I sit alone in the middle of the night in the living room of my parents’ house that is also the house where I grew up. I did my homework here, watched snow fall here, I ate meals, took baths, danced, and slept here. This house still smells of childhood, of woods fires and sea air. My parents will never come back to this house. I sit in my mother’s blue chair as if I might absorb a lingering presence of her body, but she is not here. She has been increasingly restless in her blue chair for the past two years as her dementia confused her, then sad and frenzied after Dad’s stroke.
Last week she sat in her chair and waited for him to come sit in his even though she knew, then forgot over and over, that he couldn’t ever sit there again. Read more
Sufi masters often say that the secrets of the Path are handed heart-to-heart, like seeds, for you to grow in your flesh garden.
In the past Winter Intensive, I said — though perhaps not as loudly as I felt — that a teaching which is not handed heart-to-heart has no Reality, it won’t contain the experience of spiritual lineage transmission. Sufis are big on experience. So, first of all, this is truth, not a bid for control or a slash of stinginess or cloud of mystique. And second, it underlines the respect with which true matters — like one’s life, one’s opportunity — are best approached. We can always approach ourselves with contempt and derision, and many of us do, but a healthier, more fruitful attitude is respect and appreciation. Read more
“What happens in that passage between the subsiding of the movement and the beginning of deep rest?” That is the study question I asked my NYC Dervish Dancemeditation group in last week’s session. The perfume of a meditation period—from The Rosebush story—is most palpable in the stillness and inner gaze during the Deepening Phase that follows the active Effort Phase. (Three Phases of Deepening: Effort, Expansion, Deepening)
Here are a Sri Prem Baba’s thoughts, that are may be relevant: “Perhaps one of the main challenges for the spiritual seeker is the impulse to keep doing things. The ego always wants to do something, but there comes a time when there is nothing else that can be done. One simply needs to stop and quiet down, which will enhance one’s perception of the truth.” Read more
Alia Thabit and I recorded a recent conversation about Daily Practice and Dancemeditation Path. Here is an excerpt from our extended conversation. Read more
There are only two directions in life: Soul Killing life and Soul Developing. Each is a choice. Each takes a long time. One is mostly passive while the other requires effort. Though Soul Killing is smooth slide into Lethe, it is littered with clues. You get heavier and heavier. Poison seeps into your pores, drips liquid lead into your tender lung sacks, hardening and stilling their swell. You hardly breathe. You can barely move in your flesh tomb. So you grind to a halt. Or run maniacally away from yourself. Busy busy. Your heart slams and rattles ever more weakly against the dungeon wall of you. Your body is one tremendous clue: if you hate it, if you feel numb to it, if you barely know you have it, and if you even exist thinking of your body as “it”, you are in Soul Killing.
Soul Developing is a conscious act every step of the way. Read more
One must have enough to engage in Path. What is the right amount?
I have always felt that choosing simplicity—which is not quite the same as poverty but similar—was less of a strain on the ecosystem. Have what is essential. Don’t indulge. Animals get this equation right. Humans have to work at it. Buddhists, Sufis, Yogis, and pretty much all Paths, know about appetites and the need for simplicity. Read more
It is a quiet thing, learning from wilderness, becoming less tame, and less inclined to tame every little moment and every little action, to let time roam freely in me, my hair to tangle, my ears to grow as big as jackrabbit ears. ‘Wild’, as I am coming to know it, is learning a different way of being, and discovering, once the old veneer of self has chipped off, the original wood of self, Read more
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
When you are at the beginning,
Begin at the beginning.
We are never born in the middle of our life; we are all born babies. It is the same with doing our practice or with teaching a class — the beginning of a session is always the beginning. The beginning is not a warm up; it is locating the doorway to Innerness, the direct route to Center for oneself or, when teaching, for the whole group. Like Harry Potter at the train station, the door is never quite in the same spot. Go to the breath, to relaxation, to simplicity. Never imagine you can skip over the start, hoping to have the juice of the middle or the fruit of the end without the dry crust of the beginning. The seed for juice and fruit are planted in the soil of the start.
Every day of practice, begin at the beginning.
“Beginnings are the place where endings are revealed, so that whoever begins with the Beloved ends with the Beloved. Go there, restless to be there until coming to bask in the Presence of the Divine Eternal, on the carpet of intimacy, the place of reciprocal disclosure, confrontation, companionship, discussion, contemplation, and viewing.”
–Ibn ‘Ata’Illah, 14th century Sufi from first Treatise of Kitab al-Hikam