Learning to Remember

Oct 25, 2012 | Sufism

When I first started remembering, there was a fantastic initiation experience like nothing else I had ever experienced before. I felt something open and I “dropped” into a secret place in my being, that was not the chest, not the belly, but both and neither. It was very real. There was a miniature inner me that experienced a free-fall into an unfamiliar place, which I now know as the heart. Literally. My entire being held this memory as very sacred.

During the first 6 months in the tariqa all my remembrance was an effort to relive this state. I could never redo it. Never get it right. There was frustration, disappointment and resentment that clouded every session of remembrance. The sessions starting waning, the himma was reduced to naught. At some point, during a healing on some completely unrelated issue I was asked how much remembrance I practiced daily. None. The teacher talked me into confiding about the woeful fairy tale with my heart. It just won’t give me what I want. He guided me to wash this picture, because every day is a new way of connecting with the Divine. A new door, a new experience. I had to say yes to it. Yes to every flavor of love. That was an ‘aha’ moment for me. However, my heart was still sad. It was attached to the free-fall. The favorite flavor of my heart.

Luckily there was help, when I asked for it. This is how the washing, clearing letting go happened for me. Intention first. “Ya Allah, my beloved Lord, this is a beautiful picture, but I am ready to let it go. I ask you to take this picture from me.” Then I did the familiar trying to drop into my heart. The teacher guided me to witness this place of efforting and pushing. For a lot of us who are disconnected from our feelings, it is difficult in the beginning to single out an issue or a charged emotion. For me it helps to say, “I accept” before God.

“Ya Allah, I accept the place where I am efforting to get to a picture, which means love, mercy and acceptance for me.” The acceptance gives me permission to hold this place in my consciousness and not run away from it. Bull’s eye. This is the place where we did remembrance. Slow easy extended whisperings of the name Allaaah…Allaaah…..Allaaah. Once, twice …eleven times. I felt a disintegration of the charged emotion that was witnessing a wrongness in experience. In a few minutes it was gone completely and I felt a subtler, easier containment and connection with my heart. It was much softer and completely imperceptible to the pushing with which I had been leading in the last few months. Once the pushing was gone there was only heart. It was like a newborn. That is how gentle I had to be with it. It was not easy for me to be in this place of vulnerability. I could barely breathe and allow myself to experience this tender, subtle exhilaration at the same time. No wonder it is difficult to open our hearts. The blaming, the wrongness is a way to protect this holy place. I now understand how pulling for His love is also pushing away for Him.

During the last three years at UOS, I began with remembrance half an hour every day in the first year. That was the intention. Lets say I made it happen 3 to 4 days in a week. This was at my convenience, at no particular time. Later I started including the practice of the Shadhilliya wird. In second year I practiced remembrance before Fajr (the morning prayer) for an hour. Once again, it was the intention, perhaps in reality I didn’t practice strictly everyday. In third year, the practice became more deep set and part of my daily routine. If anything was off in my life, it was because I needed to remember, to heal, to wash and to walk.

I love my process and realize that this not getting it right is a pattern for me and the process works every time. I may substitute the divine name with Tawba (Astaghfirullah Al Adhim) or La ilaha Il Allah. But I believe in the washing of the veils, our false beliefs with Remembrance and that “it is in the Remembrance of Allah that hearts find rest. “ (Quran 28:13)