Tag Archives: doubt

… bewildered hearts …

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We may reach out in vain towards heavy hearts shrouding broken ideals or stagnant truths that are dark-sealed against any doubt.

We may reach out in vain towards wounded hearts that shirk beauty, scorn at tender gestures, treat humour like treason and plot revenge.

 

Yet in the death rasp of each bewildered heart we may catch the echo of our sigh – the time-sculpted murmur of our own pain.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   P1060110 inverse lowres                                           

 

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’    Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

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… The Inner Jihad …

I met some remarkable people in my life. During the late 70s, instigated by my then Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, I stayed with my then partner for two months in Washington DC, at the time when President Carter was inaugurated.  Our contact person was Dr Abdul Aziz Said, Professor for International Relations at the American University. We saw him almost every day at his office at the University or at his lectures, or we met him at his home, and in other places. His sincerity had a great impact on me. His words never left me. He made us think about spiritual economy (of that another time) and he introduced us to some wonderful people, many of them Sufis , in the area in and around Washington DC.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

Some were Muslims some were non-Muslims, some were Christians or Hindus, and others followed no religion but had faith in mankind. One day we were invited for a meal by a young couple, a practicing Muslim and his wife, a practicing Christian. Their loving relationship impressed me deeply. They lived what Sufis call the Greater Jihad, the inner struggle.

After the atrocity in Paris, having written realms of nonsense to try and clear my mind, I wondered what Professor Said had to say on the Islamic conflicts, I searched & re-found this yourtube video, where he addresses his students. It’s three years back but worth listening to twice. Here are some of his points:

  • Communicate respect and share values. Peace has been conceptualised by dominant cultures. Seek conflict transformation.
  • Insist on negotiating solutions, not impose them.
  • Engage – don’t exploit the rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
  • Westerners and Muslims could re-frame the conflict between Israelis and Arabs as an internal conflict within the Abrahamic family.
  • Peace is a fragile flower. Use public diplomacy to listen … and speak.
  • Build bridges through intercultural and interreligious dialogue, engage youth,
  • It’s not enough to condemn radical religions, we need positive alternative visions.
  • What does your religion bring to the table to deal with the issues of poverty, violence, and the environment?

He widens the perspective. East and the West must together become architects of a new story. The West could give the East the best it had to offer in exchange for the best the East has to offer. The idea is beautiful. I hope, with patience, it comes true.

Here are some of my present thoughts. I’m totally against bombings in Syria, as I was against the interference in Iraq. The problems of Islam are for the Arabs to sort amongst themselves, should have been from the start. In international conflicts the circular blame goes, ‘They hit us back first.’ Justified anger arises from having suffered abusive power, threats to livelihood, resources, security, chosen identity, religious or otherwise, or simply unbearable disillusionment, the loop has repeated itself throughout known history in the form of wars.

There is no denying the grit in the shells of democratic systems. Present irritations I observe in the UK are the dissemination of local community shops and enterprises, since anything small and beautiful can’t be economic, can it? Then the privatisation of essential resources, the absurd discrepancy between the rich and the poor, the lack of jobs due to a runaway technology, depriving innumerable young people of meaning. Add crime, insufficient support for mothers, depression and marginalisation … all in no small way due to excesses of a capitalism that feeds greed, consumerism and the exploitation of the earth. I’m not alone in feeling disheartened about such developments.

And yet, here’s the amazing thing, I can express my thoughts without being persecuted as an enemy of the state.  Cognitive dissonance and the battle for tolerance are uncomfortable, but rewarding. Maybe because of their faults, democracies have an evolutionary edge.  Here’s why?

Self-examination serves the growth of human qualities, or, if you like, the expansion of consciousness. I have an inner terrorist that battles with ambiguity, confusion, anger and vulnerability, at the same time I value being able to think independently. I feel privileged to live in a country where creativity and innovation are encouraged, individual voices can be heard, disagreements are allowed, and negotiations can be reached. Yes, hypocrisy and corruption are also rife, but with it the means to expose them.

Dresden, Feb 1945

Dresden, Feb 1945

Ideas can of course be subverted. Academics, innovators and scientists can’t control how their insights and inventions are applied, especially when social unrest becomes the manure for another utopian uprising, and more kneejerk reactions.

Are we brave enough to face the latent dangers of injustice, poverty and disillusionment that could call in another despot who sedates with propaganda and naive solutions that promise to solve all problems? For this reason, I think, a debate weighing the benefits of market-oriented enterprise against ways to curb the excesses of capitalism needs to happen, to search for a dynamic balance.

When it comes to the killing of civilians by militants in the name of Islam, ordinary Muslims do not condone these atrocities. Many may well be too dumbfounded and embarrassed to comment on the bizarre brainwashing of young the name of their faith, as in this video, which, however, given the puzzled expression on the children’s faces, I suspect has been commissioned to incite outrage in the west.  I dearly hope Muslims will find ways  to open a dialogue amongst themselves and with other faiths.

Lovers of life – don’t look away, don’t reject conflict and doubt, don’t numb your hearts. Secular societies with their temporary guardians, for better or worse, challenge us towards unlearning. Editing out complex thoughts will keep us stranded in the flatland of the known, unable to empathise with the physical and spiritual starvation suffered around the globe. Listen to the lecture of Dr Abdul Aziz Said again – and seek conflict transformation in all spheres of life.

One could say we are the particles of multiverses becoming conscious of embodied spirit. It’s no mean feat to shield our little lights from the winds of ignorance.

‘One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.’ – C G Jung

‘We are not meant to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

And I can’t help it, I admire the graceful poet and singer, Leonard Cohen, who loves his country though he can’t stand the scene. Here is …  AnthemRing the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering – there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in …

 

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… clouds …

Last week, during a flight to Munich, and equally this week during my return journey to London, I witnessed some spectacular cumulus scenes from above, with the moist earth being the canvas.

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The changing cloudscapes drifting on the wind teased my imagination. I wanted to wander into this world that words can scarce describe, be there alone with my own heartbeat, where past and future is one and present. I’m no Percy Bysshe Shelley, who gave an eloquent voice to The Cloud

… I am the daughter of Earth and Water,       P1050995 SMALLER                                                              And the nursling of the Sky …

 

His cloud speaks of the ‘pilot.’

 

… This pilot is guiding me,                                                                                                    Lured by the love of the genii that move                                                                  In the depth of the purple sea …  

Shelley’s time had no flying machines that did away with the invisible navigator. He perceived through the inner eye.

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The first Cloud Atlas was documented in 1896.

Today’s airline pilots must know their clouds 

 

 

Like us, clouds change but keep on living. We and they are fleeting manifestations of nature – a show of impermanence ornamenting this planet. The water of oceans, lakes and rivers, the sap of life, flowing through the perspiration of plants and all living organisms, including the breath of 7 Billion people, clings and seeps into the warm earth only to be drawn up again, where its vapour compacts in cold air and spirals into fluid shapes between us and the blue dome, where all moods find expression – wild charcoal formations with dove grey wisps parading at the horizon, luminous coloured tendrils and satin sheets in slanting sunlight at dawn and dusk, or dewy porcelain veils.

P1050993 SMALLERClouds are moisture made visible. Who knows what information is inscribed and carried in droplets from one place to another? It takes about one million cloud droplets to form one raindrop.

What rises also falls. There is a wonderful Sufi story about this cycle of transformation, serving as a metaphor for identity, the form we must inevitably relinquish to change into another form while maintaining our essence … here told by Terence Stamp: The Tale of the Sands

There is ongoing research of water as an agent – receiving impressions and holding patterns of information. Water can be vitalised, for example, which explains things we know the results of but not the reason. Such findings, while presently called pseudo-science, may yet confirm many of our intuitions. Water is alive, and living things form a centre and have intelligence.

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… distractions …

We meet monthly, a group of local friends, offering workshops or discussing on a theme. Last we explored distractions, which, well, distracted us from other things that afternoon, like the rain outside, concerns about people being unwell, family, and the buffet waiting for us in the kitchen. Most of all, it made us present to each other. I share here my reflections on the theme after our discussion. A dictionary definition of distraction is: To cause to turn away from the original focus of attention or interest; divert.

We listed outer distractions – basically life’s realities, though they tend to get in the way of more immediate objectives and disturb our peace of mind:

Physical pain, noise, smells, temperature, food, weather, world news, politics, economics, ecology, bills, insurance renewals, nuisance calls, other people’s feelings and projections, family demands, accumulated clutter, maintenance tasks, bureaucracy, lack of response to a query, mail, internet, waiting … little things … we agreed that negatives can turn positive  🙂

Life’s demands tumble into our oscillating mind patterns as dissonances that excite or inhibit our well-being. Conflict results when we resist what’s happening. We may suffer loudly or in silence, or distract ourselves from unpleasant distractions through the innumerable uplifting or numbing sensations our culture offers.

As our discussion spiralled, we homed in on personal routines for dealing with distractions. They differed for each of us, depending on mood, attitude, the state of our nervous system, and the importance of the disrupted task. Days when everything is an effort are made up for by days when everything flows – bliss.

We went on to explore inner distractions, often reactions to outer ones.

Worries, anxieties, despair, obsessive thoughts, anger, pressure of deadlines, excessive associations and ideas, day-dreaming, nagging conscience, hesitations, doubts, guilt feelings, hastily given promises, boredom, pending obligations …

Regarding hesitations and doubts, the term gut-feeling came up. Can it be trusted? Somatic memories may trigger avoidance, a signal to protect us from danger, though the signal could equally sabotage our desires and deeper needs, whereas a higher level intuition might encourage us to re-evaluate what seems obstructive, and take a risk.

We find it exhilarating to watch wild animals chase prey, with total focus and concentration, fulfilling a vital need, which is why competitive sports are so attractive, where a clear and undivided attention towards a single objective gives an energy rush, even to the bystander. Having a passion, or specialising with narrow focus on mastering one skill or subject, is satisfying. Wave-ripples, most southern point, Lizard, poster desat

Having nothing that fully absorbs us for periods of time, we may be be tempted to roam in a vast sea of beautiful glittering mirror shards that will reflect a fuzzy sense of ourselves. But that’s fine too.

I had various passions in my life, which eventually come circling round to writing. One of my blog posts from last year contains a small excerpt from my second novel, where a character, Cara, shares a slice of the random processes of her mind. She turns out to be the myth-maker, the storyteller. If you’re a little peculiar, like me, you’ll grok this: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-wild-horse-of-the-mind/

I’m a dreamer. Like Cara shares in the excerpt, I occasionally like to let the horse of my mind run wild. I find wild things that way. Random, for better or worse, functions as the creative trickster in my writing, where distractions become allies. Sure, countless mental prompts heap up and demand execution. I procrastinate, adopting patience. My nagging voices are not jailers. They’re easily humoured until the time is right for a blitz of action.

In technological advanced societies, where the struggle for physical survival is being replaced by a struggle for identity, or its new definition, ‘brand,’ distracting prompts accumulate quickly. On the virtual stage I must become visible and speak up in order to engage with others. Love or hate the screens, messages keep wavering by. I become a switchboard for exceedingly complex influences. When switched on, I’m plugged into a bigger brain, the vast extensions of a collective nervous system. There is a challenged to assimilate differences and fast-changing knowledge. This calls for tolerance like never before. The Twitter stream, for example, of succinct messages and links, can be dizzying. However, if monitored and surfed with purpose, the information flow cuts through swaths of mindless, sensational news and opens meaningful connections across the world.

Fewer people are born into the blueprint of a tradition that defines them in terms of their roots, their country or family. The question – where do you come from – is shifting to – where do you put yourself, and to what purpose do you channel your energy? Yew-at-Waverley

Information available, the privileges we have, the choices and commitments we make, require astute intelligence of the heart, flexibility of mind, and they come with responsibilities. In today’s shadow play, we see people confront injustice head-on at the risk of becoming sacrificial heroes, which takes more courage than fighting a dragon. Others, like me, play subtler games. Those who have not found a purpose in their lives may get carried along by the sensation of it all, and continue searching for what matters most, for their deeper need.

So these are my reflection on the theme of distraction our friend introduced. We closed the meeting with a silence – an excellent practice for evoking a blank canvas/screen to re-draw one’s track on. Our time sees distractions speeded up, exposing us to multiple perceptions, some of them abhorrent to us, some of them uplifting. It is freed psychic energy that needs channelling. To develop a useful strategy for dealing with psychic energy we must look inside ourselves to find our homing device, our purpose, new communities, and new meaning.

I hope my reflections make you think about how you deal with distractions.

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Just discovered – a brilliant article  in relation to our speedy electronic communications, it looks at the glitches that can reveal something truly distracting, and sobering … the mortifying ordeal of being known

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/15/i-know-what-you-think-of-me/?smid=fb-share&_r=2&

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