Reviews of Two Books with Heart

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I’ve done some resting and a lot of reading since The Soul’s Twins was released in November. Two books have been especially meaningful to me and I’d like to share them with you.

Heart of a Sufi

By Rahima Milburn, Ashen Venema, Zohra Sharp

His Medicine Was Love

Heart of a Sufi is about Fazal Inayat-Khan, the head of a Sufi movement founded by his grandfather, Pir-o-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, who introduced Sufism to the West. This book, co-authored by three of Fazal’s initiates to mark the twentieth anniversary of his death, is filled with reminiscences from people who studied with him or were inspired by his work.

This extraordinary man was a psychotherapist, spiritual guide, poet, musician, and publisher who opened the hearts and minds of his followers to authentic living and loving. The contributors tell of his personal magnetism and unconditional love for his students. They share stories about his uncanny intuition which saw into their woundedness and created just the right tasks for them that would reveal their dysfunctional ways and refine their psychological and spiritual growth. This was a man of courage and radical ideas who shook up the Sufi establishment. This was a man who knew how to heal. His medicine was love.

I can’t remember when I’ve read a book that has resonated so deeply or moved me so powerfully. Several times I found myself in tears. It took me a while to figure out why. Then, near the end, I read this description of his goals by Peter Hawkins, “He wanted to work to further the transcending of the psychological and spiritual divide and to explore the best way of drawing psychotherapeutic and spiritual traditions together to help create a new and rich synthesis.”

Fazal Inayat-Khan was born just nine months before me and died 31 years ago. He spent his too-brief life wanting to help our world transcend our psychological and spiritual divides. This is what I teach and write about. My first book was The Bridge to Wholeness. My third was Healing the Sacred Divide. Both are about conducting the kind of inner psychological work that leads to spiritual union within oneself and Sacred Oneness.

When I finished reading I wrote this comment on the flyleaf of my copy:“I really love this book about this man. He gave words to my only partly-realized mission and message. He understood the necessity of tension between opposites that has to happen before we can be reconciled in oneness. He affirmed and inspired me to speak my soul’s truths boldly and freely with joy and love. I wish I had known him. This makes me feel like I have for a very long time.”

I find it amazing that I could be so deeply seen by a man I’ve never met and only know through second-hand sources. I’ll be quoting him often in my writing and workshops from now on, and I’ll recommend this book to fellow travelers I meet along the way.

 

The Shepherd’s Daughter

By Deborah Gregory

There’s Magick in these Verses

Poetry is the pinnacle of writing, its highest, most refined form. The climb is so rigorous, the sensibilities so refined, and the life experience required to attain them so onerous, that few reach the summit. Deborah Gregory is one who has accomplished this heroic feat.

As heroes are the stuff of myth, it’s no wonder Gregory draws much of her inspiration from the three muses of poetry and the other maidens, mothers, queens and crones of mythology. Here she writes of Persephone’s wisdom of the underworld, Demeter’s governing of the earth’s cycles, Athena’s queenly sovereignty over her own free and wild soul, and Aphrodite’s dazzling and sensuous femininity.

Her ability to touch us so meaningfully with her artfully chosen words comes from her psychological understanding of these goddesses. This poet is also a psychotherapist who has learned for herself that myths are stories about the archetypal truths of the human psyche. In The Shepherd’s Daughter she applies this deep well of knowledge to her poetry on the Tarot. She knows that the Fool, Magician, High Priestess, Empress and Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers and Hermit, as well as the mysteries of the Moon and Star and other cards, are all parts of us.

Another section of poems is dedicated to the months of the year. This is where we experience the wonders of nature through the self-reflective lens of a photographer, the aesthetic of an artist, the knowledge of a naturalist, the ears of a musician, and the passionate heart of a lover.

This is the place…

 

Where, with red cheeks radiant

against the ice-cold wind,

we become happy children again. 

 

A place where we…

 

Behold the dancing daffodil,

wild soul in green and gold,

heavenly love-star of March

who brightens our heart

as her golden petals unfold.

From pregnant darkness

she must push up and out,

Into spring’s sudden softness.

 

Or where in July…

 

Dressed in golden rays of light,

with Father Sun stamped

firmly into the cloudless sky,

we enter the dust-covered,

burning cathedral of summer.

 

Then cycle back to winter, for…

 

As Persephone returns to Hades,

we too must revisit darkness,

sleep awhile before we rise again,

for fading daylight demands

more logs for the inner soul-fire.

 

I can’t resist two more passages, one near the end of the book about the poet’s numinous dream in the time of Corona, where she finds herself inside an ancient oak elder:

 

Inside this dream tree sanctuary,

life had shuffled indoors.

With her memories quarantined,

waiting to be reawakened,

she knew there was nowhere

left to hide from herself.

 

And this from the Poet and the Plague:

 

The old ways have broken down,

Her resurrection will come

But first, the gathering of bones.

 

There’s “magick” in these verses and the poet who wrote them. It comes from experiencing life with eyes and the senses wide open and a heart filled with love.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, is available at Schiffer, Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit and wherever books are sold. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

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Comments

15 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for Jeanie for including my second poetry collection “The Shepherd’s Daughter” in your “Two Books with Heart” post today! I’m deeply honoured. As you know I was absolutely thrilled to receive your dazzling review last week and since I’ve already replied to your kindness and generosity on my “About” page, I will leave it to your readers to hop over to my poetry and Jungian thought blog http://theliberatedsheep.com/deborah-gregory/ and read my reply there rather than repeat it here (as much as I’d love to do so!).

    In the meantime, I note that Fazal Inayat-Khan was also a writer, psychotherapist, spiritual guide and poet, similarities and parallels which haven’t gone unnoticed. I feel I too have much to learn for him so I’ve ordered a copy of the “Heart of a Sufi” book. For how can I ignore “my soul’s twin” after being divinely paired together in your magic(k)al article. My “dream man” from the moment I woke up in life was one of a poet, a spiritual guide and soul assistant. David Bowie came close so thank you so much for this blessed introduction.

    A thousand blessings … and then a thousand more! Love and light, Deborah.

    1. You’re so welcome, Deborah. I thought of the similarities between you and Fazal too. It seemed appropriate to put the two of you together in one post. My dream man has always been a spiritual/philosopher/poet too. Oh, and a musician! Maybe that’s why I resonated so much with the descriptions of the people who knew him. Why I felt seen. They were describing my animus! And yours, dear sister. The combination of our masculine archetypes that our feminine archetypes have always longed for union with. They’re in us, and it’s up to us to manifest them. I try. And I think that’s why I resonate so much with you: because you do too.

      Love and blessings, and best wishes for your beautiful book. Jeanie

      1. Oh, I want to know everything about Fazal and my dancing animus now! This will spur me on this week with my “Sophia” writings for sure … as I spin around the dance floor, much like a Sufi in ecstasy! Thank you so much Jeanie for truly seeing me and for writing and sharing this amazing book review. There are no words in this moment, just a full and bursting heart. Your latest book “The Soul’s Twins” will (finally) be placed in my hands on Saturday 13th March. I cannot wait!

        And a huge thank you goes out to my writer friends who have written and shared such heart touching lines here about my work. My heart, like Susan’s, has melted today! In the words of Rumi, “I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways” and another comes to mind …“Close your eyes, fall in love, stay there.”

        Namaste, my dear sister, Namaste.

  2. I must thank you again, my dear Jeanie, for your introduction to such wonderful books. I know Deborah and her brilliant works, but the other one: Heart of a Sufi by Fazal, is new to me. And yes, love is the best way to cure wounds.
    Sincerely yours. Aladin.

    1. Many thanks Aladin. I know you’ve been following Deborah too. She is a joy to read. And I see you’re doing more writing on your blog. Well done!

      We five — you, Deborah, Susan, Elaine, and I — seem to have found at least part of our “tribe” on the internet. What a blessing you all are to me. Best wishes to you and your work, Jeanie

  3. My heart has just had a little melt Jeanie reading your two reviews – like a dissolving. It’s a wonderful feeling and I thank you for that, sorely needed this day after being in a dreadful funk for a while. ‘The old ways have broken down, /Her resurrection will come /But first, the gathering of bones’. I feel lighter and brighter. I can only agree with you whole heartedly that poetry such as Deborah’s is the pinnacle of writing that she has achieved in spades – and hearts. We are blessed indeed to have an avenue to her writings. I was able to obtain her first book – a few copies – which I ordered and it was delivered to a friend of mine in London who brought them to me a few months later when he visited South Africa.

    I feel the same way about your writing Jeanie and your ability to draw on experience, knowledge and wisdom artfully and expressively that gets to the core of the necessity of bridging the very real divide if we undergo the real task that is required of helping this world to greater consciousness.

    I’m not so familiar with Fazal Inayat-Khan – and will investigate further, maybe a proper bookshop for which I’ll have access when I go travelling up north later this month. I can imagine such writing bringing you to tears.

    Thank you so much for this post! Love, Susan

    1. Dear Susan, you’re so welcome.

      Oh my. I’m sorry about your dreadful funk, and so glad to know that this post has made you feel lighter and brighter! What an unexpected blessing. As are you, my sister. Thank you for your very kind words about my writing.

      I had never heard of Fazal Inayat-Khan until Ashen Venema, another kindred soul I follow, told me about his book, which she co-authored. She was fortunate enough to have been a student of his. In case you don’t know about her, you can find her writings on her blog, Course of Mirrors here: https://courseofmirrors.com.

      Thank you for sharing your open heart with us here and on your blog too, Love, Jeanie

  4. It gives me great joy, Jean, that you share your ‘Heart of a Sufi’ review.

    And this in conjunction with Deborah’s deeply touching and accomplished poems, which I always look forward to when she posts them on her website.

    Sorry to be late. I had crazy days with emails and telephone calls. My ex-husband died last Friday in Amsterdam, in his sleep. My son and I didn’t learn this until Sunday, it took a while to unfold. So busy days. Fortunately there are strong loyal friends on standby. There was a storm on Facebook, on Soren’s page, and among a group called ‘Friends of Fazal Inayat-Khan.’ I followed all comments, since my son left FB some time ago. Soren Venema (Palmguitars) was internationally known among musicians, for his amazing knowledge about string instruments. A sad loss to many. We met in the mid 70s at Fazal’s Sufi community, and we both treasured our work with him. I meant to share your review with Soren. I think he would have loved it.

    1. Oh, my dear. I’m so sorry to hear about Soren. But if anything positive can be said about his dying, it was fortunate, perhaps, that he transitioned in his sleep. It must have been quick and easy. That’s a blessing. And it’s great that you have strong and loyal friends to help you with whatever you need. I looked him up on google and saw him being interviewed. He had a lovely voice. And an amazing gift!

      Thank you for this book. I’ll treasure it. I’m glad my review brought you joy. As you read in my comment to Deborah, I think I know now why it brought me to tears so many times. In Fazal I recognized my soul’s yearning. To me he represents a part of myself I’ve always longed to know and be. It would take a few more lifetimes to fulfill that wish! With warm wishes for love and peace, Jeanie

  5. Reading this double review is powerful enough, and then the moving comments. Thanks to all for sharing your hearts. I’m sorry about your family tragedy, Ashen. It sounds difficult for you and your son in the way that unexpected deaths are shocking and hard to digest.

    I don’t know the book ‘Heart of a Sufi’ but it’s on my short list. I’ll get to it soon but, first, the second reading of your book, Jeanie. Before writing about it, I need a deeper exploration of my marriage and why the strong animus projection persists in dreams and memories. There’s more for me to learn about my Soul’s Twins. (I was so unbalanced on the feminine side in your questions that I was stunned. I have to revisit this and go deeper.)

    I have Deborah’s book, ‘The Shepherd’s Daughter,’ as well as her first book, and love to dip in. She’s taught me much about the Tarot which I’ve never studied. She brings me to mythological depths over and over again. And tonight I’ll re-read “March” which I meant to do last night, but I had my 2nd covid vaccine yesterday so ended up falling asleep early and staying in bed 11 hours. That was healing but today I feel well enough to go hiking with the dogs who accept no excuses.

    May we all gather our bones.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. Yes, it’s a real gift to be able to share my heart with so many wonderful people here.

      I’m so grateful that you want to write a review of The Soul’s Twins, but totally understand your need to think about it. Please take your time. As I mentioned recently, I don’t think of your score as imbalanced at this stage of your life. I see it as you acknowledging and appreciating more of the wonderful feminine qualities our culture tends to dismiss.

      Congratulations on having your second covid vaccine. It’s been such a relief to us and our family. I’ve heard about a lot of different reactions to it, but most of them have not been severe. Staying in bed for 11 hours has to be one of the better ones! I had sharp muscle/bone aches in one leg the first night but one Advil took care of that fast. Weird.

      I love your stories about your dogs. You must have a strong streak of Queen Artemis in you. Yes, I’m sure you do. She’s indomitable, like you.

      Love, Jeanie

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