Principles of Fire (6) A Tribe of Two

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“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

Jalaluddin Rumi was a 12th century Sufi mystic, whose approach to the ‘real’ was remarkably modern. This should not surprise us. Anything spiritually true will have that immediate and familiar ring about it – the sense of a homecoming, something ‘just there’ beneath the surface of our consciousness.

The Sufi mystics knew that there is no need to use an ornate symbolic system to describe the psychologically-real in the human being. Most of the systems that do use ornate symbolism were created, in times of religious persecution, to enable teaching in secret. Today, there is a danger that they become the tools of egoic gurus who use them to veil the truth, rather than light a path to it. This is not always the case, but is a hazard for those new to any path, who might not know the difference.

In the previous post, we examined how the primary behaviour of the egoic self is to react. Rumi’s quote, above, is directly related to this. Distilled, his words describe a self that has built a shell around its essence – something that dwells in ‘love’. Love was intrinsic to the language of the Sufis: the seeker becomes besotted – intoxicated – with the discovered presence of what seems like another being inside themselves. Only much later do we see that we are the reflection of it and not the other way round…

The power of the shell that blocks out the interior love from our true Self is the power of reaction; the world ‘painted on our eyeballs’. The egoic, worldly self must constantly identify with reaction to life in order to maintain its illusory position at ‘the centre’. In the words of the Buddhists: there are two ways of looking at clouds passing; the first is to say “I see clouds passing”, the second is to say “Clouds are passing – there is consciousness of this.”

Nothing is lost in this, save the grip of the egoic self.  Clouds are still passing; but, in the second example there is an implied, deeper relationship between the one who was the observer and the thing observed. One of them has vanished – making the world whole, again.

Our world is one of relationship. Our bodies are instruments for receiving the electro-magnetic signals that give notice of change to consciousness. The world is our relationship to everything within it – in particular, other people in our life. In part three of this series we spoke about ‘projection’; an unconscious externalising of what ‘we are’ as though projected onto a screen. When we fall in love, we see the other as the object of our adoration, but, really, we are projecting a very beautiful and inner part of ourselves onto the perfect screen of a sympathetic person. This does not diminish love; far from it. The love felt from the other person shows us the power of love to shine an other-wordly ‘light’ into our lives. When we project on someone else in this way, we are bypassing the rigid egoic shell that keeps us imprisoned in this world of reaction. Because this intense feeling is seen in the person of another, we are free to observe it without our internal ‘commentary’ – a process that would reduce it to a regurgitation of our own egoic story.

When we look at a tree, we immediately get that voice in our head that names the tree, and we begin commenting on the nature, condition, habitat and a thousand other descriptions of ‘this beautiful, living thing in front of us’. As soon as that internal dialogue – based entirely on our history – begins, we have lost the moment of beingness with the tree. It doesn’t need to be a tree. An orange, apple, painting or a thousand other things could work just as well. As an exercise, gaze round for a few minutes each day and watch how quickly the internal jabbering switches on. Then try to ignore it, as though dismissing an unruly child… hold that feeling, that brief moment of being free to see things as they are, and without fear of losing the defensive commentary.

If we do not observe ourselves well, our world will be full of that confusion, projected outwards. If we know ourselves well, we can, day by day, draw into that knowing a certainty that our role is to ‘be with’ the world. This state of being happens in stages and needs to be accompanied by a systematic journey around our selves, beginning at the egoic level. Surprisingly, this is not a chore. it is an exciting adventure, with a considerable degree of humour and emotion along the way. Above all, from the first minute, it feels a lot more real than what was happening before…

With each bit of the defensive barrier taken down, more of the real – more of Rumi’s love – will come through. We do not need to invent, nor even visualise it. Its nature is to be; we need only let it in. It was there long before ‘we’ were.

To be continued.

©️Stephen Tanham


Other parts of this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,   Part Four,  Part Five,


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics

Unhappy bunny?

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Life gets a little odd sometimes. Just when you have come to terms with the way things are working out, it gets turned on its head and a myriad possibilities open before you. Or you could say instead, that just when life is looking settled and predictable, suddenly nothing is familiar and you don’t know what is coming next.

Both are true. It all depends on how you look at life. Is your glass half empty or half full? Do you see the emptiness as full of sparkling possibility, a space just waiting to be filled? Or as something forever gone and worthy of grief?

Most of us will lean towards one view or the other… but things are not, as they say, always set in stone. The most negative of pessimists will sometimes see the blaze of hope, while the most optimistic will have a down day.

I had been up early. Way too early considering it had been a late night again. Five o’clock had seen me shivering in the sodden fields with the dog. I couldn’t sleep. While Ani chased shadows my thoughts were a little glum. Tiredness does that sometimes. It was no better by the time we got home, cold, damp, muddy and distinctly miserable. A review of any situation, in that state of mind, will produce little but further reasons to feel sorry for yourself. Wonderful possibilities may be dangled tantalisingly just beyond your reach and the bite of sharp necessity will have its teeth firmly in the cheeks of your nether regions. And if you think that’s a sorry picture, you should see the rabbit of negative euphoria gnawing at your heels…..

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” ― Albert Schweitzer

The phone rang. It was a call from another unhappy bunny… rabbits, of course, being well known for their propensity for breeding. We discussed the relationship between fear and hope; how hope can seem like the Holy Grail perched on a mountain top and how, when you stand in the foothills, you have no idea if you will make it to the summit. We talked of how the fear of failure is exponential to that vision of hope. And of course, how it is so much better to see that hope, that brilliant shard of possibility, than to wallow, blind in the darkness.

Suddenly, the possibilities seemed a little brighter than the problems.

The phone rang again. Laughter ensued. Perspective was restored and the night shadows banished for both of us. Yes, the same problems exist and need to be faced and dealt with. But just look at the adventure that could be! Who knows what could be found on the way up the mountain? The possibilities of the journey are endless and exciting.

The inbox had delivered an unexpected treat that had me smiling a few moments later and the lights, went on again inside. My thoughts turned to something I had read recently. The Sufi philosophy speaks, I think, deeply to most of us if we listen. The imagery of love speaks of the journey of the soul into awareness, of the journey of the heart and mind and body into living with passion. I was reminded that without the contrast we would not see the joy, without the shadows that haunt us there would be no fierce embracing of Light. When things are about to change and move forward, the old has to be left behind and that leaving can have us feeling as if we are being torn apart. But no birth is painless, no beginning comes without an ending of a phase of life. From a single point in time we can either look back at what might have been and grieve for the losses, or we can walk forward into adventure and live it with passion.

“When a true lover appears calamities blaze up. I like a heart that can stir the seven seas fearlessly withstanding the waves. I like a lover with a fiery heart burning even hell to ashes. I like a heart that can wrap the universe around its hand, catching the eternal light hanging it like an icicle. I like a lover with a heart as large as the world who fights like a lion, not only with others but with himself, a lover who shatters the veils of all hearts with the blazing light of Truth.” – Rumi

Healing

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Rumi

Every life holds its own heartache. We cannot avoid them, no matter how we try. We cannot hide from them, though we can, and often do, try. Yet still they find us. And every heartache, great or small, leaves a wound that remains tender, often prone to infection from further hurts, just as any wound of the flesh. Untended they can fester and even the smallest can bring terrible pain and cause greater damage than the wound itself warranted.

Yet, if we cut ourselves, we do not run from the pain… we deal with the cut first, cleaning it, maybe having it stitched by someone more qualified than we, if it is bad, then we keep it clean and let that cleanliness and the fresh air do their work. There may be a scar, there may not. If there is, most of the time it fades into insignificance and is forgotten.

We do not treat the heart as kindly, though, do we? We often worry at the hurt like dogs with a sore foot, we scratch it and press it to feel how much it pains us, or bite it as we illogically do with a tooth that needs attention. It is almost as if we are afraid that the pain will stop.

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I know I am guilty of it.

I have wondered about that. It is not as if we enjoy the hurting. But maybe we feel a need to cling to it, to keep it alive somehow. Perhaps we have lost someone or something and in allowing the pain to heal we feel as if we are betraying that loss? Maybe the pain is due to fear and in letting go of the fear we fear the unknown territory of being unafraid? The familiar is always more comfortable than the unknown… at least in our own minds.

The danger is, of course, that then we allow the hurts to define who we become. We sink beneath the murky waters of pain and cease to see clearly, allowing events and our reactions to them to shape who we are and how we see the world. We learn to see ourselves through a veil of hurt and in turn this is the image we expect others to see.

Yet we are not our hurts. The pain can teach, or it can, like a flame, burn away the impurities and leave behind something cleaner and able to move freely. I have a feeling that is its purpose, to allow us to burn for a little while, cleansing the grief and fear, before emerging like a phoenix renewed.

The scars remain as reminders. Nothing is lost or forgotten, but it can be allowed to take its place in the past and be a solid foundation for the future. Perhaps if we are able to allow ourselves to heal, seeing the wounds, as Rumi says, as the places where the Light enters, the pain would find its proper place in our lives as a teacher, not loved, perhaps, but respected and acknowledged for the value of its experience and the healing it can bring.

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”  Rumi

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July 2013

Letting in the light

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“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi

Near the fence there are some huge chunks of wood… slices salvaged from the old horse chestnut tree that used to hold my home and garden within its embrace. I loved that tree and watched the seasons change in its leaves; watched the squirrels play and the birds nest there… even writing about it. I felt the life in it, felt its character and history and so I was heartbroken when it had to be taken down.

Leaf mining moths had infested the bole and the sick tree was inspected and found to be rotting away from the inside. It was dying and was no longer deemed safe to hang its limbs over my home. When the massacre by chainsaw was complete we brought three pieces of wood back into the garden to make a little seat.

The seat was dismantled by scaffolders a little while ago and I have yet to reassemble it, but the girth of the branches and the three foot long slice of trunk remain close to the door. I noticed the beauty of the frosted mosses and fungi growing on them when I took the camera out this morning. The frost was heavy and the world wrapped in fog; everything white and the sky invisible until the sun broke through. The camera was a vain attempt to capture the mood and the beauty of the ice crystals that dusted the tousled remains of autumn.

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There had been little sun in the garden, of course, when the tree was there. The ground had been hard and dry and it was difficult to get anything to grow beneath the spreading branches. Between the sticky sheaths of the new bud covering absolutely everything, to the petals that fell like snow… followed by the bombardment of spiny conkers and tons of leaves, the tree had definitely made its presence felt. Not always in a positive manner, looking back. In fact, when the roots began to disrupt the ground we were facing the possibility of major structural problems.

None of that mattered though, not to me. I simply loved the thing and wept when its demise left a great empty hole in my skyline…

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… through which I now watch the stars and the dawn, for of course, the light streamed in. Rain softened the earth and my garden blossomed, bursting with exuberant colour that drew butterflies, birds and bees and all manner of small creatures. From the salvaged wood, new life sprang and insects made their home in the bark. In the corner of the garden… and in several places in the wood down the lane where I transplanted them… new horse chestnuts are growing from the conkers that fell and buried their roots in the earth. The life of the tree continues.

The foundations of my home are now safe too.

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I still miss those first signs of spring in its buds. As summer draws near I miss the masses of blossom that carried me back to the boulevards of Paris. I miss the shade of its canopy and the stark black and white of its winter nakedness. I have conveniently forgotten, it seems, all the negatives and can look back solely on the joys.

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This tree was always a metaphor for life and today it continues to serve thus. We often cling to things that are familiar and which may indeed hold elements of beauty or affection for us, yet which we know, deep down, are potentially or actually harmful. We hold them dear in their familiarity, because they are known, because they form part of the very structure of the life within which we have defined ourselves. Their roots may go so deep that we fear their loss and the ensuing changes to our personal landscape. Even when we can clearly see the potential benefits of their removal from the garden of our lives.

Making that hole in the skyline can be a big step, yet it is only by clearing away the dead wood that we can let the light in, and with it the elements of new growth that may germinate and flower, even in the scraps that remain. What we choose to cut out of our lives in such a way may have held good as well as bad; the good is never lost, but is the seed that will bear fruit… and it is already part of us.