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Principles of Sufism is a quarterly column with inspirational words of wisdom from the Executive Editor of Sufism: An Inquiry, Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha.

Religion and Non-Violence
From Vol. 8, No. 3

Sufism and Universal Harmony
From Vol. 9, No. 1

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The various articles presented
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Meditation

From Vol. 8, No. 2

When we hear or think of meditation, we commonly imagine a practice where one sits in a quiet place in a peaceful state of mind. The goals of meditation that come immediately are likewise very general: to free one's self from the heavy burden of everyday living; to get in touch with one's true self, whatever that may be. This common understanding of meditation embraces, of course, many different practices. Such a process, which has been a dominant characteristic of a major part of spiritual practices today, is indeed a positive practice, but is not what Sufism has in mind.

In Sufism, the law of meditation follows the essential rule of self discovery, and that is when a seeker is attracted and attuned towards the Divine, Allah, all of his or her meditative energies are concentrated and focused towards Allah. One will find peacefulness and freedom in Sufism meditation, but this is not its only goal. Instead, the goal is to gain the knowledge that enables one to understand Allah, the Divine, the All Knowing, All Embracing, Merciful and Compassionate. Meditation in Sufism involves several steps; one must collect his or her energies from the outside world and gradually learn to focus them in the center of the heart. To find this point in the heart is essential as not many are aware of the existence of this center, and not any point in the heart will take one to this favorable destination. This is the point where heaven and earth, body and soul meet, and the material transforms into the spiritual. Sufi meditation is directed towards the heart since the heart is the center and the seat of love and divine inspiration, and the heart does not falsify that which it sees.

We all are different, and so we have different attractions towards different directions of the outside world. There are many waves that connect us to the outer world surrounding us, that allow communication between the individual and the outer world. We are attracted and busy with our work, our daily routines, our families, and our immediate environment. In these interactions, we receive energies, we exchange energies, and thus we also lose energies. Through our constant interaction with the celestial waves around us, the rays of the sun, the electromagnetic waves of the galaxies, and more, we are part of a continuity, always exchanging energy and information.

In Sufi meditation, a seeker will learn how to take hold of his or her energies from all these lines of communication and collect them from the outside to direct them to the center of the heart. This process is truly an esoteric one, and, as such, is not open to the marketplace of religion; and for good reason, it was never meant for public appeal. Sufis have guarded all these steps, keeping them hidden from the hands of others who would inevitably misuse them. So, you, as a seeker, must be careful. If you seek the way of Sufism, you must be especially careful that what you are seeking is indeed Sufism, and not something that merely claims the name of Sufism.

As we grow into adulthood we also grow more and more intimately acquainted with the outside world, to the point that the outside world becomes more familiar to us than our own being. Many chains of attractions pull us in different directions, leaving us with the sense of being torn apart. We become less and less aware of ourselves, of our own being.

In Sufi Meditation, the first step that one takes is to become acquainted with and aware of one's self, of the being within. Without finding that central point within yourself, you will not be able to become a center to receive, and there can be no substitute for the actuality of the center of one's being. Yet, this is not enough. Becoming a center to receive does not suffice for the pursuit of the understanding of Sufism, for a Sufi does not seek to become a center open to receiving everything. Instead, through discipline the Sufi seeks attunement for receiving selected waves; in this case, spiritual or Divine energy. I usually give a simple exercise so seekers may see

if they are as familiar with their own being, even their physical beings, as they are with the outside world, of other beings and things. I ask them to close their eyes for a moment to try to see their own faces as accurately as they can. Many find it hard to see their own faces as they are, no matter how often they have looked in the mirror to reassure themselves of their existence. Of course, we cannot seeour own face, only mirrored reflections. In this practice, it usually takes us a while before we are able to see our own faces. It takes a little longer for some of us, and many are simply unable to see themselves this way,

through a mental image of what is so seemingly familiar. We learn that we are not as familiar with our own beings as we thought we were, and also that it may take us a while to gather our energy and become concentrated and focused, even upon the familiar.

Collecting your energy is essential to spiritual practice but is not always easy. Only a Teacher can guide you towards such a simple yet impossible journey.

In the practice of Sufism, you should be able to concentrate your energies and try to be present at heart, as the Prophet (swa) said: your Salat, your Prayer, requires your presence in your heart. Being present in your heart is the first step of meditation, collecting your own energy from without and concentrating it within.

Thus, in meditation you learn how to take back your energies from the outside, and collect and concentrate them towards a point in your heart. And you must remember nothing is fruitful unless guided by a teacher, and not just any kind of teacher. The next step of meditation or the second level is a journey from the self to the inner heart. This journey or level of meditation begins from your self, or your physical being, and is directed towards your inner self. In other words, you collect and gather your energies from the outer self, towards your being, and then direct your concentrated energy direct them towards your heart. It is there where you will be able to witness Divine inspiration, as stated in the Qur'an: the heart does not falsify that which it sees.

This step is easier, for concentrating in your heart and directing your energies towards the center of your heart is easier than reclaiming and collecting your energies from the outside world into which they have been dispersed. Many spiritual seekers may stop at the first level, the step of gathering from outside their own energies. Others may get halfway, gathering their energies from one place but then redirecting them outwards toward some other, external locus.

Meditation has levels and stages. One needs a guide to be able to take the steps of meditation. The potentiality, desires, demands, and attractions of a seeker will determine the teacher that he or she will find along the way. As like attracts like, and the birds of the same feathers fly together, you will find your own guide. If your guide will not take you to a spiritual and divine destination, then you may need to undertake purification; to purify your desires and demands.

If you are searching for Divinity, remember that the Divine inspiration and revelation will ascend to the heart of the most pure; as the Qur'an reads: the Book guides the pure ones. You must take the step toward your own being; searching within the external world will not take you to any understanding of the Divine, but instead will take you to the marketplace of religion and to its participants.

When relying on meditation, you need to always remember the goal of such meditation. Relaxation is a different goal than Divine inspiration. The latter requires a different intention, a readiness, devotion, and inspiration.

Relay on Allah, as ultimately it is the Divine who guides one towards Divinity.