Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Message Across Time for Today's World

What can always amaze me are the words from across the centuries that still hold tremendous power and meaning for those living today. Such is the message of Moinuddin Chishti, who left a beautiful discourse for his students a month before his death:

"Love all and hate none.
Mere talk of peace will avail you naught.
Mere talk of God and religion will not take you far.
Bring out all the latent powers of your being
and reveal the full magnificence of your immortal self."

"Be overflowing with peace and joy,
and scatter them wherever you are
and wherever you go."

"Be a blazing fire of truth,
be a beauteous blossom of love
and be a soothing balm of peace."

"With your spiritual light,
dispel the darkness of ignorance;
dissolve the clouds of discord and war
and spread goodwill, peace and harmony among the people."

"Never seek any help, charity, or favors
from anybody except God.
Never go to the courts of kings,
but never refuse to bless and help the needy and the poor,
the widow, and the orphan, if they come to your door."

"This is your mission, to serve the people....."

"Carry it out dutifully and courageously, so that I, as your Pir-O-Murshid,
may not be ashamed of any shortcomings on your part 
before the Almighty God and our holy predecessors
in the Silsila on the Day of Judgement."

This, to me, is a message as relevant to us today as it was in the 10th century. May his message find resonance in your heart as well.

A little background: The Chishti Sufi Order was founded circa 900 AD in the city of Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan. Abu Ishaq Shami was sent by his teacher from Syria to spread the Sufi message.

(If the last paragraph is confusing, a Pir-O-Murshid is usually the head of a Sufi order held in high esteem. He would intervene on behalf of his initiates on Judgement Day. The Silsila is the initiatic chain which stretches back in time from the living teacher back to the Prophet Muhammad.)

Monday, August 25, 2008


Many times we desire to create change in our lives, but often do not know how to begin, especially if we have particular habits that are deeply engrained.

Neuroscientists confirm that each time we repeat an action or thought, the groove in the brain corresponding to that action or thought deepens. This fact can serve us both positively (look both ways before you cross the street) or negatively ("I will never be able to...." fill in the blank).

Remarkably, scientists have discovered that our brains have neuroplasticity, which means that they are far more mutable than we have thought. This means we are able to influence physical change in the brain in response to our thoughts.

Shifting our thoughts from what we lack to being grateful for what we have is profound. From, The Art of Personality, Inayat Khan:

"Gratefulness in the character is like fragrance in the flower. A person, however learned and qualified in his life's work, in whom gratefulness is absent, is devoid of that beauty of character which makes personality fragrant. If we answer every little deed of kindness with appreciation, we develop in our nature the spirit of gratefulness..."

"There is much in life that we can be grateful for, in spite of all the difficulties and troubles of life. Sadi says, 'The sun and the moon and the rain and clouds, all are busy to prepare your food for you, and it is unfair indeed if you do not appreciate it in thanksgiving.'"

"...But little actions of kindness, which we receive from those around us, we can know, and we can be thankful if we want to be. In this way, man develops gratefulness in his nature, and expresses it in his thought, speech and action as an exquisite form of beauty."

I especially think this following section is important, in how we express our gratitude and how it may or may not be reflected back to us:

"As long as one weighs and measures and say, 'What I have done for you' and 'What have you done for me', 'How kind I have been to you' and "How good you have been to me',  one wastes one's time disputing over something which is inexpressible in words; besides, one closes by this that fountain of beauty which rises from the depth of one's heart. The first lesson that we can learn in the path of thankfulness is to forget absolutely what we do for another, and to remember only what the other person has done for us."

"Throughout the whole journey in the spiritual path, the main thing to be accomplished is the forgetting of our false ego, so that in this way we may arrive some day at the realization of that Being whom we call God."

So, be grateful every day. Say aloud five things you appreciate about your life every morning and evening. Express sincerely your gratitude towards others, to your beloved, your colleagues, your friends, your neighbors. Expect nothing in return (although I suspect this practice may garner a few smiles).

Then watch: the fountain of beauty which rises from the depths of our hearts, where we feel our deepest emotions, have sympathy for others, and where we can connect to the Universal Heart, see what perfume begins to permeate your being.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Transformative Practice

A while back I found a wonderful article on the effect of group meditation. About 4000 meditation practitioners went to Washington, DC, between June and July, 1993, to see if their efforts would be able to prevent violence for eight weeks during these warm summer months. The idea was to test whether their personal coherence, or balance, stability and harmony produced by their personal meditation practice, would translate over into community coherence. The protocol was very strictly set and followed.

As the number of participants increased over the test period, there was a direct correlation in the decrease of violent crime.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes:
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are actually powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, fabulous, gorgeous, talented? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You're playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that's within us. It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we automatically give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.
Cultivation of your own transformative practice is the means to having a direct impact not only on your own life, but of all those you touch in daily life. This is done in three steps:
  • Intention - before you sit to meditate, set an intention for a quality you want to cultivate. This may be done by a statement or a prayer. Energy will follow intention.
  • Attention - in Heart Rhythm Meditation, we initially put the focus on the heart and the breath. This easily creates physical coherence with practice and then informs our being on the levels of emotion, mind and spirit.
  • Repetition - Lather, rinse and repeat! The undoings of the patterns we have learned over the years may take some time to change. Gentle patience towards ourselves will let these qualities emerge, even as they are tested in the day to day realities of our world.
The great Sufi mystic Inayat Khan wrote: "It is mind which creates atmosphere. One often wonders why it is that one feels uncomfortable in the presence of someone without his having done any harm; or that one feels excited in the presence of someone, or that one gets out of tune, or tired, or confused in the presence of someone else. Why is it? It is the effect of the person's mind. The mind that is on fire creates fire in the atmosphere, and everyone within its atmosphere is burning, too, in the same fire. The mind which is restful and peaceful gives rest and peace to those who come within the atmosphere of the mind....It is the atmosphere that his presence creates: for no one can create an atmosphere which does not belong to his spirit."

I invite you to create an atmosphere filled with harmony and beauty and to let the inner workings of your heart touch every other heart you come into contact with today and everyday.