Center for Sacred Psychology

Harlem Renaissance Party (detail)
Story Quilt, © Faith Ringgold 1987*
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Guest Caterer Specials are side dishes that complement our main courses. The experiences of many spiritual seekers are forming a "cookbook for a sacred life" (Ram Dass' phrase). Might some special delicacy from this potluck meal become a staple at your table?

Please sample our current Main Courses menu, as well as our tasty Desserts & Snacks and earlier dishes in the Soul Food Archive. And, do send your personal comments to our busy kitchen staff. View others' comments here.

 

 

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Our Current Guest Caterer is Noor-Malika Chishti of Los Angeles

[Noor-Malika is an authorized Representative of Pir Zia Inayat-Khan* and is an Ordained Cheraga, or Minister of Light, of the Universal Worship Service. Her contribution to our Soul Food is a three-part series of meditations on the elements©, based on the teachings of Pir-O-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan. Noor-Malika has found these meditations helpful in her spiritual life. Part One introduces this practice, and features a meditation on Earth. Part Two deals with the elements of Water and Fire.]

 Earth, Water, Fire, and Air are God’s servants.  To us they seem lifeless, but to God, living.
                                                                         
~  Rumi

The ancient Hindu scripture, the Vamana Purana, offers this prayer: Let the great elements bless this dawning day: Earth with its smell, Water with its taste, Fire with its radiance, Air with its touch, and Space with its sound.

The ancient Greeks said everything is made of some combination of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Aristotle agreed but added a fifth element which is beyond the material world: Ether.

Ayurvedic medicine is based upon the five elements; different combinations of the elements create different health conditions. When at death the human body dissolves into these five elements of nature, the cycle of nature is balanced. The Jewish mystical studies of the Kabbalah teach that these elements are the Four Worlds which make up the Universe and reveal to us, "As above, so below." Sufis meditate on these elements as a way to remind us we are made of the fabric of the Universe, and of our connection and responsibility to it.

This healing practice comes from the Sufi teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan,* and has been developed by his son, Pir Vilayat Inayat-Khan, and his grandson, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, who says: "...the healing of both the planet and the body can only be realized by reestablishing the relationship between the body, the concentrated essence of the whole universe, and the planet—and that is what is affirmed through the elemental practices."

Pir Vilayat Inayat–Khan* observed that most of the pollution in the world begins in "the pollution in our thinking." He said that our fixed, sclerosed and negative thoughts were “the waste products of the universe.” Recognizing the part each of us plays in this, we can commit to sweeping from our being stale and worn concepts, and habitual ways of seeing and reacting.

  • It is best to do these meditations standing outdoors, or by an open window; but sit if you need to and be inside if necessary. Each Element is a balanced breath: equal time inhaling and exhaling through both nostrils to your own natural count of four. Note that each element breath has a different breathing pattern. If visualization of colors does not happen for you, don’t worry; not everyone finds this doable.
  • Start with a few deep cleansing breaths: pushing gently, slowly, and as fully as possible—first out of the chest and then out of the abdomen. Exhale further and further, and then let your inhalation be completely natural, using no effort. This is important, so that you do not strain your lungs or the muscles in your chest. Hold the breath for a moment after the inhalation. After a few rounds of exhalations and inhalations, begin with the breath of the element. While inhaling be aware that you receive; while exhaling be aware that you radiate.
  • To conclude each meditation, take a few breaths in and out. Offer your gratitude to the elements and their Source, perhaps with a prayer for healing, such as Nayaz by Hazrat Inayat-Khan.

 

Breathe IN through the mouth and OUT through the mouth, in a refined breath.  Air is the quality of freedom, ecstasy and transcendence, but negative aspects include chaos and sudden changes in direction. Begin this breath on the exhalation. Visualize blue light, the color of sky. Our lungs bring Air from the world outside, inside. Electrons spin far away from the solid nucleus. It is an illusion to think we are solid. There is more space between our cells and within our cells than there is solid matter. We are porous. In this practice, identify with the breath that animates your body. Attune to your skin, which comes from the same developmental layer of the embryo as the brain.

 

  • Be aware of all pervading life in space as you greet the being of Air.
  • Exhaling, allow yourself to reach out beyond the boundaries of the body. Let your being disperse in space, and let your consciousness reach out into the cosmos. Enjoy a sense of vastness; a gentle breeze voids pollutants from the Air. Feel Air passing over and as if through you. Allow the pores to open and feel the whole envelope of skin with just Air inside and outside.
  • Breathing in oxygen, breathing out carbon dioxide.
  • Breathing in, sense yourself “intentionally incarnating” in the body, revitalized. Feel yourself buoyant and free.
  • Attune to your skin which comes from the same developmental layer of the embryo as the brain  and which is considered another lung that also breathes. Imagine making yourself into a ball and each in-breath inflates you like a balloon; feel the space increase between your cells; feel the wind blowing through all your pores. Feel the coolness and freshness of the Air. Soar upwards on the currents of Air.
  • Exhaling, allow yourself to reach out beyond the boundaries of the body. Let your being disperse with the wind, and let your consciousness reach out into the cosmos. Enjoy a sense of vastness; a gentle breeze removes pollutants you release. Inhale and re-enter your body, purified and buoyant.
  • Imagine yourself to be like a great eagle perched high on a mountain. Feel the wind ruffling your feathers, blowing through all your pores. Feel the coolness and freshness of the Air. Soar upwards on the currents of Air.
  • Let your breath become refined and draw in the subtle essences that surround us all. Let the medium that unites us with every living being enter on your inhalation. 
  • Offer your gratitude to the being of Air.

 

Breathe IN and OUT through the mouth and nose simultaneously in a very still breath. Focus your attention on your Crown Center, the area at the top of your head and just above it. Hazrat Inayat-Khan taught that Ether is conceived to be the source and goal of all other elements. Ether is without form, place, or limits; pale gray can be used for visualization. When you are effaced in this breath, nature can become conscious of itself through you.

  • Just sit for a bit with the inhalation and exhalation of this subtlest of the element breaths. No images, just breathe.
  • Ask yourself, “Who is doing the breathing?”
  • Direct the breath out to anywhere in the Earth that is in need of harmony and peace.
  • To conclude take a few breaths in and out feeling the unity of all the elements fully embodied in you.
  • Offer your gratitude to the elements and their Source.

 

Prayer for Healing, Nayaz:

Beloved Lord, Almighty God!
Through the rays of the sun,
Through the waves of the Air,
Through the All-pervading Life in space,
Purify and revivify me, and I pray,
Heal my body, heart, and soul.  Amen. Amîn

  • Open your eyes, if closed and take a full exhalation, grounding yourself in the present moment and to the Earth beneath your feet, from which new growth can spring.

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Read Others' Comments...

 

Dear Noor-Malika, Thank you for the three articles on the elements. I am using these ideas, especially when outdoors near water, air, etc. While I've primarily meditated with images that have come up in dreams or inner fantasies--understanding these as being sent from the unconscious--it's also valuable to connect with symbols as universal as the elements. Thank you and bless you.
Cheyenne
Los Angeles

 

Dear Cheyenne, I also love the way this practice goes beyond particular paths and gives us a way to universally connect...which is the actuality! :) I love the example from nature of a lotus pond. It can have thousands of beautiful flowers on the surface of the water; when we look under the water we see a common root system connecting the flowers that present individually on the surface.
Noor-Malika
Pasadena

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* Credits for this page:

~ The quilts of American fiber artist Faith Ringgold hang in museums around the world.  Harlem Renaissance Party, #2 in her "Bitternest Series," is in the collection of the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.  Acryllic on canvas, 94"x82", it pictures eleven guests and their exuberant, mask-holding hostess, Cee Cee.  From lower left around the table, the guests are Celia (or Ceclia), a doctor; Florence Mills, singer and comedienne; Aaron Douglass, painter; Meta Warick Fuller, sculptor; W.E.B. DuBois, organizer and writer; Cee Cee's husband, a dentist; Richard Wright, writer; Countee Cullen, poet, novelist and playwright; Zora Neal Hurston; novelist, folklorist and anthropologist; Alain Locke, philosopher and writer; Langston Hughes, poet and writer.  Gratefully used with permission.  See more of Faith's work at www.faithringgold.com.

~ Chesterton, A Hymn for the Church Militant (between 1904-1915).

~ ~ Quotation sources can be found at http://www.sufiorder.org/biographies.html 

~ For more information about these teachings and their sources, see http://www.sufiorder.org/activities universal.html and http://tinyurl.com/7h9bgin

~ Instrumental music, El-Hadra, used in Sufi meditation can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JniV66yxhbw

 

Noor-Malika Chishti tells this story: In 1972, I had a dream of an Indian-looking man who was standing behind a white-picket fence gate and looking into my eyes.  Behind him was a garden full of yellow roses.  Two weeks later my friend, the late Nubian master Oud player, Hamza el Din, gave me a book he thought I would like—it was Volume III of The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat-Khan [HIK]. When I opened the book I saw a photo of the man from my dream.  I carried this book everywhere, and one day soon after receiving the book I sat reading it in an outdoor café. A woman sat down at the next table and said, “My teacher’s father wrote that book.”  By the beginning of the next year, I had met Pir Vilayat Inayat-Khan, Hazrat Inayat Khan’s son and spiritual successor, and had taken initiation into the Sufi Order International.