The following is a discussion generated by a letter from a reader of my new book: The World of Pond Stories; this recent inquiry offers an opportunity to have a discussion about the dynamics of spiritual writing and my experience while writing. Hope you enjoy this interchange.
Inquiry Letter About Spiritual Writing
As I was reading your latest book, I was wondering what your experience was like as you write them. The influence of the Idries Shah books is obvious in many places. I was particularly affected by the story of the Three Sisters which seemed to have a very similar impact to The Tale of the Sands.
As an amateur composer of music, every so often I get into a mode where new music seems to be coming into my head from somewhere and all I need to do is to capture it. Other times, it feels like a more labored experience requiring a lot of trial and effort.
So when you write your books, particularly the last one, is your everyday consciousness pretty much just acting as a receiver? A lot of the material feels like it was generated this way.
Also, how aware are you of the multiple levels present of which every now and then I get a small glimpse? I suspect that some of your writing and things like the overall plot of the Turtle prophesy cannot be contrived by ordinary consciousness and refer to deep transformational processes.
Is it worth asking you about what you think the meaning is of some of the material? For example, it occurred to me that silver minnow catching was a metaphor describing how our everyday consciousness works and how it might be mined to catch glimpses of something higher, possibly through Gurdjieff-like practices of self-observation or maybe in meditation. Or perhaps you are simply saying that if you get sufficiently skilled at something and pay sufficient attention to what is going on than this can be a conduit to the higher self.
Thanks again for The World of Pond Stories and all of your other books. I truly hope they help as many people as possible to bring more light into these troubled times.
May we all rise higher!
Some Thoughts On Spiritual Writing
Here is an initial response into your inquiry about my spiritual writing.
I’ve been at this spiritual writing for 50 years or so; during that time there have been many different ways this writing has manifested itself.
I first started writing poetry in my late teens; it was just something that happened. Until then, I never thought about writing: used the poetry to share some of my darker moods and ideas. This was when I was in college and I was fortunate to have an English Literature/Composition teacher who worked with me to improve my writing skills. She worked with me for a year and I learned basic skills.
Later, when I was working in psychiatric hospitals, after meeting my spiritual teacher, who suggested that someone write down what we talked about; this writing skill expanded and changed.
Sometimes a very strong energy would come over me and I could not resist writing down ideas/thoughts that were coming through me. Many times this went on for days and I could not resist/fight this energy; when I did it made me feel worse. I was unaware of the source of this energy and for many years it remained a mystery. Often, I was living in 2 worlds at the same time- going to work and writing down all the ideas and thoughts that would be coming through me. Nowadays the energy flow is more mature and causes less of a daily disruption but I must continually honor the call.
At first I thought it might be automatic writing, or someone/something infusing their ideas through me. Also at night I would have dreams/visions where someone in white robes was dictating books to me. At first, I really wasn’t sure where these ideas and the persistent, demanding energy came from. Over the years, I realized it was part of me and part of something else.
In the beginning this energy was persistent and demanding- I couldn’t run from it and it would manifest in short doses over a period of time (days, hours, and weeks). Many of my writing and early books were done this way; the energy would signal time to write, and idea would enter, and then I would begin seeing many dimensions to what ordinarily was in front of me or part of daily life. In some ways it was like putting on another kind of glasses that helped me see/understand things and interpret them for others.
They say writers write because they have to write- there is no other choice. In many ways, that summarizes the motivation. Also I always wanted to share something of wisdom with others; this also seemed like it was part of me; an inborn need/desire.
Now the Turtle stories and the silver minnow catching material were conceived, probably first written about 20+ years ago and I have recently updated some of this material. There are many short books in this series and I wanted to get something out there in this format. Silver minnows represent flashes of intuitive spiritual knowledge that come and go; sort of like spiritual states. By focusing on the movement of the minnow’s tale, the young turtle enters in a meditation of sorts watching the movement and then as he/she focuses another window in the soul opens. I experienced this one sunny lunch time, at work, watching blades of grass move on the wind . . . For some that is the potential of transcendental meditation- focus visually on an object and gradually something else emerges within our consciousness.
In the World of Pond, silver minnow catching is in addition to awareness of the Great Turtle- here you have the Path and the Godhead. Similarly, each Pond creature has their own view of the God head (i.e., for grasshoppers it is the Great Hoppah and grass science). Silver minnow catching is the inner teaching because young turtles can experience spiritual learning through these classes/exercises; and it is helpful to have a teacher to help you along the Path.
Over the years, I have had at least 2 seers indicate the relative importance of my writing. At times, this direction/input has helped me fight through the ups and downs of trying to share this material. Over time, I have come to see some of this writing’s strengths and limitations. I realize it is not for everyone but needed to express myself in this way. Generally my writing skills are adequate and hopefully get the job done.
To Purchase The World of Pond Stories:
Amazon: www.bit.ly/bitkoffpond (Paperback $13.99 | Kindle $5.95)
Stewart Bitkoff’s Online Store: www.StewartBitkoff.com/books
Dr. Stewart Bitkoff has announced the publication of his latest book, The World of Pond Stories.
The introductory book in Dr. Bitkoff’s new series, it will take readers on a trip to a wondrous land where pond creatures live in harmony and often work together to solve problems.
These stories offer the opportunity for children and adult readers alike, to travel alongside amusing and delightful woodland characters that are expanding their hearts and minds. From “silver minnow catching” class; to humorous, yet meaningful exchanges among grasshoppers, turtles and dragonflies; to a mysterious quest with Master Turtle, you and the children in your life will enjoy reading about the spiritual journey of life in a unique and lighthearted way.
Reactions from some readers:
Dr. Bitkoff presents modern day fables and a fairy tale to entertain spiritual travelers of different ages. Tired of reading the same old thing, stories filled with violence and ill will, then try this book for the entire family. As you travel with the different pond characters through their struggles and triumphs, it will make you smile and even laugh. And perhaps learn a little more about yourself and the larger Pond, we call life.
-ML, San Diego, CA
“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein, tells us that the world needn’t be as complicated as we make it out to be. And indeed, “The World of Pond”, Stewart Bitkoff’s latest book, demonstrates the truth of this. Written in an easy to understand style, this book will appeal to six year olds of ALL ages. Whether you’re 6 or 96, the stories in this book will entertain and provoke deeper questions. Here we meet the inhabitants of ‘Pond’ – from the enigmatic Turtle to the carefree Grasshopper, who do their best to make sense of the world in which they live. A collection of short stories, all linked by a common theme gives the reader the chance to look at his or her own life. How do we make sense of the world? Why are we here? Not merely a collection of children’s stories, “The World of Pond” is both philosophical and thought-provoking. Enhanced by Stewart’s own commentaries, this book is a ‘must read’ for everyone.
– Stephen Tidbury
One Sunday morning as I was driving with my five-year-old daughter to church, she asked me if her mother and father were going to die. She also asked if she too was going to die. This totally stunned me. I floundered a bit and I told her as tactfully as I could that yes, we were all going to die someday but it would be a long time from now. She then said, “What’s the point?” Stewart’s book answers this question in an amazingly simple, gentle, and graceful set of stories about the denizens of a certain pond. The book captures the highly distilled essence of all the great world spiritual traditions in a way that goes down easily. The language used has universal appeal since it avoids religious specific terminology. It is simple-minded and extremely sophisticated at the same time making it particularly valuable to share between generations. I highly recommend this for anybody who from time to time becomes aware of our short duration here on earth and wonders as my daughter did, “What’s the point?”
– Mark Berlin
About the Author
The author of The World of Pond Stories, Dr. Stewart Bitkoff is a poet and spiritual traveler who has written on the topic of the completed person and the original human development system. Professionally, working to help the mentally ill integrate their altered states of consciousness into the physical world. His website is: www.stewartbitkoff.com. Connect on Facebook: www.facebook.com/stewart.bitkoff
By Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
Q: How to shut off the ramblings of the everyday mind and hear the whisperings of the heart?
Several weeks ago, independent of each other, 2 people mentioned they wished they could learn how to go inward; they were having a difficult time of it. Since much of the spiritual journey involves going inward- listening to inner perceptions- they wondered how this inner learning/awareness might be facilitated. They wanted to be instructed/shown how to do this.
For well over 3 weeks, I have been thinking about their request. During this period several thoughts occurred to me.
- Part of Everyone’s Education. At first I was surprised by this request since both of these people had spent much time traveling on spiritual paths and tried many different exercises. For both, I have supplied exercises and books with different instruction. Still they were having a difficult time. I wondered why this wasn’t part pf everyone’s basic education. Weren’t they taught in school, how to sit still, and turn-off the noise in their head and use their own basic capacity to create?
- Going Inward Part of Being Human. I remember Idris Shah talking about prayer. I am paraphrasing here, but basically he said, people can be given certain prayers to say, but cannot be taught how to pray. Prayer is basic communication between the seeker and that which is Most High. It is a natural expression of the seeker’s need in relation to the Source.
- Going Inward Can’t be Taught. In my view, going inward is much the same. People can be given spiritual exercises, told to go on long walks in the quite forest, meditate for hours and be told to simply sit quietly and listen to their thoughts. These are all devices to begin to the listen to the different streams of consciousness which arise in our head, heart and soul. And the quietest voice, hidden beneath all the others, is that of spiritual intuition- it is very much like a whisper. It comes forward when the rest of the consciousness is relatively still; and the listener must bravely go inward, pushing the other voices aside- often using a focus word- and wait until this inner knowing comes forward.
- Natural Ability. Also it seems to me some people may be better at this than others. What might come more easily to some might be a long, long slow tedious labor to others.
- Expectation Blocks The Door. One of the major road blocks in this inner journey is expectation. ‘Look I have been following this exercise, doing everything right, when is this thing going to happen?’ Usually it doesn’t happen under this circumstance. The consciousness must be in a neutral position where you are merely observing what is taking place and pushing aside thoughts which are not the goal, while another part of the consciousness is focused on the goal – using a device like a focus word. The seeker must be able to hold both sets of consciousness in their mind at the same time and await the emergence of this third stream.
- Diversity of Experience. To further complicate matters, there is any number of inner spiritual experiences and they manifest under different conditions. However, all of these generally occur when the everyday consciousness is in a neutral position and the seeker is listening to their own inner awareness.
- Everyone is Different. Seekers have many different spiritual capacities which they bring with them; these can be enhanced through training and spiritual work. They cannot be learned.
About the author:
by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
Q: Why is it important to give to others? Some religions request a percent of your wage as regular donation.
The universe as we know it could not exist without giving. Giving is natural and is another aspect of the Divine. Just as a mother gives life to her child, freely offers milk and guidance through the years, so, we must learn to give of ourselves. In giving to others, without expectation, we are living our higher destiny.
On the spiritual level, when the higher comes forward, we are in tune with Truth. This occurs so we can be of service and give whatever is needed. For an example, look at the lives of the Servants of God. Each had a vocation and their life involved helping others reach higher. Some helped with sickness, others with guidance, or providing spiritual light to those who were in darkness.
Give to others, without expectation or indebtedness and you will discover who you are.
In my own case, I acted as if godliness was next to idleness. Most often I sought time away by myself to contemplate how spiritual I was. I truly believed salvation was to be found, away from others, meditating upon profound thoughts.
And when I traveled a little further, I realized ‘contemplating my navel’ was the antithesis of what the Path was about. As Saadi taught, so many years ago, “the Path is in human service. It is none other than this.” This is still true today.
When a hand is extended to help another, the human soul reaches toward the heavens. Service that is free of personal interest is one of the highest forms of human existence.
Grasshopper was sad and feeling sorry for himself. He thought no one liked him and when it came to picking grasses, he didn’t think he was as good as the other hoppers. All he ever got were the leftovers.
Grasshopper spent half the morning, sitting beside the road worrying about what a terrible life he had. Then along came Turtle. Turtle could tell in an instant what Grasshopper’s problem was and how to solve it.
Turtle called out, “If you’re tired of feeling blue, follow me and I’ll show you what to do!”
Grasshopper thought to himself, “Here’s Turtle sticking his shell into my business again. But what have I to loose? I just can’t shake these blues.”
At Turtle’s direction, the two friends began walking toward the meadow. Grasshopper had promised to do whatever Turtle said and not complain.
The meadow was alive with all kinds of creatures. Butterflies were flying. Bees were buzzing. Ants were crawling. What a wondrous sight to behold!
But these things just made Grasshopper sadder. Everyone was enjoying themselves and had something important to do except him.
After a time, Turtle and Grasshopper came upon a young hopper who was having a difficult time chewing through grasses and stacking them in a pack. One of the first lessons a young hopper learns is to identify six meadow grasses, stack them and bring them to his teacher.
As Turtle and Grasshopper continued to observe, the young fellow realized he was being watched. Without hesitation, he turned to Grasshopper and asked, “Will you help me?” Turtle nodded and in an instant Grasshopper was showing the young one how to identify, quickly chew through and stack grass.
In five minutes time, the young one had stacked his pack, thanked Grasshopper and was on his way to see his teacher.
As Turtle and Grasshopper continued walking, Grasshopper felt a little better. Somehow, by helping another, his blues were turned into smiles. Turtle saw this and said, “We are not done yet.”
So the two friends continued on. Rounding a bend in the road, Turtle and Grasshopper came upon some ants who were struggling to free one of their brothers. A branch had fallen and trapped him beneath a small limb. The branch was heavy and the ants were having a terrible time with it.
Without hesitation, Turtle and Grasshopper helped the ants lift. Quickly, the injured fellow was pulled from beneath the limb. While he was being nursed and carried off by the others, the leader thanked Turtle and Grasshopper for their help.
By this time, Grasshopper was hopping. He never felt better. He even began to sing. His sadness was completely gone.
Turtle looked at Grasshopper and said, “We are not done yet.”
Grasshopper wondered what Turtle was up to next. Grasshopper was happy, what else was there?
Turtle and Grasshopper continued walking for about an hour. Turtle walked very slowly and this got on Grasshopper’s nerves. Grasshopper felt like hopping, and if he knew were they were going, he could get there lickety-split. But no, Turtle wouldn’t tell Grasshopper anything. Everything with Turtle was always a mystery and Grasshopper had promised to do whatever Turtle said without complaining.
Then they came to a stream. Turtle told Grasshopper to lift some stones and make a path into the water with them. Every few inches or so Turtle and Grasshopper placed another stone. They must have laid out a dozen or so.
In the hot sun, this work took about two hours. Grasshopper saw no point in what they were doing. Who would benefit from this path, which seemed to go nowhere? It only went part of the way across the stream.
At one point, Grasshopper was very frustrated and about to ask Turtle what was the reason for this work, when Turtle remarked, “No questions until tonight.”
Finally they finished. As the two walked back toward Pond, Grasshopper was hot, tired and angry. He didn’t know why they worked so hard and couldn’t wait to give Turtle a piece of his mind.
That evening after dinner, as Turtle and Grasshopper sat outside Turtle’s burrow, he started to explain.
- “Often when we are feeling sorry for ourselves, it is best to find something to do. Activity is a cure for sadness. The best activity is to help another. This takes us out of ourselves and the helping energy is curative.
- Helping others, like the young hopper, is part of our social duty and is part of life in the Pond. Yet it is better to help before help is requested. This is the higher activity. Less indebtedness is created. Hence we helped the ants before they could ask.
- Finally a higher form of helping is when the one receiving help is unaware of the source. We placed those stones, so, young turtles could stand on them and catch silver minnows. They will think they are lucky to find this spot; never knowing what we did. Yet our energy is connected to this work and we benefit from it.”
As Grasshopper watched the night sky, he was at peace. He was not sad. In fact he never felt better. He realized, when we help others, we help ourselves.
Slowly he was beginning to understand.
About the author:
If you enjoyed this piece, check-out my new book Light on the Mountain; available on Amazon in paper back and Kindle. Go to www.bit.ly/bitkofflight.