Out of Darkness, Into Light


To the extent that one enters the temple of the heart with true intrapsychic awareness empty of illusion and hate, areas of the heart are awakened, integrated, healed.  What once could not be imagined from the brokenness, the fragmentation, CAN…for the first time.  Out of darkness, into Light.

As a Strong Wind Blows….

“As a strong wind blows down a weak tree, Mara the Tempter overwhelms weak people who, eating too much and working too little, are caught in the frantic pursuit of pleasure. As the strongest wind cannot shake a mountain, Mara cannot shake those who are self-disciplined and full of faith.” The Dhammapada, translated by Eknath Easwaran


Isn’t It Ironic…


The ground of realization prepares itself slowly.  You are so close to what you are involved in that you literally cannot see it.  Irony continues so long as you do not see. Then, when you suddenly do, you see through the whole sequence at once. You realize how the consequences have been building the whole time, unknown to you. Such recognition breaks your blindness; it also shows you clearly your own part in the story and your responsibility for what happened. It reveals that you have been obscurely complicit in your own downfall. Irony is the shy sister of such recognition.

                                                                                                                          John O’Donahue.


Knowing Through a Contrite Heart


“Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise,“  Jesus responds to the criminal beside Him, poignantly directing our attention to the criminal himself… to know him and identify with him.

The criminal beside Jesus was able to see Him, to know Him. While the masses mocked and jeered, numb and blind to their own invisible crosses, their own inescapable, imperfect, sinful nature rendering them capable of participating in stoning, scourging, and crucifying ….While the masses mocked as they watched with hearts of stone the most brutal suffering inflicted on an innocent…The criminal, intimately tied to his own cross, knew Him as Lord, Christ, the Annointed One.  The other criminal, however, also tied to his own cross, joined the mocking crowd with challenges to prove Himself, his Holy power, by saving Himself and, of course, by saving them both as well.

Let us now listen with our hearts to the rebuke of the criminal who knew him as Lord:   “Don’t you fear God? We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did.”   His attention turned away from saving his body to saving his soul.  He turned his attention away from escaping his darkest hour in pride and instead moved toward Jesus in his darkest hour in humble active surrender. Hanging from his cross, I imagine the criminal’s heart so filled with his weakness, emptied of all his defenses, justifications, lamentations for himself and his nature that his heart was able to soak in the awe of Jesus Christ crucified, the fear of God, the love of God, and set his intention on something beyond himself….pure holiness…attained in relationship with Christ himself.  

Hear now what he says to Jesus directly,  “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”   From the cross Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”  Jesus is speaking to us all, in His darkest hours, the way to an intimate relationship with Him where He will take us to Paradise.

The way is illuminated in the contrasts between the other criminal asking to be taken from the cross and the one asking to be remembered….a request suggestive of an intimacy already formed.  For he knew Him as Lord, Christ, the Annointed One.  He knew him not by a shared history, by relation, nor by intellect, human wisdom or a pious practice. He knew Him through the lens of his contrite heart as he sat in stark awareness of his sin, his weakness, his ineptitude…that is, our human nature. He knew Him with his broken repentent heart which does not ask for proof or to be taken down from the cross but, rather, cries out:

 “Don’t you fear God?  We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did.”“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

I imagine this criminal so emptied of self he could BE WITH Jesus on the cross, God, and the Holy Spirit…. and tremble in the light of His presence, His Life giving love, His Mercy.  Yes, I see him trembling in deep reverent fear as he testifies his guilt to Jesus and asks only to be remembered…not even capable of imagining he could be saved…just to be held, possibly for the briefest of moments, in memory as Jesus entered into His Kingdom.  Imagine the shock to his entire worldview when he heard, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

We all want to be remembered don’t we?  We want man and God to remember some of the good things we did while we walked this earth.   This moment says, to me, however, that it is NOT in OUR good works that we should seek to be remembered, but in works we do through Him to help others remember God’s Glory which is sewn in all our hearts.

Think for a moment of those people you have met who remind you of God’s grace, those people who open the deepest well within you, quenching a thirst you may have become unaware of in the busysess or strife of your life.

It is in our emptying ourselves of our works, our busyness, our desires, our pride, our reputations…. to Him that others remember God and come to faith, bringing change beyond our imaginations.  It is in surrendering to His alter our contrite heart….and not just at our literal death, as the criminal………but NOW and DAILY. We need to be crucified DAILY by Him, for Him, and resurrected in life.  In our surrender we receive His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness….and drink from the well where we never thirst again.

May we all empty ourselves of defense and self-lamentations,  go into the well of our deepest sorrows and pick up our crosses, soak in the awe of Jesus Christ crucified…and hear “Assuredly, I say to you today,  you will be with Me in Paradise.” Today, Now. Transformed and renamed, soaking in the Grace of God. As Paul said, when we know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and come to Him in weakness with great fear and trembling, we are filled with the Spirit’s power…God’s power.   This is paradise…where all hate is conquered and life is pierced open. This is the real thing, The Divine living in us. Walking in the Holy Spirit. This is faith. So let us turn our attention away from sleep or escaping our darkest hour in pride and, instead, move toward the Beloved in our darkest hour in humble active surrender and hear, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”


Unveiling Questions

Rationalizations cannot protect against or undo the damage of injustice or violation, dehumanization of the heart.  Even love and compassion can be rationalizations disguised to subvert voice and agency, boundaries and protection.  When the heart is dehumanized our awareness is in bondage, left in limbo, in an altered state.  We can live a whole life without ever knowing.  When we start paying attention to subtle experiences of our own sense of invisibility and an absence of worth which is different from low self worth… we begin unveiling questions that are in search of light.  Noell_02

Photo by Noell S Oszveld


The King and the Handmaiden and the Doctor


By RumiColorful sunset and reflection at lake

Do you know why your soul-mirror
does not reflect as clearly as it might?

Because rust has begun to cover it.
It needs to be cleaned.

Here’s a story…
about the inner state that’s meant by soul – mirror.

In the old days there was a king
who was powerful in both his kingdoms,
the visible as well as the spiritual.

One day as he was riding on the hunt, he saw a girl and was greatly taken with her beauty.

As was the custom, he paid her family handsomely and asked that she come to be a servant at the palace.  He was in love with her.

The feelings trembled and flapped in his chest like a bird newly put in a cage.

But as soon as she arrived, she fell ill. The king was like the man who had a donkey, but no saddle for the pack. Then he bought a saddle, and wolves killed the donkey. He had a water jar, but no water. Then he found water but the pitcher fell and broke.

He brought his doctors together.
“You have both our lives in your hands. Her life is my life. Whoever heals her will receive the finest treasure I have, the coral inlaid with pearls, anything!”

“We will do what we can. Each of us is the healing – savior of our regions. Surely we can find a cure.”

They neglected, in the pride of their accomplishments, to say if God wills. I don’t mean that just the saying of the phrase would have helped.  There was a coldness and a closed quality beneath the omission. There are many who don’t say Inshallah and yet their whole soul resonates with it all the time!

So the doctors began, but no matter what they did, the girl got worse.

Oxymel produced bile.
Almond oil caused dryness.
Myrobalen, instead of loosening the bowels, constricted them.
Water seemed to feed the fever.

The king saw that his doctors were helpless. He ran barefooted to the mosque. He knelt on the prayer rug and soaked the point of it with his tears.

He dissolved to an annihilated state,
and as he came out of that, he spoke this prayer:

“You know what’s hidden here. I don’t know what to do. You have said, ‘Even though I know all secrets, declare it outwardly with an action.'”

He cried out loud for help, and the ocean of grace surged over him. He slept on the prayer rug in the midst of his weeping.

In his dream an old man appeared. “Good king, tomorrow a stranger will come. I have sent him. He is the physician you can trust. Listen to him.”

As dawn rose, the king was sitting up in the belvedere on his roof. He saw someone coming, a person like the dawn.

He ran to meet this guest.

Like two swimmers who love the water, their souls knit together without being sewn, no seam.

The king said, “You are my beloved, not the girl! What should I do?”

We should always ask for discipline. One who has no self control cannot receive grace.
And it’s not just himself he hurts. Undisciplined people set fire to the landscape!

A table of food was coming down from the sky to feed Moses and his people, when suddenly voices from the crowd called out, “Where’s the garlic?” and “We want lentils.”

At once the bread and the dishes of grace-food disappeared. Everyone had to keep digging with mattocks and cutting with long scythes.

Then Jesus interceded and sent more trays of food. But again some insolent people showed no respect. They grabbed like it wouldn’t be enough, even though Jesus kept telling them, “This food will last. It will always be here.”

To be suspicious and greedy when majesty arrives is the worst arrogance. The gates closed.

Withhold your giving, no rain clouds will form.  When sex goes on between everyone all the time, epidemics spread in every direction.

When you feel gloomed over, it’s your failure to praise.  Irreverence and no discipline rob your soul of light.

The king opened his arms and held the saintly doctor to him.  He kissed his hand and his forehead and asked how his journey had been.

He led him to the head table.
“At last, I have found what patience can bring, this one whose face answers any question, who simply by looking can loosen the knot of intellectual discussion.”

They talked and ate a spirit-meal. Then the king took the doctor to where the girl lay.
The secret of her pain was opened to him, but he didn’t tell the king. It was love, of course.

Love is the astrolabe that sights into the mysteries of God. Earth-love, spirit-love, any love looks into that yonder, but whatever I try to say explaining love is embarassing!

A pen went scribbling along. When it tried to write love it broke.

If you want to expound on love, take your intellect out and let it lie down in the mud. It’s no help.

You want proof that the sun exists, so you stay up all night.
Finally you sleep as the sun comes up.

Look at it!  Nothing is so strange in this world as the sun. The sun of the soul is even more so. It has no yesterday!  The physical sun is unique, but it’s possible to imagine something like it.

The spiritual sun has nothing comparable, inner or outer.  Imagination cannot contain it.  Word of that sun, Shams, came, and everything hid.  Now Husam touches my arm. He wants me to say more about Shams.

Not now, Husam. I don’t know how to make words make sense, or praise. In the Friend-place nothing true can be said. Let me just be here.

But Husam begs, “Feed me. Hurry! Time is a sharp downstroke. A Sufi is supposed to be a child of the moment! Aren’t you a Sufi? Don’t say tomorrow or later.”

And I reply, “It’s better that the way of the Friend be concealed in a story. Let the mystery come through what people say around the lovers, not from what lovers say to each other.”

“No! I want this as naked and true as it can be. I don’t wear a shirt when I lie down with my beloved.”

“O Husam! If the Friend came to you naked, your chest could not stand it.  You wouldn’t be here in your body any longer.  Ask for what you want, but within some limits!”

This has no end.

Go back to the beginning, the end of the story                                                                             of the king and the lovesick maiden and the holy doctor, who said,
“Leave me alone with the girl.”                                                                                                            It was done, and quietly he began.

“Where are you from? Who are your relatives? Who else are you close to in that region?”

On and on he gently asked about her life.  When someone steps barefooted on a thorn, he immediately puts his foot on his knee and searches with a needle, and when he can’t locate the tip, he moistens around the place with moisture from his lips.  A splinter is often difficult to get out.

How much more difficult a thorn in the heart!  If everyone could find that thorn in themselves, things would be much more peaceful here!

Someone puts a clump of burrs under a donkey’s tail.  The donkey doesn’t now what’s wrong.  He just starts jumping and bucking around.

An intelligent, thorn-removing doctor must come and investigate.

So the divine physician asked about her friends and held her hand to feel the pulse.  She told many stories mentioning many names. He would say the names again to test the response of her pulse.

Finally he asked, “When you visit other towns, where are you most likely to go?” She mentioned one town and another, where she bought bread and where salt,
until he happened to say Samarcand! The dear city sweet as candy.

She blushed. Her breath caught. O she loves a goldsmith in Samarkand! She misses him so.

“Where exactly does he live?”

“At the head of the bridge on Ghatafar Street.”

“Now I can heal you. Don’t be afraid.  I will do to you what rain does to a meadow.  But don’t tell this to anyone, certainly not the king.  When the love center in your chest becomes the grave for such a secret, then what you want will be quickly yours.”

Seeds must hide in the ground to become whatever is in them.  The girl felt better.  She trusted him.

The doctor went to the king and told him only part of the story. “On some pretext we must bring a certain goldsmith from Samarkand. Lure him with the prospect of wealth and honors.”

The king’s messengers went and easily persuaded the man to leave his town for a while.

He arrived, and the doctor said,

“Marry the girl to this man and she will be completely cured.” It was done, and for six months those two loved and made love and completely satisfied themselves with each other. The girl was restored to perfect health.

Then the physician gave the goldsmith a potion, so that he began to sicken. His handsomeness faded. He became sunken-cheeked and jaundiced and ugly.
The girl stopped loving him.

Any love based on physical beauty is not the deepest love. Choose to love what does not die. The generous one is not hard to find.

But what about the doctor’s poisoning the poor goldsmith! It was not done for his friend the king’s sake.  The reason is a mystery, like Khidr’s cutting the boy’s throat. When someone is killed by a doctor like this one, it’s a blessing, even though it might not seem so.

Such a doctor is part of a larger generosity. Don’t judge his actions. You are not living so completely within the truth as he is.

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