Group invocation last night was such an extraordinary experience. I feel that we were taken to another place. Why is this not the main practice of our work together?
It is. In fourth way terms, what we are doing Thursday night is Objective Prayer, prayer that serves creation, which Sufis call zikr. This is the purpose and pinnacle of our work together. It also has personal benefit but that is the backwash from our invocation, not the purpose.
This is an experienced group. We have worked together for a long time. We did not start with Objective Prayer. We started with, and we continue with, work on self—attention, presence and observation of self. This is the work that makes it possible to invoke without aborting into personal spaces.
Do you know your state? Can you shift it to the state required for invocation? Can you attend to the unfolding of the invocation without interruption? This is what it means to be housebroken. You do not make a mess on the carpet. If you bring a personal state into zikr, the entire effect is lost. At the very least, you must attain a kind of receptive neutrality.
All of us need the preliminaries, always. Know where your attention is now. Be able to call it to the needs of the present moment.
Without the preliminaries, zikr easily turns subjective, even emotional and self-indulgent. This is not a practice for getting high or ecstatic, as some groups like to do. There is ecstasy at times but sobriety is always present, reflecting its purpose.
What about groups that do not have this prayer form?
For years I did not have it. The possibility emerged from my researches and work on self. We are not a particularly talented group. Our capacities are not unique. The laws governing Objective Prayer can be discovered, or perhaps I should say remembered. The form itself can vary in accordance with the different traditions which have recognized the importance of it.
There is always help for those who truly need it.