancers

Normally I am mildly traumatized
At parties I subtly panic
And yet things are moving right along
Like last night was Mardi Gras

Right?
And there was dancing and I watched the dancers
I wondered at the fact that they enjoyed that
But then they all could dance but I

Felt like the illiterate dunce
At the poetry contest but guess what?
Instead of despair over what I couldn’t do
I studied the dancers

With their hands outstretched hips snaking
I looked at their eyes
And I saw there how it’s done
(You dance with your eyes)

~.~.~

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,
Because I care about your happiness, I (from personal experience) write about and frankly push poetry production. And visual art. But if you are good at music or dance or even conversation is an art. So it expresses the heart, it’s therapy.

But I am dance challenged. When I was a Sufi (back in yore) I was a sufficient exhibitionist ham as to want to act in the annual Sufi play. But the Sufi Gods decreed that try for one you must try for all. Try for all three (singing, dancing and acting).

So I had too to audition to sing and then to dance.
Sigh.
No, my sigh is premature. Because first was the sing thing and that DID go okay because I chose the old spiritual Steal Away because at family Thanksgivings, etc. I used to sing the straight part of it–to be intermingled with the improvised harmonies of my musical genius older brother Jim (God rest him). The result was very nice. I am sure I must have talked about Jim. In some of the biographical blog posts. If not why not soon? He is very interesting. Yes and maybe a bit like the Chinese curse. (”May you live in interesting times!”)

Anyway to get the crabgrass out of my digress let’s get to my dancing audition.

I had the good fortune to have as my audition master my friend and fellow Sufi, Gail.

Kind Gail.

Patient Gail.

(Gail who could dance circles around a dervish)

Though it was a simple (I mean pathetically basic) choreographic instruction replete with several Sufis on either side none with any dance related troubles. All easily repeating it.

But I couldn’t repeat the basic steps. Oh, the humiliation.
The pressure.

And remember all this is with witnesses.

She had me go over the routine over and over, even after all the rest had left. Some kind of Sufi test I expect.

But I was ashamed. Especially when finally I had to throw in the towel.*

My point being I am scared of dancing. Except maybe in one sense because I am a clown exhbitionist (Boy did that piss off my first wife Judy! The dignified sedate quiet type, who was mortified to have God and everybody know she was married to dicho payaso.)

And that could cancel out the fear. I remember once when my old friend Ralph and I got roped into a party where there was dancing. I remember Ralph taking the safe route of sitting it out on the sidelines but watching me with arms flailing (well more exactly feet. I tended to imitate those clog dancers where all the action was below the hips.) but when I did it I remember I had friend Ralph almost on the floor from the belly laughs.

Or the time when my daughter Mehera graduated from medical school and I had to celebrate that so I invited her to a trip to Europe! See above–that’s us atop the Arc de Triomphe, over looking the also legendary Champs-Élysées (French for Elysian Fields—see Greek Mythology).

Not as expensive as it sounds because she had friends there (from having graduated from Cal Berkeley as a French Literature major, and for that having spent a year in France, largely with her host family, who came to declare Mehera was an honorary daughter for life.

Indeed as we left everyone there also declared me in the family and so whenever I am in France I have an invite to stay with them.

Of course they had a three foot in diameter cherry tree and we were there at prime ripe cherry time! I am a cook and got popular making cherry pie after cherry pie. They had a little handy apparatus that you punched by the palm of your hand forcing the pits in one direction and the cherry sans pit in the other. (Rhymes with cheery Sanskrit! Oops Pardon my “poetry!”)

But back to the dance theme. To prove her father was her puppet Mehera had me dance to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. (The Ode to Joy)

And Mehera too of course laughed her ass off. (Which made me dance funnier because I love Mehera’s laugh!)

And when in Paris we stayed with her old college roommate, Tina,** then a professor of French Literature in a Paris University. She had married a French photographer and they lived happily in an apartment on an island in the Seine not two blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral. Not as romantic a visit as it sounds though because it was under renovation at this time and so surrounded by scaffolding. I guess they had to tend to the row of gargoyles.

I have always heard impressive things about the medieval concept of religion and it IS said everyone down to the peasants believed in imminent miracles and the constant presence of God.*** But to “adorn” a such impressive cathedral with rows of hideous-aspected gargoyles, doesn’t seem in that vein, which is indeed hard to think runs on to the heart. I think I read somewhere that the gargoyles were there to be shown who’s boss or some such.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Which reminds me. I have all ready to go a chapbook of poems dedicated to and loosely about my surprisingly spiritual cat, Dahlia. It’s titled “The Cat Who Threw in the Tao.”

So many projects

So little time

Sigh

** This friend of Mehera’s was named Tina Chen, and yes, of Chinese extraction. But she had been fighting bouts of cancer since she was seven years old. Alas, she died a few years after our visit. She came to California for her final treatment which was unsuccessful. Mehera flew north to be with her as she died. It’s a perennial matter for contemplation why the sweetest among us so often die young. A person (like me) who had independent and impressive proof of the existence of God, might wonder how that fits in. (If this statement makes you wonder see the “about” button above, where it is all explained.)  I suspect it has something to do with reincarnation.

***An instructive example of that in those times is found in the short booklet recounting the philosophy of Brother Lawrence (a simple monk in the sixteenth century or such). The title gives a hint: The Practice of the Presence of God, with Whom Brother Lawrence constantly talked, asking for help in what he was doing for the monastery etc. chatting merrily saying (to God) stuff like, “You see what happens when I do things unattended!”