Tag Archives: Reincarnation

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!”

The Charm Bracelet of a Silly Song and Dance

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Magic Roses

 

New PR–191

You at Least Write a Poem

“Failure never let anybody down.”
–Murshida Ivy Duce

Do you ever get that sad feeling there’s
A poem in the background and sure
You sketch out its outlines but tragic

You can’t cross some perhaps picket line
To those magic roses which maddeningly
You sniff out but cannot paint or draw

What shines like something preternatural
Atop the tower of truth and which after glows
Independently of anything we can understand:

You can’t quite reach across the abyss unless . . .
.
So you start with undermine depressing:
Remembering poetry is the art of the attempt
At expressing the inexpressible and so impossible

Becomes possible the intention becomes God
And if and as you fail you at least write a poem like this:
To the tomb of some unknown poem

~.~.~

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 Sufism, the issue arises of introspection.

Socrates famously said, “Know thyself.”

This is especially important for people who want to be happy. (Yes there are–alas–those who don’t. And they often take people with them.)

Sabes por que?

A while back I called a blog post, “Sufism, the Science of Happiness.” But lately (see last post, Geometric Theorems, and also this one) I am noticing some important mathematical considerations, as well.

And so here is some geometry stuff left over from last post, “Geometric Theorems”:

I believe Euclid called them corollaries. But before any corollaries, come axioms (things taken as truth without proof) Like this, for instance:

Axiom One:
A person is her own best doctor. (Why? Because it’s the doctor that sees the patient that has a leg up. And what we see in others is dwarfed by what we can see in ourselves. That’s to say we have the capacity to look inward. (Amazing stuff in there! Why am I excited? It’s because I’ve only just scratched the surface, and I’m into Pollyanna extrapolations.*)

Axiom Two: Different people need different things to be happy (either through differing tastes or capacities, experiences, etc)

As you can see, axioms are often just matters of common sense. Like the famous Euclidean one I mentioned last post, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”

Corollary (something that logically follows) :

It therefore behooves a sincere investigator to look within. And sure the mystics all warn about the ego that lurks inside. But you just have to get your ego to notice what is more fun. And fun is important because the ego is like a child. And I found during my stint as a first grade teacher (subsequent to my carpentry career), that first rate students occur when they are amused. Because it’s amazing what ancillary knowledge you can hang on the charm bracelet of a silly song and dance. And besides, you know where ego-centric comes in handy? By God then you know what you like. You know what’s (for you) fun. And with time what you like ripens into a fine wine. Or a finer one, at any rate. (Okay, it helps if you believe in reincarnation, and the fact of millions of lifetimes . . . ) But you always start with what your gut likes. Your gut knows it very well. And this is good training too, to “go with your gut.” Lud Dimpfl, my old Sufi preceptor, once said that to train your intuition (read: gut) you had to start to trust it. Sure there will be mistakes. But it’s like learning to walk. You don’t go gloomy on the fall downs.

But let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Doesn’t it all come down to show don’t tell?

I mean all the small talk and banter on the platform about “looking within.” But isn’t that like saying a girl was beautiful instead of selling the sizzle of her discerning glance? The swizzle stick that got her to dance?

Because you are writing a story, and the neophyte writer would say, “He smiled a friendly smile.”

But you (the skilled artist) might say something more in this direction:

“He pushed out the result of an obvious struggle against whatever it is that doesn’t love a smile. And for that, it was a triumphant one–akin to the sun.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*I used to have a frustrating hobby. I wanted to be a cartoonist but I couldn’t draw, at least not cartoons. It didn’t stop me from dreaming up the captions though. And every morning when I was unemployed (Happens a lot to union carpenters) I’d deploy my coffee and my large anthology of New Yorker cartoons. No, it’s not what you think, that I was cribbing from them (stealing as you might say).

But in my defense I say, No. Because if the cartoon I saw started out in a skyscraper, perhaps it ended up about chickens in a hen house. (for instance as the farmer is collecting the eggs, one sitting chicken says to another, “I understand they are all going to good homes.”)

I say sure there’s a connection. But it’s like with this story I’ve always remembered. It was an interview with the famous cartoonist Unger. (Wrote the Herman series, as I recall). He said something like “Here’s the difference between a creative person and an uncreative one. If you do a word association test on an uncreative person, and you say “shoes,” he will say laces. But if you say shoes to a creative person, he’ll yell “Strawberry jam!” Because he once had spilled strawberry jam on his shoes.)

You can see where I am going with this. I mean we’re all only six degrees of separation. Are we then all plagiarists?

But to undigress, one of my cartoon ideas was of two bums, one of whom was all excited–he had found a dime in the street. And the caption was to be, “Yesterday I found a nickel, and day before that, a penny. And I’ve done an extrapolation. At this rate by Christmas I’ll be worth a fortune!”

But alas I can’t draw. Not cartoons anyway (I need the crutch of something in my face, to reproduce). So any of you gentle folk who can draw cartoons, hey we could partner up!

Gratitude, Which Is a Kind of Grace

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Lud Dimpfl's Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

I am the dark haired guy in the back row, just in front of the left white doorjamb

New Start–75

Gratitude, Which Is a Kind of Grace

Mind if I ask you a personal question?
I don’t hear a yes so here goes:
Do you ever suddenly feel grateful?
For what?

Oh I don’t know but well
Like just now (out of the blue)
I was looking out of my own brown eyes
Just at the dinner I was fixing on the stove

And though I wasn’t fixing to cry
I started to anyway
I don’t know why
Oh yes I do (it has to do with love)

I was thinking of the many people
Who don’t have a dinner in front of them
And even don’t have eyes to see through
(On account of they haven’t been born)

And just for that you see I was torn
And all at once I started to cry
Just out of gratitude and too for even just
The beatitude of my own gratitude

Which is a kind of grace
(Comes from seeing the face of the stars)
And you know
Even those falling ones are tears

~.~.~

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,
For those just tuning in, this is the third of a four part (in this series, but no doubt this will be an ongoing theme, hence will be revisited from time to time. So many skeptics, so little time!) set of posts which discuss the question of the existence of God. The post of December 30 was getting too long in the tooth (but, I hope, not in the truth) and so it is continued here. And this too, will be cut short with the rest coming next post. (to spare you gentle folk a too long-winded analysis)

I had earlier talked about eyes. Since so many demanding proof of God have demanded to see it with their own eyes.

I quoted the revered seer in India, Meher Baba, as saying none can see God but with eyes divine. Which makes sense since our eyes are a finite instrument and God by definition is infinite. Meher Baba has said that to expect to see God with your eyes is like expecting to be able to see with your ears. They are not the apt instrument. The best instrument we have to “see” God is the heart.*. Otherwise we are blind to the business. Fortunately, our uncorrupted** hearts (“The heart of man is the shrine of God”–Hazrat Inayat Khan) are a sort of Seeing Eye God.

But back to eyes. They do of course make for a dandy metaphor, in the sense that the saints are said to “see” God.

In other words though you have to be God to see God, you can, as ascending saints, get a closer and closer successive approximation. Fortunately, said Meher Baba, (and yes, Buddha, in his fashion) this is an eminently possible thing. But perforce it is a slow process, as you might imagine. (Nothing as stupendous as God comes cheap and easy) But this is the purpose of reincarnation. (Count ‘em! 8,000,000 plus lifetimes, and that’s just as a human being!). Just as the cutting edge of water eventually created the Grand Canyon.***

But enough theoretical speculation. I have in my own life seen proofs of the existence of God.

For instance, the divine is in our nature. And like seeks like. A proof of that is this: we all like to be in the presence of love.

Okay well, that would only be a proof of God (read love) if you were a pantheist (like me, and like Meher Baba) who said that nothing exists but God.****

And this is also a Sufi thing as per Hazrat Inayat Khan’s invocation (see above):

“Toward 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.” (Pantheism strikes again!)

But back to loving to be in the presence of love; children love to hang with their loving parent. My cat sleeps on my lap.

And there’s a divine quality we often see in people, (and yes, animals*****) which is called gratitude. And right there is a proof I am part divine, because boy am I grateful. (See poem above)

For part four, see next post (when I get into the nitty gritty of the proofs)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Hazrat Inayat Khan and all the Sufi mystics say this. And as I keep saying, this is a Sufi blog. Because Sufism is close to my heart and I have spent more than half of my life in the study of it (in my fashion). I was even officially initiated by an authenticated Sufi murshid in 1972. True, she threw me out unceremoniously seven years later. (I had confessed too much, you see). But guess who came to my defense? Lud Dimpfl, her assistant, my preceptor. And it was him that I loved, and without whom likely would have left the order of my own accord. So my heart rests satisfied. The story of my gratitude for Lud is told (among many others) in this old blog post, What They Do to 33 Year Old Carpenters. Here’s the url: https://rumi-nations.com/2014/01/13/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-2/. It also deals with how I got thrown out of the Sufi order.

I do believe that I was accepted as a Sufi because of my display of gratitude. I remember Lud being impressed by my tears when I explained about the miracle that had turned me from atheism to a believer at the age of 19, when I said to him I was so grateful not to feel alone . . .

If you are curious about this miracle, it is explained in the “ABOUT” section above.

**I need to clarify here. I do not believe the heart can ever be “corrupted.” But it can be unjustly imprisoned, and just as a light can be obscured by putting a blanket over it, the heart can be put out of action. Can pine away for not being attended to. Which in Sufism is the source of all unhappiness. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said (Matthew 5:15) “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, (archaic word for bowl) but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

***To get accepted as a Sufi in the San Francisco Group (in 1972) I had to be interviewed by the eighty year old Murshida, (the successor to the successor of the founder Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died in 1926). We (my then wife Judy and I) were informed as we were leaving that Murshida had decided to accept us as two of her 300ish mureeds–historically, no mean feat. (Sufi initiates are called mureeds). And her parting words were an admonition that it was an incredibly long haul getting to the goal of being God. But she was happy with my reply which basically said, that didn’t bother me. Even a small percentage increase in the direction of such a vast store of light was by comparison to the relative gloom I had been suffering under, such a wonderful contrast that I believed at each step, at each increment of advancement, my cup would be overflowing as was said in the psalms.

****And here I refer you to Baba’s also short essay, “God Alone, Is.” Strange when you stop to think about it how it should involve such a long process just to arrive at one’s own true identity. I guess we will just have to bear up and accept that we must live (read: have adventures!) for millennia . . . (Sigh)

*****(in re gratitude in animals)
I remember seeing on PBS or such a documentary, part of which concerned a man who had lovingly raised a lion cub. And then he turned him over to a nature preserve, thinking he would be happier in his natural habitat. But he came back for a visit a few years later and when the lion saw him he rushed him as if to attack, and all around were worried. But it was just the lion’s eagerness to stand upright and lick his face in pure excitement to see him again.