My adoration of black soul music and the sheer spirit of it, led me to want to sing it too, while accepting the limitations that told me I would never be an Aretha Franklin. Even so, I would have settled for Nancy Wilson, so I pursued Jazz ~ singing standards ~and was good at it, all thanks to the Latihan which, one day out of the blue, produced a voice I hadn't heard from myself before: one that had quality. True, I had a career as a painter and a calligrapher, but still there was this nagging tiny pearl of sadness that I could not be a full-on soul singer.
I decided one day in my mid-forties to try to hand off that sadness to God, hoping he would take it from me, and spoke out loud in my living-room one morning, rather unceremoniously and conversationally, to God, asking if we could just make a deal. The deal was, that if we get to come back in another life, could I please be born a Soul Singer. And indeed, with my surrender of that desire, I actually immediately felt lighter and glad.
Three weeks later, I wanted to hear some live music and remembered the Robert Cray band was coming to town, and so grabbed the 'Reader' and looked for the ad I remembered seeing.....when all of a sudden I heard a Voice say to me "Turn to the Musician Section, and Look under 'Vocalists' and Do it Now!" It was a command, and I was terrified! Even though I was an ok singer, I wanted to be better, wasn't even thinking about joining a band. So I wasn't in any hurry to take that 'Voice' I heard, seriously. well
I went back to work on the painting I was doing, and simultaneously thought, "Well, IF this is God's voice, are you really not gonna obey and look at the Vocalist ads?!" I had fantasized many times about joining a band but now, at age 45, I felt that was ridiculously too late to consider now. And I knew well that ads for singers came under several categories in the Musician ads...like under 'F' for female singer; 'S' for singer, and of course 'V' for Vocalists. I went straight to the Vocalist heading where there were five ads, the first four of which did not apply to me. The fifth and final ad read exactly: "Soul Singer sought to complete Vocal Group". I gasped !!
I did NOT want to call that number! Ten minutes later I did. It was answered on the third ring by a man. I didn't know what to say, so I said, "Um, I can't tell you why I'm calling this number, because I am not a soul singer." He asked, "Well, what kind of singer are you?" "Jazz", I answered. He said, "Well....you must be lookin at an old Reader, cuz we took that ad out three weeks ago." I saw this as my chance to hang up! I said, "Oh, okay, thank you". I heard no reply. "Hello?" I said. "NOT so fast!" he said, "we took that ad out 3 weeks ago because we got tired of rehearsing fools!" GREAT, I thought!! Just what I want to be. I am quiet. He pauses again and asks, "So what is it you like the most about singing?" My answer just flew out, "Harmony!" "Well", he replied, "that's just what we can't find in anybody. LOOK HERE! Are you available on June 29th?
I'm like WHAT?!!! You're crazy! "For what?" I asked. He said, "We do the Del Mar venue every year and I want that fourth voice . . . we're three, but I want four, so ARE you available or NOT?!!" kinda forcefully. I said, "I guess so".
"LOOK HERE!" he shot back, "Send us an up-tempo and a ballad on CD and if we like your sound, we'll send you some tracks.....be ready to perform them at rehearsal!" I'm totally freaked out now, and the Voice comes back, telling me, "Ask him what the name of the band is". "Oh by the way, what's the name of your band?" I say. He replied, " INNER VISION ".
Done! I joined and we did the Earth, Wind and Fire catalog, then moved to Las Vegas to sing for ten years, found true love along with it there, and sang Motown, Jazz & Soul to my heart's complete delight. God did not wait. Though they say, 'Wait on God'. Good to know God 'takes Requests'! And a very special proof of gifts from the Latihan.
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Subud For All The Wrong Reasons!
Many years ago I was a flight attendant and fell madly in love with an airline pilot. Mr. Pilot was notoriously commitment-phobic and, being young and infatuated, this aspect of his personality only drove me to find him even more alluring. I wanted him to move in with me … I even got him a kitten thinking that the presence of such a sweet little thing would be the perfect incentive to greet him on his return from his many trips overseas. But to no avail.
I’d only been in Subud about six years - tumultuous years full of changes as so often happens when one is first opened - but I got it into my head that if I could persuade Mr. Pilot to be opened too, it would all work out. Surprisingly enough, he agreed. He did his three months as a candidate and the helpers tested about his readiness.
I was so excited when the night of his opening arrived! I waited patiently by the telephone for his call, but I didn’t hear from him. I couldn’t understand it. The next morning, filled with anxiety, I rang the helper. Maybe Mr. Pilot hadn’t shown up? Perhaps he’d been called out on a sudden trip? But the helper said, “It was most extraordinary! Yes, he was here but when we started to do latihan he fled the room, slamming the door behind him, and we all heard his car burst into life and peel out of the parking lot as if he were being chased by demons.”
And that was that. I never spoke to Mr. Pilot again … but I kept his cat for many years. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he’s now retired and still single.
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‘Alarmed’ by God
Not long ago, I spent a lovely weekend with Subud brothers and sisters at a regional gathering in Wales. This coincided with a world latihan at 4 am, and we talked about whether to get up in the night for latihan or not. There was entertainment in the evening, but I was tired as I have had a lot of things to deal with in my personal life recently, so I went to bed early. I wasn't sure whether to get up for the world latihan or not, because I was pretty exhausted. So before I went to sleep, I did not set my alarm, but I asked Almighty God to wake me up in time for the 4 am latihan if I should attend. I slept very well, and then suddenly was wide awake. I looked at my clock. 3.43 am. It made me laugh! Almighty God obviously wanted me to do this latihan, and had woken me up just in time to have my quiet beforehand! And it was a much nicer way to wake up than by an alarm clock.
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In Touch with Time
I've always had a rather peculiar relationship with time - especially since joining Subud (1968) - but don't quite know what to make of it. For example, I came home the other day from a shopping expedition and absently wondered what the time was. Immediately I 'saw' 4.18pm in my head. I should explain that I never wear a watch and there are no clocks in the supermarket. After taking off my coat and
shoes and walking into the kitchen I saw it was 4.20pm - I guess it had taken about two minutes.
However, I seem to intuit times pretty regularly so it's become almost routine to such an extent that my wife, who is generally sceptical of any unexplained phenomena, regularly asks me the time (though, as I said, I never wear a watch). My dislike of watches began as a young man when my mother bought me one for a birthday - her way of trying to make me more punctual. Though telling her I was grateful the watch always felt uncomfortable and I was forever removing it absently and nearly lost it on many occasions. Eventually I left it off permanently and felt much happier. Though I've had to work to strict timetables all my life (as a teacher and musician, among other things) my lack of a timepiece has never been a problem - there's usually a clock somewhere near and most people wear them even if I don't. Though I've tried to put a watch back on my wrist on several occasions over the years my reaction has always been the same - it feels irritating and unnecessary. In fact I hate anything like jewellery or wrist bands on me. If knowing the time is essential at any point I put a watch in my pocket, but even then usually forget about it. Waking in the morning, to catch a plane or early appointment, I never need an alarm but just seem to wake on time. I seldom need to check the clock at the end of a latihan either.
I don't see any of this as a special skill or gift, it just happens, though seems to me developed along with other feelings through Subud. But I suppose, for a more rational explanation, it's just the body clock working. I live a pretty regular life, time-wise, and over the years this has become almost hard-wired into my system. The downside is when I have a late night (any time beyond 11pm) my intuition gets thrown off for a day or two.
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I would like to share with you an experience I had on the second and third night in hospital.
It was one of many when I couldn’t sleep! Lying in bed, a green mist suddenly appeared in front of me and standing in the mist was my mother who died in 1993, her brother, also dead and Sofia (Helena) Clifton who passed on about two or three years ago. They were calling and gesturing me to join them. There was a very loving and happy feeling from them as they did this. I told them that I would like to come with them but that my children were not old enough for me to join them yet. Gradually they disappeared.
Then on the next night the same three stood again in the green mist, but this time there was a large crowd with them! All seemed to be calling to me, and the pull felt quite strong. I then called for Bapak as I was feeling the latihan very strongly now. He came and stood in front of the crowd facing me, as well as Ibu Sumari, his second wife. She stepped forward and gently pushed me back to my bed, as by now I felt myself moving towards the waiting crowd. Ibu said, “It’s not your time yet” As she said this, Bapak beamed his wonderful smile, nodding his head and saying “Ya Ya” !
It’s good to know the enormity of God’s love for me during this time and although the body has suffered, the spiritual experience is one for which I am eternally grateful.
This experience was recorded in 2002 by our sister, Leonora Gold, following a hospital stay for a major heart operation. Sadly, she died a few years later during another heart operation.
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Not Quite Ready
I was lying in bed, probably half-asleep, when I became aware of a golden beam coming down quite slowly from above. It was cool and vibrant, and it felt as though it had come a long way. It descended vertically towards my head, and as it entered it produced a voice, calm and reassuring and it said: “Are you awake?” I gave a cautious “Yes,” and it went on: “Shall we begin the process?”
At this, my whole body began to vibrate very strongly. I tried to surrender, but it was too powerful. I tried to quell it, but that did not work either. After what felt like a long time the being who had spoken receded and the contact was broken.
I pondered for some time on this, and eventually decided to write to Ibu Rahayu about it, asking if this was something real or just the nafsus 'having a ball.' Ibu replied that No, it was a real spiritual experience, and that it constituted a test for me: How deep is your Surrender to Almighty God?
On the bottom line she wrote: “It seems from what you say that you are not quite ready for this.”
This experience was shared with a friend by our brother Sachlan North, who died in April 2015.
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In a dream, Jesus was standing in front of a large wooden table and the Disciples were sitting at the table listening to Jesus speak to me. I can't remember anything that Jesus said except the very last sentence “Keep trying - Just keep trying.”
When I woke up from the dream, I found myself sitting up in bed in a cold sweat.
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‘The Long Pilgrimage’
I have been doing the latihan for many years but without any spectacular experiences to report. Occasionally, a spontaneous latihan comes over me, usually in moments of quiet happiness, but there was one occasion when it did something useful.
I was in a public library, browsing under 149.3 (mysticism), and I noticed a book called ‘Long Pilgrimage’ by J.G. Bennett, about the life and teachings of the Shivapuri Baba. I was amazed at the picture on the cover which was supposedly the old guru at the age of 112, looking about 70 years younger. I was relatively new to Subud at the time, but I recognised Bennett's name, and there was a reference to Subud in the index.
Suddenly, a spontaneous latihan wrapped my arms around this book and pressed it against my heart. Even I was able to interpret this gesture. Of course I borrowed it, and soon afterwards I bought a copy, it being one of the best books I have ever read. This teaching provided me with the self-discipline that I always sensed was missing in Subud. I have read it many times, until I almost know it by heart, and for me it is the perfect companion to the practice of the latihan - but then, it was the latihan itself that first impressed its significance on me.
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