Monday, December 05, 2005

This living world.

Bismi'llah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim...for the sake of Prophet Muhammad saws and Sheikh Nazim may Allah protect his secret.

I know I haven't written in here for ages. The thing with Bilquis's cancer has kept me so busy and stressed up I haven't even been able to think straight.
Somehow things are settling down now and I have more of a handle on this strange new reality which at first seemed so unreal.(It's something that always happens to someone else isn't it?)

Anyway, I'm not going headfirst into any comments or conclusions or sufi points of view about the whole thing at this stage. In fact I'm just letting it lie for a while until the storm has really died down and I am able to be more objective.

However I did like this little interchange from B.L. where Anna has been encouraging me to try to write a book about sufism that would help bring understanding to the non-sufi world... (I wish!) she got the idea from a similar one about Zen done by a cook ... ;

feeling judged or patronised by your toys? by annabanana / The Misadventures of Bug Girl
4 Dec 2005, 10:31am
maybe this is the answer.check out the even freakier advertisement for it.
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4 Dec 2005, 3:07pm
I rather like the idea, even though perhaps the commercialisation and advertising is a bit more cynical than what I'm thinking of. A couple of things. The sufis say that all things are in fact living. They say that everything has its "dhikr" (remembrance, worship) of Allah .. but has no choice in the matter (unlike humans). To this effect the Prophet once held up a handfull of stones to the companions and they actually heard their dhikr (or glorification).Sometimes when I have had the chance to live a quiet contemplative life somewhere I have had a kind of relationship with my simple belongings, like the pots and pans in the kitchen. They become old and trusty friends.When I was little my teddy bear Bruno was very real and very alive to me. (Think of Winnie the Pooh.)I don't think it is such a bad thing to encourage kids to become aware of this dimension of life. (Though I suppose one has to be careful that they don't get thought of as wierd by their mates in school.)Our Sheikh tells us that once he was walking with his Sheikh in Damascus when he kicked a stone from the middle of the path to the edge (it being said to be the first or lowest level of good actions to remove obstacles from the path). His Sheikh asked him sharply what he was doing. When he explained he told him "With your hand, not your foot!".Respect, love, interaction. I was reminded of these things by the apparently wierd child's gift.
by Grego
4 Dec 2005, 7:06pm
grego, if my post reminded you of respect, love and interaction, your comment to it reminded me of a story in Tomato Teachings and Radish Blessings (that book i keep yammering on to you about).i think i'll type it out for you.but before i do, let me just say that i think i know what you mean. as a child i had a special blanket (creatively named "blankie") that was definitely male, and definitely magically protective. i took whatever happened to it (like laundering) very personally. i still have it in fact, and use it as a shawl in bed on chilly nights (i have a near pathological distaste for cold shoulders). anyway, i have long suspected that i'm really some sort of animist at heart, and that things are constantly singing to us, or, not to us, but just singing, their natures eternally.and here's the story from the book. are you ready? it's a nice one, i think.The Sincerity of Battered Edward Espe Brown (head cook at a Zen centre, just so you know)In the late 60's, when I was working so very hard and struggling to learn how to cook and how to direct the operations of a kitchen, the battered teapots were one of the things that kept me going. Dented and tarnished they sat on a shelf in the kitchen, ready to be used when called upon. My tired, despairing eyes would wander around the kitchen at all the jars and bowls, pots and utensils which were so much a part of my busy life and finally come to rest on those teapots. How did they do it?Once they had been new, bright, perfect, a softly lustrous golden tone. Made of polished metal, probably aluminum, they were pleasingly round and plump, with a long perky spout and a graceful curving metal handle wrapped with bamboo stripping.The teapots were used several times a day to serve hot water and tea. To see them filled and waiting was a cheery sight, not just because of the hot refreshing liquid stored inside, but because their shape greeted the eye with an easy-going ampleness. Nothing pretentious, sleek, or stylish distinguished these teapots, which were always ready and always willing.Zen offers a simple dictum for how to care for things, how to respect them: Carry one thing with two hands, rather than two things with one hand. The teapots rarely received this respect. Especially once they were empty, people would grab two handles in one hand and two handles in the other, and the teapots would clang their way back to the kitchen.To practice respect or to care for something or someone intimately takes time, and even spiritually minded zen students are as much in a hurry as the next person. Instead of dashing to work or school, the zen student races for time off, a nap, or a hot bath. Teapots become an obstacle between here and rest, so grabbing two pots in each hand seems like a great time-saver.After a while the teapots reflected the way they had been treaded. Gazing at the teapots on the shelf, I would feel a certain comraderie: I too am like that -- dented, discoloured, drained. Yet, as I looked I would sense something else: quiet dignity... tremendous forgiveness... the willingness to go on. "Sweethearts," I would think, "if you can do it, I can too." Inspiration comes from the strangest places.Please do not suppose that I am condoning abuse. It is just that we all get beaten down by life -- with disappointments and frustrations, annoyances and fatigue. And somehow we find the strength to continue. And sometimes the courage to change.Recently my sweetheart Patti asked me if I knew what sincere meant. She had been working endless hours on a figure sculpture, which was the be cast in bronze eventually."No," I replied, "tell me about the meaning of sincere." Her explanation was that the s-i-n was like sans in French, meaning "without," and that the c-e-r-e meant "wax." To be sincere is to be without wax, the wax which can be used to cover up all the dents and blemishes, the chips and cracks, all those places we think we need to hide.To be sincere is to be of a piece -- with the imperfections showing. The lines and grooves are part of the beauty. The faults and shortcomings are part of the sincerity. When it comes to cooking, I put my faith in sincere, honest effort. I am less interested in showy, dramatic results intended to impress and astound than in day in and say out cooking. According to an old Chinese saying, "The uses of cleverness are soon exhausted, while the apparently simple is infinitely interesting."To be committed to covering up faults is to be continuously anxious that we could be unmasked or seen through. When the imperfections are pointed out, we can become angry or quite discouraged. Yet although we are "up-set," this removal of wax can also be a relief. Then we don't have to put all that effort into covering up anymore. The secret is out.In one zen story the student asks the teacher, "How can I attain liberation?" and the teacher responds, "Who is binding you?" The student is said to have had an awakening.I find that story revealing. I notice how I bind myself at times with demands for perfection and mastery. I tell myself endlessly, "Watch what you say. Watch what you do," until a kind of paralysis sets in. I withhold love and respect from someone who is dented and tarnished, and even find fault with his efforts to wax things over.Then I look at the teapots. And I am released.
by annabanana


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