Rashad Carre is a French artist who grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. After studying Art and Design in the UK, he went on to produce drawings, paintings, sculptures, jewellery and furniture designs. He has recently published a book and has gone on to writing articles based on his philosophy of life and art which he considers should emphasise the feelings more than than that of conceptual art.
A Time To Be
by Rashad Carre
Forgive me, I need to start by explaining to Subud members who are more accustomed to the terms of ‘latihan‘ and ‘Bapak’ that I mean no disrespect in giving the following explanation. The words ‘Bapak’, like ‘Ibu’, are Indonesian terms widely used in the language to address anyone older or in a position of respect, be that person a government official, a parent, or a taxi driver. In its cultural context, Mr. is the correct and respectful translation of the term ‘Bapak’. Latihan, or exercise in English, is a term that never clearly describes what the Subud practice is, but ‘Bapak’, or Mr. Sumohadiwidjojo (his actual family name, which I would like to use in addressing an English speaking audience here) accepted the use of the terminology as a more simple way of sharing with non-Indonesian Subud members his explanations, as he has stated in one of his talks.
I just wanted to share how very grateful I am to have the Subud practice in my life. Having grown up in Wisma Subud, Jakarta, Indonesia, I saw how deeply it touched and changed people. How for some, the change within them was so strong that they had a spiritual crisis, and how for others they used it as a shield, or even a tool, to justify their criticisms and judgements. The practice is such a personal process of opening up and having one’s feelings revealed to oneself with immense honesty, that it can be very frightening. I’ve gone through a lot of that fear myself, and have had to learn, with time, to find the courage to trust what was evolving within me. This happened in stages, and each stage fluctuated as my life took different twists and turns.
What helped me was reading and listening to Mr. Sumohadiwidjojo’s explanations. His words helped me with the processes coursing through me. It really is true that often I would hear a detail of something he’d said which I hadn’t picked up, despite having listened to the same talk before. His words often confirm what I feel is going on in me, versus the more chaotic process of my thinking reflecting on it.
It’s been over thirty years since I joined Subud as an adult, and I’m still learning to trust more deeply the courage that helps me get through the hesitancy which arises during the practice. It’s like layers that peel away as I get more quiet within myself and trust the expression that comes with it. It’s funny to say, “get more quiet”, because what often happens during the actual practice is a louder singing that comes out. I suppose the process of quietening has to do with my feelings of expectation and apprehension, something Mr. Sumohadiwidjojo described as the wishing of the heart and mind, desires, or in Indonesian wording ‘nafsus’.
It’s hard, for me anyway, because the layers can be so subtle, making it difficult to be aware of them. Even wanting to be sincere and honest to the practice is, in itself, a wish or desire. So it really is about letting go of it all, but with purpose, not just a chaotic opening up or release of desires. I’ve suffered with suicidal depression since I was a teenager, due mainly to my obsessive thinking, and the inner battle to re-balance it. My thinking was so stubborn that I found it hard to be and to accept a calmer part of myself that actually brought me peace. It was also difficult for me to be aware of the signs of distress. I would get sucked into the sadness, frustration and anger by aggressively wanting to know why I was feeling that way. That’s something that the Subud practice has really been of help to me.
There’s a person I grew very fond of and for whom I have a lot of respect, and that is Mr. Sumohadiwidjojo’s eldest daughter, Ibu Rahayu. Her wisdom is so filled with a love that’s honest. When I was going through a serious depression, it was brought to her attention by my mother. Ibu Rahayu got the feeling to write directly to me, even though my mother was asking advice on how she and my father could help me. One of the things Ibu Rahayu said was that since I have the Subud practice, I should use it. I was doing the Subud practice but I didn’t really understand how to use it, as opposed to letting it ‘miraculously’ be part of my life.
Although I’ve been doing the Subud practice alone for the last nine years, the last few months have been trying. It has been a trying time for all of us, with a variety of different pressures and stresses. As the world news became more severe, a very selfish reflection came to me: Why should I care about the Covid virus? I live alone, estranged from my family, I have no dependents, and no one relies on me for anything. But I do care, and why? I don’t really know. I care about the concerns, the stresses, the real effects of this new virus and my part in it. I care how my actions or lack of actions contribute to the situation. I found myself becoming more and more frustrated, and sometimes outright angry, as I encountered people on the streets and in the supermarkets, who went about in such a callous way, yet clapping in support of the NHS. Then of course government statements and actions… it was really becoming overwhelming.
Then I began stating an intention, before doing the Subud practice. The intention was “God, please help me replace my anger, frustration and pain with God’s love.” The situation with regard to the public didn’t change, but my approach did. I paid less attention to the news and became less stubborn as I walked on the pavements or in the supermarket aisles. Instead of glaring or feeling the need to point things out, I found more creative ways of walking around. I kept a smile in my eyes now, peering over my mask, as I stepped out of the way, stopping to let people pass and choosing routes through the city that were less crowded. Amazingly people were saying thank you for these courtesies. I was also brought back to feeling more creative in my artwork. Maybe that’s what applying the advice, of using the Subud practice, is about. I’ve also noticed more clearly, during these last months, that if I’ve neglected to do the Subud practice more regularly, I grumble more, and my mind gets jumpy and stressed out.
What the practice does, somehow, is to put things into perspective. Just remembering that, throughout the day, helps me to re-centre myself. It helps to take pause of how I’m feeling while doing whatever I’m doing. It also helps me to try to be aware of where that feeling is sitting within me. There’s no tangible reason I can perceive as to why or how the process does what it does, but the effects are so clear. I’m also convinced that I wouldn’t be where I am now without the Subud practice in my life.
My suicidal urges were very strong. Even a month and a half in a psychiatric hospital didn’t help; it actually made things worse because of the lack of professional compassion. I would say all, bar one, of the staff lacked understanding of the patients’ feelings. Once, a student nurse, or observer, told me how surprised she was by my ability to communicate with other patients, especially those who have difficulty communicating. I replied that it wasn’t difficult. What one had to do was approach them with a quiet inner state where they feel safe and un-judged. I didn’t know who she really was, so I was confused to learn that a ‘professional’ would have to even ask such a question.
There was only one nurse, who worked the night shift, who had that capacity. I could feel it in him instinctively. When situations exploded and I had had multiple suicide attempts, I could see myself becoming paranoid; something I had never felt before, and it was scary. Then one night something became really clear in me, and that led to writing down all that had pushed me to that point of extreme panic. When I read it out to the ‘night nurse’ and burst out sobbing, he told me he was quite shocked by what I had experienced and asked me to consider sending a copy to the NHS complaints department. I was finally allowed to type a copy of what I had written, with the help of the ‘night nurse’. This resulted in immediate drastic changes. But I was no longer made to feel welcome.
It was clear that the safe space I was looking for in hospital was, not only undermined, but being overtly taken away from me. The last week I was there, my mother arrived to see me. She gave me her MP3 player with 20 or so of Mr. Sumohadiwidijojo’s talks and I listened to them a lot. Even when I was ordered to leave, and I finally found an apartment, I listened to them. When I was out walking, on the bus and before going to bed, I listened to them. I saw that if I relaxed and listened from that inner space of quiet, I could follow more and more easily what he was saying. I could see how he was always trying to simply help broaden the inner feelings.
It’s funny, because only while writing this article, did something in one of Mr. Sumohadiwidjojo’s talks I’ve listened to many times, come to my attention. It was the statement that, “…the latihan (Subud practice) is the nudging of the power of God throughout our daily activities. It is learning how to worship God in walking, in sitting, in laughing, in talking, in all the things we do every day. That is what Bapak means by the latihan kejiwaan of Subud. It’s being normal… to be simple, straightforward and to be conscious in everything we do, and to limit ourselves to what is needed. In fact, to be guided less by what we constantly think and wish for.”
Not everyone I grew up with joined Subud while others who did join, gave up the practice. So it wasn’t a given growing up in Wisma Subud, but for me I am so thankful to that inner conviction to join, and to have become aware of the benefits. I’m also grateful I found the courage to overcome the hesitancy to carry on with the practice. I know it’s up to me, but I pray to keep finding that courage in order to learn how to pay attention to the nudging that comes to me through the practice. I still get depressed, anxious, frustrated and emotional, but the ferocity of these feelings has waned. One could say that it’s simply what happens as one gets older, and maybe that’s true, but there are many older people who actually get worse; more cranky, aggressive and stubborn. It’s like asking what my life would be like if I didn’t join Subud and carry on with the practice – I can never know. What I do believe is that the Subud practice is what keeps me sane and feeling balanced.
Rashad Carre’s website: www.rashadcarre.com