I was a hidden treasure and I longed to be known and so I created both worlds, the visible and the invisible, in order that My hidden treasure of generosity and lovingkindness would be known.
[Hadith Qudsi, The Knowing Heart]
Incarnation here in this visible earthly realm with its denseness and the frailty of our human condition brings particular challenges. There is much suffering, illness, limitation inherent in our lives. As I write our little dog, Meg, is dying. Can we uphold our suffering intentionally within the dignity of our humanity and allow generosity and lovingkindness to manifest through us?
Surely the Divine Reality dances through all if only we have eyes to see. That Oneness that suffuses All, that Beloved who permeates and connects us all, holding all to His /Her embrace. How can we resonate, attune, align more deeply with this ‘Heart Ravisher’ (Mathnawi III, 4600)?
Faith is surely this awareness that we are in relationship with the Divine as our dancing partner here and now, moment by moment, breath by breath. We are not separate. We are not alone. God is for us.
In the Living Presence glossary we find these words:
Service: Living with awareness of we-ness. The Functional outcome of being connected to Cosmic Energy.
Wow! Makes me stop and think! ‘The functional outcome of being connected to Cosmic Energy’!!!
Perhaps as we become more awake, more present, we can come to know our nafs/complexes more? Perhaps, even, distilling their raw energy in a sacred alchemy, we can increase the vibration of our own state, so entering more consciously a dynamic field of Love – of immense reciprocity – that seeks and cannot help itself flowing out into service, relationship and community.
You are water, but in a whirlpool and engulfed;
Come down among us, since we are outpouring torrents.
[Divani Shamsi Tabrizi 1536, Love’s Ripening]
I am just emerging from a time of intense service with little time for my spiritual practice. At times I despair – my meditation cushion sits in my room unused. I feel I am turning from one thing to the next with barely a moment for ‘myself’. . . I remember reading or hearing somewhere about someone who in intense periods of service would double down on their practice. This heart doesn’t manage that . . . I find I haven’t the strength to get up any earlier . . .
Rarely, when in presence, I can feel my response coming through me with almost nothing of ‘myself’ – it is a joy and I give thanks.
More often in these intense periods I struggle as I am not as I would like to be, and acknowledging this seems an important step. I try to stay in front of that gap between what I aspire to and what I can do. For years now I have been struggling to deeply understand the chapter in Living Presence on the ‘Alchemy of Effort’, on how to work with the denying force creatively – overwhelm and exhaustion, irritation and anger – the raw material for transformation.
Much of my work is attention to the small practical details of daily life – food to prepare, a kitchen to clear, guests to welcome, lighting a candle on the supper table, giving forethought to how to scaffold time creatively to meet everyone’s needs. Mostly unseen but a service nonetheless. Is my work conscious or am I on autopilot? If only I could attend with real presence to each moment of service, really knowing to the depths of my being Yeshua’s words:
Anything you did for one of my brothers here, however humble, you did for me.
[Gospel of Matthew 25: 40, The New English Bible]
Mostly I am not in presence and am constantly losing – and finding – myself, for I find that something brings me back, alhamdulillah: I find the invocation Ya Sabur enters my awareness spontaneously as I enter another negotiation; ‘Lord Have Mercy’/Estaufrullah as my foot falls on the stair; ‘Everywhere you look there is the face of God’ as I look around my kitchen and the grace and love and arguments that fill it! At night I wake with La ilaha il Allah on my breath and I feel immense gratitude for it all, knowing nothing can fall outside of God.
I can feel a sacred alchemy in my own being like the chickpea in the pot (Mathnawi III, 4159-211). Service can be an opportunity for dying before we die. Letting go of ‘my’ needs, wishes and aspirations – a profound kenosis, purifying the heart.
I emerge from these intense times with such joy and gratitude for the abundance of the blessings in my life. For an unfolding in Love, a sweet fragrance that I could never have imagined.
The Wheel turns and I am restored to a little more spaciousness; I can return to my meditation cushion and offer zhikr and contemplative prayer again, with a full heart joining with all you other dear hearts seeking union with our Rabb.
~ Emma opens her heart to both the Christian contemplative and Sufi paths. She lives in Bristol in England.