As a young kid, perhaps from the age of seven or eight years, I remember being drawn to places of worship, reading scripture and finding solitude as my preferred place of happiness. My prayers used to be long, immersed in some sort of ‘presence’, with my eyes closed and all other distractions mostly absent from the mind.
I think this experience lasted until I was sixteen or seventeen when I started appreciating the power of objective reasoning, especially through local socialist literature. I found it to be a great tool for dissecting ideas, making sense of the world around me, solving problems and paving the way forward. What I did not understand was that, like many other things, rational thinking is just a tool that can be destructive or constructive depending on how it is used. I started enjoying the brute force of logic just for the fun of challenging everyday folks and see them scrambling to defend their views. Religion, which is closely related to acceptance, intuition, receptivity, and gratitude, became a favorite target for me. In retrospect, I found a way to stoke my ego in those conversations; I became a bull in china shop, having no appreciation of subtle and finer things in life, destroying everything in my way just to feed the beast of my ego that kept growing.
In blind pursuit of endless reasoning, I lost track of the cross-roads and diversions on my way. While the details of my wandering off for almost twenty years are lengthy and perhaps not too relevant here, I think I just reduced my existence to servitude of my desires, and ended up having veils upon veils drawn on my heart with almost no hope left for redemption. That is, until I randomly ended up in a group meet up organized by the School of Sufi Teaching. It was very different from some other practices that I had done before. It proved to be a very effective way to temporarily withdraw from everything outwardly, and turn inward while just sitting in silence.
I have been with the group for a very short time, and in my journey so far, the personal transformation that I have experienced is nothing short of a miracle to me. What I am going to write next is mostly my aspirations rather than claims of achievement. Although, having these aspirations is quite an achievement in itself for me. With blessings, guidance, and a lot of support, I started building a connection with my inner self once again. The connection between the heart and the head started healing, and they started working in harmony. Or perhaps as Carl Jung might have said, I started the process of awakening and integrating my Anima. I started appreciating the importance of ‘adab’, a Sufi terminology loosely translated in English as ‘spiritual courtesy’. I started trying to be more patient, genuinely respectful, and polite to others. I started having strong urges to help others in any way I could, which sometimes involved significant financial and time commitment. The need to always be the smartest person in the room started diminishing gradually. Instead, the tendency to listen to others more attentively and empathetically, took over. I started off with a lot of questions, and reached to a point where I got answers but ‘forgot what the questions were’. First year or so was especially astounding as my personality, perspective and demeaner was changing faster than my ability to intellectually process the change.
Before, I had only heard about Alchemy but now experienced it directly from hands of the Master. And just like that, there were many other words that I had heard before but had no idea what it is like when they become lived experience. Love, Inclusion, Compassion, Gratitude, Receptivity, Forgiveness, Acceptance, Intuition, Humility, Kindness are to name a few. I think when these qualities start flowing effortlessly from one’s core, selfless service to others does not remain just a good thing to do; it becomes the way of life. One finds way to the beloved’s abode by serving everyone around. Active participation in life, full social engagement, and cultivating one’s talents become not only the mechanisms for discovery and evolution of the self but also a form of remembering the Lord in every breath as one attempts to practice aforementioned attributes in each interaction just to get closer to God.
I got a taste of compassion, forgiveness and kindness not just to others but to myself as well. I realized that my self-image is a mere psychological construct based on social conditioning. I had made myself believe in what I wanted to see and what I wanted others to see, not who I truly was. With daily practices, my personas/masks started wearing off, and it felt like seeing myself for the first time in broad daylight. I was much surprised and intimidated at the same time to see, for lack of a better word, my personal demons that I had hitherto successfully buried deep down, hidden away even from myself. Here again, there were various shades of my shallow pretentions, fear, jealousy, lust, greed, anger and vanity to name just a few. I was not the compassionate, selfless, holy, enlightened being that I used to subconsciously think of myself. I was a human being, made up and capable of opposites, and I had to acknowledge that. In other words, I had to step down from my mental pedestal, acknowledge where the stains are, clean ‘my own house’ first, and not just pretend but actually feel humble and truly suspend judgement for others.
I have reached from being obsessed with glossy titles, social approvals, fancy objects, and venerating just cold, hard logic to a state of contentment and inner bliss (well, at least some times) in eighteen short months and after just two brief meetings with Shaykh Hamid Hasan. In those meetings, our conversation was cordial but mostly casual. Yet, something deep inside starts shifting in his presence and even long afterwards. I am struggling to describe what it means to have a connection with him through silent meditation. If heart is the lotus that opens up to the divine mysteries, Shaykh Hamid Hasan is the Sun that nourishes it and shines on it to remove all veils and darkness.
I became ecstatic from just a sip of the wine (transmission) that was offered with great love, realized that I was actually the cup artfully designed just to hold the wine, aspired to become the whole vineyard, but found the utmost honor in being dust on way of the beloved. I wish to be nothing because as long as I am something, I cannot fully see the beloved. Being is the veil, and it seems to hinder my union with the object of my desire. I do not know if this is the path of Love, the way of the Sufi or teachings of Rumi; I just find my heart content, my soul joyful, my mind at peace, my inner and outer self in complete harmony with everything else around me, while longing in the heart is like constant music playing in the background that makes the journey worthwhile.
The road ahead is long, slippery and littered with traps of the ‘nafs’. I cannot imagine successfully proceeding even a step further without the blessings and guidance of my Shaykh. When I look at the arduous journey ahead, I feel dreadful at times. However, the hope of moving forward is much greater than the fear of falling back because the fear is based on my own weakness whereas the hope is based on the love, support and blessings of the Shaykh. After all, unless one considers sitting quietly (in meditation) a lot of work, I think I have travelled quite a bit by just sitting in the passenger seat and just enjoying the scenic view. As Jim Carrey said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”. I would just add that “I wish everybody could get a taste of the meditation on the heart so they can fully experience the joy of being human”.