By Jalaluddin Rumi

Following is the full transcript of a verse I shared with my friends at ‘Diseases of Meaning’ run by Dr Kim Jobst.  The gratitude I feel for the words of Rumi is imeasurable.  By  reading his words in 2008, it occured to me for the first time that there is a balance and even a beauty in suffering and hardship.  Perception is all xxx

 

Borrow the Beloved’s eyes.
Look through them and you’ll see the Beloved’s face everywhere.
No timeless, jaded boredom. “I shall be your eye and your hand and your loving.”
Let that happen, and things you have hated will become helpers.

 

A certain preacher always prays long and with enthusiasm
for thieves and muggers that attack people on the street.
“Let your mercy, O lord, cover their insolence.”
He doesn’t pray for the good, but only for the blatantly cruel.
Why is this? His congregation asks.

“Because they have done me such generous favours.
Every time I turn back toward the things they want I run into them.
They beat me and leave me nearly dead in the road, and I understand, again,
that what they want is not what I want.
They keep me on the spiritual path.
That’s why I honour them and pray for them.”

Those that make you return, for whatever reason, to God’s solitude, be grateful to them.
Worry about the others, who give you delicious comforts that keep you from prayer.
Friends are enemies sometimes, and enemies Friends.
There is an animal called an ushghur, a porcupine.
If you hit it with a stick, it extends its quills and gets bigger.
The soul is a porcupine, made strong by stick beating.

So a prophet’s soul is especially afflicted, because it has to become so powerful.

A hide is soaked in tanning liquor and becomes leather.
If the tanner did not rub in the acid, the hide would get foul-smelling  and rotten.
The soul is a newly-skinned hide, bloody and gross.
Work on it with manual discipline, and the bitter tanning-acid of grief,
and you’ll become lovely, and very strong.
If you can’t do this work yourself, don’t worry.
You don’t even have to make a decision, one way or another.
The Friend, who knows a lot more than you do, will bring difficulties,
and grief, and sickness, as medicine, as happiness,
as the essence of the moment when you’re beaten, when you hear Checkmate,
and can finally say with Hallaj’s voice,
I trust you to kill me.

(Mathnawi, IV)

Advertisements

Choices

Think about it for a moment if you will, how many decisions do you make in a single day?  How many in a single hour?  Do you get up or snooze? (I’m a serial snoozer!)  What clothes fit the mood of the day ahead?  What to eat, what to drink? Speak or stay quiet?  Watch it or don’t, read it or don’t, go out or stay in, believe or disbelieve.  Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of choices that you, I, we, make each and every day.  It could be said that our choices define our very existence on this planet – our very lives.

For any circumstance or event there is always more than one option or perception available, so there is always a choice to be made.  In fact I would go further and say with confidence that our perceptions of events not only define our mental but also our physical state.  Take those two things away and I can’t think of much that we’re left with; suffice to say our mental and physical states (and the well – being thereof) are quite important to our existence.

You know when you are just thinking about somebody you haven’t seen for a long time and they appear before your very eyes, or they call, text or email you?  You may be searching for the answer to a meaningful (or seemingly meaningless question) and as if from now-here the answer comes to you.  When this kind of instance occurs how do you perceive it?   What if anyone dared to suggest that things happen for a reason and there may be some sort of divine order, would you respond with something like “Oh that was just a coincidence”?

I would also possibly use the word coincidence and yet there are several definitions of the word – put simply we can choose which one we use.  Coincidence is often defined as “A chance event”, however it is also “The fact of corresponding in nature or in time of occurrence”.  In physics it is “The presence of ionizing particles or other objects in two or more detectors simultaneously, or of two or more signals simultaneously in a circuit”.  I believe the second and third definitions relate to what Albert Einstein called ‘Spooky action at a distance’, which says that for every event in the universe there is a corresponding counter event.  Now, if someone tells you are wrong to choose the definition or perception you have chosen, that there is a statistical, logical reason for what happened or quite simply YOU ARE WRONG! If they do (and they very well may) then you, and I, and they, most definitely have the choice….we have the freedom to choose, if nowhere else then at least IN OUR OWN MINDS

Something happened today that inspired me to put fingers to keypad and write.

Not a very long time ago, even to think about going to the business section of a bookshop would have been anathema to me, but I’ve realised if I wish to get educated and empower myself in the area of finance then I have to it, nobody is going to do it for me. So it was, as I waited at Waterloo station for the train I had to catch (had to or chosen to?) I walked into Foyles and directly to business and finance where a book caught my eye.  It was a book that I had never seen before by an author I had never heard of but as I was short on time I made a mental note to buy it sometime in the future – and went to catch the train.  Oh by the way, during the journey my choice of reading was ‘Street Smarts’ by financial guru Jim Rogers.  The book is hard going but I’m sure it did far more for my mental (and therefore physical) well-being than reading London’s free morning newspaper would have!

Fast forward 8 or 9 hours and I have had the usual incident packed day darting about from one side of London to the other.  Classes, phone calls, texts, emails, conversations, meditations, home, back out, drop the car at the garage, shops, practise drums, go to the gym, so many twists and turns so many choices made, so many possibilities. From South-West via Central then West I was back in North and decided to walk into Muswell Hill to get a bit more shopping.

I’d long since stopped visiting charity shops having made the decision to clear out not collect. However as I walked past one tonight something in the window display caught my eye: an African thumb piano, a good one with a gourd.  Though the sign on the door said the shop closed at 5.15, it was still open so I went in and asked the lady if I could please buy the instrument.  She took it from the display and as she wrapped it up I looked at the books hoping to see something by Bernard Cornwell as I’m really into ‘The Warrior Chronicles’ at the moment.  There were none to be seen but…..which book was tucked away in the corner of a shelf?  A book that before this day I would never even have noticed…yes, it was the one I’d seen in the morning at Foyles priced at £12.99.

Here in the charity shop it was in good as new condition and cost me the princely sum of £1.25.

So what do you choose to think – coincidence?  If so, which kind?

I choose to end this post with someone else’s words, someone I’ve mentioned already.  Please feel free to mock them, devour them, ignore them, absorb them, be inspired or touched by them.  Whatever choice you make, please at least read them:

“There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

Daffodils

A welcome sight for many occurs around this time of year.  Unopened flowers atop green stems begin to appear  a few inches above ground and we breath a collective sigh of relief – the British winter is almost over for another year!

As we suspiciously peer out of our windows and from under hats and hoods we carefully begin to embrace the change of season.  Spring begins to paint landscapes for so long grey and dreary, full of colour once again.  Trees are decorated in pink in white blossom that appears as if from nowhere, birds sing as though discovering their voices for the first time and those unopened flowers atop green stalks open to become beautiful bright yellow daffodils.

Daffodils can give a sense of joy, they hint at possibilities – a fresh start.  They bring a very personal, inspiring symbolism to my own life.

Around this time last year our dad passed away.  It’s nothing unusual really, everyone’s dad and mum will pass away at some point but i think they are probably significant events for most people.

My sister and I hadn’t seen him in a good few years.  We didn’t ever fall out but after he had divorced our mum he married again and moved away to be with his new wife.  We both had good times visiting in school holidays but as we got older we had difficulties with his wife and we drifted away from him whilst staying close to our mum.

A year and a half before he passed I was walking along the canal near Camden Town and felt a sudden urge to ring him.

It was a lovely surprise to hear the joy in his voice when he realised who was on the other end of the phone.  He told me he had been very ill and I could hear an old man’s voice in place of the booming tones I once been used to and last heard around 2005.  The little niggles that had once come between us and the disappointment  he had felt at my choice of career were not aired and I got the feeling he had let it all go.  25 years previously he had called me crazy for giving up my job as a bookbinder to become a musician.  I was being fast tracked into management and we had a bet to see if I could have more people working for me by age 28 than he had.  Then I go and call him out of the blue to say I was giving it all up to become a drummer!  Looking back I could understand the way he felt but I had to go with my heart and it seems now like a ‘Sliding doors’ type of scenario with a totally different life as the result of one choice.

So it was such a blessing that in what turned out to be the last conversation I would have with him (in the traditional sense at least) he was encouraging when I told him I was now writing songs as well.  “If you’ve got a song son, then do it and sing it to the world” spoke the croaky voice at the other end of the phone line.  He ended the call as I would have probably talked all day and the next time I phoned a year later it was to be told by his wife that he was in a care home and not doing so well.

Over the six months that followed I kept telling myself  to go and see him, that even though they said he may not recognise me, I could bring him back, sing him one of my songs, make him proud…Then last spring my phone rang and his number came up.  When I heard his wife’s voice on the other end I knew what it meant as she would never have called otherwise and sure enough he had drawn his last breath.

After speaking to my sister and mum and making arrangements to go to the funeral I felt a bit strange.  I didn’t cry (that came the day after – just once but enough) and felt oddly at peace.  Around midnight I walked to the shop in our village to get a soft drink and sat on a bench next to a plot of land which seems quite wild but always has daffodils growing at spring time.  I looked at the flowers and realised something about them – no -one has to look after them, they come ‘alive’ and then ‘die’ at roughly the same time every year.. The thing is they don’t actually die, they just go back into the ground and come up again when it’s time, demonstrating the circle of life right there before our very eyes if we’re willing to see it.  I looked up to the sky and thought “For all I know you could be up there a part of you” and then looked to the flowers and thought that at least some of him would be going into the ground and that being the case wouldn’t he become a part of life all over again just in a different form?  Either way if I choose, he will always be there to talk to, always by my side if I so desire, always in my mind if I choose, and isn’t the truth possibly that nothing ever really dies, rather it transforms?  

When I got that call from his wife I had literally just got over an awful two week long illness and I felt the events were very much connected.  ‘illness’ and ‘death’ really just are events and we choose how we perceive them, I chose to see the whole thing as a new start or chapter and the fact that they occurred at the time of year when the ‘death’ of winter is giving way to the ‘birth’ of spring only served to emphasise the feeling.

 

As Rumi wrote in ‘The Guest House’ – Even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably,he may be clearing you out for some new delight.

Amazingly (for me) last year I had grown my own daffodils on my window sill and when they started to wilt last summer my mum said to dig up the bulbs, put them in a plastic bag in a dark corner of a cupboard and come next year they could be re planted.   A couple of weeks ago I remembered them, I knew I was late planting but thought I’d give it a go anyway.  I dug out the bag and was astonished to see that they had already started to grow and were so strong that they had punched holes in the bag itself!  I took the photo below of them before re planting in individual pots.

What a powerful metaphor which took me right back to that night a year ago and the sheer power of life.  A living thing, even when in a corner of the coldest, darkest place and seemingly forgotten about, even then it still continues to grow – Its life force not diminished in the least. Yes, when brought out into the sunlight and nourished it will then flourish, but what work was done and what strength gained, what level of will was developed in that dark place?  

Are living and dying merely two sides of the same coin?  That coin being life.  Do we have seasons in our life as the weather changes seasons?  We shed our leaves, maybe part of us does ‘die’ so that new parts or undiscovered parts of us may come ‘alive’  Indeed is our very existence a season in an even greater existence?

I remember The Neptunes ‘Pharrell William’s group also being called N.E.R.D. – Nothing Ever Really Dies.

 

Lifeforce in action

“The most fun I ever had with my clothes on!”

It is a privilege to be able to run music (mainly drumming) groups with people of varying ages in often vulnerable settings such as psychiatric hospitals and care homes.  I would like to share some recent comments from group members which I believe some readers will find inspiring.

On the first Monday of each month we have a drumming group at a care home for the elderly in North London.  The residents sit in a large semi circle and depending on mobility have a djembe or conga in front of them, a set of bongos on a table or hand percussion.  We generally start off with a three or four stroke rhythm and then play along to some of their favourite music like Dean Martin, Glenn Miller or Cuban music that I bring in such as Ibrahim Ferrer.  Recently one or two of the residents have started playing rhythms that they remember from their dancing days – one week it was a Bolero and most recently a Cha – cha- cha.  This can lead to much discussion as to the roots of these rhythms and at our most recent session, a spontaneous drum / sing a long.

The residents are a delight to be with and I always leave feeling humbled and touched.  Never more so than after January’s group when one lady came up to me after the group and whispered in my ear “97 years old, and I’ve just started drumming today” she said, “you know dear, it’s never too late.”

On the EET Music website there is a picture of a 90 year old lady – Mary – who joined us for a public drumming group in Brentford in 2012 and in December I met two ladies at the care home who were twins also aged 90.  The gentleman who played the Cha – cha – cha told me he is also 90 and when lucky enough to meet these people I either ask them or they share with me without being asked…what is it all about?  What advice would they give?  Instead of writing what they don’t say I’d rather put what they do say:

Find God and have a relationship with him / her / it.  (Mary actually said “Find Jesus” but usually it is ‘God’.

Look after your health.

Take some time for yourself, learn how to enjoy life and relax.

….and that is pretty much what it usually comes down to.  It’s quite tempting to say

” See, they don’t say this is important and that’s important” but it will mean more without my opinions attached, that way you can fill in your own spaces.

Now the title of this blog is not unrelated to the content…promise!

Today we had our regular Tuesday afternoon drumming group in a psychiatric hospital, also in North London.  We played the rhythms of ‘Djole’ a mask dance from Sierra Leone and after the group I asked the patients how they felt.  One lady who had such a wonderful spirit and energy said “Well I’m 58 and that’s the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on!”

Teenagers who often wish today was their last day alive, people who live with H.I.V. who don’t know if they will see another year and people in their 90’s who don’t know if today will be their last day but who may actually be around longer than some of the people up to 80 years younger.

I am blessed to be able to bring some richness to their life’s and they give me so much more in return.  I have obstacles to overcome every day so please don’t think I live in some utopian dream state, far from it!  However I am constantly striving for self realisation and to help others become inspired by life and to realise themselves.

After today’s group the lady mentioned above found me in the hospital reception and gave me a card which sits on the desk as I write this.  On the front is a line from the great Mark Twain and to him I leave the last words:

‘Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’

 

 

Giving and receiving

Since deciding to become a drummer way back in 1987 I would read about teachers who I would love to study with, one was Chuck Silverman and another was Bosco d’ Oliveira.  I was blessed to travel to Cuba with Chuck in 2009 on his study programme (mentioned below) and towards the end of last year (2011) I took part in two workshops that Bosco gave for members of the London School of Samba before he returned to Brazil.  Both men encourage us to ask the question ‘Why are you playing what you are playing?’  The answers could range from ‘It fits’ or ‘It sounds good’ or ‘It feels good’ but why that pattern?  Why does a Rumba clave from a certain part of Cuba contain those notes, why does a caixa pattern played by a samba school in Rio sound that way.  Why are age-old bell patterns from West Africa just so…really, why?  Are they spoken language translated into a rhythmic pattern?  Are they influenced by the sounds of birds or charging animals?  Do they mimic passing trains or car engines?  Is it the sounds of pounding maize or coffee beans into powder or is something meta – physical?  Certainly rhythmic patterns influence one another and some can even be found within others but in the first place, when those rhythms were first played on a log or a leg, why?

I have found that drumming throws up the questions and challenges that I need to face in other aspects of my life and so it brings me to this – why blog?  Not what to write but why do it?  Well partly it’s because it’s two years since E.E.T. Music began trading as a company and I would like to acknowledge that landmark.  Writing a blog seems like a worthy thing to do and it is something I have wanted to do since I started the website in 2010 but why?

The answer – to give and to receive.

One of the greatest lessons to learn is that being open to receive is equally as important as being willing to give, otherwise there is an imbalance.  I realise that although I am aware of the wisdom that this lesson has to offer, I am still some way short of applying it in certain areas of life – business being one of those areas.

A recent event serves only to illustrate this all too well.

I had a recent Saturday morning class cancelled which gave me an hour free so I pulled the car over and relaxed.  I very rarely listen to the radio but whilst flicking through the channels I came upon BBC London Live and a request for people who had decided on a career change after their 40th birthday to phone in and share their experiences.  I called in and told of how I decided I was going to be in Cuba learning drums and percussion on my 40th birthday, that my dream had come true and upon returning to the U.K. I committed myself to starting up my own company to use drumming as a tool for healing, education and well-being.

This was an opportunity to inspire others to follow their dreams and by calling in and sharing my story I had given something.  However when I reviewed my few minutes of air time I realised I had not once mentioned the name of my company! I had a potential audience of millions and I had made it very difficult for any of them to contact me or find out more about my work, it could be said that I had failed to receive.  I was glad to have acted and rung the station in the first place and I felt good that maybe somebody somewhere had been inspired by my story so in the areas of mental and spirituality I had received, but not in business*.

In the E.E.T Music blog I will share inspiring stories from the music sessions that I am so grateful to be able to be a part of, I will put out into the world my system of understanding polyrhythms that I discovered whilst obsessively studying West African bell patterns, I will write about my studies into the links between Palo symbology, Quantum Physics and healing and much, much more.  I will however be honest enough with myself to say that I also intend to receive interest in my work and my music.  I intend the business to grow as people become followers of the blog, visit the website and in so doing, raise the profile of E.E.T. Music around the world.

To some people this would be obvious but to me it is a big step, it means I value myself and I value my work and it means I have finally realised that by minimising myself I am not helping anyone, that can only come from maximizing myself.  As I am constantly encouraging others to be all they can be and live an inspired life it also means that I am beginning to practise what I preach…Hallelujah!

*There are seven areas of life to empower:  Social, business, mental, physical, financial, family and spiritual.