Archive for category Spirit
The Sufi stories of remembrance are among the most profound I have encountered. (1)
We search and we search and then maybe one day we will not need to search further.
Driven by our own inner knowledge that somewhere we will find God, we walk in the dust and heat of the road, we are the source of humor by many.
Our search leads us to the place of desperation, the abyss, and finally our heart breaks open to the emptiness where God has always been present.
The Sufi’s say this is the timeless moment in which we are bonded together with God. We find Unity. We search to find what was always inside us because then we discover our own true nature.
This is my favorite story of fishes who made the great journey in order to find out what water is. The story says much about our great search.
There was a lake and in this lake there lived many fish. It was a beautiful lake. There was enough to eat, there were many trees around the lake. The sun shone almost every day because it was in the south. The water was not too cold and the fish were very, very happy. But one day after a heavy rain in the hills, the river swelled and carried into the lake a trout.
“Ha,” said the trout, “this is a lake and bigger than the river. But this lake is really a boring place.”
So the trout swam around and looked at everything, and said, “Water is not flowing here. There is nothing that interests me to eat here. I want flies and there are no flies here. There are just a lot of silly little fish.” And the trout jumped into the air and said, “I bet they don’t even know what water is,” and he swam back into the river.
The fish looked at each other and said, “What did he say? We don’t know what water is? I wonder what he can mean!” And so they founded a university and had workshops and seminars and intellectual exercises, and invited wise fish. However, nobody was able to tell them what water is.
So little by little they became depressed, and had conflicts and needed psycho-logical healing. But none of it helped. Then one day someone remembered that far, far away, at the end of the seventh lake, there was a very wise fish. He was hundreds of years old. He was so mighty and wonderful that he was all silver. So they decided to swim there and ask him what water is.
They swam through the first lake, where some were caught by eagles and others by fishermen. In the second lake more were caught, and others became too tired to go on while still others found tasty morsels and were diverted from the journey.
So it went on until out of the hundreds who had started only thirty or forty arrived in the seventh lake. At the end of that lake there was a cave, and in that cave there was a very big, silver fish. It was enormous and almost blind, and it was in samadhi. The little fishes all made a circle around him and waited.
Eventually the wise old fish opened his eyes, which twinkled, looked around him and said, “Brothers, why have you come here? What do you want?”
“Sir,” one of them timidly said, “we came to ask you a question.” “What is the question?” asked the wise old fish. “Sir, we want to know what is water.”
The wise old fish did not answer, but he closed his eyes and went back into samadhi.
The little fish stayed there, patiently but with pumping hearts. After a long while he opened his eyes, and said, “My friends, I do not know what water is. But I can tell you what water is not. Water is not the sky, water is not the clouds, it is not the grass, it is not the stones, it is not the trees.” And he talked for a very long time telling them what water is not. Then he closed his eyes and went back into samadhi.
So the fish looked at each other and said, “He told us what water is not. Ah! Maybe water is where we are!”
And they became very happy, and swam away back to their little lake and lived happily ever after.
(1) Llewllyn Vaughan-Lee. “In The Company of Friends”. The Golden Sufi Center, 1994
I recently attended an interfaith musical concert which began with the Call to Prayer from Islam. Until then I had forgotten how much I missed the 5 times daily call to prayer heard in the cities and towns of Turkey. My heart opens when I hear this call.
My hotel in Istanbul was very near the Blue Mosque and others in the old city of Sultanahmed. The Blue Mosque is properly known as the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. There I heard the call to begin and end my day, as well as throughout the day, from two mosques who synchronized their call. It was similar in Konya were I stayed near 2 mosques.
Here are some views of the Blue Mosque. The first is the best possible view of could get of the 6 minarets (1) and the 6th one is just barely there in the background. The Wiki site has more views of the Mosque with all 6 minarets. (2)
I was told a wonderful story about the 6 minarets of the Blue Mosque which is also told by Wiki (2). At the time that the mosque as being built, 6 minarets was considered presumptuous since it matched the number of minarets of the mosque of the Ka’aba. It seems that the Sultan did not request 6 minarets but the architect misinterpreted his request based on the literal understanding of his instructions from the Sultan. The architect was charged with the task of building a mosque that would outshine the magnificence of the Ayasofya (Hagia Sofia) which is just across the street. Perhaps the architect thought that 6 minarets would help because Ayasofya has only 4 minatets. (3)
“The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is one of the two mosques in Turkey that has six minarets. The other one is the Sabancı Mosque in Adana. When the number of minarets was revealed, the Sultan was criticized for being presumptuous, since this was, at the time, the same number as at the mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca. He overcame this problem by ordering for a seventh minaret to be built at the Mecca mosque.
Four minarets stand at the corners of the mosque. Each of these fluted, pencil-shaped minarets has three balconies (ṣerefe) with stalactite corbels, while the two others at the end of the forecourt only have two balconies.
Until recently the muezzin or prayer-caller had to climb a narrow spiral staircase five times a day to announce the call to prayer. Today a public address system is used, and the call can be heard across the old part of the city, echoed by other mosques in the vicinity. Large crowds of both Turks and tourists gather at sunset in the park facing the mosque to hear the call to evening prayers, as the sun sets and the mosque is brilliantly illuminated by colored floodlights.” (2)
This glorious daily ritual chant lands on the people and the place in a way that I have no words to describe so I will not try. You can see for yourself and experience for yourself.
The Adhan website provides a wealth of information about this Muslim practice (4).
“Chant used to call all Muslims to prayer, salat. Adhan is sent out from a minaret, either sung by a muezzin present in the minaret, or transmitted from a loudspeaker with the help of a cassette recording.The function of adhan was forseen in a dream by one of the first Muslims, who saw a person calling out for prayer from the roof of a mosque. The Prophet agreed to adding this element to the salat. and the first person calling out the adhan was the black slave, Bilal.In the earliest times of Islam, the adhan could be transmitted by a person walking through the town streets, or from just the simple roof of the mosque. Later, with the general introduction of minarets, these came to be regarded as the proper place for the muezzin to call out the adhan.”(2)
Each Call to Prayer during the day feels different. For me the first and the last were the ones that moved me the most. Of course they are all equally glorious.
Here are recordings of each of the daily Call to Prayer.
The Morning Call to Prayer
The Noon Call to Prayer
The Afternoon Call to Prayer
The Evening Call to Prayer
The Night Call to Prayer
This is the first what I hope to be many posts on the topic of Sufi Devotion.
My encounter with Sufism was as a result of personal study of Persian Mystics that I undertook in 2009, as part of my trainings with the Clairvision School (1). I had expected to learn something about the topic but did not expect the Sufi knowledge and practices to become an important and perhaps even integral part of my own spiritual development. It was interesting to watch my fellow students reactions to my Sufi experiences. They were mostly confused, as I am sure many people are who might come across something about Sufism.
The Sufi path is an exceptional one and anyone who embarks on a spiritual journey of Devotion can learn important things from it.
This week I attended an exceptional symposium of Sufi scholars, sheikhs and psychoanalysts. The topic of the symposium was “An Ancient Psychology for a Modern Era: The Journey of he ego-self to the Spiritual Self.
The opening speaker of the Sufi symposium, Dr Alan Godlas (2), gave an inspiring talk on the Sufi Psycho-Spiritual Transformation. Dr Godlas, founded Sufis without Borders. He reminded us that the “Arabic word “islam” literally means surrender, implying surrender to God. And a Muslim, literally, is one who is surrendering to God”.
Godlas went on to beautifully describe an important reason why I am drawn to learn from Sufism. He said that “The religions of the world are a rich source of knowledge for understanding how we can change”. (3) For me there is no integrity in the spiritual journey without change.
At the end of an inspiring day of talks, he took us to Zikr (Remembrance of God). It was magnificent. Zikr is an islamic devotional act, typically involving the repitition of the names of God, supplications or formulas taken from hadith texts and verses of the Qur’an. The practice is an ancient space, an opening to surrender, and aspiration to let go and receive from all that is God.
After the symposium, I was feeling wonderfully elevated and went searching for a video that might pass a similar space for people to experience Zikr.
To my surprise and wonder I found a video of the Zikr from the Jerrahi Sufi Order, Karagumruk Tekkesi in Istanbul. I attended their Zikr and much more, in May 2010. The room shown in this video is the same one where I participated from the balcony above with the women. Then later, after the sacred meal which I had with the women, I was permitted to sit in the small lower balcony area you see in this video to watch the master take the whirling dervishes through their practices. It was an incredible gift. Here is the Jerrahi Order Zikr.
The last phase of my relatives passing from the physical world was experienced by me mostly via my readings of the Clairvision Book of the Dead (1). For about 2 weeks I read to him each morning and watched as he changed while he explored the intermediary worlds.
At first there was the magnificent Presence with wings in the background that I had felt as him when he died. And also he was there in the foreground, simply enjoying his freedom without the constraints of the physical world, but not quite aware of himself in the background. As I saw it, he had not yet recognized his archetypal self.
At his funeral I saw something of the nobility of humanity as well as the nonsense that so many of us who think we are spiritual beings go on with. Here was a man with many apparent contradictions but he always cared about his family and others. There was much love between him and others. His caring and his love made him very very special. I wondered at the potential for delusion from myself and others that I have come across who think that pursuing a spiritual path is special status of itself . It was obvious that what was more important was who we are, not what we do.
The funeral service was filled with love. His capacity for love was what filled the chapel along with the love that came back to him from so many different people in that chapel.
During the funeral service I understood that to be human is to love. What makes us human is our capacity to love. I had flashes that God created the human race for love. Nothing else but love. Down here in our biped nature, we fight to survive, when maybe all we have to do is love.
After his funeral the space of the readings changed considerably. He became much bigger in the space, took on greater presence while his archetypal self remained in the background. At times I felt there was a morphing taking place between the bigger archetypal Presence of the man and the other more recognizable presence. Both parts were separate but at the same time something between them was changing.
The next day I was out walking and feeling frustrated because I realized that I was not holding the space well and because of that a headache was emerging. The magnificent archetypal Presence of my relative immediately showed me that I should have and could rest on that part of him to hold what was happening as part of these readings. My head became clearer and the readings became easier.
As the days passed he felt bigger and harder to recognise as the presence from down here. He also felt more remote as if he was moving away and yet he was still very apparent in the space perhaps due to the bigger and unmistakable nature of his presence.
Another day went by and he felt bigger and again harder to recognise. At that point, I believed that he was at the interface of the immediate afterlife spaces and the triangle (2). My vision of his life continued and questions about him were answered. My questions about humanity continued.
Does humanity become the archetype and more than that through the crystalisation of rebirth. Does the archetype remain itself and separate through this process?
It seemed that we needed to take a break from the readings. About 5 days. I felt that the last reading would be the whole book in one sitting on a particular day. Then I almost forgot the appointed day. That day a certain fiery space engaged with me all afternoon and a familiar presence came with it and eventually I remembered what I had committed to do.
When I started the reading he was there and so was the other familiar presence. I was in awe at how my relative had transformed into more of his archetype yet he was also different from the archetype. I remembered the Emerald Tablet (1) where the cycle of lives and rebirths are described:
“It ascends from Earth to heaven.
Again it descends from heaven, newborn on Earth.
It unites in itself the forces of the things above and of the things below.
And through this one thing, all the light and glory of the world shall be yours.”
I felt that the purpose was to create a greater humanity from the succession of deaths and rebirths.
It became obvious that the familiar presence was there to escort my relative to where he needed to go and after about 30 minutes, it was done. I felt a great sadness because this was really goodbye and I was also in awe at what had occured and I continued to read for about another 2 hours. I think that was simply to close the space after he had gone and I will always be grateful for his gifts.
(1) Clairvision Book of the Dead comes from the Knowledge Track: Death The Great Journey.
Over the past year I have been asking many questions about what it is to be human and what is humanity and I get lots of answers. This particular experience was one profound answer to those questions so far.
A close relative died recently after a very long illness. I arrived back home from other parts of the world in time to see him before he sompletely lost consciousness. After 11 days in ICU his life support was removed and we sat with him for another 10 hours before he completely let go of his life.
During that time we sat around his bed and quietly waited. I took up position at the corner of the foot of his bed where it felt best for me. I could hold the space and easily tune into him above from there and I wasn’t squeezed in by the others. I saw different aspects of his subtle bodies. I could see the non-physical cage that he lived in. It was held together by various non physical mechanisms like entities and crystalised charges. I could see the cage breaking down and the entities going crazy.
Not long before he died I had fallen asleep in the chair. When I opened my eyes I immediately looked at his monitor and saw his blood pressure plummet within a minute and realised that he had just died. Then a massive Presence emerged in front of me. I don’t think the Presence landed from above – it emerged from within. I understood that the Presence was my relative and that I already knew him as this Presence but it had been only as something in the background. This was not an angel coming down to take care of him, it was him. I could barely breathe tuning into this Presence such was its magnificence. I kept holding the space not wanting to loose it and then I saw his wings. Massive wings. And shortly after the Presence left but something of it remained and I knew what it was to be human.
A few days later I started reading the Clairvision Book of the Dead (1) and found my relative in the space. He felt good and seemed to be enjoying his new found freedom. Then I saw the same angelic Presence in the background quietly waiting for him to recognise himself.
Later on I saw for myself that when I was with each of my parents at the time of their death I had felt a similar Presence leave them at the time of their death. In both cases I was holding them physically when they died so I suspect that it was harder for me to feel the Presence from that standpoint. But in both cases the Presence did not stay around as it did on this recent occasion. With my parents, the Presence felt like a flash of something passing through the space.
I understand now that what I saw and felt with this recent passing was a gift. A vision of humanity that we can often read about but rarely see. I am very fortunate and always grateful.
(1) Clairvision Book of the Dead comes from the Knowledge Track: Death The Great Journey. http://www.clairvision.org/knowledge-tracks/what-happens-to-you-after-death-discover-kt-death-the-great-journey.html