There is a big idea is Sufism known as Nafs. Resistance to practice is entwined there. Nafs, in brief, are self-destruction. More gently put, they are the aspects of self that undermine core soul hungers of Self. They can show up as fear, doubt, or lack of self respect. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Sufi’
“There is a sickness worse than the risk of death and that’s forgetting what should never be forgotten…” –Mary Oliver
I am working with a new chanting. New to me. Otherwise, old as time. Its not important that anyone know what the word is. It’s a Sufi chant. Sufi chanting is called zhikr — remembrance.
My new chant surprises me because the part that is meaning — its literal translation — doesn’t touch the fullness of the experience. This chant must be right for me since, as I do it, I cross a threshold into the place I never want to forget, a place where I feel completely human yet safe and real. Most ordinary days, human-ness is a long string of vigilance and fear. I’m familiar with all that, inured to it. I seek the place where, like my time as an infant, I was held by my mother or father and they were vigilant for me. I was safe in their arms. They watched out for the wolf and bear, the snake and illness. Those killers. ‘Being held’ is a sweet flavor of giving up into the Moment. Yet the Moment requires surrender, letting yourself be held.
On the surface, the Moment could be any sort of temperature or condition; it could be painful, or it could be luscious. That, however, is just its surface. There is the inside of the Moment. The inside of the Moment is far more than being held and carried. It has a secret wisdom. (Not so secret if you get there but untouchable to most who stand on the outside of the glass window in life.) The importance of spiritual seeking is to find and touch, every day and in as many moments as possible, the inside of the Moment — not forgetting what should never be forgotten.
The inside of the Moment is a lamp in the dark, a vista that is boundless, is newness, is inspired existence, is non-separateness, is freedom, is spaciousness. It is soft like rabbit fur, and a perfect embrace. It is communion, knowing, contentment, and the end of bottomless want. It is the end of fear.
My night reading of Koran verses was surprisingly refreshing. I used to find them judgmental—all that ‘do the right thing or be in hell’—but with a new perusing and the leavening of age and experience, that they are right. They just are. The question is understanding what the ‘right thing’ is. Each sura drops a tiny clue in its bed of poetry to what a right thing is. Read more
In this picture a Teacher gives a water blessing to a Seeker.
A teacher begins as a person outside the self. In Sufi, the Teacher moves from intuition and is guided. Over time, the Teacher forges an internal guidance in the Seeker. We all strive to internalize Trust in Divine Guidance, Trust in Intuition.
That is the meaning of water—Intuition and Divine Guidance.
In retreat trainings, relief is always there. For everyone. Improved health is always there, spiritual growth is always there. For everyone. Beyond this basic healing, there is a range of benefit for participants and this has to do with individual propensity and intention. I see three general types show up at retreats—Passengers, Voyeurs, and Seekers. Passengers need contact with those embraced by Path, and will find healing. Voyeurs show up for drama, highs, or escapes; that can only go on for a short while before the process burns them out. There is a lot of ego there, and a tough road ahead.
Seekers find their hearts opening to the Path—that great gift feeling of ‘coming home’. These people are fortunate. They have inner certitude about their experience. Soon, however, they need to choose to gratefully, responsibly cultivate evolution. What does this look like? Arrive with good intention, participate with respect and fullness, then take care of yourself after trainings. Personal practice gives the transforming self time and sanctuary.
In striving for this, we grow to understand the embrace of Path.
Making the choice to remove the personal practice requirement prompted me to ask myself about my role as the Teacher of this work. If I’m not a spiritual mom or a police-person, who am I? My role is to cultivate and grow the transmission of Path I received from my Teacher, then transmit and ‘open’ the students working with me. The student’s role is to receive and cultivate the Path I transmit to her.
What is transmission in our Sufi Way? Transmission is like an infusion of electricity into one’s circuits. In Sufi, during training periods the Teacher prepares students for this infusion, modulates the energy as it pours out and through, then closes and soothes afterward. We all transform during this process. After training periods, the student must care for the lights ignited within. She must care for her emerging self. Personal practice fans the spark or flame the Teacher has ignited.
Post-retreat there is a tendency to go home and blow it. Blow all the money! As one friend says, “It’s easy to piss away all the energy built up in retreat, overworking, over committing, letting it leach away.” It is extremely unwise to squander the work done in training periods because this is dangerous to body and being. In retreat we fill our circuits and forge new tendrils, then these need to ‘set’. They need to cohere. If, after a training period, the we forget about or actively destroy the energy by not caring for our health, eating badly, getting into tumultuous relationships in work or life, then we not only undermine health and mental stability. We also damage spiritual capacity. We damage spiritual potential. We burn our circuits. You can do this a few times, but after a while the body being wears out. It’s like, How many times can your break your ankle in the same spot before it hardens?
I have lifted the requirement of daily practice from those in Intensive Training, but I still recommend daily practice—daily ‘remembrance’, as the Sufis call it. Remembrance of our Truth. I don’t want to police it, not because I’m lazy; I just think it isn’t serving the people who train with me. It puts the struggle for one’s Path outside the self, keeping the self from ‘growing up’, spiritually-speaking. Each of us has to recognize our resistance, our choices. We need to reflect on them and weigh them. No one can put you on your own center. If you want it—inner peace, authenticity, perception, solidity—you have to strive for it. Struggle for it. A child’s little legs must work. It’s best if I step aside there. Go head—have your own intimate self-dialogue about that.
Our questions: What is important to me? Where does real happiness come from? When do I feel most whole? If spiritual path is where we live in Truth, then a regular return to the Doorway is one of the most crucial stages of growth. Retreat training and personal practice open that Doorway. Over the years, I’ve personally come to rely on a brief but focused daily practice, thus my recommendation. I hope for us all that the heart will cry for it and land us in a quiet room, with closed eyes, breathing, moving, feeling the world beyond thought. I hope the practice calls us to it. Wouldn’t that be wonderful…But if not, well, what are you going to do about it?
This summer at Movement Monastery in New Mexico, I began speaking about the Sufi Path. This comes after years of not saying anything. I taught almost wordlessly. This summer, the need to speak about the Path came gushing through me. I felt like the statue of an angel, perpetually open-mouthed, a song flowing through emanating from Somewhere Else. I also realized that after 25 years, I have a great deal of knowledge, both theoretical and experiential.
At Monastery, I would wake in the morning and sit in a little garden at Synergia Ranch drinking my tea and writing. These formed the scaffold of talks with which I closed the morning session. I am slowly transcribing these and putting them on the blog. I think they will help some of us. I include here additional reflections I did not speak about at retreat.
Dancemeditation is like an atom. The inner core is Sufi Mysticism. Around that core orbits a layer of Somatics, and around these two orbits the outermost layer, Art. Though all three are vital realms of exploration, this year Sufism sent me straight into the Mystical Heart. We went into the energy—strong and deep. Oddly, talking about the Path was important. It balanced the time spent in the wordless, thought-free states.
Lisa Michaels, VP of Sacred Dance Guild interviews Dunya May 19, 2011.
The Sacred Dance Guild and Natural Rhythms offers an exciting tele-interview series focused on exploring the many ways people express spirituality in dance, hosted by life long dancer and current SDG Vice-President Lisa Michaels.