I got back from my latest Sufi gathering (see last post) last night, still full of the wonderment that accompanies ANY rupture of the ego, even if for a miniscule second!
This morning I told podmate Katarina that my “takeaway” from this event was something Pir Shabda Khan (current Spiritual Director of the Ruhaniat Sufi order) said, more than once. I grokked it the first time, so when he repeated it in the final talking session, I knew it was vital to him as well. It is this.
“Be at ease with whatever is arising.”
I sure did. Because, of course, the “at ease” part does not come easily. As I told Katarina this morning, there are still a few things guaranteed to drive me crazy. The smell of cat piss (where it shouldn’t be, e.g.on the dirt in a flower pot); somebody else using my cup, my fork or spoon, relaxing in my chair; the internet down. Yep. Any of those silly, daily things, guaranteed to drive me crazy. And yep, the internet was down this morning, when I said that. So, yes.
BE AT EASE WITH WHATEVER IS ARISING.
Given that I’m not at ease with silly things in my world, I have trouble imagining how I would respond? react? to, say, the power grid going down, for days, weeks, months, years. Or to money suddenly becoming worthless; or to martial law suddenly declared. Or to any of a myriad ways that “the whole shebang” could flip into chaos in moments, minutes, days. So practice:
BE AT EASE WITH WHATEVER IS ARISING.
Because who knows when that practice may make the difference between engendering an atmosphere of harmony no matter what, or being dragged into the maelstrom kicking and screaming.
And here’s another takeaway. Well, not exactly a takeaway, but it helped me to realize what goes on during one of these gatherings, at least for me, when we participate in the Dances for Universal Peace along with dance leaders who were, in this case, all senior Sufi teachers, four of them.
Especially, for me, the dances themselves. Circle dances, simple ones, learned right then and there, set to sacred phrases that speak universal truths through diverse languages of various world religions, from Christian mystic to Muslim to indigenous African, American, on and on, all one, all forms of one streaming beauty Being.
As are we! As I “know” in theory all the time, but experience in various levels of fullness as I go about my days and nights, pulled this way and that by expectation or plan or memory, enjoying or enduring various levels of being “at ease” — or not! — with “whatever is arising.”
I have been participating in the Dances of Universal Peace for about 15 years now. At first, during these weekend events, within the first few hours of dancing I would at one point, suddenly be triggered into uncontrollable weeping, tears unashamedly streaming down my face. It startled me, this sudden breaking of the (until that moment unknown!) dam, this spreading into the divine communion — with others in the circle, with the waving trees outside, with the sun’s brilliant shining, the earth’s steady sureness, the drum’s steady beat.
As the years have gone by, I’ve grown to expect that sudden breakthrough, that breakdown of the frozen, invisible, ego carapace that does surround “me,” that shell based on memory “I” have made and remade, over decades.
This time, a miracle! No huge swelling eruption. Instead, a few tears here and there, in this dance or that. This time, meeting others’ eyes in our partner dances with ease and joy and embrace of all that we are and are not, all that we show, distilling our own forms into various “poses” over time and distance. We twirl them all away; we swirl them into oblivion. We lose our separate individual selves in the one being.
I look at this, this melting of my heart, and realize that I do not need to break through so suddenly and vociferously any more, that the ego skin that surrounds me has, over time and practice, effaced, to the point where apparently just a thin veil separates “me” from “you.” YES!
And oh! The music! This time nine musicians, all terrifically talented and skilled — frame drums, African drums, violin, flute, guitars, accordion, and some unnamable stringed instrument that Pir Shabda Khan plays, evoking the ancient harmonies of East and Middle East as well as of the West, with rippling ease, every song an invitation for him to enhance its fullness with spontaneous counterpunctual melody.
Here they are, warming up. Pir Shabda Khan in the foreground, Murshid Neil Douglas Klotz standing. It was his turn; the masterful teacher/leaders all took turns, over and over again, alternating both dancing and talking, for nearly four days. Utterly delicious, for this one who had traveled there to absorb exactly that.
All in all, a deeply satisfying four days. A feast of beauty and joy and mystery. Not the least enhanced by a certain painting hung on the wall that kept pulling me on my way to the bathroom. Oops! Not a painting! A quilt! Astonishing. Those eyes.
Afterwards, once again I realized, with great gratitude, that my daily spiritual practice of deeply meeting, soul to soul, with a penetrating glance into the depth of the another’s eyes in the midst of daily interactions — with clerks, those I pass on the streets, etc. — originated in my Sufi practice with the Dances.
On the way home, I stopped for gas, and stood in line inside to buy salted peanuts. The clerk was a young, thin woman who, it seemed to me, was trying her very best to live dutifully in this crazy world, despite hidden despair. When I got to the counter, I met her with a glance. She didn’t seem to notice. Then she turned back, and met me there, eye to eye, soul to soul for that single fleeting moment, the moment that rips aside the illusion of form to reveal the mystery of connection. There we were, in tune, in synch. A timeless communion that I will always treasure.
Will she remember? Does she even know she did that? That her soul, in its longing, found refuge? I have no idea. I like to think that perhaps a page in her hidden heart turned in our moment of intimacy. That she feels this moment like I do, and will always, as a beautiful remembrance of the One Being that includes all these shifting, drifting, sometimes seemingly fixed and polarized illusions we live in and live with; that allows us to experience ourselves as “separate,” lonely beings; that eventually pulls us back through the soul’s secret universal longing, into its soft, sensuous, succulent embrace.