Tag Archives: Sufi

… when the waters were changed …

Water

Once upon a time Khidr, the Teacher of Moses, called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all water in the world which had not been specially horded, would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad.

Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character.

On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry, and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water.

When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men. He found that they were thinking and talking in a different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realised that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding.

At first he drank none of the new water, but went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day. Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and became like the rest. Then he forgot all about his own store of special water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a madman who had miraculously been restored to sanity.

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A Sufi story is from ‘Tales of Dervishes’ by Idries Shah. First published in 1967 by Jonathan Cape Ltd.

The above version is from a 1973 edition published by Panther Books Ltd and is attributed to Sayed Sabir Ali-Shah, a saint of the Chisti Order, who died in 1818 …  though like most Sufi stories, it is much older.

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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?

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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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… imagination …

From its fountain, the psyche pours compositions of light and darkness, images shaping the natural elements that engender our sensual experiences. Countless composite images trickle through our mind. Do we pause to ponder which to let pass, like dry leaves floating down the river, and which to absorb deeply into our heart – and give life to?  

The images we energise are re-envisioned and re-told through our perception. Nature spirits, archetypes, monsters and fairies, heroes and villains, deities, gods, devils and angels, the dark unknown – mankind’s entire mythical landscapes are encapsulated by the imagination and affect our everyday life.

Through this phenomenological process we discovered language, numbers and geometry, tools that potentially enable us to re-create nature. Some scientists maintain that matter constitutes the real and all phenomena derived from nature’s building blocks is not real. But deep inside we know … our search for the world we intimately desire attracts to us enlightened scripts. Through trial and error we learn to apply these scripts, and, for better or worse, we make our worlds real. Worlds within worlds are born from the imagination.

The young in heart have a natural curiosity to play and explore what lies beyond the horizon, literally and metaphorically, with a keen drive to discover facets of their soul reflected in all matter, experiencing matter not as dead, but as vibrantly alive and animated.

Consider the present demand for SF or its playful sister, fantasy, or magic realism. These genres overlap, they deal with the human condition, the desire for a home, in the widest sense – be it for another planet, an island, a heaven, a yesterday, a tomorrow, or the grail of now. To achieve the latent desire for the ineffable, a writer, any artist, becomes a deep-sea-diver of the psyche, and, on coming up for air, re-arranges the booty found there. Some of my favourite writers are R Heinlein, C S Lewis, R Bradbury, I Asimov, M Atwood, Garcia Marquez. Jorge Luis Borges, Doris Lessing and Ursula Le Guin …

It’s time to re-discover the bridge between the two hemispheres of our brains and balance the outlook of our material societies, value reverie, art and fresh perspectives, engage in play, song, dance and storytelling.

Time to embrace unstructured activities, which sidestep reason’s often pre-conceived observations, the epistemological obstacle, as Gaston Bachelard calls it, the grid of unconscious mental patterns that block seeing through our deeply personal and grounded experience, through the heart.

I’ll never forget the visit during the 70s, instigated through a Sufi friend, to a small Trappist community in the vicinity of Washington DC. The handful of monks rotated duties in house and gardens, interspersed with reading time in their fabulous library. Each one of them also enjoyed an annual 40-days-silent-retreat in one of the huts sprinkled over the many-hectare-estate. My then partner and I were privileged to listen to some of the monks sharing their vastly different cosmologies, psychologies and spiritualities. What struck me was that each monk had a vastly different idea about God, including one admitting that he thought God was man-made and no less real for that. What a stimulating place to be, where you are respected for the envisioning of your world.

 ‘The imagination is not a state; it is human existence itself.’ – William Blake

‘In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. We make our own epoch.’  – C G  Jung, 1934 

‘If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Relevant links:

Re: CS Lewis  http://users.etown.edu/d/DOWNINDC/dungeon.htm

Gaston Bachelard  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Gaston_Bachelard

The World Within, C G Jung video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6MHRHKd4Ps&feature=related

See also https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/pattern-which-connects/

For those with a metaphysical interest in the imagination, here is an article of mine: https://courseofmirrors.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/science-of-the-heart.pdf

Excerpt … The mystic aims to raise sensory data to a higher level. This happens via the visionary imagination, the ‘presence of the heart’, and it happens precisely in that intermediate world where material beings take form and where material beings dissolve again to become subtle bodies. This intermediate world exists not at the other end of the universe, but right here with us, between each of our breaths. This is how the presence of the heart affects, how ideals, in whatever way we conceive of our Ideal, become realised. What we give being to in this intermediate sphere inevitably appears and becomes endowed with an outward reality. This is so, even when it is visible only to the inner eye, the eye of the heart, just beyond what can be perceived by the senses.

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The rose image: detail of ‘The virgin of the unfading rose,’ eighteen century.

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