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Mellon Coehlo, Paulo’s twisted sister

Mellon enters uninvited and ties me in chains.

Warning me to be quiet, she makes my arms and legs twitch

at her will, an epileptic Pinocchio unable to lie.

She takes my breath away in public spaces and sends

me scurrying backwards towards entrances.

When everyone is sleeping

she sits on my chest, hooks a projector screen to my brain, pins my eyelids

open with clothes pins,  and plays my life backwards on the wall,

images moving faster than my eyes

can see, allowing me only to feel everything at once-

the pure bliss of your breath, your smell of salt and vinegar chips, the roughness

of your palms and then the sudden flip flop of film that has ended,

blackness on the wall taking it all away

I weep, I convulse, I crawl to the bathroom,

I bark, and lock the doors in front of and behind me.

Mellon wraps her airy arms around me and we watch the swarm together: tightly wrapped in cling film

hurrying to work, interpreting art, laboring over words, planning retirement packages, fretting over children’s homework

while Melon and I giggle, two children playing hide and seek.

We crawl through the house on hands and knees, sucking in dust molecules, color coding clothes closets,

arranging books on shelves by topics, and lifting pasta piece by piece out of boiling water.

I dodge behind a dust docked dryer to reunite lost socks, for

Mellon Coelho says socks and books and pasta and people

are all the same

in pieces.

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What I learned this Ramadan

I approached this Ramadan with caution, but ended up in bliss. It’s been a gnarled and twisted path, one I’ve crawled on, sunk into, rose above, and lay fat upon.
When Ramadan descended I was insecure: not sure I could manage the thirst of the 18 hour fast every day for 30 days, too uncertain to proclaim that I could do it , for I was already predicting my defeat. To satiate my neurosis,  I decided to write about my inspirational moments, hoping that would keep me plodding ahead, inspiring me toward “achievement”. I  recorded my various inspirations up until the 11th day of Ramadan.  Those moments are still in my notebook, along with my minutes and hours and centuries. I will not read them for some time.
Then I was told to stop writing. So I did. I did not question.  My moments of inspiration flittered by with that feeling of mourning and longing that I often get when I think something that I feel I ought to “record”.  That is the curse of a writer – that insane “observer” in your head demanding that you record everything, like a crooked fingered accountant, even as you live it. I gave it up. I let them fly. The dreams, the pre-cognitions, the jet-speed journey into Love and devotion, my fingertips still feel the silk of the many veils they passed through. This evening as I was doing wudu I saw my face in the mirror and for the first time in perhaps too long I allowed my Self to look back at me. I stopped writing so I could learn:
1. Allah is good and creates good and you can strive to prepare yourself to receive this goodness.  When you remember Allah, Allah remembers you, and when you follow the Path, good will arise on this Path.  I simply need to be ready and capable of recognizing the opportunities as they arise, prepared to receive the Divine light , and to ignite this Light within.
2.  By striving one gains blessings and ultimately the presence of the Divine. Jihad is striving in order to be in the Divine presence. So,  jihad is being, the state of being is a state of striving.
3. Focusing on the details of the political/economic structure of the dunya contains the peril of diversion from the important work of the transformation of consciousness, not merely the structures that govern systems. The focus of my own writings will change as a result of this understanding from largely cultural and political analysis to meditative pieces on consciousness, Being, etc.
4. Offer Love but do not damage your own Self by remaining in  situations where your Love is not met in a manner conducive to your own spiritual growth. Particularly do not offer the mirror of your heart to those who do not wish to awaken.
5. Minimize the amount of negative energy you need to deflect.
6.  Seek out others with the Light, regardless of the path they have chosen to it.
7.  In worship, long to give. My fasting, for the first time ever, became not a duty but an expression of  Love. It became a means to gain nearness to the Divine: the hunger of the body fed my hunger for the Divine. My deprived nafs allowed the Light of spirit to shine brighter.
8. Bring your Ramadans into your everyday lives.
9.  Pray in nature, particularly under the stars and at the shore of the ocean  as frequently as possible.  A drop and the ocean itself, I am.
10. Be grateful  you are capable of offering your fast as gift to your Sustainer, but I smile at the paradoxes of offering  a gift of that which I have been given.  I could only fast because Allah willed me to do so, so when I offer my fast as a gift it is similar to my young sons, years ago,  buying me presents out of the allowances I had given them.  That always brought me such pleasure and joy.
11. Depend more on Hu, so you become more independent.
12.Bring your desire for withdrawal  from the world into the world:  I offer that desire as the islam of my solitude, the iman of my heart and the ihsan of my dreams into the dunya.
13. Turn away when necessary but keep your heart open.  Never allow your heart to harden in an effort to protect yourself from sorrow. Trust in your Sustainer to protect you, remain open. You are never wrong to open yourself to the possibility of pain, just as you would never consider yourself wrong at opening yourself to receive joy.
14. Accept pain as necessary to progress on the Path, but at the same time try to minimize it by selecting and monitoring your attachments.
15.  Become immune from  fear  by trusting in Allah, accepting imagination and rejecting cynicism.  Polish your heart and keep it open and Light will eventually dispel all your shadows.
I was told to stop writing
and I did.
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This Ramadan the veil of identity fell from my heart and the alchemy from anger to humility began

Who I am and who you are doesn’t matter

For some odd reason there is a conversation I had in my early twenties with my college roommates which has never left my mind. Perhaps because I have kept bringing these questions up with every other soul I have become intimate with since then. Do you FEEL your soul in your daily life, that timeless, eternal part of you? Do you feel this core inside you? Do you return to it? When I started asking these questions I always assumed the answer would be yes. The question was in fact rhetorical for surely everyone could feel their soul speaking to them in the practise of everyday life, just like I do. Life taught me this is not the case, for there have been periods when I forgot my own soul and my heart hardened into a victim of events. To be blunt, the 20 year old me was wrong to believe that every human being is spontaneously connected to their inner core- soul – that part of the Divine – inside them. I have become convinced that this spark of the Divine, this fire so transparent, is so smothered by the smoke of culture, religion, politics, and identity that ironically the quest for me leads us away from who we really are.

Take for example the stories we construct about our “pasts” and our “baggage”. We do not have to look into our past to know who we are. We are not a series of events which have happened to us. We are so much more than the skins of cultures we have worn, the beliefs we hold, the opinions we develop, the personalities we construct, the little boxes of gender, religion, geography, ethnicity, etc. that we use to construct ourselves. We are influenced by all that. Sure. That’s identity, the skin we walk it. For those of us who have worn a few of these skins, we know how tenuous and fragile they can be.

We do not need to destroy these created selves to find ourselves for these skins allow us to interact with others and navigate the social spaces which enrich our spiritual growth. We can and do acquire multiple identities and sometimes become so involved in their construction that we fail to feel the flutter of our souls deep deep inside, underneath. We tell ourselves we are “good” people without even questioning the source of this goodness. We groom and swoon over ourselves while ignoring the Divine. We follow the mortal and ignore the immortal.

If we are going to find out who we really are, we need to be fully cognizant of the selves we have created. We need to understand they are created selves, created by us, and changeable by us.

We need to befriend those selves with a sense of humor about our own conceit. If we insist on identifying ourselves by the markers of this world, we will splinter off into smaller and smaller groups, and fragment into a series of selves. If we insist on asserting identity we will withdraw and constrict. If we are willing to leave our narratives of self-justification and simply experience the Divine spark inside ourselves we will learn that who we think we are really doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the quality of our souls – their ability to nurture the Divine spark within. When I step outside the boxes I construct for myself, when I observe my identities, I feel myself return.

I know this is not a revelation for many. I had said the word of Unicity before. But I had not truly experienced this till now. It is this simple. One night in Ramadan the sky called me and opened before me. Stars collided and smashed in pulses of Light and my light, grown dim by identities and anger, began to throb. Allah heals what we break.

When the sky opened to me it did not matter if I were Muslim or Christian, male or female, black or white; no label could contain me. That Divine light inside sparkled and I expanded. I witnessed the alchemy of anger into humility inside my heart. As a Hu-man I witnessed my absolute singularity and my absolute sameness; my uniqueness and my unique place in the whole.

Then I felt the soul inside myself relating to the soul of another.

What it really means to remember

Souls do not require language, just the ability to be clear enough to catch the reflection of another soul, like a clear running river from one heart to another. But how often really do we connect to the soul of another? Most of our interactions are cluttered with words and associations and we are oblivious to energies circulating in and around the soul we are communicating with. If our own souls are so laden with the stories we have told ourselves about ourselves, how can the eternal self in each of us be nurtured? Soul-interaction has become rare because most of us are not even aware of the soul living inside us, and thus are incapable of discerning the soul, the Hu-man, in another. Perhaps we only become aware of our souls when we see them reflected in the souls of others. As such, pain is a highly contagious Hu-man experience. Awakening too is a highly interactive process. Both are the predecessors of transparency.

In order to be transparent it is essential to live in the deep place in your heart that holds your essential goodness and purity and is connected completely to the Divine. We all know it’s there even if we can’t rationalize it or name it. We believe we are “good” people don’t we? Then where is the source of this goodness? Return to it. As we return to the source of goodness we move away from seeing ourselves as a series of events and interactions to an understanding that goodness is our essence created not by ourselves but by the Divine. Goodness is a gift, not a right. It is the Divine in each of us shrouded by the veils of our many outrageous selves. It is only when we are in touch with that Divine that we can discern the Divine in others.

But I am here

But what if that Divine is nowhere to be seen? This Ramadan over 1300 people have been massacred in Gaza. I feel the death; I smell the evil of genocide. I sense the absence of the Divine. We are witnessing the acting out of a collective identity illusion as Israelis massacre while at the same time seeing themselves as the “good”, chosen people with a right to exist. I can see what happens when an entire nation of socially constructed selves replace an awareness of the Divine self within. I can see the empty soulless shells of men who seed destruction in the name of their conceited right to existence. Their light has been dulled by their own selves.

I can see you. I am here only to tell you that I can see you.

Ya Allah forgive their conceit. They see their existence as a right not a gift. This is a veil so thick that the skies may have to open in order for it to lift.

And yet we march, we hold vigils, we weep together. I see the Divine light in my comrades all over the world. I see it in the eyes of the survivors as they turn in devastation to their Sustainer. And this light, like pain, is part of a highly contagious Hu-man experience. It is the seed from which awakening grows. As we wake up we learn to see with the open heart rather than the myopic eye. Only when we stop seeing through the lenses of ourselves can we ever grasp the Divine in ourselves or others. And only when we occupy that space where we breathe with the Divine, entering our wounds like light, and catalyzing a glorious alchemy from anger to humility, can we really ever connect with another soul.

Brother,

ssufiheart2
Brother,
I am a woman, not a pearl
And you are a man, not my shell
So, sip deeply, bravely from the well
of Oneself and there you will find your pearl and shell

ssufiheart2

We are garments for each other
You wear me and I wear you
How could a shell wear a pearl?
A shell must break open for the pearl to shine through!

ssufiheart2

You are whole alone
I am whole alone
We are whole together
Allah made us whole

ssufiheart2

Why be an empty shell
When you could be my second skin?
I could grow on you as well
Become a well within a well Within

ssufiheart2

Why do you tell me I am fashioned from a bent and twisted rib?
I find your need to straighten me ever so slightly glib!
Since Allah fashioned my soul in this feminine form so bent,
Why do you wish to refashion it into one less resplendent?

ssufiheart2

You are whole alone
I am whole alone
We are whole together
Allah made us whole

ssufiheart2

Brother
Listen!
Only a Mother carries two souls under one skin
He lays Paradise beneath her feet rooted to her kin
It is Her who hears Spirit’s sigh in a growing second heartbeat
This is the other half you seek , the Feminine Mystique!

ssufiheart2

You are whole alone
I am whole alone
We are whole together
Allah made us whole

ssufiheart2

Lover, here is something you have touched

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even if I’ve stopped walking

 what a day it is for crawling

into the cave of oneself and flying out the other side to One(self)

But the world intrudes. Remember how we used to whisper that

as Baghdad fell our voices

inward and beyond our  languages

in that place in our hearts where silence knows itself

 the world intrudes

Lover, the world intrudes

Here is something I have touched

        for in spite of

all that talk

      we have never

touched

   the same thing.

The world intrudes.

When I saw you last you asked me if you

could kiss me and I stood with my hands

on your shoulders, I touched the hairs on the tops of your ears, found that

silence in your eyes

                          one last time and kissed you

on the mouth

you smiled

I can’t remember if I drove you to the airport or not

I’ve dropped you at the gates to so many airports that they all blended into that one evening long ago when you threw the flowers you had bought for me in a garbage can between gates 21 and 22

I told you calmly there was not need to punish nature for your own deficiencies and you sent me home with an Iraqi oud slung over my shoulder,

running between gates and scanners and body checks

                       to erase the traces of each other on the Other

Lover, the world intruded.

The night you left I felt you start out on a crawl

and I felt you soar even before you knew you could do so

here is

something you have touched

I promise to stay conscious but Lover tell me what’s in my head and what’s in yours what’s in here and what’s out there and when you warned me by asking

will you forgive me if  can’t

I could only answer I don’t know for I never know the weight I can bear till I bear it

Lover, here is something you have touched

Huzn

nothing is so sweet as the joy

                 that follows sorrow

for it flows out of cracks in joints

                      and knobby knees

over hills and knolls and in through

                     underground levees

marquees of despair don’t stand a chance

                    before the brilliance of joy’s glow

even the invisible cockroach-water that had been trickling through

                                                   my intestine

like stagnant water in a rusty pipe

       burps forward toward bubbling eternity

my burdened heart ripens

                             

with every cycle of despair

a curtain opens

and I find myself all laid out before myself

at a table set for We.