Tag Archives: Sufism

… a cartography of the psyche …

Celestial Rose - Gustave Doré

Celestial Rose – Gustave Doré

My novels (yet to be published) are inspired by transpersonal incidents I experienced, even as a child. Learning that I was not alone with my interpretations of what happened to me during so-called non-ordinary states of consciousness was a great relief, when during the 70s and 80s I explored, in practice and theory, the major maps of psychology. Jung’s ideas especially rhymed. After training with Psychosynthesis, my interest turned sharply to innovative transpersonal approaches, myth, archetypal psychology, and contemporary science.

People who inspired me were Abraham Maslow, Gregory Bateson, David Bohm, Joseph Campbell and others, many who happened to be among the same people Stanislav Grof met and was supported by when he devoted his life to map the experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness.

For the first ten years Grof did psychedelic research in Czechoslovakia. By the 70s he had found a family of open-minded scientists and enthusiastic supporters at the Californian Esalen Institute. Since the use of psychedelics became illegal, he developed the Holotropic Breathwork, together with his with wife, Christina.

Around this time I found my own, smaller family of mind and heart in England, where Fazal Inayat Khan saw the huge potential of what was to be the transpersonal psychology movement initiated in Esalen. Fazal involved his students in experiential approaches to self-development, an endeavour that brought him into conflict with the traditional Chisti Tariqa his grandfather Hazrat Inayat Khan had established in the west as Sufi Movement, which Fazal represented at this point. I co-edited Heart of a Sufi, a prism of reflections on Fazal by his students. Here is a previous post https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/a-rare-book-now-on-line/

Grof sees global consciousness evolving through an increasing number of individuals achieving inner transformation, and considers symptoms of spiritual emergence (often seen as mental illness) as part of a healing process needing to be lived through, not supressed. This totally chimed with me.

Obviously, such a project does not attract investment. Shareholders look to own a brand, a patent, a method, a franchise. Many innovations are lost, since the way ideas and things hang together is not finite, but dance in ever new combinations. Also, in areas of specialised and fast-changing knowledge practitioners can become so absorbed with new discoveries and concept that they tend to forget about lay persons who might not be able to grasp the newly coined language, or won’t take the time to look at other fields of knowledge. A major insight may be broadcasted ahead of its time and spark endless quotes but no understanding. Some messages cry for a new context, where insight, beauty and meaning can be shared through passion, combined with apt metaphors, like a fine tune can travel through the heart and make it shiver with the recognition of new connections. Often it’s a matter of waiting for an idea to fall on fertile ground.

Assuming my readers represent a fertile island in this vast internet ocean, I would be amiss not to share what inspires and influences my writing. Few people are familiar with transpersonal psychology; let alone with the work of Stanislav and Christian Grof, so here a short (promise) introduction.

Born to parents that care for us, or not, into environments that encourage or hinder our development, usually both, we learn (hopefully) to understand that our attitude towards ourselves and the world is coloured by early experiences, and fixed further by our reactions to what happens to us. The psychological maze we lay down is difficult to walk away from, because it pops up from inside wherever we go. An interest in our personal history and the willingness to explore our behaviour certainly help to make life easier.

However, there are memories we can’t access intellectually.

They are perinatal impressions, which don’t necessarily end in a triumph that promise self-confidence and later success in life. Western psychology does not take somatic imprints happening in the womb, during birth, and after birth, serious. The assumption is that the cerebral cortex of an infant lacks the myelin sheaths on neurons, so the brain can’t be sufficiently developed to record experiences, this, irrespective of the fact that memories reside in our cells and muscles.

The powerful non-ordinary states people experience during Grof’s perinatal holotropic sessions often relate to a time before, during and after birth. Participants report strong sensations and images of a mythological and archetypal nature that live in the collective psyche and significantly shape our individual myths.

From the people bringing alive perinatal imprints during Grof’s workshops, he has mapped the Birth Matrixes, which shed a bright light on symptoms medicine tends to label as psychotic and usually supresses with counterproductive drugs, whereas Grof looked at symptoms as a healing attempt of the psyche.

This fear of the imagination questioning accepted realities also explains the ambivalent attitude of our culture towards the arts, though it’s no secret that the archetypal myths populating our psyche inspire our most renowned artists.

Dore - public-domain-image

Dore – public-domain-image

To guide a person through a phase of psychotic or transpersonal emergency without suppressing drugs requires a paradigm shift that has, as yet, not happened, which is why Grof’s considerable data of experiential work has been tucked away in the transpersonal section of psychotherapy, seemingly too esoteric to grapple with. Early imprints, though decidedly physical, create powerful condensed experiences that draw upon themselves alike situations. Much like self-affirming prophecies, they constellate throughout every phase of life, from infancy to adulthood. Such early imprints are the source of the psychology and psychopathology of ecstasy. Please note – the types of ecstasies I show below, are only clipped markers and in no way convey the richness of the material Grof presents, which he divides into Basic Perinatal Matrixes (BTM 1, 2, 3 and 4) that include related psychosomatic problems and periods of depression people struggle with.

  • Oceanic or Appollonian ecstasy, cosmic consciousness, symbiotic union with mother during intrauterine existence, and during nursing. Expressions of this state in the arts radiate purity and serenity.
  • Volcanic or Dionysion ecstasy, orgastic sexual energies, orgies, pain and rapture. Dangerous activities, sensual and instinctual aspects of life. Think o the surrealist freeing their imagination in ways that powefully speak to us all.
  • Illuminative, Promethean ecstasy, proceeded by agonising struggles and intense yearning for answers, followed by divine lightning that brings entirely unexpected solutions, cosmic inspiration and insight.

When feelings emerge during the remembrance of the birth process, be they nightmarish,like EdgarAlanPoe’s A Descent into the Maelstrom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Descent_into_the_Maelstr%C3%B6m  or blissful, like in Gustave Doré’s Celestial Rose, image above, the opportunity such symbolic images provide for deep psychological work is invaluable. 

Given the complexities around birth, why are not all babies delivered by pre-planned C-section?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarean_section   A fascinating page, if you have the time to read it. Knowing people whose delivery was pre-planned as C-section, I observe a surprising feature. If in trouble, they shout for help, and usually help comes …  expectation does its magic. When being whisked from the womb before the struggle through the birth canal commences, struggle is simply not familiar, nor, of course, the potential sense of liberation. By contrast, many people have difficulties asking for help, fearing the distress of not getting help. I include myself in this category. A recent comment I left on Jane Alexander’s blog touches upon a personal experience, an early imprint that had a decisive impact on my life. As an example, I elaborate …

… I patiently endure scarcity for long stretches, until the energy switches and everything happens at once. Then I tend to surrender to the flow, or I would feel overwhelmed.

When I was pregnant, I discovered a connection to these periods of extreme scarcity and abundance in my life, leading back to an incident after my birth. Knowing I was breastfed for many months, I asked my mother on the phone to tell me about my birth. She related my birth was long and exhausting. The midwife suggested my mother needed a break. She took me to another room where I cried myself to sleep. ‘It’s good for her voice,’ she insisted. But, of course, I must have missed my mother’s heartbeat.

While listening to this story on the phone, I observed the skin around a silver ring I was wearing turning black. Heat flashed through me, of rage, for which I had no words. By way of apology my mother said it hadn’t felt right and she should have resisted the midwife. Then she went on to describe how, next morning, I was taken to her very full breasts, at first acting stupid but eventually drinking until I could drink no more. 

In later studies I learned about Stanislav Grof’s birth matrix maps, how condensed experiences draw onto themselves alike experiences, like self-affirming prophecies. Certain expectations are set up very early indeed. This made sense and helped to soften the pattern of my extreme life phases somehow. 

So there – now you know my autogenic secret. In the end, our vastly different conditioning makes us into interesting people 🙂 not mass produced and pre-packed, as it were

Bringing to awareness the unconscious somatic patterns underlying our existence offers us choices to respond rather than react to situation. As a collective, we swim together in a psychic ocean that is both threatening and benign. We regress and progress together, each of us bringing our little light towards the expansion of consciousness. Let’s not buy into the shallowness of our material age, but keep the conversation going.

Here Stanislav Grof speaks for himself – Psychology of the Future –                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI5oG-WNqvM

If you who would like to explore the maps Stan created, and the images that illustrate the in-depth experiences of people who encountered powerful feelings during a typical re-birthing experience – which enlighten the source of our idiosyncrasies and some of the most prevailing human pathologies, I would recommend Grof’s book ‘Beyond the Brain,’ Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy, published 1985 by State University of New York. The book does not offer a simplified and popularised version of Grof’s work but significantly challenges our global policies, and the seriously outdated neurophysiological model of the brain, showing the reach of consciousness beyond time and space.

… ultimately we cannot do anything to other people and nature without simultaneously doing it to ourselves …

A post from 2012 that maybe relevant:                               https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/pattern-which-connects/

Incidently, yesterday I attended a talk called ‘the One who cannot die’ given by my dear friend Malcom Stewart, whom I wrote about in 2013 https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/patterns-of-eternity-humbly-opens-your-mind /

 

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… silent blessings …

I’m sure I’m not alone in practising daily silent blessings. What, you may ask, does she mean by blessings?

Sylvia Selzer’s photo of the Angel of the North is the most poignant image of an angel I’ve come across.

 ‘The Angel of the North’ – photo by Sylvia Selzer

In my small world, ever since I can remember, I felt guided.  As a child I had a lucid vision of an angel, possibly an aspect of me – or us – existing in another dimension. My upbringing was not religious, but I developed a deep appreciation for beauty – of movement, sound, rhythm, light, colour, form – as well as a healthy disrespect for hypocrisy.

Then, during the 1980s I was ordained as a Cherag  – the Sufi term for someone who performs worships and conducts ceremonies. I questioned the honour. Performing is not my strength. The response of my Sufi teacher – Fazal Inayat-Khan – was heartening: ‘You’re a light-bringer (which is what Cherag means,) and whether or not you formally worship is irrelevant. You have the capacity to bless. Go and bless the world.’

It works like a pebble thrown into a still pond, along with a loving desire, which then ripples outwards.

To bless can become a habit.

You may ask – who’s she to dish out blessings? And anyway, what can it possibly achieve other than making her feel good? Precisely, it makes me feel good.  I don’t seek evidence – measure, weigh or put value on the practice. Being no saint, I also have plenty of less generous habits. But as regards blessings – think about it, what’s there to lose?

It is not the road ahead that wears you out – it is the grain of sand in your shoe.’     Proverb

The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture, designed by Antony Gromley, located in Geteshead, Tyne and Wear, England. Sylvia Selzer’s photo of ‘The Angel of the North’ is the most poignant image of an angel I’ve come across.

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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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… a rare book – now on-line …

Following an eight-months labour of love, between my co-editors, the Archventures group, and contributing writers, a small edition of 250 beautiful copies of a book were published in 2011 – Heart of a Sufi – A prism of reflections on Fazal Inayat-Khan (1942 -1990.) As of now, the book is affordable on-line, see below.

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Fazal at Four Winds. 80s

Hand printed wood engraving by Susanne Harding inspired by Fazal's signature.

Hand printed wood engraving by Susanne Harding inspired by Fazal’s signature.

The book contains stories, essays and poems written by those who were inspired by the controversial and innovative nature of Fazal’s work, or by the creative spirit that pervaded the place and people he left behind.

Kaliani, singing

Isha, Elias, Aisha, Puran - lowres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the way mystics talk about the right time, place, and the right people, Fazal offered a timely and challenging spiritual education that embraced wit and the complexities of modern life. During the 1970s – 80s he attracted people from many backgrounds and countries who had very little in common, other than being exiles from tradition and hungry for truth. The book gives a flavour of encounters, stories charting the edge of learning and unlearning, relationships with one’s self, the groups, the world, intense experiences, affecting deep peace and change, often achieved after games of orchestrated struggle and conflict, peaking in performances on the stage of a magical theatre – live and experience first, then reflect. Debriefings after workshops were sobering, humorous and mind-blowing events. And something ineffable was transmitted in these transformative setting, through music, through silence or through a glance.

Fazal, 84 inside page for Heart of a Sufi

Signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short history:

In 1968, at the age of 26 Fazal Inayat-Khan became the head of the Sufi Movement founded by his grandfather, Hazrat Inayat Khan, accredited with introducing Sufism to the West. By 1982 Fazal embraced his personal style to honour his grandfather’s legacy of spiritual liberty by surrendered his leadership of the Movement and chart his own path. His approach to Sufism resembled Idris Shah’s, whose writings had perked my initial interest in Sufism as a timeless practice of wisdom pre-dating Islam, a teaching kept alive through adapting its essence to new times and people. Adaptation in many fields was called for during the 1960s – 80s. The psychological and scientific insights of that period were so radical their social assimilation has yet to happen.

Conceiving of a book that offered a window to Fazal’s work, the editors had wondered if anyone would be brave enough to come forward and share their interactions with this passionate man, the groups and the tumultuous conflicts worked out during that period. We thank again those who contributed. And there must be many more stories of regret, pain, delight, disillusionment, new found coherence, inspiration, and significant life-changes.

Sufi Way gathering - Four Winds 1991

Fazal, 80s with children at Four Winds

F.W. car- smashing 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rights for Fazal’s hundreds of talks, poetry and musical tunings rests with the present leadership of Sufi Way. Our book contains some of Fazal’s quotes and the extraordinary poem – Qalandar – but the purpose of Heart of a Sufi is to show the potent seeds of love this remarkable man placed into the hearts of people he touched, seeds now unfolding in new settings for generations to come.

the cook runs

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4W2Bonfire

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Archventures are pleased to offer Heart of a Sufi as e-book, making it affordable:

http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2180

On amazon you can peek into some of its pages: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Sufi-InayatKhanReflectionsebook/dp/B00BFUO0T6/ref=sr_1_22?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363426951&sr=1-2

 

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Relevant links can be followed up from the e-book.

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