Soon a big year starts for me: I will have been engaged in daily spiritual practice for thirty three years.
That is a lot of daily practice. Some delicious, some a slog, some neutral. Once set in motion, the dailiness was fairly easy to maintain. The health benefits—both mental and physical—are striking and rewarding. Spiritually it is less predictable, but I think that’s because from time to time I entertain fantasies about what ‘spiritual’ is, what Path is. (As distinct from the experience of Path which arises from practice and study.) My favorite fantasy is that Path will relieve me of my ‘self’ and of the conflicts in my life. I ask it to be Prince Charming. The escapism disappears, however, when I get down on the mat and breathe & move. I find myself, whatever she is today, and no matter what trouble I have been avoiding, I find solace. Such a simple thing. Read more
Here is a basic Sufi adage: The best way of knowledge is through experience. Just to be clear: ‘experience’ means doing an action rather than reading or talking about it. Experiential knowledge involves all our senses. It is three dimensional and multi-sensorial. It’s not that thought isn’t valuable, but thinking about an action must not be mistaken for doing an action, and information about a matter must never be mistaken for experiential knowledge of the matter. As well, there is the obvious reductionist fact that thought is body. Our marvelous, lovely thinking is the result of our nervous systems swilling endogenous or exogenous chemicals. Even fantasies of disembodiment—resurrection of the body in heaven, out-of-body travel, etc.—are created by the body. Read more
Days of hammering nails into the porch frame of the barn transform me. I’ve gotten good at swinging the hammer, letting the tool do the work, the nail going straight in, but I have to focus on each strike. I breathe and strike. Breathe and strike. Then I stand and gaze at the march of 2X4s thinking of the time when the boards will all be screwed down and people will sit here, chatting, or quietly watching Hermit’s Peak. This thought makes it easier to bend forward and begin striking again. Breathe and strike. This is mantra work. This is breath work. Read more
I want to write about Mary Manly (Schneiderman), a tall, pale blonde beauty who died of cancer this past week. I met Mary at Sufi Camp many years ago, did workshops at her Tribeca loft with Adnan in the 70s when life was slower and cheaper, affording Seekers the time to gather in ease and in strong numbers, dancing and chanting for days on end. Mary’s loft was funky. She ran a heavy duty extension cord from the floor above in and out through the street-side windows to power a boom box. The floor, made of worn pine boards, slanted toward the stairwell. Mary knit gorgeous, arty sweaters of silvery, heavy yarns and fantastical colors. Read more
I arrived in Bogota Airport, a run-down, monster airport. This is a big city and not an American one. Disorder and dirt abounded, and not speaking Spanish was a handicap. It’s not true that everyone everywhere speaks English. Finally, after an uneasy hour and a half, I connected with my promised driver, a man holding a piece of paper with my name and the conference name on it, which would have to suffice in terms of trust. I got in a shiny black SUV and we muscled through the snarl of rush hour Holy Week traffic. Read more
When we cultivate our spiritual life, our daily life increasingly becomes the face of the Divine.
This came to me as we chanted Ya Muhyi (The Enlivener) in the recent Baton Rouge weekend workshop. I saw daily life as surface, like the earth’s crust, floating above a timeless unitive Communion. We have families and jobs, responsibilities and identities. This is our surface. If, inside, a spark flutters then flames into a blaze of spiritual life, we find, Read more
Ric and I take a walk at midnight. The sky opens and tosses down a fine rain/ice. The black bayou quivers. Damp coolness slides around my neck and fingers my ears. Ghost touch, tomb taste. Tonight, thoughts skitter, feet move under me, Read more
A Dancemeditation session is a process of spiraling inward toward the center of the self, then coming out again, but I am not so fond of the clinical feeling of that descriptor. A Dancemeditation session is a work of art. It has light and shadow, shape and beauty, texture and time. It is creative. Ineffable spiritual awakening quivers in this vessel. Read more
The other day I had a call to make, one I dreaded. The person is perfectly kind on the surface but I knew, from past interactions, that afterward I would feel as if I’d donated blood. More than a pint. Much more. I debated not calling. How to get out of it? Or how to get something out of it?
The aftertaste is what stays with me longest. Read more
Imagine eating and eating and never digesting. Imagine being full, packed to the gills and never being able to assimilate, starving for nutrition, wallowing in gluttony run amok. Now imagine that this is not about food but about body taking in information and never having a chance to integrate this information. This not so hard to imagine because it is how we live. Read more