• August 15, 2019

    When entering the hall of a great king, it is only necessary to remember one thing. That one thing may be humility, sincerity, loyalty or simply the need for the king’s presence, but whatever it is, it must be remembered fully, for it is your gift to him.

    Do not think it is necessary to be more than you are. What is asked is that you be who you are. In a world so fully dedicated to pretense, illusion and deception, there is nothing more powerful than this.

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  • August 6, 2019

    There are very few sacred spaces left on this earth, it seems to me. What is a sacred space? It’s a place where the veils of ordinary existence are thinner and it is more possible to engage and penetrate the subtle worlds of feeling and meaning which are so easily hidden by worldly engagement. The ancients built temples for this purpose, to create or shelter such valuable places where real prayer and invocation could occur.

    Perhaps you are aware of such a place. The question then is can you enter it? Can I pass through the doorway? Special efforts are required.

    This is why our zikr often begins with questions. Can I be here? Can I sense my body? Can I sense my breath? Can I relinquish my connection to the past, to the future, to any other place or time, or any relationship, other than to the zikr chamber and the circle of friends within it? If my attention remains intentionally or unintentionally on other times, places and people, I will not be able to pass through the narrow entrance.

    The way itself is very broad but the entranceway cannot accommodate any baggage. He who is within demands our full attention and presence.

    My entry is by way of humility, submission and apology for having forgotten. These are the secret keys that open the heart and show me where to step, even though I have broken my vows a thousand times.

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  • August 1, 2019

    When do I become visible to myself?

    Of course, observing myself in action, I see the identities that operate in me, that I have habitual reactions which carry me through most situations without the need or ability to change anything. When I look to see more, I do not see anything that resembles a permanent, cognizant self, able to be. There is attention and perhaps presence, the lights are on, but no one is home.

    Rumi in his discourse 14 says this very clearly…what is real in me is not visible to myself. “You cannot see the attributes of man: examine yourself and you will not find anything so you suppose yourself empty of [His attributes]. Yet it is not the case that you have changed from what you were, only these things are hidden in you, like water in the sea”.

    In the presence of other people, more possibilities arise. Someone may see me without prejudice, attentively, and then I may see more of my non habitual self. If another gives me space and uses attention impartially, I am given the gift of greater freedom to be. This is the transformative power of real listening.

    This is an important guide for my behaviour towards others. When the other does not impose their opinions of me, when their attention is open and spacious, something more of me may become evident, something not conditioned by my past that is more of my true nature. Alas, the other person may also reinforce my habitual self by expecting and seeing only that, and then my limitations are likely enhanced. Seeing this, what efforts must I make to be more open to others?

    There is another possibility. Can I turn towards God? Can I have the sense that I am seen by Him? By this I do not mean the god of the religions, who is a human construction. By this I mean my sense of relationship to a Universal Being, the all-pervading consciousness. Turning in this direction, I become visible to myself as a reflection of Him, having an endowment of some aspects of Himself which His presence naturally calls into being. I feel recognized and I see who I am and have always been.

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  • July 27, 2019

    One of the insights of this work form is that humans are largely repetitive and predictable, stimulated by externals. The challenge is to see this without judging or justifying, simply as fact and then perhaps with compassion. Ordinary struggle against habits—trying to prevent reactions because they are ‘wrong’, or defending them as ‘right’—does not seem to change them or lead to greater freedom.

    What does it mean to find freedom from the mechanical? Does it not mean that what we do can be done not as a habitual reaction but as an expression of love, compassion and joy? Perhaps freedom is not so much doing different things as it is doing things differently, making use of daily life to reveal the good in us. Preparing a meal, having a conversation face-to-face—these are the acts that have the potential to be liberated from our mechanical tendencies, where freedom can be found.

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  • July 21, 2019

    The marvel that is attention never ceases to amaze me.

    Do I have my own attention or would it be more correct to say that I participate in a wider attention which enters all sentient beings? When I am attentive to another, attention seems to tap them on the shoulder and we connect. When attention enters my seeing, I also feel seen as if entering into communication with what is perceived.

    Am I encapsulated in my own world, marshalling with effort my own attention on the world around me? Or do I move through a timeless sea of attention, something that surrounds and pervades the universe, connecting instantly to those for whom I am intended?

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  • July 3, 2019

    In our work, there is great emphasis on impartial observation of self. What is observed? Sensations, emotions, gestures of hands, face and voice, behaviors that arise habitually in reaction to what happens around us.

    This is not metaphysical, not observation of thinking but rather knowing my physical reactions, neither judging nor justifying them.

    As with any endeavor, this can become habituated too. I tend to observe the same things again and again. Of course, there is truth to this…we are repetitious creatures, creatures of habit. But perhaps it is also true that I need to look for the unexpected, the unknown states that escape attention.

    Could I suggest that you look for the sensation/emotion of covetousness? In my view, it is one of the strongest and most consequential of inner conditions but it is no longer commonly part of our vocabulary and moral compass as it once was as the 10th commandment of Moses.

    There seem to be two dimensions of this state. One is that I may be covetous, I want something that belongs to another…a skill, a possession, a relationship…it could be anything that brings enjoyment to another. Coveting is not simply wanting something for its own sake but also being willing to take from another…it is envy not only of the thing itself but also the enjoyment of it by another. In fact, the one who covets is governed by wanting what others have, not by inwardly searching for what is of value to himself. It is a kind of short cut to satisfaction that tries to mimic what others have discovered and achieved.

    The other dimension is experienced by the one whose possessions are coveted. A common reaction is to sense that something I have is causing another to be aware of what they do not have. Was my enjoyment too obvious? Can I diminish or hide my enjoyment, even deny it, so that others will not want what I have?

    It may be that covetousness is not part of your experience, in either dimension. Can you find out?

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