Yesterday, November 24, terrorists bombed the Sufi mosque al-Rawda in North Egypt. They killed 305 women, men and children as they worshipped. Sufi mystics have long held a revered place in my heart. Their knowledge and wisdom has taught me much and I grieve their deaths and the loss of their spiritual gifts to the world.
In honor of these fallen Sufis I offer this piece by their great mystic, Rumi:
Out beyond the worlds of Islam and Infidels,
there lies an egalitarian world where no one is better, worse, or more significant than the other. If you’re interested in moving to that unique world, you need to first leave your heart and soul as deposit with its Soul Master!
To all my American bloggers, Happy Thanksgiving! To everyone else, may you also find a way today to celebrate the richness of your culture. I am grateful to all of you for your presence here and wish you abundant blessing.
So we have arrived once again on the cusp of celebration, when expectations run high and nerves fray at the edges. In this lovely poem, For The Senses, John O’ Donohue offers us a way through, a way to be for the holidays.
This way demands that we slow down, watch, listen, wait.
May the touch of your skin
Register the beauty
Of the otherness
That surrounds you.
May your listening be attuned
To the deeper silence
Where sound is honed
To bring distance home.
May the fragrance
Of a breathing meadow
Refresh your heart
And remind you you are
A child of the earth.
And when you partake
Of food and drink,
May your taste quicken
To the gift and sweetness
That flows from the earth.
May your inner eye
See through the surfaces
And glean the real presence
Of everything that meets you.
May your soul beautify
The desire of your eyes
That you might glimpse
The infinity that hides
In the simple sights
That seem worn
To your usual eyes.
For the Senses by John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us
It was such a perfect and appropriate image. Of being blind. Of the people who use the blind not seeing the cruelty of what they did, not seeing the beauty of what they were about to kill. It was, after all, a perfect word for that perch. A blind.
Louise Penny Still Life p. 257
These wise words from Louise Penny refer to a murder committed in the shelter of a deer blind perched out of sight in a tree. The image moves me to reflect on all the ways we ambush one another then cover it up in the safety of our self-righteousness.
Pledge: A Spiritual Practice
I will pay attention to the words and actions I hide behind to ambush the other.
If I must say or do the hard thing let it be said and done with eyes wide open rather than with eyes wide shut.
I will seek out those who speak and do in the light, and learn from them how to begin.
I will replace the violence of the blind with compassion and understanding.
The most powerful form of prayer, and the one which can gain almost all things and which is the worthiest work of all, is that which flows from a free mind. The freer the mind is, the more powerful and worthy; the more useful, praiseworthy and perfect prayer and work become. A free mind can achieve all things. Conversations With Meister Eckhart Meister Eckhart, Simon Parke
What does the Meister mean by a free mind? Single-minded, focused on God, no distractions? Yes, but he also talks about ichgebundenheit, a state of mind in which we are bound to the drama of the ego, so a free mind would be a mind unchained to ego. Eckhart also says,” I pray God that he may quit me of God,” so it means a mind free of false images of God.
A free mind is an empty mind, detached from all that enters, even from sacred moments gifted in contemplation.
For me it means that for just a moment I stop clinging to that which clamors for my attention. A common little drama which plays out in my everyday life is the distraction of noise. I live in a spralling apartment complex where maintenance needs generate constant loud noise. Tuesdays at 7:00 the city garbage trucks subject us to 20 minutes of an automated machine emptying one can after another. Wednesdays bring a grounds maintenance crew wielding their monstrous lawn blowers. The list goes on, but we musn’t. Most often the noise closes in on me taking over all of my attention. I rant and rave and denounce “progress,” as environmental injustice until I have allowed the noise to become me and there is no space for the divine. My mind is not free. Buddhists have an excellent way to free the mind. They would tell me to see the garbage trucks as a mindfulness bell calling me to meditation. My practice has become a variation on that advice. In this practice substitute “garbage trucks” with whatever threatens to take over your being.
Spiritual Practice: Freeing The Mind
The distraction presents itself, threatening to take over thoughts and feelings.
Acknowledge it’s presence saying, for example, “Garbage Trucks.” Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings.
Establish a rhythm to your breathing saying, “Breathing in I acknowledge this noise and it’s hold on me, breathing out I release it.”
Breathing the intention will eventually create a space for the divine to enter. Say, “Breathing in God is here. Breathing out, I am peace.”
When you feel yourself resting in God’s presence continue breathing and wait for the Spirit’s prompting.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silenceIn restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dare
Disturb the sound of silence
“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”