balancing on the edgeBismillahi Rahmani Raheem

If you feel as if you are living through uncertain, disturbing, hopeful, chaotic times, you’re not alone. Given the harsh economic demands, the frenzy of everyday life, the delusions of the prevailing culture, keeping our spiritual life alive requires not just intention but a passion for the Truth. It is that passion that will bring the consistent and deep practice, the deep remembrance and trust that will guide us to the Truth.

Recently, a national group of activists held a conference here in Santa Cruz on the theme of a Truth Emergency. Given the national corporate media, not only is reporting distorted, there is virtually a black-out of the major issues that should concern us. There seems to be a tragic failure of leadership.

I usually restrain myself from bringing up contemporary social or political matters, preferring to focus on the uplifting themes for our eternal souls, but I must admit that there are days when I consider whether we should be devoting a majority of our available time to working for social justice and sanity. And yet, to do the outer work without the inner work is to risk straying from our core, our integrity, our deeper alignment.

Spiritually speaking we are also in a Truth emergency. The fact that Barack Obama has to defend himself against accusations of being a Muslim is quite extraordinary. Imagine having to defend oneself against the charge of being a Jew, a Christian, or a Buddhist. Islam, a faith and way of life that we know to be generous, forgiving, hospitable, altruistic, and compassionate is commonly treated as if it were a force for evil. We live in a world of inverted values, a world in which the Lie seems to prevail. The Gnostics of 2000 years ago thought the world to be held under the power of an evil Demiurge, a false God. Though this is surely not the whole truth, we understand how they could have seen it that way. Humanity in many respects still seems to be in the dark ages. The varieties of human hypocrisy, delusion, and denial are quite impressive. That’s why we say la illaha il Allah. Finding the Truth requires work and sacrifice. We join the Prophet Muhammad in his prayer, O God, help me to see the Truth as the Truth and give me the blessing of following it. Help me to see falsehood as falsehood and give me the blessing of avoiding it.

One bit of good news is that the largest constituency in America and many parts of the world is becoming the group that has been called cultural creatives. This group is approximately 35% of the population and values social justice, ecological awareness, and consciousness. This group transcends many former distinctions and numbers more than those in the traditional ranks of evangelicals, secularists, old style leftists and conservatives, etc. But most of the time they think there are few who see the world as they do. Sufis are cultural creatives and we have a great contribution to make.

Prophets and revelations speak of salvation and faith; they must offer a message for the majority as well as for the mystics, Alhamdulillah. God’s intimate friends, the mystics, when they speak at all, speak of the joy of Intimacy with the Divine. Through all that has happened, especially since 9/11, we continue to be sustained by the Way of Mevlana — a way of beauty, community, tenderness, and depth. Having such a spiritual home to return to has been one of the greatest joys of our lives.

This joyful spiritual home is epitomized in the daily zhikr that we do: The Fatiha, 100 Estaughfrullah, 100 La illaha il Allah, 300 Allah, and 11 Hu. This zhikr, whether it is done slowly aloud, or quickly, silently with the mind alone, establishes a resonance, a hal (state), that carries through the day and deepens over years.

One beautiful ayat in the Qur’an reminds us to hold fast, all together, to the rope of God, and do not draw apart from one another [3:102].

This basic zhikr is such a rope. In addition, if we have learned the ritual prayer (salaah), not a day should pass without it. There is a hadith that says, The best spiritual practice is that which can be sustained. God does not tire unless you do. Furthermore, if you have been unable to build a practice of regular worship, you might begin with keeping yourself in a state of ablution. Ablution is the key to worship. God is the Most Merciful.

These are some practical tips and encouragement that we hope may be useful.

Take care of your soul, so that your soul can take care of you.

In friendship,