‘How long will we fill our pockets like children with dirt and stones. Let the world go. Holding it, we never know ourselves, never are airborne.’ Rumi
There is a wild, sweet fierceness, both tough and tender that whispers awake a burning in the heart that will one day flame out and tear away the veil that parts us from who we truly are.
We are here for one thing, one thing alone, but distracted by so many others — what the Toltecs called the mitote in the mind — that whisper is lost in what the late poet John O’Donohue called ‘neon culture’.
Rumi again: ‘There is one thing in the world that you must never forget. If you were to forget everything else and remember this, then you would have nothing at all to worry about; but if you were to remember everything else and forget this, you would have done nothing with your life.’
As the Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee explains, the Sufi comes into this world to love and serve the divine and this destiny is stamped within the heart in fire:
‘We bring this purpose into the world, and when our heart is awakened we feel this need of the heart, this call of the soul.’
This moment of divine remembrance, or tauba, awakens the slumbering soul to its real purpose and the journey home begins, and it happens and can be completed while living in a body. To be lover, beloved and finally Love itself, and to know oneself as that in that, is the whole purpose of human incarnation.
All else, I see now, is distraction, game playing, and avoidance and that game will go on revolving over many lifetimes until the moment the divine spark is lit and tended.
But first, there is the long search in the outer world, all the games of power and control, success and failure, gain and loss. Spiritual teachers of the path repeat endlessly not to look ‘down and out’ into the world but ‘inwards and upwards’ towards the seat of the soul.
‘Keep doing the meditation!’ ‘God is simple, so simple, keep doing the meditation.’ It is the message initiates hear over and over again and for good reason. We are the lucky ones, but still need the teachers’ constant repetition of their simple instruction, just as we need to repeat the names of God endlessly.
And the rewards, bliss upon bliss, even at the beginning of the path, are almost unbelievable in their intensity and their beauty. What was looked for in the world for years is suddenly and magically available just there, in the one place you never thought to look, closer than a rose breath.
‘Subtle degrees of servitude and domination are what you know as love, but love is different, it arrives here complete, just like the moon in the window.’
Irina Tweedie, the Founder of the Golden Sufi Order, put it this way: ‘And so it came…..it tiptoed itself into my heart, silently, imperceptibly and I looked at it with wonder. It was a still, small trembling light blue flame, trembling softly. It had the infinite sweetness of a first love, like an offering of fragrant flowers with gentle hands, the heart full of stillness, and wonder, and peace.’
And yet the price is everything: ‘I would love to kiss you and the price of kissing you is my life.’
Only God can kiss you on the inside of your heart, it is said, but the kiss is only given when the heart is emptied of all that has gone before. The cup has to be emptied for the divine to place its gifts at the centre of your being.
How many of us are willing? To relinquish everything for something that cannot be seen and touched, an invisible lover who comes and goes as He wills, sometimes showing His infinite tenderness and mercy, and then the cold, hard face of love’s absence.
This nothingness, or emptiness, the Buddhist shunyata, is the terrifying non-being, the home of the mystic, out of which the manifest world is born. While we cling to people, places and things to avoid this no-thingness we remain the world’s playthings.
But what is discovered by those who make the journey back to ‘the root of the root of the self’, their own vital essence, is that this emptiness loves you with the intensity, tenderness, and sweetness that you have longed for all your life.
‘Heart be brave,’ counsels Rumi, ‘if you cannot bear grief go. Love’s glory is not a small thing. Come in if you are fearless, shudder and this is not your house.’
Most are either stumbling about in the world looking for they know not what, or blissfully or not so blissfully trapped in what the mystic Andrew Harvey calls stage two culture.
It is the place where the rewards and bribes of society are seductive enough to keep you there. It is the place of worldly success where your ego is stroked so beautifully that you can easily fall into a soporific slumber and never awaken.
It is where Rumi was, despite his spiritual advancement, before he met the wild, wandering Shams who claimed his heart and completely remade him through the agonising, heartbreaking, terrifying process of fana or annihilation.
But before all this, there needs to be something else.
If you know this world is not your home, that you are a visitor here, that nothing in this world satisfies or that life once did but no longer answers your needs, then perhaps you seek God as a living reality in the heart.
And if that is the case, and if Truth is more important to you than anything else, then you are a mystic in need of a revelation.
Sufism is the ancient wisdom and science of love, a science that cannot be known by the mind but is revealed in the heart as lover and beloved become one.
As we move into our own depths in nearness, intimacy and finally union with the Beloved we come home and the veil that separates us from our true self is finally torn down.
But first, there is longing, what one teacher called ‘the grace of suffering’. Why is suffering graceful? Because while we are content with the things of this world, the creation not the Creator, we will not be willing to suffer enough to have the divine experience.
Andrew Harvey recommends a good nervous breakdown somewhere in your 20s to push you out of the smug satisfactions that can keep you the victim of your own success.
Jung, said famously, that we do not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the unconscious conscious, by facing and integrating our shadow.
However, he added wryly, that way is painful and therefore not popular. And he is right. The world is now filled with seekers and teachers who do anything to bypass their own pain, their ego bobbing along on the sea of consciousness without deep roots into the unconscious.
But the work of the path is hard, what is within us has to be faced and what supports the aspirant is the love and support of the teacher, whether or not the teacher is in the body.
As Vaughan-Lee says, the work of the wayfarer is really the work of preparation, to empty the cup of oneself so it can be filled with the wine of divine love.
So the longing, the dissatisfaction with the world, probable guilt at not being happy with what you have, may well send you to the doctor, therapist or psychiatrist who will most likely misunderstand your spiritual crisis for a psychological problem and try and patch you up.
Don’t let them. In truth, what is happening is most likely outside their ken. It is the soul’s longing and final turning. It is God’s longing for you and we forget in our western arrogance and self-sufficiency, that finally, it is all God’s work.
The female mystic Rabia was asked by a pilgrim: ‘If I turn in penitence towards God, will he turn towards me?’
‘No, first he must look upon you, then you can turn towards Him.’
What we fail to see from the position of the separate self is that we are not the doer, rather we are the embodiment of life’s aliveness, and that our job is to return our life into the hands of the One who sent us here.
And as the veils part, what is seen is that we are that One. I first read this from TS Eliot on my 18th birthday in a copy of The Magus by John Fowles, given to me by a girl in my year I hardly knew, who died shortly afterward from cancer:
‘We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.’
It has taken me 30 years to begin to make real its truth.
Originally published at http://www.soulvision.co.uk.