What is the most important thing to remember on this path?
Remember that you are returning home. The early Sufis called this ‘safar dar watan’…your journey is towards your homeland. Do you feel at home here? Or do you feel that you are from another place?
At first, my journey is outward, through the country of myself–my thoughts, emotions, reactions, prejudices and assumptions. They seem quite real until I have observed them for a long time and then I see that they are empty. It is not enough to think this. The dissatisfaction must reach deep into the bones. Please understand, this is not a rejection of the world, it is for yourself, because you have been occupied with unworthy pursuits.
Later, the journey is through the landscape of the heart—objective feelings that emanate from your origin, guiding you home.
Can you remember yourself as the voyager? Can you remember the feeling of home? This is not just poetic metaphor. Each of us has this longing because we are truly a long way from home.
I become identified with this place, its beauty and its horror. I become invested in how things turn out. I become a part of the drama and that attracts my attention. My life becomes a story about me, my accomplishments and failures. A very minor story, and rather short after I account for all the repetition.
Where am I facing? I can know this by where my attention goes…what could be called my ‘attention default settings’. Where I place my attention—or where it goes automatically—turns me in the direction I am going. Attention is always the rudder.
To be in the work, I must be facing the nameless, the formless. I must have a nameless longing. That is where the impetus for this work comes from. Otherwise, I will be enmeshed in self-development and that leads nowhere. I must stop accumulating and start relinquishing, thereby retrieving net free attention for an assault on that unknown region which lies above the roof of the world. Suhrawardi called it ‘na-koja-abad’, the ‘country of nowhere’. If I analyze it, I will lose the thread. This is for the heart to follow.
Qur’anic verse (41:53) says: ‘We will show them Our signs on the horizon and within their selves until they know We are the Real’. How will you be able to lift your gaze to a far distant horizon? You could begin with objective observation of self, to ‘Know Thyself’, as recommended by that ancient Greek aphorism inscribed on the wall of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, according to Pausanias. This is not a pleasant intellectual learning. Rather, it is a crucifixion of conscience for which no forgiveness is quite enough. Perhaps you may then find the signs in your heart and on the horizon.