Tag Archives: Meditation

Some Deep Spiritual Common Sense that Pervades the Universe

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My drawing of the Virgin Mary

Why Is Poetry So Respectable an Itch?

Why is poetry so respectable an itch
And not so, beer
Or worse, whiskey which,
Too, provides rye verse, a peer

Perverse for its reputation only?
For from the spell of lonely
I cast or dwell in
With my poem I fell in

More with booze than muse:
I did but choose
To while in idle dream
My time away from seem.

The mood, once written, is broken
Just as Ginboy’s smitten token
Leaves ache and aching pain
When morning comes breaking again.

But it’s some consolation
From angels or some flower:
Last night’s lines were exhalation
Still redolent of power.

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 want to speak briefly of my poetry and how (and the fact that) I use it to clarify issues important to me, as a Sufi.

Of course as a Sufi (particularly my personal sort, these days*) I am quite free to decide things on my own, using my imagination and my own conception of religion a la Mohammed. That is, for instance, instead of following a catechism or other schism in the religious community, cleaving to one over another, I am free to pick and choose, inventing my own religion**

But I don’t want to veer off the main message of this post, which is how does my poetry fit in with my “Sufism?”

First thing that must be said (or admitted) is that my poetry is my Sunday School. It keeps me in line. You see, the thing with the poem is two-fold; one I am full of gratitude not just for saving me from the ignominy of writer’s block (there is always a new theme or better said, a descant on a familiar one (Was it Solomon or Goethe; I forget which, that said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”)

The second thing is it is tailormade for me who perhaps has only one principal virtue (I am like Oscasr Wilde and temptation***) which is by God there is one “shit I will not eat.” **** Which is I will not be a hypocrite. If an idea comes to me in a poem suchwise I proclaim it as if I were a prophet (a proper thing according to Emerson; See his Self Reliance essay) well then I am honor bound to be bound by the wisdom of it. It’s interesting how easy one finds it to obey what is prompted by a grateful heart.

And it’s not just gratitude for no writer’s block; no, it is the appreciation of the honor of having been invited by something divine whispering what to write in my ear. It makes one humble to the point of tears. And you can imagine then how less difficult it is to reorient oneself towards a new conception of the light. (Like any well behaved plant would do)

It is also a meditation, and a true meditation on anything is a relaxing thing.

That’s what I liked many years back when I first hit Guatemala and started studying art. Just the intense focus on the drawing came out as a meditation. And again I was grateful. Of course I hadn’t thought I could do art worth a damn and it turned out if you just focus right, the spirit comes through like my principal chez d’ouevre, my drawing of the Virgin Mary***** (funny I just typed her as the virgin memory! Must be a lesson there somewhere). See above drawing for that. Sabes que it made me a professional artist? I sold it for $150 dollars! True it was to my best friend’s wife but Kebi never buys what she doesn’t want.

Anyway I was astonished how well it came out. Even Ralph (the best friend) and his usually Eric-deprecating daughter averred it showed “an amazing sensitivity.”

And what’s a corollary to this latter? (and ladder!) It’s this: all God (or angels, or some deep spiritual common sense that pervades the universe) comes to your aid when you are on the right road.

And so my main point is, I use my poetry largely as a meditation and a vehicle to clarify issues of importance to me. Issues such as what are the most useful metaphors for God?  Or in my case since God is inherently unknowable by the finite mind (yo!), it makes more sense to me to think of “God” in terms of His or Her ambassador. As in Kindness is God’s ambassador. As in tolerance and humility is God’s ambassador. As in whatever whichever quality that moves the heart is God’s ambassador.

But my mainest point here is I had been hearing all my Sufi life about the importance of meditation and breathing exercises.  But I struggled with both of these. Now the above-mentioned is how I substituted a to me miraculous meditation. But alas, I have never gotten the hang of breath exercises, which Inayat Khan (see above stuff just below my drawing) places an embarrassing emphasis on. See the ****** below and I will tell you an example of my moron status when it comes to breathing exercises. But I at least have “solved” the meditation problem. A shame about the breathing exercises. (probably why I can’t levitate) But one out of two ain’t bad. Looks pretty good; in fact in baseball . . . But I digress, which is a sign it’s time to sign off for this time.

God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

*As opposed to days of old, when I was an official (read “mureed” accepted by a bonified murshid, or guru in lay terms, and of course previous to my ignominious boot from the order (yes thereby hangs an interesting tale you can read about here: https://rumi-nations.com/2021/01/28/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-3/)

**referring to: “Every man has his own religion.”

–Mohammed (as cited by Hazrat Inayat Khan)

***  “I can resist anything, except temptation.”

          –Oscar Wilde

****The reference is to E. E. Cummings’ poem panegyric to the pacifist (“I sing of Olaf”)

***** Interestingly there is a subsect of Sufis in Turkey’s Anatolian Plateau that evinces an intense interest in the Virgin Mary.

****** Go fiqir!  We Sufis were taught a trick for deciding an important life issue. It was called “fiqir.” In that, one imagines the breath as a playground swing with inhaling and exhaling at opposite ends of the described arc. We were told to keep that in mind while thinking of the important decision. And if while contemplating the proposed course of action the breath faltered, then that was a sign it was not a desirable thing.  And here’s the humiliating part: I couldn’t even maintain the swinging. My perverse mind would step in and immobilize it and I’d be stuck motionless at the bottom of the arc!

A Reindeer Unto Caesar Thing

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Charley Brown

That Ironic Stem of Stunted Light

I have never liked the phrase
“The better angels of our nature” and now

I find it was coined by Abraham Lincoln
Who suspended habeus corpus–
So stuff gets complicated one could argue

Because it connotes there might be some
Rotten angels in the barrel . . .
Though come to think of it the name Lucifer

Has that ironic stem of stunted light
And then also of course you have Lucy
With her Charley Brown football ploy

Like I say
Things are complicated

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,
Up to now, except of course indirectly (and poetry which is the epitome of indirection, is also included as a possibly more extreme form of indirect) I haven’t (or have I?) dwelt overmuch on my personal Sufi philosophy which in a bombshell nutshell consists of an interest (at least as a favorite hobby) in the nuts and (sometimes) lightning bolts of adhering to the often curving (sometimes a bucking bronco ride) road which leads to being happy.

And so to start with, okay, yes I do have a self-serving personal philosophy in which I coddle myself, justifying it by saying one needs to negotiate a peace treaty with one’s lower self. Kind of a reindeer unto Caesar thing, if you get my Christian drift. (ho ho ho)

But to “bribe” (too strong a word, really) it the way I bribed my erst first grade students. Which was like* “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.” (my picturesque way of presenting my personally-invented preventing boredom (the arch enemy of education) in the classroom ploy.

Yes, I would dance and make jokes and funny faces, sneak up behind to scare them (with the pretext of curing their hiccups) and, you know, your kiddie version bag of slapstick tricks. And Dani, my best friend (the nonpareil Venezuelan artist) in these parts has a nickname for me:”Payaso” (clown).

So I fancy myself suited to the role.

It kept the kids on their toes. They never knew if what’s next might be a pitiful (and thus amusing) teacher pratfall.

But in the meantime, in between time, I would be delivering reading lessons or a how-to-draw-nice-letters game which involved a contest between students which I called, “Pink Chalk Time!” Etc etc. (And there were much sought after gaudy prizes!)

But I digress (my guess though is that there’s more progress with more digress. But there I go again . . .(self-serving wise)

And I apply these same lessons to myself. Fortunately, half of my (aka my better angels**) personality is really of a “spiritual” bent. I mean things like I am (fortunately) fascinated by metaphysical speculation, just for instance, pondering the meanderings of the “spiritual” path. And suchlike ancillary Sufi fun. (Which interests do keep me on a sort of Sufi path)

But yup I have to admit there is another half that’s like first graders who need to be distracted to be attracted. So I have invented my own personal Gospel of Fun. (And yes, I do cheat a bit what with the head start of my as I say built-in fascination with for instance Al-Hallaj etc. *** in which I coddle myself but then I cleverly get away with it, justifying it by saying one needs to bribe the lower self with the pretext of fun and enjoyment (kiddie fashion). And yes I will stipulate that I am from a metaphysical school opposite those hair shirt lovers with their austerity artists (the whips and chain gang).

I have no such hair shirt philosophy.

Because it is just not fun. And I worship at the Gospel of Fun.

This may be the downside of believing in reincarnation. Meher Baba said we have over eight million lifetimes as a human being (before finally reaching god-realizatiion (aka nirvana, or as the Christians put it, the peace that passeth understanding) I refer to my lack of ambition as in “there’s plenty of time.” No hair shirt for me, not when I can just cultivate a situation in which spiritual progress is a fun thing. Even if arguably it takes longer. I guess I prefer what my erst dear friend Gail, the trance medium’s spiritual guide used to refer to as “the scenic route.”

But yes I do hear the self-accusing voice that says I have thus gone astray. But as I say, I was a first grade teacher (Just before I left for Guatemala twenty years ago) and too, thereby hangs a tale. (Which you can peruse in this post: https://rumi-nations.com/2013/07/01/the-fates-found-her/)

But I digress (like a fierce tigress!)

So here’s an example from today. (aka the kick in the pants that started this post): As some who have been paying attention know, I tend to live in Guatemala. And in these parts, now and again, the electricity gets shut off, Ostensibly for maintenance and repairs.

And when this recently happened I decided to console myself with some sophisticated fun. Para precisar, I decided to sit down on my veranda, make up a tea tray (with muffins!) and read from my current favorite novel, Middlemarch by George Eliot****

I decided it was high class fun. And like with teaching first graders, I thought to teach myself via fun. Anyway but then I spied my sweet cat Dahlia (frequently an inspiration to me*****) with her contented post-exploratory look. And I noticed that I was noticing her and not so much my usually absorbing book. You see, I love Dahlia, and merely liked the book. Which made Dahlia the more interesting object of study. Which reminded me of what Inayat Khan had said about meditation. He was drawing a dichotomy between the study of meditation, and the spontaneous meditation of a mother as she gazed upon her child. He said that such love taught a better meditation than any study could have done.

And I succumbed to comparing myself to that mother with my cat as the child. But it was a pleasant feeling, thinking that. And I decided that sort of spiritual pride was okay. At least in my case. Perhaps because I lack ambition.

But to me it could be classified as a “good fruit” (as in when Jesus said, “by their fruits shall you know them.”)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I cribbed this reference from the Emmy-winning episode of the Mary Tyler Moore (“Chuckles Bites the Dust”) Show)

**Which reference now gives me the excuse to include my rotten angels poem (see above)

***A very interesting story of a yes hair shirt lover. So you see, I do keep an open mind on that. Perhaps someday I may take to that, but I bet if I do it will be because I have found it to be “fun.”

Any who are interested in Al-Hallaj, can find somewhat about him in the thoiusand year old Hujwiri treatise on extant Sufi saints circa 1200 A.D. (Kashf al-Majub–(Revelation of the Mystery) But a more accessible bit of Al-Hallaj explanation can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Hallaj

****FYI (in case you need a heads up) George Eliot was really a woman denombre Mary Ann Evans. I think she did this because when she wrote 150 years ago, women writers were discriminated against, and so (also as did George Sand aka Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) wrote under a man’s name. Of course in those days writers didn’t travel every which place doing readings for the public, to garner publicity to help book sales. In which case the sex cat would have gotten out of the bag.

And bye the bye Middlemarch in my opinion was overflowing with spiritual insight.

***** Dahlia, incidentally inspired my book of poems The Cat Who Threw in the Tao.

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