Tag Archives: Fazal Inayat-Khan

… 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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… give the poor ego a break …

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

I’m all for shielding the Ego from moral experts who succumb to counter-transference. Proverbs, turned inner voices, instruct: Put yourself last, be considerate, don’t let people down, adapt, respect trade-off laws, keep promises – the inner voices more or less prescribe what’s in your best interest to feel, think and do.

Noisy commotions, muddling any sense of ‘I.’

The poor ego not only holds awareness of our multifaceted reality, but is driven to distraction by conflicting demands, assumptions, chimeras of grandeur, bouts of doubt, all drowning the whisper deep down – ‘Who or what am I really ?’

‘Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.’  – John Lennon

John summed up the typical seesaw compensation attempt. Adding insult to injury, self interest is blamed for our social ills. Even astute spiritual wisdom falls flat when it fails to appreciate the ego’s task – to daily create new order out of chaos, attempting a compromise with reality. No wonder people become nervous wrecks when their temporary identifications are threatened, no wonder fierce defences are constellated. The battered ego-agent screams silently – I’m only loyal to my familiars.

Some familiar rituals guarantee a  child experiencing rejection, physically, emotionally or intellectually, will self-reject for failing the expectations of its superiors. Welcoming or neglecting, early responses by adults we depend upon set foundation for our personality. Break that mirror and you’re on your own.

Maps serve us as orientation, they don’t convey territory. S. Freud’s map of the psyche is powerful. Think of the Id as a Launchpad to stars. What Freud omitted is a higher unconsciousness, our inner guidance and intuition, later introduced by C. G. Jung and A. Assagioly

Freud’s ideas deserve studying. His terms slipped into common speech like brands and became tangled.

Leviathan

Leviathan

Take the ego construct. Sandwiched between the powerful gratification-force of the Id, in need of gentle and firm boundaries, and a cultural Super-ego, with its rules and regulations, the Ego has the unrewarding task of mediator. The Id, at worst, is a heap of misery dragged along, withholding its energy, while the Super-ego, at worst, hijacks personalities like a psycho terrorist, know–it-all, manipulator, fanatic …  having abandoned the powerless inner child with its distressing and embarrassing need for acceptance and love.

And let’s not fool ourselves, distorted ideals attach themselves to well-disguised tyrants in the collective psyche, slumbering, until the day when circumstances conspire.

Children who grow up anxious to placate, or are bent against authority, invent ingenious strategies for survival. Fragile or strong, balanced or torn by extremes, developing a personality is an art form, assembled from layers upon layers of impressions and accumulated memories. Only increased awareness lessens over-identification and softens defences.

‘The paradox of the arts is that they are all made up and yet they allow us to get at truths about who, and what we are or might be’. –   Seamus Heaney

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

Young children need space to playact, and adolescents need safe outlets for their natural aggression, opportunities for intense experiences, and encouragement to explore their self-image. The houses of identity we create, however basic or twisted, position us in space and time. They have windows allowing a view, and doors through which to venture into a wider world and align our personal myth to a greater myth.

The problem is clearly not the personal ego, but its cultural super-edition, coloured, at least in the west, by mechanistic templates that regard nature as enemy to be conquered and controlled.

Reprimands like selfish stem from a period when inducing guilt was a convenient social formula. Today this approach is counterproductive. Educational practices must catch up with the nuclear age and the fresh metaphors for space and time. New dimensions arise in our consciousness, compelling us to re-think:

Escher's Relativity

Escher’s Relativity

Relativity theories freed perspectives and brought a climate of moral liberty. In a psychological sense, moral advice became repugnant, which explains why western minds begun to question aspects of religious dogma. A way was opened towards looking inside, and individuation, in a Jungian sense.

Quantum physics has widened our vision further, and brought deep spiritual turmoil through new speculations that suggest a symbolic reality of consciousness that over a hundred years ago would only have been imagined by a minority – mainly mystics.

The Digital revolution has upset linear time and is gradually transforming our relationship with time and space, leading us to ask, ‘What is real?’

A mould, no matter how inadequate, is necessary for any new-born. Judging behaviour without acknowledging the initial and well-meaning intentions underlying the formation of personality will only strengthens neuroses, instead of allowing the acceptance of one’s imperfect self-creation, with a nudge towards a gradual softening of defences.

‘Form is a relic of eternal potential.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

This post contains excerpts pulled from past articles that were never published.

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… dream – a storyteller teasing my dad …

I love this image, but can't find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

I love this image, but can’t find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

Two nights ago, an enchanting storyteller appeared in my dream. She glowed from within, embodying her yarn with captivating gestures, her eyes saying – you’re loveable. Her whole being was a joyous dance. She flicked her fingers before my father’s face, touching his chin – making him laugh – his freed anima, maybe?

Ah, dreams are wonderful, unpredictable like liquid mercury, living silver flowing into shapes.

It was heart-warming to see my father laugh and absorb the affection, the irreverence, the humour. He did not retreat into silence before the piercing wit of the storyteller. The probe was softened through caring eyes … a miracle.

Alone, I could not have invoked such light-hearted banter with a father, who pulled the drawbridge to his heart ever since I dared to think independently. The dream vision lifted the cloud of my helpless woe.

After the dream, I recalled part of a poem I wrote long ago. Daughters may recognise the patriarchal fault in the lines of this poem, the discrepant realities that want bridging. It’s the same old story that could teach us, in the words of my late teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan:

‘We are not here to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’

Truth worth seeking springs from the middle of each moment. Evolved individuals don’t see a women as inferior to men. The concept has harmed, and still harms, the psychological growth of both men and woman. Yet the deeply-etched hierarchical system keeps working its mean distortions across the globe.

He rests in stasis – cast in stone,

placed high in a niche

of this grand cathedral.

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

His daughters wake

and dare looking up.

What are they meant to do

with this apostolic vision

in their genes?

Someone tell them now,

tell them how the vacant room

was always theirs to own.

Here – sun streams through

rounded glass – crimson,

amber, cobalt, gold and green

play across crisp white walls.

Here – colours soften light,

a child can breathe deeply,

is free to release stale sorrows

and style fresh dreams.

Dad, we kick your ghost

out of here … no more

bargains with your fear.

What’s the cause of this stasis, so feared – like dying life, or living death? I think it’s war, each new war piled on top of other wars, and the unbearable injustices my father, many fathers, and mothers, were, and still are, subjected to. I shake my head, I nod my head, and somewhere between all contradictions I must accept the inherited traumas of humanity and seek life and joy with each new day.

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… the ones who walk away …

Ursula Le Guin’s short metafiction, ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas,’ first published in 1973, had its 40th anniversary last year. My first reading, when Google and book review sites were non-existent, left a deep impression. This week’s re-reading, once, twice, three times – the story deserves it – made me curious as to what other readers might have made of it. Obsessing in a web-crawl I came upon predominantly moral interpretations, which I distinctly remember resisting, though these associations are understandable. The way our systems deal with the unadjusted tends to appease the troubled conscience for the rest of us normal citizens.

For me, there were deeper complexities in this brilliant piece of writing. I decided to share my thoughts and tempt those of you who don’t know the story to read it and derive their own insights. I’ll use spoilers, so if you want to read the story first, here is a link: http://genius.com/Ursula-k-le-guin-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-annotated

… With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city of Omelas, bright-towered by the sea …  

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

We are shown a charming city where order and harmony reign, a city well-protected in a bay, resembling a womb. Reality is suspended. There’s a sense of timelessness. It is a civilised place, decorous, joyful, without hierarchy. No king, no swords, no slaves … no power games. Utopia comes to mind, the idea of eternal life – the eternal innocent child.

No science has yet dispelled the vision of a haven without strive, where everyone is happy. In the wake of traumatising wars and unspeakable atrocities, there are always attempt to re-create places like Omelas, attempts to soften the reality of birth and death, the extremes of joy and pain, nature, the cosmos our life depends on and which we try to fathom. But since our spiritual lore cautions that life is an illusion – an ornament that covers ultimate truth we can’t perceive with our senses, we get anxious when life becomes too comfortable.

The narrating voice, anticipating our scepticism, invites us to fill in the sketches of this perfect democracy. We are told, ‘They were not simple folks, you see, though they were happy.’ After all, Omelas may strike some as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. ‘If so please add an orgy.’ More delightful pleasures are suggested – celebrating life, with one significant addition, ‘One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.’

In contrast, the voice notes the bad habit of a different place, where pedants and sophisticates consider happiness as something rather stupid. ‘Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting … the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.’ The voice insists that the citizens of Omelas were mature, intelligent, passionate people whose lives were not wretched.

The Festival of Summer has begun. ‘Do you believe?’ the narrator asks. ‘Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? NO? Then let me describe one more thing.’

And there it is, the secret lurking out of sight, a child, kept in the darkness of a tiny cellar room, with only a faint ray of hope based on a dull memory. The child is not driven out of the city, like the traditional scapegoat, but contained below ground; there to absorb everyone’s fear of reality and its cruel justice, embodying, maybe, submerged histories, rather like the depths of the iceberg below water keeps its peak afloat in the light.

… They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it; others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on the child’s abominable misery …

Terms are clear, should this child be freed, the beauty would wither and be destroyed. The pragmatic solution seems such: One punished and suffering child is meant to redeem the rest from coming to terms with their inherited sins and traumas.

To leave this comfortable enclave of Omelas means leaving security and loved ones behind. It requires crossing mountains, stepping into the unknown, with no charm against collective guilt.

Omelas’ citizens are free to look at the unacceptable child. While reactions, those of young ones mainly, vary from disgust to outrage, most accept the necessity of this child’s sacrifice, though some fall quiet and leave Omelas in the middle of night, alone.

For me the child is there to serve cohesion, symbolizing a lid on the unconscious, primitive, wild aspects of the psyche. Isn’t dis-ease a loss of order and rhythm? If you judge this pragmatism harshly, consider the purpose of trip-switches in an electricity-wired house. Or, consider how people under social or dictatorial pressure may choose to safeguard the lives of their loved ones at the cost of betraying their knowing heart.

Le Guin does not condone staying or leaving Omelas, she provides no answers. I am one of those who walked away, many times, always at a cost, because I preferred guilt to shame. C G Jung developed the concept of individuation, hoping for it to expand collective consciousness from the inside out, through the individual, sometimes involving a precarious personal journey, going through a process of separating psychologically from parents, state, authority, to become whole. Like in the Zen story where the seeker eventually returns, better able to serve the community. While a single brain does not survive its limited life-span, the collective memory of matter, and each human experience lives on and is transmitted to every new-born life.

Each one of us carries the traumas of our histories, though not everyone has the opportunity to redeem such wounds, contribute new ideas, or explore different states of being. What drives one to walk away from the familiar – is it inner conflict, allegiance to one’s heart, fear to upset the order, the need for a wider perspective, or simply a calling? We bond to the systems we grow up in, in cases we adjust our behaviour in order to emotionally survive, along with the implicit bargain to keep quiet about the shit, our shit, others’ shit, and how we deal with all the shit.

There are those who leave a comfortable place and those who stay. Maybe a balance between conservative forces that protect structures and revolutionary forces that seek change is necessary. Not everyone, for example, can face existential pain and futility without succumbing to psychosis. There is a case for Festivals of Summer, sport, drugs, ecstasy, trance …

Was the power of the imagination born from fear of mortality? Is this why we envisage dystopias or utopias, and, ultimately, scenarios that make us feel in control of our destiny?

What we hide from ourselves and from each other often relates to our most prominent outcast, the neglected inner child, so embarrassing to the adult world. This child in Omelas seems to embody the ongoing ritual of shame for walking from Eden into the dawn of creation, a reality burdened with consciousness, and free will that frequently misses the mark, but, heck, is the very process of becoming human.

My naïve hope is that we can learn to embrace our all too human failures, show patience with our children, stop seeking blame and end scapegoating, yet also acknowledge our individual and collective need for comfortable realities … protecting us … from what?

Here a quote from a former friend and teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan … taken from a lecture on Reality:

‘For the whole collective of the human mind – outside that self-created reality there is a storm. That storm – that wind – that pressure – that influence and space is for our existence and permanency completely annihilating and destructive … our assignment outward is because of a deep decay … Reality is a veil that is spun with the finest and thinnest and strongest silk. It weighs nothing – it covers a little darker area behind – and yet the moment when you reach out with your hand to draw the veil away it will skin your hand till blood is drawn.’ 

To fill this emptiness we assign our meaning outward. Call it the human project. Sorry to trouble you, my friends, but the function of reality is worth contemplating, and, in my view, Ursula Le Guin’s story does just that.

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… mood swings …

A strong spirit can be dampened, sometimes at birth, sometimes through a later trauma, but with care, it can also be nurtured and strengthened. And like an effective immune system, it helps us to adjust imbalances in mind and body. The link between spirit and the immune system tends to be ignored when resources go into fighting the seeming culprit, historically blamed for imbalances, the intruder. True listening and welcoming a dialogues with the enemy are rare.

Churt Sculptor Park

Churt Sculptor Park

A recent Health Survey reports that nearly half of England’s population is on prescription drugs. And today’s news highlight once more that super bugs are on the rise. Factors that dent the spirit are not taken into the equation. When one observes how some of the dehumanising complexities of our systems wear down the dignity of people, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that depression is a sane reaction when there seems to be no light ahead.

Medicine is often the only immediate way a severe depression can be eased. It should however concern everyone that depression is on the increase, a development which, in my view, genetic markers acknowledged, expresses the collective state of our society and, again in my view, how the most sensitive people carry the imbalances of the system for the rest of us.

I’m a rebel, and while severe depression evades me, I experience mood swings. Once in a while I’m struck by a state of futility – about hyped-up news selling fake realities, the lunacy of ignoring the gulf between the rich and poor in the world, the exploitation of planetary resources, the abuse of personal data, cold callings, small businesses and communities disappearing, and the shopping mania in supermarkets. Add to this a personal loss, or simply an accumulation of irritants, and you have potential triggers for depression.

When something feels wrong in my heart, I bolt. Yet integrity is costly when security, health, loyalties, disillusionment and emotional dependencies are involved, then ‘NO’ carries risks. Stories told in many counselling practices focus on pressure at work, incessant changes of procedures , bullying and subtle manipulation. Complaints backfire because managers are themselves under stress. There follow negative loops of thoughts, the inability to relax, lingering anxieties, and also bursts of anger. Underlying these stories is a sense of powerlessness that brings about psychological regression, which can be an opportunity to find a gentle ‘yes’ for oneself, were one able to bear the consequences. Young or old, alone or in relationship, there is often a sense of feeling trapped, despair, a flattening of vitality, joy and compassion for oneself and others.

P1060863 smallerDepression seems to mark our time and is in dire need of acknowledgement. Besides medication and therapies, an honest assessment is vital – of how simple human needs for creativity, and expectations for love and appreciation are frustrated. I’m lucky in that I sleep and dream well, and generally recover from my mood swings. Apart from smoking rollups and drinking wine to relax, in moderation, I also have a default mode, where the world turns not so much unreal, but surreal.

P1060866 smallerMy spirit of independence refuses to be intimidated by the collective idea of what is real. I find beauty in small things and unique moments that give me pleasure. For example, I see the shadow of socks on the washing line and candles waving to each other, or the cucumber salad dressing resembling a river delta, or ancient trees … that’s the drift …

I switch to patterns in other than economy sponsored realities. I dream up stuff.

Being curious, I’d like to know about your ways of dealing with mood swings, or depression, or anxieties instilled by the media. How do you manage the rapids of sensational information? Do you have secrets of becoming? Do you swim against the established order or do the unexpected? Do you have moments of pleasure? Do you have gifts of resilience to share?

‘All we see is a false capture of being: a time grid.’ Fazal Inayat-Khan.

Based on statistics, I predict that the sun will rise tomorrow.

http://aeon.co/magazine/health/is-preventive-medicine-its-own-health-risk/

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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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Sitara Brutnell – 1914 – 2004

Sitara Brutnell

Sitara Brutnell

 

Today’s post is to honour a remarkable woman who died ten years ago, aged nearly 90, having lived her life devoted to the Sufi Message of Love, Harmony and Beauty. Sitara Brutnell was a musician whose brilliant ear for pitch and rhythm extended to the fine-tuning of her personality. By enduring the dissonances life throws at us without dispensing blame, and reading people and situations deeper, she became receptive to the spirit of inner guidance.

Like her parents before her, she supported the work of the Sufi Movement and continued hosting its leaders after Hazrat Inayat Khan in her home, enjoying many musical soirées. One of Hazrat’s successors was his youngest brother, Musharaff Khan (1895-1967), who handed his role to the 26-year-old Fazal Inayat-Khan. So in 1968 the Sufi Movement was challenged by a dynamic and innovative Pir and custodian, a position Fazal eventually surrendered, giving credence to his own unique teaching approach, calling it The Way of Action, and later Sufi Way. Sitara stood by him for almost three decades, and after his untimely death in 1990, the leadership of Sufi Way fell to her. My Pictures 438 - CopyAknar Circle in Roughwood

She is remembered as a wonderful musician, and for her kindness, humour, sparkling mind, frequent expressions of gratitude and her warm hospitality.

The door to Sitara’s home was always opens to her many friends spanning the globe. There was hardly a time when she did not gracefully entertain guests who treasured Roughwood as a place to relax and be nurtured, like she lovingly nurtured her pot plants, no matter how straggly they lined up on her windowsill. The wild flowers in the secret nooks of her garden looked after themselves. Sheltered by high trees and bounded by fields, this magical place was only a few miles away from Four Winds, Fazal’s residence, and the then official spiritual home of Sufi Way, which was like a buzzing metropolis of the psyche compared to the sanctuary of Roughwood. My Pictures 410 - Copyat Roughwood,window13-04-04

It is tremendously reassuring to come back to rooms where everything has over time claimed its place. Shelves packed with old books, well-worn furniture and carpets, paintings and prints on the walls, items on the mantelpiece, like the tiny carved gazelle, the Japanese ginger jar, red-veined serpentine stones from the Lizard – interspersed with rotating tokens of love – the photograph sent from a family in America, a child’s drawing, a postcard from South Africa … each object holding a story. And stories popped from shells with every question of where and what. We held garden working-parties, chasing away moles, poetry gatherings, celebrated birthdays …

The year roses grew in the tree.

The year roses grew in the tree.

Following Fazal’s death, his partner, Wendy Rose-Neil, a transpersonal therapist, put Four Winds on the map as a venue for London’s workshop facilitators, and Sitara, aged 76, though daunted by the task, embraced her spiritual leadership role with grace. Helped by the local and international community, she continued regular Sufi Way activities, and encouraged Sufi friends and professional therapists among us to run workshops. In this and many other ways Four Winds maintained itself financially for another decade and served a wide community.

This positive development ended abruptly after Sitara’s death. The new Pir, Elias Amidon, sold both Roughwood and Four Winds to raise money to achieve more flexibility for Sufi Way. I am still grieving the loss of the places and the multicultural network that was truly inclusive, beyond the brand of Sufism, which is not to say that the inclusive approach is not continued elsewhere. However, attempts of local people to buy Four Winds from the newly created charity failed. The two spiritual homes in England now only exist in the rich memory of companionships.

Barn at Four Winds

Barn at Four Winds

It was impressive how Sitara embraced the challenges of the next generation, how she joined the freedom of enquiry of the 70s and 80s. Over three decades, people from all walks of life and all corners of the earth gathered yearly for Summer, Winter and Spring schools at Four Winds, which was a vortex  of creativity, with stimulating lectures and discussions, psychological war games and intense experiential meditative and contemplative practices that deepened lives and formed lasting friendships.

Though an unlikely team, Fazal and Sitara complemented each other. While Fazal, with the sincerity, contradiction of doubt and faith, intensity and humour of a Qalandar *, challenged the assumptions of his students and encouraged unlearning, Sitara was the blessing guardian, typed up hundreds of Fazal’s lectures and regaled us with piano recitals on her Grand, songs, esoteric readings, tea-time-treats of Battenberg cake, stories, and the consistency of her welcoming home. What they had in common, apart from disseminating the essence of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s message, was their love for music, keen curiosity in life and the playful deflation of any pretensions to grandiosity.

For one of the famed spontaneous Magic Theatre performances at Four Winds, Sitara offered a poem that gives a flavour of her delightful poise:

Lord thou knowest better than I know myself

that I am growing older and will someday be old.

Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something

on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me lord from craving to straighten out everyone’s affairs.

Make me thoughtful not moody, helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom it does seem a pity not to use it all …

but thou knowest lord that I want a few friends in the end.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details;

give me wings to get to the point;

seal my lips on my aches and pains …

they are increasing

and love of rehearsing them has become sweeter as the years go on.

I dare not ask lord, for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other pains,

but help me to endure them with patience.

Teach me that glorious lesson that, occasionally, I may be mistaken. 

Keep me reasonably sweet lord.

I do not want to be a saint …

some of them are so hard to live with,

but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places

and talents in unexpected people.

And give me oh lord the grace to tell them so.

 

(The author of this poem is anonymous, but Sitara wrote poems in the same vein)

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* A Qalandar is traditionally a wandering dervish, a free spirit with a strong love for humankind. Fazal Inayat-Khan once wrote a breath-taking poem called ‘Qalandar’ at Roughwood. It can be found in this book: Heart of a Sufi – A Prism of Reflections, link: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/a-rare-book-now-on-line/

The present Sufi Way: http://sufiway.org/ And an article by Fazal Inayat-Khan that sheds light on the various branches that grew from the tree of the Sufi Movement: http://sufiway.org/about-us/our-lineage/12-about/33-western-sufism

If you’re inclined to explore the spiritual message of Hazrat Inayat Khan, you’ll find plenty of links and source material on these and many other sites, all free: https://wahiduddin.net/mv2/   http://www.cheraglibrary.org/

Thank you Sitara, thank you Fazal, and thanks to all the friends in this adventure. You are still enriching my life.

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… consciousness – the mystery …

People who engage in therapeutic work with me often ask – why dig up my past, it holds pain, why look at attachment patterns, why explore the theme (myth) of my life? What a waste of time. I only want to get rid of my symptoms.

We all, without exception, suffered injuries. The creative question to ask is – how has the injury shaped my life, and what purpose does it serve? Many years ago, during a group dialogue following the inspirational talk of my Sufi teacher, we discussed three basic kinds of injuries. I connect my own experience to the third injury.

1        Having experienced physical injury can result in fight and flight behaviour – it brings a heightened sensitivity and develops a sharpening of the senses.

2        Having experienced sexual, sensual and emotional injury can result in escape from one’s self into others, estrangement from self, lack of differentiation and boundaries – the great challenge is to accept one’s self, differentiate as an individual from the tribe and take responsibility for one’s unique potential.

3        Having experienced injury on a cognitive level accelerates individuation – the escape is into deeper realities, a search for authenticity and truth and the development of symbolic reality – universal reality.

My novel, Course of Mirrors, is the fictionalised account of an aspect of my personal myth made universal – in the sense that memories of events don’t have to be real for a story to be true.

@ Natasha Tonkin

@ Natasha Tonkin

Even the most die-hard materialists among us grok that life is animated and guided by an all-pervading spirit? We are vessels, psychic switchboards for the spirit that animates and records all life.

An ungraspable phenomenon we try to name in vain.

Mental states pass through us. We call in and then process thoughts and feelings, seeking coherence, and – given we assign meaning to what happens to us – are gaining wider perspectives and deeper insights. With every new connection made and every little light brought to what is forgotten and unknown – collective consciousness grows.

Our body knows, if we care to notice, what stirs in our psyche, what wants to unfold and emerge. When energy flows freely through us our essential nature is uplifted, and our desire is aligned with the potential in us that seeks actualisation – in the way a cocoon reveals the butterfly. Our life has many cocoon and wing stages. The proverbial flutter that causes a stir in all spheres of the universe is like yet another love-transcended aspect of us emerging from yet another cocoon.

Presence, responding to situations, accepting differences and contradictions, frees energy that is ghosted and stagnant. While blocked energy creates frustrations and often painful symptoms, it is totally inevitable, since every organism evolves through condensed experiences. Life enhancing and life destroying events subject us to a pattern of repetition in time until we embrace change.

‘A truth outgrown crushes you under its weight.’   Fazal Inayat-Khan

To bring a repeating pattern to a higher level of flow requires a kind of quantum leap of consciousness. Small leaps occur frequently, especially when we befriend the unconscious and allow fresh symbols into awareness. The released light/energy brings new meaning and allows the self-actualisation of new potential.

‘It is obvious that the percolation of a timeless NOW is penetrating everything!’  –  Philippa Rees

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The image above is by Natasha Tonkin, my son’s partner. It was done two years ago as Christmas card and gift idea towards illustrating my novel, to help bring it to life. I scanned and inversed the image for the mirror to appear light. Natasha’s animation website: http://pandahorse.com/

Link to a book I co-edited about the Sufi teacher I mentioned above, Fazal Inayat-Khan. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Sufi-Inayat-Khan-Reflections-ebook/dp/B00BFUO0T6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369084226&sr=1-1&keywords=heart+of+a+sufi

Link to ‘Involution,’ an exceptional book by a kindred spirit, Philippa Rees.                                         http://involution-odyssey.com/  her book will soon hit the market. Her site is being developed.

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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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… why spin tales? …

Die Nachtigall-02 Why spin tales, why listen to them, enact them on stage, dance them, ritualise them, read them, write them, re-write them?    We tell stories to ourselves and each other, to entertain, inspire, amplify events, or in search for meaning.

When it comes to stories, fact-finders tend to miss the point. Too many sequential facts can befuddle a truth that lingers in the higher or deeper layers of consciousness, from where vital symbolic insights shine through a narrative.

We owe much to Joseph Campbell, who with life-long passion explored the origins of myths and their functions throughout human history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

And check out these fantastic documentaries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Myth

A myth is a public dream – a dream is a private myth. – Joseph Campbell

 

In my psychotherapy practice, clients present their story in unique ways that occasionally include lucid dreams of past lives. I deeply respect the power of the imagination. In neutral mode, I listen. So it happens that a trauma set in thirteenth century Languedoc, when Cathars were branded as heretics and massacred by the Catholic Church, can deeply trouble a person’s psyche with visceral images. I travel along, and as the story is released, I may bridge the emotional resonance of a pattern to the present life of a client. In this process profound cognitions can soften a psychological complex.

Lasting examples of deeper truths are mirrored in Fairy-tales and myths, where basic patterns of our collective unconscious psyche are brought into relief. That is, if we can grasp the metaphors under the primary meaning of words. Fictional settings for heroic or anti-heroic characters are particularly suited to convey powerful emotional themes infused with archetypal elements.

… the spirit of an age is more essentially mirrored in its fairy-tales than in the most painstaking chronicle of a contemporary diarist … Raymond Chandler – Realism and Fairy-land

Some religions persist in the literal truths of their sacred texts. Scientists, too, get stuck in dogma, but I emphasize more with the frustration of the latter, since, with the courage of doubt, scientists have pushed the horizon of knowledge outwards by painstakingly reading the book of nature through the language of data, evidencing processes poets and mystics before them intuited, but physical eyes cannot perceive – like radiations other than light. I’m trying to overcome the conflict of the scientist and poet in me. They interpret the world in different but equally significant ways. There is a need to read nature in both languages, so greater understanding and tolerance can develop.

‘With faith one attains and realises peace and harmony. With doubt one destroys and gains freedom to move ontowards.’    – Fazal Inayat-Khan

Memory, objectively true, or false, affects our lives every day. Stories lodged in the heart endure in a timeless dimension of the imagination. We can however alter their interpretation by exploring our perspective, be it from a pit of fatalism, a sense of insecurity, a belief in magic, faith in divine guidance, or the certitude of natural laws. Even the simple acceptance of life’s continuous dynamic change can shift the meaning of our stories, and, of course, it helps to overcome literal mindedness and make an effort to decipher the metaphors.

‘The mystical warrior is trying to reduce the obstruction in the doorway, and the worshipper is attempting to reach the construction behind the doorway, almost out of sight. There is a gap between the two … the vague band between the known and the unknown. In that band rapture is possible.’   – Fazal Inayat-Khan

Stories are the sap of life nourishing the roots and branches of humanity. We spin stories because during the birth of this universe the symmetry between matter and antimatter was broken, kicked out of balance, which resulted in a slight predominance of matter, the stuff we bump into. It’s a poignant thought that this little quirk caused the dynamic asymmetry that evolved into the universe we live in. Without this asymmetry between matter and antimatter our world would be empty, there would be light only – sans elements, sans plants, sans animals, sans night, sans saints, fools, villains – sans consciousness – no story.

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For those interested in nuclear physics:

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/26/1/26-1-sather.pdf

 

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