Tag Archives: Biographical

“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 Mind Can Be Hard To Like

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

A Diligent Student of Entertainment

It is said that I’m lazy
(I even say it)

But that’s not a fatal flaw
Not when so much of enlightenment

So much of the spiritual path
Is like a ride at Disneyland

Okay yes
I’m a diligent student of entertainment:

Of the cheap thrills of discovering
That the dark side of the moon

Is still the same potent symbol for love
(Aka beauty)

~.~.~

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, about the photo above of my Sufi class, I am the dark guy in the back row just in front of the left (white) door jamb. The framed saying on the wall above says, “God forbid that we should ever have to bear all that we are capable of bearing.”
–Old Jewish proverb

In case any newcomers have wandered in, this is a metaphysical blog, heavily influenced by my personal experiences with Sufism (a branch of mysticism). And my Sufi exposure started from membership in a Sufi group in San Francisco (Sufism Reoriented, 1972-79) originally founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927)*

You must know that each day I receive a set of quotations from Hazrat Inayat Khan (You can too**).

Which often gives me ideas for new blog posts. As in today’s daily excerpt of Inayat Khan quotes:

“By a study of life the Sufi learns and practices the nature of its harmony. He establishes harmony with the self, with others, with the universe and with the infinite. He identifies himself with another, he sees himself, so to speak, in every other being. He cares for neither blame nor praise, considering both as coming from himself. If a person were to drop a heavy weight and in so doing hurt his own foot, he would not blame his hand for having dropped it, realizing himself in both the hand and the foot. In like manner the Sufi is tolerant when harmed by another, thinking that the harm has come from himself alone. … He overlooks the faults of others, considering that they know no better. He hides the faults of others, and suppresses any facts that would cause disharmony. His constant fight is with the Nafs (the self-centered ego), the root of all disharmony and the only enemy of man.”

But this raises an interesting question. “Suppress facts?” Isn’t that a slippery slope? Or if harmony-seeking is your North Star, maybe it cuts through all the exception objections. The mind as we know, is always clever both at interpreting stuff in ways to undercut any attempt to bring it under control, and as well is clever at covering its tracks, when wreaking its will*** (e. g. like as not in this case, denouncing the repression of facts as an unscientific and dishonest practice. And next thing you know, calling the heart a hypocrite).

Which is a good reason for trusting more ones intuition than one’s reasoning faculties, which can be misled. But intuition . . . what a useful thing! Of course you must pardon me here; I am biased toward art forms. Who knows? Maybe that’s why I gravitated to this branch of Sufism. ****

God Be With You,
Eric Halliwell

PS—this blog was started in 2013, and so there is a vast accumulation of blog posts, which I imagine my current followers by and large either haven’t seen or have forgotten. And this sort of thing (these themes) is inherently timeless. And so I have decided to occasionally reprise a former blog post. One which I consider among my “greatest hits.” (forgive my effrontery)

Full Disclosure: I likely will rewrite them. Asi es la vida.

* (for more on Inayat Khan see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan

**see this url: https://wahiduddin.net/saki/saki_new.php

***Just to give an example from my own experience. You must know we mureeds (student Sufis) were given homework. We had to meditate 15 minutes every day, stipulating it was a spiritual theme connected to our raison d’etre. Now I have to hand it to my ego how cleverly it would derail my fifteen minute meditation. Clever because to have interjected some low desire or delicious bit of sarcasm about someone I didn’t like, etc. would have appalled me, a sincere student. But my ego would derail the spiritual theme with some really useful train of thought like a great invention for quickly making large quantities of homemade yogurt. (I did you know. I could go into business and make a bundle if I A. weren’t too lazy and B wasn’t busy with this blog, etc.) You know, really useful and “innocent” stuff. But it was like a sacrifice fly in the ointment of my meditation attempts. As another for instance, maybe I would get an epiphany about a solution to a problem I had been pondering, e. g. how to keep my melons from rotting on the ground. (Put them on a matt of straw!) Yes it’s worldly not spiritual (though I could argue that everything is spiritual at least in that the long way around proves the shortest way home. Hence reincarnation. But I digress.

Of course that was at least through a useful (but note, unspiritual) distraction, though worldly. But worldly was preferable to this bit of less subtle chicanery my mind pulled. Yes, I do remember an intransigent and domineering ego like when I was supposed to be imagining my breath as a swing back and forth. Well perversely my mind wouldn’t play along. Either it would do it out of rhythm like such as would cause hyperventilation, or more memorably, just bring the swing to a sudden halt. (The mind can be hard to like)

****My branch of Sufism was founded by Moinuddin Chishti , (1142–1236).and is one of four main branches of Sufism. I confess I can’t remember the other three. Perhaps becaused I am a Chisti chauvinist. Being an art lover will do that to you, because a distinguishing feature of the Chisti branch is it brought the arts into the service of (Dre I cll it god? Some fine people I have noticed aare pit off by the term. My belief is it’s due to the hypocrites who have taken over the main religions and who presume to speak for God. But it’s not a problem if you just cling to what doesn’t hurt the heart. It cuts through a lot of Gordian knots, and is reminiscent of when Jesus said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

The Gamut from Roses to Humility

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Hazrat Inayat Khan

New Start—448

All My Life I Have Wanted

–To Anna Lovell

All my life I have wanted a species of peace
In which I enjoyed being alone instead

If I saw a wonderful movie something listless restless
Probably tasteless certainly useless couldn’t enjoy it

For the lack of someone to share it with
But now I share it with myself

Who is getting to be
A sweet and interesting guy

~.~.~

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 am at a quandary. I imagine my readers are not all in the same camps. For instance, some are agnostics or even atheists (Though here I must confess to while immersed in tolerance, yet I am perplexed. Agnostic is one thing. You just don’t know. There is evidence on both sides . . .

But an atheist . . .That requires a solid belief (irony alert: a belief in disbelief). But on what evidence? It’s notoriously difficult to prove a negative. Again for instance if a thousand years of evidence points to there is no such being as a blue dog. And yet one single blue dog appearance disproves a thousand years of no blue dog sightings.

Besides which how about this? Is it unreasonable to expect that if there were a God, might He be at least as picky in picking his friends as we are? (Especially if you throw in reincarnation, in which no one is ever permanently left out. But that would digress)

Which would you entertain as a friend, the one predisposed to friendship, or the one who is not? Don’t know about you but I am biased towards those who are biased toward me. Why should God be any different? (Especially if there’s truth to those rumors that man is God though writ small–yet cut from the same cloth)

Anyway God knows the reasons for hiding from some and revealing to others . . .There are countless stories from Bernadette on down . . .

And if, Gentle (not necessarily gentile) Reader, you check out the above section named “About” you will read of my own personal odyssey from atheist to belief. But in my case there was a verified blue dog sighting. And not only a blue dog but a rescue dog, that pulled me out of the mire I had been stuck in (and sinking too).

But since you can read all about that as I say above, I will move right along.

Might I make a suggestion to those readers uncomfortable with the oft misused word, “God”?

It is this: How about you take up a collection of all the things you admire. Go the gamut from roses to humility. Dance perhaps around a beautiful sunset or a returned smile, even find the charm of chekk-turning (because you won’t be alone, as God goes (faster than an ambulance) where relief of that special kind of loneliness may be vouchsafed.

Yes just take an inventory make it a charm bracelet of all you love (which must make the leap to mean “all that your heart loves”)

And then call it God.

In whatever form your imagination may fancy. As per this favorite Inayat Khan story:

(Inayat Khan frequently quotes Mohammed saying “Every man has his own religion.”)

MOSES AND THE BOY

There is a story told of Moses. One day he was passing through a farm, and he saw a peasant boy sitting quietly and talking to himself, saying, ‘O God, I love you so; if I saw you here in these fields I would bring you soft bedding and delicious dishes to eat, I would take care that no wild animals could come near you. You are so dear to me, and I so long to see you; if you only knew how I love you I am sure you would appear to me!’

Moses heard this, and said, ‘Young man, how dare you speak of God in this way? He is the formless God, and no wild beast or bird could injure Him who guards and protects all.’ The young man bent his head sorrowfully and wept. Something was lost to him, and he felt most unhappy. And then a revelation came to Moses as a voice from within which said, ‘Moses, what have you done? You have separated a sincere lover from Me. What does it matter what I am called or how I am spoken to? Am I not in all forms?’

You have the freedom to use your imagination (Inayat Khan says this too) and create your own concept of “God” if only as a collection of all the things you love
And God will coalesce around all those things condense them into a dense cloud, and on down to the central core of your heart, remembering that’s how stars are born.

From the poem above you might suspect that I am grateful. Grateful that as I got older I got wiser and so waxed happier.

And though I can’t be sure due to the mind’s perhaps merciful tendency to forget. Yet I remember at age fourteenish I looked at my reflection in the mirror with loathing. And so there was a lot of room for improvement. And improvement splits atams, releasing energy to propel you to the next step. But it’s most use is you have then a recurring flash of happiness, which indeed feeds epiphanies.
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell