With a broken-down oven, in a hotel kitchen, on an uninhabited island
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Service is one of those code-words I’ve been contemplating for some time. As the standard work-ethic grows less convincing, there’s more appeal in the idea of work as service to others — and through others to myself. I wonder, though, just what it means, and how to make service something more than just another feast for a hungry ego.
Service was the undercurrent of my conversation with Reshad Feild. For Reshad is a Workaholic, and what he considers “The Work” is living in the stream of service — “the stream that leads to the river that leads to the ocean of truth.” He sees humility and respect — never presuming one knows the answer but instead “living in the question” — as the door to willing service. And “gratitude,” he says, quoting Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, ‘‘is the key to will.” His words conveyed that sense of gratitude, as well as a feeling of deep respect, as if he were speaking directly to the highest parts in me. They sunk in, leaving me with the sense that not only was Reshad quite honest (in his own foxish fashion), but that he also really knew what he was talking about.
We sat in the living room of his immaculate house in Santa Cruz (even the walls are scrubbed every day), with his pet parrot squawking on his shoulder, engulfed in one of the most powerful conversations I can remember. I was tired, but my concentration was sharp; my mind grew quieter and quieter. It’s odd: I felt something special being shared between us — “we’re making love . . .” he said at one point, “making love possible in the present moment” — but later, reading the transcript of the interview, it seemed barely to come across. Somehow the words don’t do him justice. The talk seemed rambling (which it was), Reshad seemed a bit cocky and grandiose (which perhaps he is), but there’s something in him that transcends all that.
I’d read his two books, The Last Barrier and The Invisible Way, and was moved by them. Then, in preparing for the interview, I heard a different tale — of a spiritual teacher whose behavior can be best characterized as outrageous, who sometimes drinks more than others think he should, who had been through two rocky marriages and two tempestuous relationships with his own teachers. But from the moment we sat down together, over a cup of English tea, I felt it just wasn’t relevant. He makes no excuses for his humanness, in fact he rather stresses it, but there’s a quality in his presence — a wide-open love, an over-extended joy — that needs no excuse. Sometimes he seemed dead serious — almost too serious — but inside I could sense a laugh brewing. After more than two hours, we reached the final question, and Reshad leaned back in his chair, with a sigh of relief, toppling straight backward. With a laugh the interview was complete.
So, what does Reshad do? When I first spoke with him he referred to himself as a “retired Sufi,” but I’ve rarely met a man more absorbed in his work. He’s an author, an esoteric healer, a sheik of the Mevlevi Dervish order, a teacher, and the founder of more than a half dozen schools of “alternative education” (spiritual coaxing, though he’d resist the label). He’s also a consultant in Geomancy, which he describes as the art of understanding the electro-magnetic field of the planet — others call them ley-lines — and orienting buildings in the right place to produce the most harmony. Put simply, Reshad says, if you put something in the wrong place we’re all going to be affected. He’s just completed his third book, called Steps to Freedom: The Alchemy of the Heart, and is working on another called, Here to Heal, which will be released next year.
Reshad says he was brought up by a Romany Gypsy who was his mother’s cook. He spent most of his youth in English boarding schools, and served in the British navy. His first esoteric training was in the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky work, and then with the Druids. He studied with many other teachers, but it all came together for him in the early Sixties when he met Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Khan. Pir Vilayat initiated him as a Sufi sheik, and sent him to Turkey to study with a man Reshad calls Hamid, a teacher in the Mevlevi Dervish tradition. “I needed a tough teacher,” Reshad says, “because I was stubborn, obstinate and big-headed,” and Hamid was just the man. “He knocked me off my ass when I needed it.” One of the keynotes of Hamid’s teachings was trust. “He used to say, ‘Trust, trust, trust!’ ” Reshad recalls, “and I thought, ‘Never think that trust means to trust a man.’ Trust is a quality of God. And then you know whom you can trust.”
The Mevlevi Dervishes are a Sufi order founded by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the renowned mystic and ecstatic poet who lived in the 13th century. They’ve become known as Whirling Dervishes because of their spinning dance called “The Turn.” “It’s a way of completion,” Reshad says, “not a religion or cult. There is an inner experience with The Turn that no one can speak about. It is a discipline of body, mind, and spirit. We turn to God, who is love, as he turns in us to the world, making himself love in us.” The Sufi tradition is a mystical branch of Islam that emphasizes love and remembrance of God (a practice called zikr), more than specific form or doctrine.
Reshad spent seven years working with the dervishes in and out of Turkey, a period described vividly in The Last Barrier. (“My books are 90% underplayed,” Reshad told me. “If I ever told the whole story, no one would believe me.”) His trust in Hamid waned, and, after a major disagreement, they parted, and Reshad returned to the West.
Here’s how Reshad later became the first Western Sheik of the Mevlevi order: “I was running a center in Los Angeles when I got a letter from Suleyman Dede (the head of the order). He wanted to come to America. . . . So we raised the money and flew him over. My wife and I had this tiny little house with only two rooms; we were in one room with the baby and he knocks on the door at 4 a.m. He didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Turkish. He signalled me to do ablutions. Well, I knew how to do those, so I did. He beckoned me into the room where he spread out the khirqa, which was the robe, the sikke [hat], his own Koran, and his prayer beads; he signalled that I was to pray with him, so I did. . . . He turned around then and said, ‘Put the robe on me, the sikke on my head.’ He said, ‘Now you’re the first Sheik of the West, and I can go home and die.’ I didn’t even have time to say, ‘No.’ ”
Reshad’s reputation as an esoteric and Sufi teacher grew, as did a subtle feeling of specialness in his role. “Was I real,” he asks, “when I had 3,000 people in England throwing imaginary spears at the sun, all getting high as a kite? No, I wasn’t real. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t help them either. To feel special means you’re eventually going to be crucified on the cross of pride. . . . Eventually I realized that there was some glamour behind it that I was attached to. Some inner fear that I covered up with robes and whatever.” He let go of the robes, the labels, and the fear. Now he refuses to call himself a Sufi or anything else.
What’s it like to work with Reshad? What I hear from some people is that it’s powerful, and can be trying. Is Reshad-the-teacher a bit of a bastard? Sometimes. “I’m tough-as-nails,” he says. “I have to be.” Then there are the stories. Like the time, late in the evening at one of Reshad’s centers, when he pronounced, “I am not going to sleep until everybody here loves each other!” So there they sat for a while, groping at each other, trying to figure out what he wanted. “Bring me a chair,” he bellowed. And he was brought a chair. Time passed. “Bring me my mattress.” And two people lugged his mattress down the stairs. More time passed. Finally, one student turned to the woman next to him and said, in a loud stage-whisper, “I’m getting terribly bored with all of this.” Reshad glared at him. “Jeremy!” he said. “Turn!” Jeremy performed the Dervish Turn and had what he later described as “one of the major mystical experiences of my life.” The evening ended.
“The greatest trap is to presume,” Reshad says. “We presume everything. We presume the sunrise, we presume that tree is going to be the exact same tree tomorrow as today. But it might not be. We presume our breath, that we just breathe in and it will come out, but actually the understanding of conscious breath and the rhythm of it is absolutely vital.”
He tells of a time when he returned to his Boulder school from a lengthy trip to England. “People went into fits. ‘Reshad’s coming back!’ and all that nonsense. There were 47 people that night for a special dinner. I sat down at the table, still suffering from jet-lag, and people were fawning all over me. I can’t stand that, I just think it’s ridiculous. I took one look at them, picked up the bowl of hot soup in front of me and poured it straight over the top of my head. They all went into a state of shock and woke up.” What do you do with a man like that?
Reshad is very British, although he says that he’s been in America long enough to become bi-lingual. If there’s one thing he’s proud of it’s a strong sense of inner discipline. “I know how to run a ship,” he says laughing, and then proceeds to tell a story from his days as a young naval officer when his discipline hadn’t been so good. “I was the navigating officer for two full squadrons of motor-torpedo boats. We were having what they called exercises with the American Navy in the Baltic. So off we steamed, up the Baltic toward Copenhagen. I hear a call coming down the intercom: “Feild!” “Yes, Sir!” “Give me a bearing!” So I was checking my radar instruments and at the same time getting quite seasick. I said, “We’re at a quarter of a minute sir. On the port bow 20 degrees. . . .” and collapsed again. In a little while I hear, “Feild!” “Sir!” “What were the bearings?” “Well, it’s now five minutes past sir.” There was an ominous silence, and then, “Feild, on deck!” I get on deck and the commander says, “Feild, stop all engines.” So I put on the emergency signal and eight motor-torpedo boats, steaming down the Baltic at nearly 40 knots, stop cold. The commander brings me back down below. “Feild, do you know what you’ve done?” “No, sir!” “You’ve just navigated two squadrons of motor-torpedo boats three miles into a mine-field! In peacetime!” That was when Reshad ceased to be a British navigating officer.
He laughs easily at the mistakes he’s made and the changes he’s been through. He considers it par for the course. “If we make our commitment to the Work,” he says, “we commit ourselves to change. We commit ourselves, first of all, to allow ourselves to be changed, and then to being an agent for real change to take place in the world around us. . . . It is no good pretending to have committed ourselves if we are not prepared to accept change, and all that it brings with it. It is not useful to put one foot on the path and leave the other on the old road . . . for real change may then come about before we are prepared for all that this entails.”
Changes? Reshad, at 49, has been a racing car driver, an antique dealer, a naval officer, and even a pop-star with a band called Springfield. He’s seen his share of struggle. Three times he’s contracted cancer and overcome it, though he lost half of his stomach in an early battle.
In healing others he makes use of many different methods, including breathing practices, herbs and flower remedies, dowsing, and an electro-magnetic technique known as radionics. He talks of treating disease as a disturbance of the body’s electro-magnetic pattern caused by shock. We spoke at length about this in the interview.
Reshad’s days as a performer didn’t end with his musical career. Even now, he is a consummate entertainer, playing his parts with majestic style, and more than a little pizazz.
Reshad staged a three-day birthday celebration a few weeks after our interview, marking the end of a seven-year cycle in his work, and more than 100 people came. It was approaching sundown on the second day when we met on a grassy hill overlooking the ocean. The Royal Stuart bagpipe band was there from Scotland, in full ceremonial array. Some cows looked on curiously from across the field. On that hill, as the sun began to set over the Pacific, Reshad spoke in majestic tones about freedom.
“Freedom is all I have to talk about,” he said, “and I’ll talk about it until I die. Not freedom from, but freedom within. To live in freedom so that others are freed. . . . We need to have the courage to know that the divine guidance — whatever you want to call it — is there, and you know what to do, you know where to be.” His tone grew even grander. “I’m asking you to turn to the highest in yourselves. We are going to make a new world, all of us. We’re going on in knowledge. We need the courage to say, ‘Yeah! We are going forward for freedom and nothing is going to stop us!’ And if you ever lose courage, as we all do . . . remember the sound of the bagpipes — then you cannot help but have courage.”
He begins to laugh and beckons the pipers to “pipe down the sun.” As the sun sets, a fiery red ball on the water, the pipes play a chorus of “Amazing Grace.” Theatre, pure and grand.
This was followed by a feast, accented with 18 ceremonial toasts that left everyone, especially Reshad, more than a little tipsy. We didn’t see him for the rest of the evening.
Perhaps the paradox I felt in Reshad is the same in all of us — our simultaneous divinity and human limitation. It’s a high-wire balancing act that Reshad performs well, denying neither. Both aspects of him stand out clearly. He holds the mirror of his being up to the part of me that wants to judge another, and then he points it at the part of me that knows I can’t. For this I’m grateful.
— Howard Jay Rubin
SUN: Before we get to questions and answers, let’s look at what you mean by “living within the question.”
RESHAD: What I try to help people with comes only from my experience. Otherwise it’s basically a lie. When I got cancer the first time, I realized that I was living in complete presumption. There was no “question.” But mind you, at that point, I didn’t have to question anything — everything was given to me on a plate. I had money, and I could always buy my way out of any internal problem. If I felt sick, I’d fly to Switzerland to go skiing. That was my way out, a cheap way. I had no question really. I mean I had a question inside, but I knew intuitively that by asking that question I would cause myself a lot of trouble. So I’d always buy my way out of it.
Years later, in my thirties, I got cancer again. Again I had forgotten. Everything had seemed kosher in every direction. But one morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, and started hemorrhaging through my penis. I was horrified. I had no money and no insurance. Again, I discovered that I’d forgotten to live in the question — I call it the stream of service, the stream that leads to the river that leads to the ocean of truth. After three or four days it was so bad that I was wearing several pair of underpants so nobody could see. I finally went to the doctor. The urologist had one look, took X-rays, and explained that I had a tumor in my bladder and I had to go in right then. I said, “No. Look doctor, I’ve got enough money for your fee now, but I have not got any money for this sort of operation. Give me three days, and I’ll guarantee to you that if it does not stop I’ll come back.” I telephoned from the hospital and asked some people to pray in the particular way that the Sufis do. The bleeding stopped. I went back to the doctor in three days, he took X-rays again, and there wasn’t one trace of tumor. I was very humble and grateful. The doctor said, “I don’t know who you are, but I’m going to give you my fee, and you give it to anyone you want.”
If for one moment we presume that we know, rather than being agents for the knowing aspect of God, then we’re not in the question, we’re not in the stream of service.
If for one moment we presume that we know, rather than being agents for the knowing aspect of God, then we’re not in the question, we’re not in the stream of service.
SUN: So, it wasn’t a specific question you were neglecting to ask. Rather, you’re talking about a general state of being.
RESHAD: If you’re not in the question then you get into the chaos. And if we presume for one moment that we know the answer, we’re actually denying God. In Sufism, as well as in the Jewish tradition and many others, one of the names of God means the All-knower. If for one moment we presume that we know, rather than being agents for the knowing aspect of God, then we’re not in the question, we’re not in the stream of service.
When I work with people, I tell them that I’m not going to give them an answer, except perhaps how to cure their foot-rot. What I try to do is lead them into the question, and once they’ve gotten into the question they’re free of me as a teacher. Then they’re in that fastest part of the river, which is also the calmest — dead in the middle.
SUN: Many people who play the role of teacher tend to really eat it up, even while denying it. Do you find yourself enjoying that role and the specialness it implies?
RESHAD: That’s a good question. No. But looking back, I suppose that I did about 20 years ago. In no manner do I feel that at all now. I like being an entertainer. I was in show business once. Most people are so damn bored anyway — why on earth not entertain? But I find it personally a tremendous difficulty coping with the responsibility of having been granted a bit of knowledge. You know, I’ve got three kids to look after, and I feel guilty — I suppose I shouldn’t but I do, not giving sufficient time to my family in London. And yet, I know I’m here at the right place and the right time. I know that, yet I’m bound to feel guilty, I’m a human being. No, I don’t feel special in any way. I feel embarrassed, and at times frustrated. It’s possible to know what the possibility of somebody else is. And you really do know it, and it gets frustrating when you see someone who is still in a denying state to their own mirror, to their own possibility.
SUN: The other night you used the phrase, “It’s all done with mirrors.” Let’s speak about that.
RESHAD: In the inner aspect of Sufism, everyone carries with them a mirror. I used to think when I was with these sheiks in the Middle East that they were being vain — they kept looking at mirrors, at their beards or whatever. Of course they weren’t being vain. They were testing the situation. They weren’t preening their whiskers, they were seeing how their eyes looked.
The moment is the mirror. We are reflected in the moment, the eternal present.
There are seven levels of the mirror in esoteric lore. The first is seeing myself in you by inwardly addressing the God in you. I may say to you, “Howard,” but at the same time I’m saying “Oh, Thou.” And, at the same time, I’m saying how grateful I am that God has made Himself present in you. Then the gratefulness in myself, if it was slightly dead, will come forward.
The second level of mirror is allowing myself to be seen. That’s difficult. One always feels ugly in some way, or lazy, or sentimental. So one allows oneself to be seen, and there’s an interchange of energy.
The third level of mirror is when the two of us, or a group of us, allow ourselves to be seen by a power, or a world — whatever words you want to use — greater than the one we presently understand.
The next level is going through the mirror. That means going through or beyond the form of energy. In other words, beyond the form of comparison and time as we know it. The being of you, or me, exists before it issues from the womb of the present moment into man or woman, before we issue forth.
The next one involves getting into a whole different level of respect completely. There’s no respecting you, or your background, or religion. It is total respect, total humility, complete openness. That is when you realize that you are respected. That word came from re spectari — to see again. So you see again in a completely different light.
The rest of the levels are too complex to put into words.
SUN: When I first called you, you referred to yourself as a retired Sufi, and later as a snufi. I appreciated your laughing at your own labels. Let’s talk about that and about a larger label that we use — whether there’s any valid reason to speak of a spiritual path in any way separate from life.
RESHAD: First of all, I haven’t called myself anything. I have been initiated into three different Dervish orders and also various other orders. I didn’t choose it, though I suppose I did feel special at the beginning — being the first Englishman as a Mevlevi sheik and all that. I’m thoroughly embarrassed by it too. The reason I call myself a retired Sufi is because the word Sufi has become, in many people’s minds, almost like a cult. In the Fifties it was Zen, then it was yoga or whatever. I’m not against it because I am trained in it, and I’m deeply respectful to the inner meaning of Sufism, beyond all form. Of that there is no question. But it can be a watered-down version of truth if people attach labels to Sufism. For example, people telephone me and say, “I’m a Sufi.” The fact of the matter remains that nobody who was a Sufi would ever say they were, except to be outrageous. What they say of a Sufi in the Middle East, when he’s buried, in my particular tradition, is “And God has blessed his secret.” And one respects that, because a secret is a secret. I am a retired Sufi only because I do not want to be labeled. I think it is a limitation.
To answer the second part of your question, the average human being is not grounded. And the purpose of life on earth is to get here. I would suggest that a frame of reference is extremely useful. Following the guru may be a good bait, but then, if you catch the bait, you may not like the taste. It’s like they say, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” In one way there is no need for a frame at all. If you and I can talk like this there is no need. But for a lot of people a frame is necessary, because if you take a picture and you stick it on the wall without a frame, you’re going to have a lot of frayed edges. For example, in the world of healing, I always recommend to people to get a good frame of reference, become a chiropractic doctor, become a this or that.
SUN: So, the frame then is the concept of spiritual path, or a specific path?
RESHAD: The concept is dangerous and rather slight, isn’t it? Life itself is the frame, if we ourselves are grounded enough to accept life, and live out our life. We don’t have to explain. When people ask me, for example, “What is reincarnation?” I ask them, “Well, what reincarnates?” They can never answer. They are not yet here.
SUN: You’ve called your next book The Alchemy of the Heart. What if I come up to you and say, “Well, that’s a cute phrase, but I’ve got this pain, I’ve got this loneliness. How can I start doing this alchemy?”
RESHAD: Well, there are six major steps in the technique of alchemy. The first three steps involve the transformation of base metals — psychologically that means the transformation of all of our “negative” emotions into a vessel, or chalice, to receive the spirit. That’s what’s called the descent of the purified forces. The way I teach people is very simple. I say, “Look, you’ve got fear. Turn it into courage. You’ve got resentment, or grief? Turn it into compassion.”
SUN: Sounds easy. . . .
RESHAD: Well, it’s hard work, and so is alchemy. Transforming water is hard work, and we are as you know mostly water. But it’s good work because it’s the only way we can actually help anybody. Somebody said to me at a public meeting Wednesday night, “Well, what do I do with my negativity?” I gave her some examples, like what do you do when you have an intention and it never works out, and you feel really bad about it? Well, restate your intention, I said, clear your day and get out and do it. Every day is a new day. Of course it’s hard work, but you pick yourself up and you do it.
In talking about the heart, I’m talking about the inner heart. In the inner tradition of Sufism it’s called the very, very secret place. That inner heart becomes your heart, which is no longer really your heart when all concepts of sentimentality and negative emotions are transformed into the stream of service. That is the meaning of the alchemy of the heart. Sufism is often called the alchemy of the heart.
SUN: At this point, what closes and blocks your heart most, and how do you deal with it when it does?
RESHAD: I have not seen my children for two and a half years, and I find it extremely difficult. I still have not faced the fact that in order to really be in the stream of service, you have to give up absolutely everything. For a very long time it blocked my heart. There they are in England and I’m 8,000 miles away, and then I realized that I even had to give up my children, and so my heart opened again. Now I would say that if my heart gets blocked it is only because of a mistake I have made, a judgment upon somebody or something. How I deal with it is through the same practice I give other people. It’s called a clearing practice, which I do every evening.
Before going to bed, you decide what time you want to get up. That clears a lot, doesn’t it, so you don’t get too lazy? Also, you make a decision about something you’re going to do the next day, even something simple like cleaning the shoes. You decide when you’re going to do it, and visualize how you’re going to do it. And do this exercise: Lie on your back and relax your whole body. With the attention on the soles of your feet, remember the moment you got out of bed that morning. (In the morning, get ready to get out of bed — don’t flop out of bed. As the soles of your feet touch the ground, say, internally, “May I be allowed to be of service this day?” And then say a prayer from whatever religious or spiritual background you come from. I say The Lord’s Prayer.) Anyway, you lie on your back and put the memory pattern of when you got up in the morning on the soles of your feet, which represent the morning, since that’s what hits the ground first. You let the energy come through your body, and with every memory you find, good or bad, you say, “thank you” — thank you Father, or thank you God or whatever. You bring the energy up the body with the memories from the moment you got up, saying thank you, thank you, thank you, through the top of the head. You’re still in the horizontal position. Then you do it again, and you find any other things that you haven’t said thank you for. Then you do it a third time, and even if you’ve forgotten something, you’ve done a good job. Then you go to sleep, and, as I’ve said, when you get out of bed in the morning you say, “May I be allowed to be of service this day?” That thank you, that gratefulness, is the key to true will.
I laugh at everything because my heart is bubbling with laughter. I see the great joke.
I laugh at everything because my heart is bubbling with laughter. I see the great joke.
SUN: You’ve set up something called the Chalice Guild. In your description of it you talk of using the knowledge of transformation in your work, whatever your work is. Say I’m a carpenter, or a bus driver. How do I do that? How do I incorporate knowledge of transformation into my bus driving?
RESHAD: First you have to have the knowledge of transformation, don’t you? This is the knowledge of the energies or aspects of the one energy, which ultimately is pure love — which are necessary to make transformation possible.
There was a man in England named Max Busby, who was a great alchemist many years ago. Do you know what he’d do? He knew the secret, and knew that it doesn’t matter where you put it, in carpentry, in painting, in cooking. What he would do was put it into pebbles. He’d collect the pebbles from the ocean and he’d put it into the pebbles. These were called Busby pebbles. He made them for each individual — like pure Zen art, you never repeat it twice. I use all sorts of things — pieces of paper, glasses of water. He put the ingredient for that particular human being into a pebble, and you wouldn’t believe what would happen. I tried it here recently. I had gophers in my garden that were pulling down the plants. I didn’t want them there, and I didn’t want to kill them either, so I merely took three rocks, stuck them in the right pattern and those rodents left the whole garden.
So you can put it into anything — poetry, making love, cooking, holding hands, anything.
If we are living in the question, undoubtedly we’re going to get the answer, whether we like it or not, and often we don’t like it. But still we accept it because we gratefully receive what we need to be of service.
There was a man named J.G. Bennett who has written so many extraordinary books, probably the greatest master in the west in our generation, and a great friend of mine. This story from his life is an example of how we can get caught in sentimentality. He was about to open a residential school toward the end of his life, with 120 students. It was a superb experiment, with people coming from all over the world. He got sick about ten days before the school was to open. I was so upset and worried. I thought, ‘‘This man has given his whole life to serve, and now he’s gotten sick.” What ridiculous sentimentality. I sent him some honey and flowers and other things with a note. I got a note back saying, “Dear Reshad, thank you very much for your sympathy but this is exactly what I need for my work. Yours, J.G. Bennett.”
In other words, if we’re in the question, we’ll get everything we need, and not necessarily everything we want.
SUN: Tell me what you mean by living consciously.
RESHAD: At that particular moment you moved your hand from left to right with your pen in your left hand. I watched both eyes, I watched both feet. I was awake to my foot here on the ground, and my other one here on the chair. I was awake to looking through my glasses, to the glass in my left hand — all at once, and being grateful. That’s something toward being conscious, that’s not being conscious. To be conscious is way beyond that.
Your readers might not accept this as being conscious, but when J.G. Bennett first assembled his tribe of initiates, he had everyone stand up and put their arms up like this [holds his arms straight out, shoulder height, for the next five minutes of conversation]. He stood up like that, at the age of 73, in front of all these big, macho Americans, Australians and English, he stood up there for half an hour, 40 minutes, until everyone but him had collapsed, half of them in tears. Now what is it that can keep my arms up right now without any trouble whatsoever? It’s because I’ve trained my body to do what it’s meant to do, and my emotions also. It may hurt like hell, but I’ve trained them to do it. That’s will — it’s not willfulness, but total gratefulness. I’ve already given my body back before it dies. My body was granted to this person to express the greater “I am,” through the lesser “I am,” this somebody called Reshad Feild. My arms can stay there an hour. This body must do what I tell it. It’s like training a parrot.
SUN: As a retired Sufi, you keep a very busy schedule. Let’s talk about some of the work you’re doing, starting with healing. Let’s speak, in some practical manner, about what esoteric healing is all about.
RESHAD: A great deal of my knowledge of conscious birth, sex and death — which has to do with esoteric healing — is in my last book, The Invisible Way. But let me put it to you this way. Esoteric healing is ultimately for one purpose — to know we are loved. The Invisible Way was originally going to be called To Know We Are Loved, but the publishers wouldn’t have that title. I was long finding out, having had cancer and everything. As you know, I’m a laugher now. I laugh at everything because my heart is bubbling with laughter. I see the great joke. I see how you write your own book. I see that you make it up as you go along. And you can’t really make it up as you go along unless you know you’re loved. You merely make up your ego, and remake it and remake it and go on remaking it. But once you know that you’re loved, once this knowledge is present, that, practically speaking, is esoteric healing.
I’ve been involved with healing for about 20 years. I’ll give you a story about it that’s a classic in my life. Last year a man came to me who was absolutely riddled with cancer. There was nothing I could do to help his body. He came to me in some pain. Well, the pain went very quickly, once he understood that there was one person who would stand by his side. You can face pain if someone’s by your side. He telephoned me later and asked if he could come and see me. Of course I said yes. We were all so moved by him. When he came, he could scarcely get out of the car. I went out and opened the door for him. We came into the house together and he said, “I’ve come to say thank you, and good-bye.” The next day he died, in absolute, complete freedom — because he knew he was loved. That is esoteric healing. If you can love your brother and sister in the present moment, then you’re completing the ministry of Christ. That’s all esoteric healing really means. As for the methodologies, it’s like they say in America, “Different strokes for different folks.” If you look in the Bible, Jesus never did it the same way twice. Nor do I. It comes out of my total respect for each individual, for the being of God in each individual.
SUN: In The Invisible Way, you said that healing doesn’t always mean the body is healed. In fact, in the story of John in that book, healing meant opening to a conscious death. Can you speak about how death can be a healing process?
RESHAD: Death is what you’re facing. To face death is to face the mirror, to really see yourself in the mirror. And where is the mirror? It’s not a piece of shiny steel. As I sit here, you are my mirror. Can I face myself? Am I being honest? You are my mirror in this moment, so I’m facing my own death. I can remember this moment and everything around it, from the bookshelves to the noise of the typewriter. All at once.
SUN: Do you feel any fear of death?
RESHAD: No. The only fear I have is of pain. I have a very low threshold for it. But no, I don’t have any fear about death, I welcome it as a joyous celebration.
SUN: Let’s talk about what you see as the causes of disease, and to what extent we create our own diseases, and create our own healing.
RESHAD: Well, actually we don’t create our own diseases. We only repeat a pattern that’s been set up. There’s a saying in the Mevlevi tradition that expectation is the red death. Most of us were raised in expectation. We’re meant to be doing something. That expectation is setting a pattern for our lives. The red death of expectation is what stifles a human being.
If one has knowledge, one does not expect. I don’t know what will happen in the next moment, but I don’t expect anything. The word expect is very important to look at. I used to be a racing car driver, and when I was racing, I couldn’t expect for the motor to fall out, I couldn’t expect for the car to crash. All I could do was train my body to train the car to go around the track. That’s life.
SUN: So how do expectations influence our diseases?
RESHAD: A pattern. Let me tell you a story about that. A woman came to me, she was only 27, I think. She had cancer of the uterus, and they were about to give her a hysterectomy. My work, by the way, is not an alternative to the medical profession. I respect the medical profession. In England I work with a team of doctors, I just add a little bit if I can. So, I did an analysis chart for her — the methods are too complex to go into here — and I discovered that when she was five and a half she had sexual shock. Sexual shock at five and a half? I didn’t know how she would know what it was. She had absolutely no memory at all about it. So I said to her, “Suzanne, can you remember what happened at five and a half?” No, she couldn’t. Well, I’m also trained to put people into a state in which they can dream consciously. I said to her that I knew I’d been given the correct answer and asked her to dream about it. She called me the next day, and though it hadn’t happened while she was asleep, she actually saw it and had a complete recollection about being in the shower with her teen-aged brother. I don’t know exactly what happened but the guilt she felt caused her to block that moment of time, what we call tightening around a moment of time. That caused a pattern of shock. Now, that alone wouldn’t necessarily hurt. So I said to her, “Suzanne, did you enjoy it?” She said “Yes.” Now, in later life before getting cancer, she had been raped twice. So when I say she brought on her own rape, I don’t mean she did it really, but that pattern of attraction drew to her not only the rapes but the cancer. If she was going to get cancer, where would she get it? In the place where she was attracting it from. So I spoke with her and we worked together. In three weeks there was no cancer.
SUN: So, if I’m hearing you right, it’s the tightening around a moment of shock that on some level sets up an expectation that can attract a disease. . . .
RESHAD: Right, and what we’re actually attracting to ourselves when we tighten is the unredeemed thought-form. I was privileged to spend some time with Krishnamurti, and when we first met he said to me, “You know, a thought-form never dies.” That was a very important statement. But a thought-form can be redeemed.
When we commit ourselves to life . . . everything in life will come up, and then we have the opportunity for the total redemption of what is asked of us.
When we commit ourselves to life . . . everything in life will come up, and then we have the opportunity for the total redemption of what is asked of us.
SUN: So, if at this moment I were to receive a shock, say I were to be stabbed in the arm, to react in a way not to set such a pattern I would have to not tighten around the shock. . . .
RESHAD: Yes. If we could see that every experience we are given can be a conscious shock for good, rather than blaming the world for it. . . . If one falls off a bicycle, that can be useful — teaching you to ride a bicycle better next time — even if you break your arm. But if you blame the world for the shock, much trouble.
SUN: What if I come to you and say that I’m in need of some healing. Say I have a problem in my lung. How do I start to release the pattern that might have caused it? What is the first thing you say to me?
RESHAD: The first thing I say is, “Thank you.’’ If you come with hemorrhoids I say thank you. If you come with cancer I say thank you. The pain is a visiting card. It’s only a manifestation of the problem. I don’t purport to be a healer who can put a hand on you and it will be all gone. It’s not like that. I say thank you, and let’s have a look at it. Where is this coming from? It could be inherent in the physical body, in which case there is probably little I can do. But, on the other hand, I might be able to help. So I then go into the situation of the individual, and tell them that I will take them on for three months. During that time I check them “at a distance” every day and I do my best to clear that problem. There has to be reciprocity. My requirements are that they will come back to me at least every two weeks in that period, communicate with me and state how they are. In that way there is an interplay, like we have talking now. There’s healing going on here.
Last year, I started a course on healing which was attended by quite a lot of people, whom I checked every day. There was one day when not one person came up for healing. That was the day when the Americans launched their space shuttle. Why? Everyone was looking up to see what was going on, and they forgot about their pains. I teach people that attitude. I have a tummy ache that I’ve had for almost thirty years. I got used to it. I look up, too — not to escape from this world, but to see what I have to do.
SUN: How do you help them to unblock their pain themselves?
RESHAD: I would teach people how to breathe properly. The method is tailor-made for the person. If somebody has a sexual problem — an unattended situation — I would teach them one way to breathe. If they had something else wrong I would teach them another way to breathe. So I give them a particular breathing pattern to use, plus the 7-1-7-1-7 rhythm I talked about in my book. That’s helpful for everyone. [Reshad described this rhythm, called the Mother’s Breath, in The Invisible Way, as breathing in to a count of seven, pausing for one count, breathing out to a count of seven, and then pausing for one count before repeating the cycle.]
SUN: Even with your capital letter words, I sense a real lightness and humor in your approach. How do you tickle yourself when you get too serious?
RESHAD: Kick my ass for being too serious. The only way I believe in being serious is when God grants you knowledge and you seriously will put it to good use. You seriously do it, but you still are light. We are a light. We’re a spark of the divine flame.
SUN: But in pursuit of spiritual work one often gets heavy. . . .
RESHAD: I can only remember one time in recent years when I was serious. I was in a Tibetan monastery. I was waiting hours for my interview with the lama; I was expecting a whole lot — a burst of sunlight or something to illuminate my soul. He looked at me and said, “You’re too ebullient. All you need to do now is to breathe in so that you may breathe out. Now go and do it.” I started with six hours a day, then eight, then nine hours a day. And if you haven’t got a sense of humor after that. . . .
I was in the meditation hall at one point and this might sound crazy, but I saw snakes and everything I was frightened of. I was petrified. I couldn’t move. I got an interview with the lama the next morning and explained to him how everything I was frightened of in the elemental kingdom had come up. He said, “Good! Now continue breathing.”
When we commit ourselves to life — and a teacher is very good for that — everything in life will come up, and then we have the opportunity for the total redemption of what is asked of us.
SUN: You’ve had some fall-outs over the years with everyone from teachers of yours to others for, as you’ve put it, “not behaving as they expect me to.” What gets you in trouble?
RESHAD: I get in trouble because I know — and I say this in great humility — that nobody can lie to me. If people lie to me, then I’m going to get myself in trouble, because I will not testify to lies, I will only testify to truth. I get in trouble because I am not what people expect me to be. Because they don’t want the mirror. If I live in truth, I can see the truth in others. I can see the truth in you, and I know you are honest. I won’t get in trouble with you. If somebody comes to me who does not speak the truth, I will cause myself much trouble.
People accuse me of this, they accuse me of that. It doesn’t matter to me. It matters to them, and that’s their problem. Their problem is merely an unattended situation. They don’t have enough generosity or enough compassion, they have too much fear, whatever. To blame me for their problems is not appropriate.
SUN: You also get into trouble when people see you doing things they don’t expect you to, like smoking a cigarette or drinking.
RESHAD: I knew you were going to ask that. I wouldn’t advocate anybody smoking a cigarette. One day I smoke, one day I don’t. It’s not going to mean anything to me at all. It’s the same with drinking alcohol. We have to have compassion for other people’s situations. For example, I can’t stand drugs. If I even smell marijuana, I’ll run out of the room. Other people might not like me having a raw steak. We have to have compassion. I don’t advocate anybody doing anything. All I advocate is compassion. It is not correct to use any method as an excuse for not facing oneself. But I have known people who have done some extraordinary things and still been able to complete their life-cycle.
In writing something like this in your magazine it might sound as though I was saying that you can do anything just for the sake of the moment. No. If I’m conscious I could take alcohol and transform it. If I’m not, I couldn’t. There were times that I couldn’t. There are times now when I can. But I in no way advocate it.
SUN: I was impressed in your last book with the depth of the romance portrayed between the character you based on yourself and the woman called “Nur.” You’re not with that same woman now. How do you reconcile it when your romantic expectations conflict with what actually happens?
RESHAD: Many people ask me who Nur is. Nur represents the distillation and ultimately the culmination of my total respect for woman. So, Penny is Nur. [Penny is the woman with whom Reshad lives.] If I let Penny down, I would be quite concerned for my own health. I’ve made many mistakes, many. Penny of course is Nur, and we’ve had a relationship for quite some years now which has been incredible. I have made quite enough mistakes. My respect and understanding and love of woman is because the anima in my own heart, in my own being, is at last balanced — it was always greater than my male aspect.
I respect Penny as my mirror. If she roars at me, even if she goes too far, I respect her still. There is nothing that is separate from the truth. There is nothing that is separate from my personal determination to complete the course of my life. If romance, or a better word for it is attraction, steps in my way, first of all I politely ask it to leave. And if it still won’t, I yell “Out!”
SUN: In the book, the point was made that it was important to stay with that one woman.
RESHAD: There is only one woman. Until we can accept it we get lots and it causes us much trouble. There is only one woman. There’s only one man. There’s only one absolute being.
SUN: You’ve been through a number of marriages and relationships. What makes them work, and what makes them fall apart?
RESHAD: The moment you commit yourself, what we call the denying force comes in. It tests through arguments and whatever. I won’t include my first marriage in this, because it wasn’t really a marriage — we all make mistakes. I had a great son who was born from it. A child chooses his parents and I don’t know why in the world he chose us. How I failed in my second marriage — and I accept I failed — was not doing sufficient homework. After all that I’d been taught by my teacher — of course, there’s really only one teacher, God — I hadn’t done enough homework about this thing called commitment. By committing yourself you determine that nothing will stop you from completing the course.
SUN: But what if you’ve committed yourself to the wrong thing?
RESHAD: You must ask first just what you’re to commit yourself to. For example, I’m a writer but I avoided it for years. I wanted to be a lot of things, but not a writer. Then, I asked what God was giving me to do, as the manifestation of the frame of service. It may not at all be what I thought I wanted to do. You ask and you find out. I know I’m best as a writer. When I get behind my typewriter I find my grounding. Your frame is your grounding.
Howard Jay Rubin