Monthly Archives: October 2012

… receiving .

I used to be part of a family-of-heart, The Sufi Way, for many years. Various fateful events in 2004 made the hub of this family move to the USA. In the wake of this loss, a group of local UK friends huddled together to hold and honour the memory of a place, friendships, and the gifts of remarkable teachings we had received.

Now our small group has lost a dear friend, who unfailingly showed up and contributed to monthly events we organised together.  His Sufi name was Aranth. He was called to move on, much too young, with many projects on the go. We miss him very much. May his guiding spirits bring him home.

In a moment when I strongly sensed his presence, received his being, something fell into place. He liked to give, and loved it when his giving was received. He was giving generously of his attention, his presence, and the embodied wisdom of his experiences.

So I pondered about how we receive. Today, when everything has a price, giving can be regarded with suspicion. Or a too well-meaning parent may have set up a default warning against receiving anything with strings attached, a condition I battled with in my early years, which made me super-independent, and hesitant to ask for support when I needed it. And there is the profusion of good advice, from self-help books, quotes of gurus, or recipes – like how to write a book in 30 days. The growth industry of advice-giving requires a filter, firm choices as to how we spend our time, and what we open up to.

Yet something given from the core of our being resonates subtly, is easily absorbed, and nourishes the giver and the receiver in lasting ways. To Aranth, this kind of giving was as natural as breathing. It’s how I’ll remember him.

Here the story of a small workshop he offered some years ago, on money, and the various ways in which money is perceived – as energy, power, or talent. We stood in a circle and Aranth pulled a substantial bundle of £50 banknotes from his pocket. Our eyes popped. There was once a period in my life when £ 50 notes wandered through my purse, but not then. ‘Go on, let it go round,’ he said. With a mischievous smile he proceeded to feed the crisp notes into our circle, clockwise. ’Faster!’ he said.

Many fascinating processes happened among us. In the rush of energy, bank notes would take on a life of their own. They would stick to hands and accumulate, or notes were dropped in confusion. Some people got impatient when the flow was held up. And there were those who quickly handed the cash on to the next person as if the notes singed their hands – I was among that group. ‘How comfortable are you dealing with energy, money?’ Aranth asked. ‘There would be enough for everybody if it was allowed to circulate and flow freely.’ Yes, there is that, a fact of life, money gets hoarded and piled up in oxbows. But what about people handing on energy too fast, like I was in the habit of doing?

My lasting insight during that day was – insufficiency, as well as sufficiency, are states within us. And our environment tends to confirm the state within us. I gradually managed to stop worrying about money. Yes, it would be nice for a few wants to materialise, but I always seemed to have enough of what I need. Attending to my inner state, I shifted my focus towards holding and developing my talents.

unfading rose

I receive Aranth’s giving that day, and benefited  Yet many times a giving is concealed to me, or appears like an obstruction, and I miss its blessing. Like the beggar in a Hindu story, who stumbled over a sack of rags and cursed, not realising it contained gold.

As it happens often, it is only when we lose someone who has been part of our life that we are able to gage the depth of what we were able to receive. When a giving is truly received and valued, something of beauty is exchanged that lives on – like the unfading rose.

So I figure, this little quote they assign to you, dear St Francis of Assisi

‘It is in giving that we receive,’

has its equally valid mirror … ‘It is in receiving that we give.’

I imagine the Saint would have smiled and agreed.

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… the shock of disorientation – the unknown …

Change is the only reliable constant. I sometimes wished I could pledge my life to a convincing reality. For me, what is derived from facts or beliefs in our culture often lacks a vital ingredient – the acceptance of the continuous process of harmony unfolding from cycles of necessary chaos – so I watch the river flowing and imagine stories and create worlds.

four weeks old

Though my childhood had its trials, I was lucky to be held during my early years, both physically and metaphorically, which gifted me with a sense of basic trust, a right to exist, a right to question, and a playful irreverence. Maybe this is why my little wisdoms play with facts and beliefs, dust the inner mirror, value what is emerging, the ever higher level of coordinates of truth and beauty, like a trajectory of the love I received.

For someone not held at birth, change can be dreaded, or seen as a means of escape from an unsafe environment. What we all have in common, is a longing for sufficient containment, and periods of relaxation.

Some years ago, I walked up the stairs of the Social Services centre where I worked. The building had two sections of offices that mirrored each other in design, with exactly the same stairway on each side. A lift in the middle accesses both sections. Being lazy, I usually took the lift up to the third floor, though I liked to take the stairs down on the far side. On this particular day I wanted exercise, and time to ponder a logistic problem. Steeped in thought, I headed for the staircase in sight. Arriving at my floor, I entered the office with its familiar layout and was hit by a sense of total disorientation. Wrong, all wrong, on my desk sat a row of bright, fluffy soft toys, not the company I had round my computer. In a split-second I noticed other irregularities, the quality of light – a smell of heady perfume. The entire atmosphere in this office was alien, the wrong music – alien to my expectations.

 

M. C. Escher

First thought – I must have time-jumped, returned from the past – my mother often marvelled at my vivid imagination. More laser-fast thoughts – perceptions are tenuous and dreamlike reality is self-made and its boundaries are fragile. Calling in episodes of lucid dreaming, my fear switched to wonder, until I grasped the situation. With my thoughts dwelling in abstract orbs, I had walked up the wrong set of stair, expecting to see my desk, which was however in the other, mirror-part of the building.

Being sandwiched between two realities, the expected and the unexpected, the cognitive familiar and the unknown, tends to cancel time for an instant, long enough to escape the compulsion of identifying with objects or thoughts. Shocked awake, the mind is free and spacious, a delightful state.

 

Disorientation, if tolerated, can bring a sudden glimpse of unidentified consciousness in action.

Not discounting trance and meditation, or the vast variety of personal experience – mind and body work in synergy if we loosen up our ideas and learn to relax. In synergy the combined intuitive intelligence of body/brain and the collective mind brings us into resonance with a reality beyond our comprehension – the reflection of a universal order. Not a miracle.

As a child I once dived into a swimming pool. The brilliant sky was of the same blue as the tiles that lined the floor and walls of the pool, which would have been fine had I not opened my eyes under water – the blue world overwhelmed. I lost all sense of direction and panicked. With no way out, I instinctively shut my eyes, which calmed my racing heart and allowed my muscles to relax. My body naturally floated upwards.

I later learned, during experiential Sufi practices, that apt intentional exposure to situations depriving us of habitual coordinates, can prepare us to face change, the unknown, with less stress and more equanimity.

Have you had moments of disorientation – even if it was putting a cup to your lips expecting coffee and tasting tea?

*    *    *

The theme of ‘disorientation’ came up after recent posts by a blogger friend, Joe Linker (see blog roll), on Buckminster Fuller – his thoughts on synergy are powerfully relevant today – http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Buckminster_Fuller

… We are now synergetically forced to conclude that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long suspected — like it or not — ‘life is but a dream’ …

Buckminster Fuller

So we might as well dance … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXpaI5IMQsg&feature=related

 

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