After a while in a recent latihan with four other women, my wife very clearly heard someone else – not one of the ladies in the room - join in, singing in a very melodic voice. She stopped her latihan and could still hear the mysterious voice and when she started her latihan again the ‘Heavenly’ singing continued and even seemed to grow in volume. She said that the beauty of the voice is something you cannot imagine.
This reminds me of a memorable incident that happened many years ago. Our brother Rusli was ill after suffering a stroke and was doing a special latihan with two other helpers; he was sitting on a chair as he could not walk at all. Another brother, Barney, walked in late and, observing the special latihan going on, was moved to join them. After a while, the newcomer, who has a deep baritone voice, started to sing and the moment he began, a very strange thing happened: Rusli got up and went through the entire routine of the Islamic worship. The moment Barney stopped singing Rusli fell back onto the chair, deeply touched by the experience.
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The Musical ‘Bible’
When I was young, my oriental father found a music book on the footpath. Thinking that the music notation was Hebrew, and referring to it as a Jewish Bible, he took it to his Jewish friend Johnny Goldner. Without embarrassing my dear dad, Johnny thanked him and explained that it was music and that he would give the book to his brother Frank, who was a bandleader. When dad laughingly shared this experience at the dinner table, we six children and my Australian mother had a good laugh with him.
Twenty five years later, as a new helper, I was asked to join in doing latihan with a young sister who had recently had a very sad experience in her life. One other experienced helper was present and the three of us started to do the latihan. Within minutes, this story of the 'Jewish Bible' from my childhood, bubbled up as though I was being told a joke as part of the latihan experience and there was this great urge to laugh loudly! But the whole scenario was one of tragedy and also the other helper was a rather serious person who even disapproved of noise in latihan. I knew the disapproval that laughter at this time would bring forth, so I squashed the laughter down, only to find that up came the story told as a joke once again and this time accompanied by body shaking roaring with suppressed laughter which I did not have the courage to
So, silently, I went through this delightfully funny half hour with Dad's sweet little experience being told to me over and over again in ever more amusing ways. It brought up a helpless, rolling-on-the-floor holding-my-sides, kind of laughter - all internalised which, if I'd been able to surrender and express, would have been very loud indeed. It was exhausting.
When we finally did our clearing/disconnecting latihan, it all burst out and this raucous laughter was easily heard in the next room, where the young lady we had just done latihan with was sitting. She knew who it was, and came to me afterwards saying something like, "If only that laughter could have accompanied my latihan".
Such a shame that I couldn't get past that need to be approved of.
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Mexican Hat Dance
‘Quiet Please’ in a recent edition of Reminders (see page 48) really made me laugh. I guess I could relate to it having done my first latihans with five very elderly ladies who took cushions into the latihan and sat on them to do their lathian while I was going through a sort of Mexican hat dance routine. They certainly gave me some startled looks afterwards. But somehow the way of the cushion was not for me.
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The ‘Peculiar’ Group
The recent 'Quiet Please' story reminded me of when I was staying in Alicante in Spain once, about 25 years ago. There were two groups there. One was known as the 'normal' group and the other - I was warned - was the 'peculiar' group. I felt very comfortable doing latihan in the first group but one day I decided to sample the other one too.
When I joined their latihan, I noticed that all the men stood in a circle while doing their latihan; no one moved out of the circle and they all had really quiet latihans. To my shock and horror I unexpectedly had this tremendously noisy latihan, screaming and shouting, while running around like a madman, criss-crossing through, in and outside 'the circle'. I was even moved to run into the corridor and the toilets. Total mayhem! I felt quite embarrassed afterwards and one of the members came up to me and asked how long I'd been in Subud. I never knew how to interpret his question!
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The Laundry (Match-Making) Service
The recent laundry story reminded me of what happened in the Rotterdam group in the sixties. A local Indonesian Subud sister asked Ibu what she could do to find a husband. Ibu's unexpected reply was that she should wash
Bapak's underpants. So she did. She went several times to the basement of the Subud house, where all the washing took place, to wash the items. Lo and behold, within a year she was married.
News spread about this miracle method for finding a husband, and two years later when Bapak visited Rotterdam again there was a queue of single
women lined up to wash Bapak's underpants. Unfortunately the miracle cure seemed to have lost its power because all of these dear sisters stayed single for many years. (Maybe it was because they weren't Indonesian...?)
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More Heavenly Music
The contribution about the writer’s wife who heard beautiful heavenly music in latihan triggered my memory about an experience my husband and I shared many years ago.
We were young Subud members then, eager to follow Bapak’s suggestion about fasting during the month of Ramadan. We had not had much experience of fasting as we did not come from Islamic families but we just did our best. After fasting for several weeks we decided to sit up late during one of the Nights of Power to pray and feel the sacredness of the month.
We lived in a very quiet suburban street and at about 2.00 am our three small children were fast asleep upstairs. As we sat together after a while we felt the atmosphere change and a cool peaceful force descended. Then we both heard the sound of beautiful distant choral singing which gradually came nearer to us. It was heavenly. We were astonished as there were no passing cars with radios playing and all was silent outside. We listened for few moments
while the singing continued and then it gradually faded away.
Although we have subsequently fasted during Ramadan for over 40
years we have never heard the heavenly choir again.
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Bapak, My Shepherd
After the Bali World Congress, my son went into a deep crisis.
Not long afterwards, back home in Australia, I sat down on the couch, my dog and cat lying on the floor next to me, and I thought, I can't take this anymore, and I felt myself sinking into depression.
Suddenly, both the dog and cat sat straight up and the three of us watched as Bapak came into the room, walked past us and then walked out. As he went past me I could feel my depression lift and I was able to get up and start the day. Also I seemed to be given more strength to cope with my son's crisis from then on.
I am not sure if I would have believed this experience except for the fact that my dog and cat both reacted the way that they did. They, too, were witness to it.
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After reading "Reminders" today, I was reminded of something rather unusual that happened back in the early '60's. I hadn't remembered it for years.
During this period John Bennett was publishing something called 'The Chronicle" I think. Anyway, I wrote an article about our cat and sent it to him. We were told that articles about the latihan were tested before publishing. To my surprise he did publish it and entitled it "The Latihan
We had a totally white cat with one blue eye and one green eye. And her name was Miss Priss. She liked to come into the ladies latihan that we held in our living room once a week. We never heard her come in, but we did hear her softly wheezing in her slightly asthmatic way, as she slept through the latihan. When we adjourned to the dining room afterwards for refreshments she followed us and had her dish of cream.
She used to love to lie in wait on the back veranda for luckless birds who came to feed on fallen fruit from our tree. Unfortunately for the birds she hardly ever missed.
Well, yes she was just being a cat, but she never missed her latihan either.
Late one afternoon, I was sitting on the veranda and Miss Priss was on the top step All was peaceful and then several birds flew onto the lawn right in front of her. I tensed up ready to grab her. But to my surprise she just watched them hop about and never made a move.
Nor did we ever see her attack a bird again.
About a year later we missed her and made a search of the house and grounds. We found her under her favorite flowering bush, where she had died in her sleep. We all hoped she had gone on to a better life.
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A Farewell Gift ?
Towards the end of his life my dear friend and brother Rusli had a truly remarkable experience that put away all doubts and speculation about
crossing the border when the time came. In his late seventies Rusli had
developed asthma and suffered much with breathing problems; towards the
end of his life it was not unusual for him to be rushed to the hospital when he
had a bad asthma attack. During one such time in hospital, on oxygen and linked up to all kinds of monitoring devices, he had this experience which he really believed was the end of his earthly life.
He felt his inner separate and sort of float away while retaining some control of where he was going. He said it was like a hovering helicopter. His wished to see his beloved country for the last time, and he zig-zagged all over the country until his insatiable curiosity took him to the war zone. As he was passing over this area a stray bullet went right through his neck area.
Next thing he was aware of was being back in the hospital still connected to all the gadgets, but his failing pulse had now picked up. His family were all there, reassured that he was back with them. He lived for another nine months after this experience.
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