I finally did it – opened up WordPress to write another Blog entry.  It’s been three months and much has happened, and I’ve been spending way too much time on Facebook…  But this afternoon reconnected me with all those postings from last August because:

I finally did it – unpacked the sculptures that have been sitting in boxes in the closet for the last six weeks.

marie-in-garageFirst I was traveling, then just busy.  I’ve had a cold on and off for the last ten days, but I’m feeling a lot better today.  And this afternoon my friend Miles (the sculptor who made several of our Burning Man pendants) was here visiting.  It seemed like a good day for an unveiling.

Poor Sophie’s nose is flattened, she was sitting upside down on it for at least the last three weeks.  Seems DHL ignored the arrows and put the address information on the bottom of the box.

But she’ll be fine.  Both pieces are “leather hard” as advertised, soft enough to work.  They have been sprayed and re-wrapped and I hope to get to play with them next week.  Miles offered  to help me put together a real armature tomorrow.

I’m finally home!

I had a quiet afternoon Monday,  trying to make sounds come out of the “ney” (middle eastern flute) I bought from the master musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek yesterday – its a PVC pipe actually but some day I hope it makes beautiful music in the direction of the sounds that come out of his website (http://www.omarfaruktekbilek.com/)

On Tuesday morning I had breakfast with my close friend Devi Tide, who head the Sufi healing order.  She is passionate about how this healing work is not so much to fix what is broken, as a way for people to “activate” themselves, turn on the energy of the spirit and take off!   Then connected with my old friend Eliyahu and new friend Ghassan (mentioned below).  Ghassan will be on the east coast for a year on a Fulbright award to teach Sufism.  We had a fun conversation about the challenges of language, English and Arabic and Hebrew.  Then a quiet flight home.  Windy picked me up, we visited my mother for a couple of hours at her place in Reseda and had dinner at Roy’s in Woodland Hills (awesome place, branched out from the chain in Hawaii).

Got home around 10PM.  It was warm and crystal clear and I really enjoyed looking at the stars from the upstairs deck, and sleeping in my own bed.   Ahhh, how good to be home.

(And I finally got a chance to create a real blog – which i should have done before I left, or even years ago – and to add all my travel e-mails into it.  Done 9/7/08 but I adjusted the dates on all the postings…)

Unlike yesterday when I just had to sleep in, I actually got myself up for Yuval Ron’s 7AM sound workshop. He provided some expert directions for meditation and then we sat quietly as he played his oud, offering songs from Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions that seamlessly blended together. As the sounds of breakfast nearby penetrated our quiet space, he suggested we try “wrapping our skin around the sounds” so that instead of being distractions, we would through a shift in attitude sense the noises part of the music, the whole sound. It was a simple and effective demonstration of the power of intention, by which we can choose to make all things holy.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering how we would close out this marvelous weekend and honor the incredible birth process we have been witness to. Indeed, right away somebody wished Seven Pillars a “happy birthday”! And there were the heartfelt thanks offered to all of those who contributed in so many ways.

I was thinking maybe we would have some kind of group process to talk about future steps. But that’s not what happened. We trust that future steps, details about the form of this organization, will unfold organically out of the rich soil we have been preparing. No, instead we participated in a beautiful, powerful, grounded, inclusive ritual, offered to us by Phil Lane, Jr, a member of the Yankton Sioux and Chickasaw Nations and Heredity Chief.

Our chairs were already arranged in circles centered around a flowering potted tree at the center. The innermost circle had two seats in each of the four directors, making eight seats – one for the chief, and one for each of the seven pillars. The tree represents this collective organization as well as each of its participants — we bring our roots and history but we can branch out in every direction, offering the sweet fragrance of our flowers.

There were a number of elements to the ceremony. As a peace pipe was prepared, we sang a Native American chant. The smoke from the pipe was blown with mystical intention in the six directions. Seven handmade sacred stakes were produced, the kind once used by warriors to stake out their brave intention to stay put in their place on the battleground, a gesture powerful enough to create peace instantly. Those seated representing the seven pillars planted the seven stakes in the soil of the potted tree, each one offering an appropriate prayer, some from various holy traditions, others more personal.

The chief had invited Yuval Ron to play his oud. He commented that it was the first time an oud has been played at a peace pipe ceremony, and that he rather liked it.

Two ceremonial wings were produced, the wing of an eagle and the wing of a condor. (By the way, there is a prophecy that in our time the eagle and the condor will fly together, the eagle representing the civilizations of the north which I take to include the “people of the book” and established world religions, and the civilizations of the south which would be the “people of the earth”, the indigenous traditions around the world.) I felt the resonance with the pipe and the oud.

The wings were passed through the audience in two directions, and one by one as each participant received a wing, he or she spoke a word. We were all showered with divine qualities — love, compassion, strength, creativity, music, humor, life.

Then, “it is done”. The ceremony was complete, Seven Pillars was blessed and reified, there were no more words to speak. We spontaneously got up to hug and greet each other, to trade smiles and business cards, to pack our bags and roll up our carpets.

Alhamdulillah. May the blessings invoked in this convocation spread far and wide.

Sharifa's dance of the Shekhina

The days here are full, the conversations rich, the resonance tangible. Here are just a few highlights. I also was so moved by performances, in particular Bisan Toron’s haunting vocal music and Sharifa’s beautiful dance of the Shekhina.

Chivalry. Satya Khan, sharing with us from a place of vulnerable authenticity, boiled down her vision of authenticity to two components. First, chivalry is about commitment — taking a vow is a form of healing, as in a vow to not repeat actions that you regret. Second, it is about will — not the will of the individual, but the divine will, which is not separate from one but rises from one’s depths; this is the meaning of “Thy will be done”.

Robert Kelly wrote for us a brilliant short story (he made it sound like he just tossed it off) about a knight who encounters a dragon, and in the process his own prejudices. Delightfully unusual ideas and language. As a devotee of time, I enjoyed this sentence, spoken by a dragon who knows all of the past and some of the future: “what is to come is written in what has been”.

Our small groups struggled mightily with an exercise to identify our ideals. I would say that we learned a lot about each other in the process.

Bishop Michael Banks blew us away with his energy, enthusiasm, experience, and street smarts. He said that to work n the world one needs fidelity to the cause, courage to be rejected, and resiliance to keep reconnecting.

Two brave young men (ages, what, ten and fourteen?) took the stage to tackle questions like “what makes you happy” and “what happens when you break your promise”. They offered touchingly simple and authentic answers (for instance, “friends”, “try to fix it and say you’re sorry”).

In some ways this was a very challenging session. The inner qualities of mystic chivalry are not easily grasped and certainly diverge from popular wisdom. The plethora of urgent problems in the world do not lend themselves to consensual solutions. The “spiritual warrior” (if I may dare to use the phrase) is called on to make extremely personal choices between concerted effort and sacrifice, and relaxed patience and peacefulness, though ideally either choice would be simply a surrender to the divine will.

Revelation. Abraham is known as the father of the three religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While Christianity arose out of Judaism, all three traditions agree that Islam arose out of the Arab nation fathered by Ishmael, the son of Abraham through Hagar (Hajjer), who was sent away by Abraham when his wife Sarah bore him his son Isaac. Pir Zia offered an invitation to reinterpret this story in a way that would be healing to the split. A few different, surprising and moving solutions were offered by Tamam Kahn, Rabbi Phyllis Berman.

Eliyahu McLean and Ghassan Manasra shared with us stories of real and immediate grassroots work on healing the family of Abraham. In particular, only a few days ago they participated in the Sulha gathering in which 2500 Israelis, Palestians, and others, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, met at the neutral Latrun monestery near Jerusalem to participate in a gathering where they could encounter one another, listen and share in small groups, moving toward peace.

Omid Safi spoke to us passionately about the prophet in our time: Martin Luther King (who he points out is the only remaining individual with his own national holiday). Omid dared to tell us how his teenage son finds the “I have a dream” speech boring, but then drew attention to MLK’s truly prophetic speech – the one public schools would not want to share. This is the speech about “breaking the silence” that calls for creating a “true revolution of values”. Read it here: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm

Reflecting on yesterday’s feast of sharing, two nuggets of wisdom emerge. First, in the most tangible ways we can and are tuning into and experience the collective soul — of pairs, of small groups, of organizations, traditions, species, the planet. Second, as we dig and explore difficult questions, we are asked or drawn toward or awaken to the center, the heart, the place where opposites and contradictions are experienced as the facets of the One reality. It strikes me that these two nuggets – the soul emerging from any group and the reconciliation of opposites – are both have to do with shifting perspective or focus between unity and multiplicity, the mystic heart being the “organ” that can effectively do this. And that, sweet, this is articulated in the Seven Prinicipals of Love.

In the dilemmas that lead us to struggle with one another, how are we different from an individual wrestling with herself over a difficult choice? Surely we individually have voices within ourselves that compete for “our” attention. (Early on Saturday morning I enjoyed the shabbat service with Rabbi Phyllis Berman and Rabbi Arthur Waskow. In our chants and prayers, they translated the word “Yisrael”, which is typically translated as “the Jewish people”, more inclusively and in fact accurately, as “the God wrestlers”.)

In the morning session on Mysticism, Gayan Macher planted the seed that we look at the group of speakers presenting to us as the aspects of one voice, the group soul. After the morning and afternoon presentations, we convened into small groups to taste the silence, listen from the heart with one another, to ask more than answer. I think many of us discovered a real sense of emergence of a group soul.

The morning presentation took the form of a dialog, jumping back and forth electrically between the contributors. Pir Zia set the tone suggesting that the very word/concept “spirit” evokes its opposite (perhaps “matter”) and in the processes ceases to invoke the intended oneness, but the polarity of matter/spirit meets in the heart, which embraces (I almost said transcends) opposites beyond reason, beyond idealism. This is another theme that emerged again and again. Nils Bohr said that the opposite of one great truth is another great truth. Jacob Ellenberg referred to the sense of journey as the path takes one to the beautiful transcendent and sometimes back into the relative drabness of reality, but Lee Irwin countered that sometimes the experience of the infinite can come down and strike one, yet this stress is “vastly mediated” by human relationships. In some sense we are totally alone; in another we are never alone. In some sense the transcendent calls us with delights away from the boredom of earthly reality; in another the earthly home is a comforting nest in the face of the frightening vast other of the transcendent.

In the afternoon we were treated to a phenomenal and perhaps overwhelming performance of grand masters, as Paul Devereux, Sister Miriam MacGillis, Kevin Townley, Peter Lamborn Wilson, William Irwin Thompson, and Richard Grossinger each presented us with a roughly five minute excerpt of their cosmology. Jennifer Wittman compared it to speed dating; we could have spent an hour, indeed a week, with any one of these geniuses unpacking the depth of their summaries.

The image of the star appeared several times as Wilson told us how, in Green Hermeticism, each plant is connected to a star (and while we may not know why, “it works”) and William Irwin Thompson shared the image of the star of the body (where crown, hands, and feet each connect to different archetypes, the embodiment of which is part of his daily practice). Paul Deveraux showed us how in the scaled between small and large, we are right in the middle. Each of us is the center of a circle of infinite circumference — the Hindus say that the center of the infinite circle is “nowhere” but in English, the word can be delightfully reparsed as “now here”, and isn’t that where we all are, always?

By the way, a few days ago I received this link of an interactive tool to help you visualize how it is that we are “right in the middle” of scale. Check this out:
http://www.nikon.com/about/feelnikon/universcale/

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