The key points on the project of spiritual development describe a dynamic, very complete process that takes in every aspect of life. The discussion frame consists of four parts. An anonymous passage called The Many Forms of Fasting marks the beginning. Stories from Ibn Husayn Sulyami about ascetic Sufis who lived before there were Sufi orders set the context for understanding the ongoing evolution of Sufism. Excerpts from Kabir’s Living Presence include words a teacher of his wrote on the back of a napkin when asked while having a coffee in a diner what the work is aiming toward. Three Rumi quatrains–The Dog of Ego, To be Erased and Yourself without Yourself–are the fourth border for the conversation. The latter concisely package the Astringency and the Mercy of spiritual endeavors.
The spiritual practice of fasting has more than just a physical level of experience and the additional level is the most significant part. We ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, to feast on what the Beloved loves for us, and to fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.
A book on adab by Sulaymi from the earliest period of Sufism has stories about Sufis who lived before there were Sufi orders and who were mostly isolated, solitary, often wandering, ascetics. The focus is on self negation, a prerequisite for the unfolding of love.
After this early period, beginning around the twelfth century, a whole new energy entered Islamic spiritual life. It manifested in tekkes and zoweas. Ibn Arabi, as well as others in the thirteenth century, made this revelation more explicit than ever. The Sufi path is framed in terms of love.
Times and human conditions continue to change. Now we live in a world where more choices and possibilities are presented to human beings than ever before. This requires us to find some realistic and appropriate form of spirituality so we can go deep and be liberated from that from which we need to be liberated.
Passages from Living Presence describe how cultivating conscious awareness makes the difference between being nominally alive and being alive abundantly. Conscious awareness can develop all our faculties. The body-mind-and spirit ecology becomes an interconnected whole. When a harmonious relationship exists among all of these, we have abundant life. The first steps in this process may be intellectual. However, we must never forget that Reality or Truth is beyond anything we can say or formulate, and yet as human beings we can realize ourselves more completely if our ideas are in harmony with our possibilities. It may not be possible or necessary to say what Absolute Truth is, but truth for the human being is something like this. We are integral to the Truth not separate. Not a mere part, but integral. And we can experientially realize this.
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