• December 15, 2017

    Where were You, and where was I, when we had our meeting?” (Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi)

    Let us say that you have sincerely decided to invite God into your life. You wish to receive His visitations.

    Your room has a lot of furniture and your house is small. There is room for only a little bit of God. Over time, the relationship may empty your room and make additions to your house so that you can accommodate more of Him. The manner of His visits will then become more and more uniquely your own and less the script found in religion. He is most considerate to limit Himself to the expressions in which you are most able to recognize Him.

    Now, consider that you may also wish to visit Him, to enter His Life. You would need to relinquish your room, your house, your identity, your sense of self. It would be a journey requiring you to sacrifice past and future in order to enter His Presentness with all your attention, forsaking all others. This is zikr.

    You know who you are when you enter the zikr chamber. You know where you are, the street address, the ascending stairway, the carpet where you sit. Such a place does not yet have room for a meeting with Him. But soon, the journey begins and you are no longer in that place, not in the same time. Your address has changed and you are not yourself. If you were to look around you, you would be able to reconstruct the room you entered. But you have moved on. You have left your life. You are on the Way to Him. Invocation shapes the space which then corresponds to His inclination to express Himself. Your response is His Gift to you.

    According to Hadith, Allah says: “Take one step towards Me and I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards Me and I will come running towards you.”

    Where were You, and where was I, when we had our meeting? We met on the Way.

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  • January 28, 2017

    I have read that the higher forms of prayer lead to contemplation. My question is how prayer differs from contemplation.

    Do these words really mean anything to you? If they are just terms that you want to define, you will never understand them.

    Prayer and contemplation really refer to the same thing. They converge. They may begin with what appears to be a different view, in a different place, but they come together as they must because they refer to the same capacities that we have as humans, those same few capacities that we are able to exercise.

    To pray is to ask. I have things that I want. Very quickly, I learn the limitations of asking other people. I may therefore inwardly ask God or the Universe, someone or something I have heard or read about who is reportedly more powerful and more charitable than other humans. At first, I probably only ask for what I think will be pleasing to me or to others I have a connection to. But perhaps it may occur to me to consider, who am I asking? Over time, this may become a serious question.

    A serious question, one that I can ponder, always contains its own answer. Such a question gives rise to looking. As Rumi says: “The looking is a trace of what we are looking for.”

    Is someone really there to hear my prayer? Perhaps I may begin to wish for a relationship with this mysterious someone. This possible relationship may become more important to me than the satisfaction of my wants. Can I find in my inner experience those thoughts, sensations and feelings that inform me of this one that I seek? Can I find in myself the evidence of the other? By its effect on me, can the other be known? The qualities I adopt in order to bring me closer…do they not reflect the qualities of the one I seek?

    This is the secret of real prayer. I discover that the qualities of the one I seek are reflected in me. What I can know of Him is His trace in me. “Know Thyself” was the advice inscribed on the wall at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. More exactly, as Ibn Arabi says: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.”

    To contemplate is to hold. I have some experiences that are precious to me. I wish to enter these experiences fully, to contemplate them to the exclusion of all else. Can this be done? I find that I must learn how to relinquish the thoughts and sensations that are not the ones I wish for. I also find that perception and attention must become subtle enough to discern and hold the essential qualities of the experience I seek to immerse myself in. I discover that the sensations of my experience have a feeling behind them that I can access. In contemplation I reflect that feeling. Then I know it.

    Both prayer and contemplation relinquish the ordinary self I know in order to share in something greater. Both are made possible by the law of reflection.

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  • October 30, 2015

    In the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, His Endlessness is very remote and not very relevant to the experience of us mere mortals. You seem to have a different view.

    In this I have a Sufi view. The fundamental concern of Sufism is to remember your relationship to God. Most of us do not know that we have one. But this view is not incompatible with Gurdjieff. In His Absolute Nature, His Endlessness is totally beyond our knowing, as Gurdjieff says. But included in His Nature is the quality of Compassion. And so He takes a form in which you can relate to Him and know something of Him, in which He is closer to you than your jugular vein.

    This is His extraordinary generosity, that He is willing to limit Himself in order to appear within His Creation as…you. Because your essence is a reflection of Him, the only Being. And your existence is how He knows Himself, thereby fulfilling the aim of creation. You are essential to the existence of the universe.

    The famous Hadith of Mohammed (PBUH), speaking as God, says: “I was a hidden Treasure and I wished to be known so I created a world to which I made Myself known; then they knew Me.”

    In the beginning there was only Him and out of this was all else made. He had no form and there was no space or time, an inconceivable state before the big bang of the creative act.

    Perhaps it is just my limitation, but I do not agree with those Sufis who say that they know God and can unite with Him. What I can know is His Expression in me, which Sufis call Rabbi, Lord. Each Rabbi faithfully reflects each vassal because that is who we can recognize. Like is known by like. Therefore, as Ibn Arabi says: ”He who knows himself knows his Lord.” Knowing yourself remains the key and it leads to relationship.

    Is this just theory, idle speculation? Or can you experience that the universe is alive, that you are sensed and felt, seen by this other? Most of us live a self-centered life. If you place yourself at the center, if you are the seeker, the one who wishes to attain, you have separated yourself from many possibilities and you must now rely on yourself. Can you decenter, become the one who is sought, the one who is seen?

    To be present is to step outside false identities. But who are you present for?

    Why is the Creator always referred to as Him?

    Because in relationship to the Creator, we are all feminine.

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  • April 11, 2015

    Last night in zikr you said something about it being an encounter with yourself. Isn’t it about fana, the annihilation of self?

    Zikr is many things and it incorporates many possible points of view. It is not logical or linear. You have to find out what it is for you, not what it is supposed to be. Zikr is an invocation, a call to enter a relationship. Speaking of zikr, Ibn Arabi asks: “Where were you and where was I when we had our meeting?” It’s all about the meeting. What happens there is up to the two of you.

    Do you know where you are? Conceptually, you think you are in the zikr chamber in a certain building on a particular street. Your position is fixed by ideas and by your personality which is held together by fixed postures and muscle tensions along with the perpetual humming of one of your habitual emotions…you  have at least three or four…anxiety, disagreement, elation, greed…

    To change where you are, you must first relax the physical, release habitual tensions, become more fluid. Mind clears. Direct sensing becomes possible. Where are you? Sensing looks for orientation. There are the sensations of the body, of breathing, and there are other more subtle influences. The space around you has texture and movement, the turning of the planet, the radiation of stars? There is no need to speculate or itemize. You enter the present. Heart awakens, feelings are engaged that have no name. You have become human again. This is the first remembering, re-establishing what it is to be human, you remember yourself. This is where you are. The conceptual world is nowhere to be found.

    Now you must let go of the sense of being the center, cease to be the active one. Can you sense that you are seen? Does this naturally give rise to a feeling of humility? Do not be rushed. Can you agree to be experienced, recognized, accepted? Is there a feeling of intimacy in this contact? Who is it that recognizes you? Is this your Lord? What could this mean? There is nothing abstract in this feeling of being seen. There is nothing theoretical about this Lord. This is not the mentally constructed God of the religions. This Lord is unique to you, the pattern from which you were created. You were made in the exact image of this One. This is the second remembering, in which you are remembered.

    The repetition of zikr begins. Sound enters the body, circulation is altered, breath synchronizes and lengthens. Silence follows. Fikr, fikr-a-sirr. The molecules of the body, mind and heart are newly ordered, formed as a key for a lock which opens another chamber in this house of many mansions, where your Lord may be worshipped and honored and glorified in all the ways that He has devised in order to share Himself with you. You are entering a co-dependent relationship. Because you exist and turn in His direction, He may experience His own splendor in your response to Him. The adoration is mutual. You have entered Suhrawardi’s NakojaAbad, the Country of Nowhere. This is where you are.

    I have said, in my response to you, that my Lord is He. Do not let pronouns disturb you. The conscious universe takes form in every being and finds itself in every possible human expression including genders beyond our knowing. In this hall of mirrors, no one else exists.

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