Tag Archives: Rumi

Sparks will fly #45 #satisfied

Happiness comes from the root word for lucky and satisfaction from the root word for being content.  Being satisfied in a deep and knowing way is not about luck, it is usually not random, it is planned, thought through, intentional. It comes from effort and often at some cost personally, professionally, physically. While happiness is more likely to be accidental, occasional and difficult to sustain. I have been in several conversations of late about these two feelings. There is an old Japanese saying I used to have on a mini-poster as a teen in my bedroom “Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it eludes you, but if you sit quietly, it will come and rest on your shoulder.” Chasing happiness seems to be a past time for many. Coming to a deeper awareness about what is satisfying requires a different kind of effort. It is not haphazard. Fascinatingly it seems the earliest meaning around satisfaction was with a confessor hearing the contrition of  observing the fulfilment of the sinner’s penance.  The contrast being satisfying the other rather than yourself and I think this is quite close to the difference between the two states of satisfaction and happiness. Satisfaction seems to have deeper roots.

Getting to the bottom of things can be quite satisfying and sustaining a state of satisfaction begins with the seeds of knowing your purpose and passions and often distilling the difference between needs and wants. Some people talk about needs as work and wants as pleasures – this too might be a clue to the difference between happiness and satisfaction.  Meeting wants is probably the icing on the cake, while meeting needs holds the seeds for satisfaction.  Having a big enough worldview to capture your why above and beyond the quick rush of happy I think can put down satisfaction roots. This is how value is created in our life, the deeper the roots, the more sustenance from our source where-ever that well is we draw from. There is some kind of focus from those roots to follow the water course that offers life.  I often think of the expression “go with the flow” as really being carried along that river, when you are in it and authentically turning up, you experience being held over the rocks, and around the bends, through the cascades. Maybe after the journey you arrive to the mouth, where you are emptied into the ocean, maybe you are opened into the ocean and join with something bigger than yourself?

Rumi says: If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain”. I am not so sure about the lack of pain, but I am sure satisfying needs takes patience, flow or perhaps alignment. Wants though have more of an insatiable nature and require being fed. Only when there is some kind of emptiness, lacking even perhaps a vacuum can the need become fully visible. The homeless one knows what shelter means, the hungry know the taste of bread. I think Mick Jagger and Keith Richards might have been onto something where they moaned about lack of satisfaction because people are filling up with useless information and constant trying. Filling and chasing and constant trying, isn’t going to lead to satisfaction. It is both more gentle and more tenacious, there is plumbing to depths requiring integrity and gratitude for the stones and rocks along the way to reveal what might is needed to go deeper.

Little sparks of water dance in the light and fly in the face of the danger in the cascades, flamed by high winds in the mountains and gentle breezes on the coast.  There are times you can even see the light and water form a rainbow – that universal expression of hope. It is not always a happy journey, but there are signs of it being a satisfying one.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Sparks will fly #44 #phoenix

We all know the ancient Greek myth of the ancient bird that rises from the ashes, reborn, renewed. There are three movements – the long life (legend has it at about 500 years), the plunge into the fire (some stories have the bird dying then rising from ashes), the resplendent and shining like the sun gloriously colourful soaring high as a new creature. I have been listening to a song about South Africa this week, created on the cusp of the fall of apartheid echoing the country’s journey to that of the phoenix. I have felt inspired by the present tense that is in the lyric: from the ashes of the fire the phoenix will arise.  There is such confidence and direction of onwards and upwards. There is no energy given to the death or destruction, only the power that has been gathered from being consumed and new life is the inevitable consequence.

The black residue arrives after the hisses and crackles, snaps and pops of the logs and twigs as the cinders die out and the last gasps of oxygen leave the fire. We recognise the end of the fire’s life. The ashes start to arrive long before the fire is out though, and we often detect the end is nigh. Stoking the fire to keep it alive is often a temptation and we want to linger a little longer. I have found myself doing that from time to time, not being quite ready to let something new emerge and preferring to hang on before letting go. There is also the being consumed part, letting the fire take over to eat up what remains. Afterall fires create both heat and light, so perhaps, seeing a fire in another will attract some attention and company. That has been my experience. I have been generously accompanied by others who have noticed me in the fire and all the forces human and cosmic calling me to rise, rise, rise. 

There have been three wise men around the fire this week who have each gifted me with kindness and a challenge. Challenge number 1 was to risk myself and stay open to the possibility of male companionship and intimacy. Challenge number 2 was to embrace my skills in community development and head back to do it in the burbs. Challenge number 3 was to apologise for holding bad thoughts about a couple of people that I know now was completely misguided and misinformed.  I suspect addressing each of these challenges will be part of the rising from the ashes. I have made a little start already with the apologies which of themselves are huge and deeply embedded in my synaptic pathways, but new information has arrived and healing all round will occur, I hope.  The community development challenge isn’t difficult and can easily be re-framed and put into place where I find and put myself in my work. It is a lot harder to do in my personal life, when I am living as a pilgrim and not connected to a neighbourhood.  The first one though is the Mt Everest one for me. At this point in the ashes I have only aversion and no experience, knowledge or desire. I am relishing friendships and am not lonely, although often alone.  I love the liberation and freedom and never, ever want to be a carer again. I am in credit on that ledger. It might take a long time for those plumes to appear on this phoenix, if ever! What I am taking from that challenge though is an instruction to hold doors open and see what comes through, not to keep doors shut.

When sparks fly sometimes, they are joined in the fire by ashes flying like confetti. We all know how choking and debilitating an ash cloud can be, but around a campfire the wisps of ashes offer themselves up as a forecast, floating until they can be seen no more joining with the night sky.  The phoenix doesn’t form until the old bird is fully consumed and only then does she arrive majestic in her new form. I can feel some of my early ashes turning up in the atmosphere and the embers are starting to fade with the potential of a phoenix rising. It is a relief to come to this point after so much combustion, although there are still sticks poking the fire, I think more ashes are creating a nest for something new to turn up. The three wise men of the week all love me and recognise in me the fire, the ashes and the emerging phoenix, they are calling her out. Perhaps the lesson from the week and from the phoenix is: love is the fuel of the fire.

A heart filled with love is like a phoenix that no cage can imprison.  – Rumi

 

 

Sparks will fly #36 #Reclining

Couch surfing has begun and I have found myself on my old red couch in another city, where it now lives in the Spare Room of one of the offspring. I bought new couches in the last six months of my love’s life to make sure we had plenty of spaces for family to lie, rest, sleep, recover in the dying days that the house was hosting. Now I get to sleep on one of them again as pilgrim life unfolds. The red couches are plump, inviting and know how to be steady to receive. I am grateful to my past self for buying them and seeing them in their new surrounds and making good use of them.

There is a lot to be said for reclining. The famous reclining Buddha statues around the world are a sign of compassion, acceptance of death being nigh and the body is no longer needed. In the moments of deep tiredness I have felt this week, taking a reclining position at the end of the week on the red couch has its own poetry. I am tired and there is one last sprint to come this week to finalise preparations to go away, move what’s left of my possessions into storage, pack my bag and go walking and holidays.

To recline is to lean back, and in this day and age, where leaning in is a mantra, I am enjoying playing with this idea of leaning back! The dictionary tells me the word comes from the Old French recliner or Latin reclinare ‘bend back, recline’, from re- ‘back’ + clinare ‘to bend’. This is not a going backwards kind of bend, but a bend that you do again and again to focus, to reflect and to let inanimate items take the weight of the body from the earth, to hold it in some kind of suspension, while restoration takes place, or even perhaps transformation. Like every night’s rest where we recline, we bend back into our beds, and return to the dark, and while our eyes are shut all kinds of renewal take place. Clarity often arrives after leaning back.

Time of the red couch awake, and asleep, enables sparks to rise up from old embers and memories I don’t want to hold come with them. The sleep I long for doesn’t always come, but the reclining remains and continues to be an invitation to rest. I am looking to the serene face of one who knows how to recline and lean back into mortality allowing sparks to come and sparks to go. Lying back, sinking into the red couch which is both cause and effect of some of my broken heart. Rumi says you have to keep breaking your heart until it is open and I wonder how much more breaking is even possible and what corners of my heart are still aching to be open? Reclining, is hinting to me, that there maybe more to be done by leaning back than leaning in.

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Photo by Joe Robertson

Sparks will fly #33 #presenttense

The plane was on the tarmac and already almost two hours behind schedule and this last waiting time seemed to be related to inappropriate behaviour of a male passenger towards a female passenger. It was very late in the day and meant another delay was going to keep me well away from where I was planning to be. I was being disrupted by a disruptor, I adapted, sorted out a work around.

Everyday we get disrupted by forces outside of ourselves, we are constantly making adjustments. Having a well oiled set of improv skills and a tool kit of hacks certainly helps in these moments. Nothing works better though than having a reservoir of past experiences and the knowledge that this too will pass. Time is perhaps the biggest disruptor that gets the least cred.

I am unfolding from a week, where I have been disrupted, disturbed, liberated, interrupted, cycled through a series of emotions and memories. I am fascinated in how memories show up as teachable moments. Avoiding nostalgia, I drawn on memories that have been left alone in drawers, in fading blue ballpoint ink, untouched for years. The memories flood back of conversations, touches, shared hopes and dreams, yet these words while true in every way are an alternative truth. The complexity of both and words is beyond my grasp some days and my memories fight with truths disrupting every neuronal pathway.

Some of the teachings of the week include making new memories by grounding self deeply into the present – not the past or the future.  This is living with time as the great disruptor. Time is what a clock reads. although we know time is able to stand still, run ahead of us when we aren’t ready and go so slowly that it is torture … possibly all within the cycle of the sun rising and setting.

Tense is an indicator of time and present tense living can be tense, in-tense even. Living in present tense concentrates time with the essence of the moment completely focussing the mind, body and spirit. Just a drop of the fragrance “the essence of time” can perfume a whole day.   I am often in a fog wandering in the present tense fragrance that is always with me, longing for a time, when, as Rumi says, the fragrance of flowers crushed, forgiveness, arrives.  Disrupted by forces outside of myself, my heart crushed, spirit broken, grief makes way for new  beginnings.

Trust is rooted in love and fear rooted in control, trusting the future to hold me, as I separate from what has control over me. Inevitably, these sparks disrupt and offer work-arounds to reveal future in present actions. Present tense still shines a light into the future from the darkness of the past.

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Installation somewhere in New York – I didn’t note the artist #apologies

 

 

Sparks will fly #21 #music

The poet sings like a lark surrounded by virtuosos who know how to get the best out of each and every inch of their instruments, in a space designed for the singular purpose for sound to reach our ears and soak into our bodies – this was a musical nourishment to savour. One indeed to take to the grave, as I instructed my youngest to include You’ve underestimated me dude in the set to be played at my funeral. Energetically, the pulse of life, with all it highs and lows, swirled around us in raptures. I bow down to your talent and your willingness to share them with us all:

Kate Miller-Heidke | vocals / piano
Keir Nuttall | guitar
Iain Grandage | cello / piano
Jessica Hitchcock | backing vocal

You know sparks will fly when the shock of greying luxurious hair on the cellist arrives just before the first words of introduction are spoken. The ancestors were already in place and the next generation eagerly was taking up their invitation to join the appreciation society. David Whyte says: Poetry is language against which you have no defenses. The quartet raged a triumphant victory march and reached into the cracks and chasms of my heart and soul, my sword and my shield were rendered helpless, I was left defenceless.

I am being instructed through a set of exercises which is calling me to examine some of those cracks and chasms. It is not all comfortable. As this day dawns I am wondering how perhaps there is another way in to be opened, music and poetry has served me well in the practice to keep being broken open, they can creep into me with the open-heart surgery and exam of life seems to require!

In a recent speech I made, I shared a couple of snippets of time when I was literally under threat of death – a knife being pulled on me and a gun pointed at me. There have been a few other times death has come knocking. As a child suffering from asthma where breath in the body was scarce, in traffic there have been a few near misses, running behind a bus as a ten year old on the streets of London. And, I have had a death threat too during anti-racist campaigning. Coming close to death is an invitation to live more fully. It is also to unpack how these near-death experiences can continue to work their way into the future and not be relegated to the past, as if somehow they already processed, packed up and neatly put away. Music calls these experiences out into the open for review.

The emotional labour is never really over and comes repackaged and repurposed … and often for me this is through music or poetry. When a song moves you it has tapped into memory, or maybe into possibility or fantasy. There were many such moments last night. The cello becomes your spiritual director, the shaker becomes the metronome of your heart beat and the highest notes crescendo to match your higher self as the heavy darker tones of chords thumping on strings and keys takes you down as far as the notes will go … and then some. Rumi says: If all the harps in the world were burned down, still inside the heart there will be hidden music playing. It is this hidden music which is being examined but I can’t get to it without the live music on the outside. And it is in between sets that the reflection takes place, in the quiet, when instruments are lying in state, when the cup of tea is getting cold, when the chairs are empty, when the leads are relaxed. I am in between sets when I reflect, everything is still on stage, there is gratitude and expectation of more.

Remaining open is the way sparks will fly and the door is always ajar when I can hear the music.

Ukaria

Between sets, Ukaria 25 May 2019

Promises to tomorrow 31 #love

For so long I have gone to a beautiful piece of poetry to search for a way to describe the essence and potency of love. Rumi exhausted, I return to my roots and find Corinthians 13 waiting for me as always. I continue to find treasures and challenges in each line, and truths that need not be told as they are so universal there is a knowing beyond words.

In these days and nights there are precious moments. Priceless. Irreplaceable. Some are of harvest and others once-in-a-lifetime you need to be vigilant, so not to miss the fleeting nano gift arriving. Sentry duty becomes a practice to keep out unwanted and unwelcome distractions.

My promise to tomorrow is to give the sentry a little rest from time to time by putting in placeholders of poetry; to let the eyes fall when they need to, and to remember love will do her work even if I am not looking.

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I speak at all it is the language of breath and silence, each inspiration fills the lungs with the future and each expiration delivers memories to the universe. I am only love made mute.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I can forecast and bring mystery to each moment and make meaning from the depths of all knowing, yet cannot hold still the singular moment of joy, there is nothing.

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

If I empty my shelves, my bank account, my body to make visible what I have accumulated, and humility has not made a home, there is nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love’s laws are fused in quiet spaces, expansive kisses, confident dreams, accidents and surprises: hidden and visible in equal measure. Salt, vinegar, nitrates, sulphur preservatives of love, build resilience, stave off fear, clean off the plaque and disappointment debts.

8 Love never fails.

Love comes through, time and time and time again and is all that there is when everything else is stripped away. Unplugged. Love remains.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

There is no compass, no crystal ball, no stars to consult. Silence is the guide towards wholeness.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

What has been known in the dark, the light now reveals. Breath, bearing gifts carries love with optimism, trust, confidence.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Hands held in the great silence. The UniVerse: where love, the code and decoder become one.

Dancing with Speeches #41 Manal Al Sharif

Manal Al Sharif from Saudi Arabia rose to fame with a speech from her car. A simple act of defiance. Driving her way to freedom went viral, got her detained and got her heard, face seen and named. She followed up speaking in Oslo and that speech brought her sisters from around the world with her and many in her own country to get behind the wheel and not get arrested.

It always starts with one voice, one face and one name and then over time they are joined by the first follower – this all important person who echoes, pays homage and responds and then over time the movement grows. Call and response are the building blocks to all movements. Single actions lead to collection ones – a walk to make salt brings down an empire (Mahatma Gandhi) sitting on a bus brings freedom and rights (Rosa Parks), walking off land leads to fair wages (Vincent Lingiari). In Manal’s actions she is also asking each and every one of us: What wheel are you going to get behind to drive to freedom?

The wheel is a wonderful thing – and when connected to an engine even more powerful. The axel, hub, spokes, wings, rim, cap, tyre all embellish the humble and technological beauty, of the wheel. And wheels come in so many shapes and sizes, holding meaning and messages – the ferris wheel on steroids that is the Eye overseeing our cities, the wheelbarrow carting our gardening endeavours (and little children) around backyards, the colour wheel offering a kaleidoscope to enrich our senses, the wheel of fortune being spun at fairs and appearing in readings, and the prayer wheel holding us steady in all kinds of weather.

Manal Al Sharif is a woman of means, well endowed with friends to support her and come alongside of her vision for women. She calls out common sense and practicalities – and after all isn’t this the simplicity of equity? A chance for us all to have our hands on the same wheel to drive ourselves to the freedoms for all and not just the privileged few? Her name means achievement and attainment. In our response to her call success will arrive.

How long is this turning of the wheel go on before all women (and therefore all men too) are driven to freedom? The exodus from enslavement by patriarchy and frankly just silly ideas is not yet complete. There is more wheel turning to be done. More songs to be sung. More voices to be heard. More ears to listen. More hearts to open. The wheel is turning and Manal’s hands on her steering wheel in a car she owns, on a street in a city she lives and works in, driving without arrest another turn is taken.

In my tradition, to every season there is a turn and we all need to take our turn at the wheel, to be the call and all the more important, be the response to the call.

This is the time for every purpose and for every work to be turned towards speaking up and righting wrongs towards all women. There is no stop to the turning and whirling. Like a dervish possessed with the ecstasy and mystical love for their God, women of the world twirl and swirl, creating a ferment for change no longer voiceless, faceless or nameless!

we came whirling
out of nothingness
scattering stars
like dust

the stars made a circle
and in the middle
we dance

the wheel of heaven
circles God
like a mill

if you grab a spoke
it will tear your hand off

turning and turning
it sunders
all attachment

were that wheel not in love
it would cry
“enough! how long this turning?”

every atom
turns bewildered

beggars circle tables
dogs circle carrion
the lover circles
his own heart

ashamed,
I circle shame

a ruined water wheel
whichever way I turn
is the river

if that rusty old sky
creaks to a stop
still, still I turn

and it is only God
circling Himself

~Rumi~