Thursday, January 19, 2012

In Memory of Julian Sirkar Grindon-Welch, 1927-2005

I've noticed that there is no mention at all on the whole internet of Julian Grindon-Welch, a Sufi teacher who had a huge influence on me and the shaping of our Great Heart Society, apart from a brief obituary from the Telegraph in 2005. So I thought I'd write something here so his name will be remembered more widely.

I was introduced to Julian in 1997 through the International Sufi Movement, in which he was a Khalif and authorised initiator, and coordinator for the UK. We corresponded with each other by letter every two weeks for about a year, when I moved back up to Scotland and sadly lost touch with him, other than exchanging occasional emails. The last time I heard from him was less than a month before he died in 2005.

In Summer 1998 I visited Julian and his wife Evelyn in their beautiful historic house in Cornwall, I remember the train journey down there very well, blue skies and shining sun, spectacular views of the sea, the first time as an adult I'd been to Cornwall. Julian and Evelyn were perfect hosts for a couple of days, talking and drinking tea in their bright garden and reflecting on the spiritual path and Sufism and Hazrat Inayat Khan.

Julian's letters were very beautiful and practical, and over the years since I received them their words have taught me more and more, as I become a little bit maturer to understand them. He said he was drawn to Inayat Khan, the late Indian Sufi master, for "the gentleness and universality of his spirit", and described his own Sufi initiator as someone who might outwardly appear a crazy old lady, but who had "less ego than anyone I'd ever met".

He taught me to trust in my own experience and spiritual inspiration- that specific practices, teachings, schools, lineages, all ultimately are not crucial, although they might be very useful for many people. Instead he suggested I "believe you already have 'it', whatever 'it' is, and can develop it 'drop by drop, as the Buddha says'..."

He wrote: "Our ego can hide in many forms, even as our spiritual life and our spiritual teacher. So forget about it, and concentrate instead on the vibration of life which runs through every being and every object". He said that whatever we believe or have faith in, our faith in it draws Truth to us and guides us further on the path. What matters is to follow the guidance and inspiration in our life and heart, and all will be well.

"If you feel you need a guru then you probably do", Julian wrote, "but why go through anyone? All this is God!"

"The spiritual life is like the martial arts. It's about your next step... there is your star- your inspiration - and then there is your practical objective"... "living in the moment or, even better, the very next moment...", "we're not here to escape from human life, but to appreciate it all, the beauty of the stars and trees and human relationships".

All of us who enjoy our coming together in The Great Heart Society owe a lot to Julian: it was his words and spirit that taught me that it's ok to be open to everything, to trust innocently in the value of our gathering together in goodheartedness, that if we practice together from the heart then Truth will be drawn to us and we will be drawn to Truth. From my heart, I say thank you to him and consider him a true guide of the Heart.

"Truth is a line which runs from the human heart straight to the heart of God" he told me. May Julian's heart be alive and blessed in the Love and Peace of the God he believed in.

Chris Zang Starbuck,
19th January 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Great Heart Circle

Our first Great Heart Circle of the year took the theme of blessings- how each human being can be a source of blessings and spiritual inspiration for any other. The purpose of gatherings like ours is to help us encounter each other in this kind of way, whereas if we met in other walks of life we might not be able to appreciate each other as fully. A Circle Practice like ours can be both a source and a generator of "baraka" as it's called in Arabic, or "adisthana" in Sanskrit- the power of blessings which help us grow.

To explore how a gathering could be a source of blessings, we looked at the Jewish practice of Shabbat, with the mystical sense of the Shabbat being a bride and a queen. We learned to sing a part of the Jewish song "Lekha Dodi" together, "Come O Beloved", to a beautiful tune. At the last part of our silent zen meditation session, we sang Lekha Dodi again, this time as a "niggun" - a tune sung without words - and invited the women present to feel that through them blessings were entering our circle, the men receptive to the womens' light.

During the meditation and the sacred meal at the end we lit candles, and listened to Jewish music from around the world.