Getting Out of the Way

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'Getting Out of the Way: Living Sufism' Cover

The way of the Dervish, now known as Sufi, has always been around. It really has no “start” date. Though often invisible, Sufism’s impact on every culture is profound and continues to evolve.
It’s practices change with the times and society. Since the beginning it has had various names and thousands of prophets and saints.

What is Sufism, and how does one apply to it our time?

The form of Sufism adapts to one’s understanding and capacity. Therefore it cannot be nailed down into a specific shape. With that in mind, we offer this book as an indicator of where the heart might find solace. Through essays, dialogues, commentaries, poems and stories you may catch a glimpse of The Beloved and learn how to use your spiritual net to capture the evanescent Presence.

Research – We’ll load you up with all kinds of materials: Books (lots of them), websites, places to go, people to see, things to do.
Reflection – Thinking is a lost art form. We’ll try and reboot that function.
Practice – Yep! Over and over we go.
Focus – A way to unify your vision.
Surrender – Don’t panic! We’ll talk about it. You don’t have to sell your house.
Practice – I told you!
Letting go – Getting out of the way. Dying before you die.
Practice – Again?!

Two shop owners approached a Sufi Shaykh (Guide of the Path) and asked to be admitted to the tariqa (school of Sufism). The Shaykh said, “I don’t think this is the path for you. It is too difficult for merchants.” They immediately replied, “No, Shaykh. We are very sincere and humble and wish to be Sufis.”
“All right,” said the Shaykh, “If that’s the case, take all your money and put it in a box and throw it off the pier.”

The two proprietors looked at each other, gulped and nodded. They then went back to their homes, found a box and put all their money into it, though a bit disturbed by the thought of losing all that money. However, they had said they were sincere, so they took the box of money to the pier. They stood there a while, considering: if they should, what they were doing, what if… and finally, tying a rope around the box, threw it into the lake, attaching the rope to one of the pier stanchions.
They returned to the Shaykh, but before they could speak he said, “Good. And now, throw the rope in.”

This book is constructed in the same organic manner as a flower. It is not consistent, predictable, or if it does have a point of view it will take the opposite very soon.
This is about THINKING, and LEARNING, and understanding that what lies before you is your teaching and is divine and has a purpose. Your job is to distill the purpose and get to the meaning and lesson.
We use material from students, discussions, and essays. Whatever you think God is, He/She/It/Them is much greater than that. It cannot be put into a book. But we can, through various methods of sharing, bring a lamp to guide us a little closer to knowing the divine.

Excerpt from Getting Out of The Way: Living Sufism by Shaykh Ibrahim Ansari

(a sohbet is a spiritual discussion)

Shaykh Ibrahim: Bismillah Rahman’r Rahim.  I’d like to discuss the idea of “getting out of the way”. What do you understand it to mean?

Suleiman: Acknowledging that Allah is the one really in control – it is not ME but HE.

Rose: Not to allow the ego to rule the situation. Be aware of our ego. Only Allah is in charge.

Stephanie: To allow passage.

Suleiman: To act for God, not just for myself.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Have any of you read the Tao Te Ching?

Rose: Yes. I like his poems, sounds like knowledge of Marifet to me and Confucius (or Lao Tzu) speaks of Shariat.

Suleiman: Yes, many times. A perfect tutorial about getting out of the way.

Shaykh Ibrahim: When it says “Do Nothing” it is saying to get out of the way and let Allah do His will through you.

Rose: Yes, no action. But sometimes I get confused about “do nothing /no action”.

Shaykh Ibrahim: No action for self, action only if Allah moves.

Stephanie: So you must remain present to do this, yes?

Shaykh Ibrahim: Yep.

Rose: An example?

Shaykh Ibrahim: Sometimes things come to your heart to say or do. You may not understand what it means, but it just happens, and it is absolutely right. That is No Action, Do Nothing.

Rose: Yes. Back to heart issue.

Suleiman: The heart is in contact with the “way”?

Stephanie: What about tests to show you are in the way stuff?

Shaykh Ibrahim: You are in the way almost all the time. When you are out of the way, you know it because everything is in a fluid state, and you feel safe and happy with Allah.

Suleiman: I find that when I approach that state, a great relief overcomes me.

Shaykh Ibrahim: There is rabita, Adab, and contentment.

Suleiman: Yes, a sort of light-heartedness. An openness.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Yes to all those ideas. So when you are feeling strong emotions, find a way to get out of the way. The nafs wants to get in the way.

Stephanie: Laughter is good!

Suleiman: Reminds me of the emotional/mental states that martial artists try to achieve.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Breath, laughter, zikr all good.

Rose: Shaykh, you mentioned when things come to our heart …it’s right. I have a good example now. Can I share?

Shaykh Ibrahim: Okay, Rose.

Rose: My heart has been telling me to keep away or do nothing with my “good friends” and I don’t understand why (with good friends). It says these people keep me occupied with their problems and not Allah.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Sometimes the feeling of being out of the way is like being in the still center of a tornado. There’s all this movement around you, but you are calm and present in this center. I’m sure it’s different for each person.

Stephanie: If friends call and you need to be with Allah. Can dealing with them be being with Allah? Even though it is difficult?

Shaykh Ibrahim: Yes.

Stephanie: Allah always.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Yes. You can’t really help anyone unless you are out of the way. Do any of you have other examples of being out of the way?

Suleiman: Meditation allows me to get close to that state of being out of the way.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Good.

Rose: I can only think of this: I was informed of a serious issue in my family and I panicked. Then I remembered Allah, and let it go. Let HIM take care of it and not worry. In time I will know the end result of this issue.

Stephanie: Me too. But at those moments breathing does the job.

Shaykh Ibrahim: It’s Allah’s world, Allah’s time, and Allah’s plans. Allah always wins.

Stephanie: How do we change our plans to meet Allah’s?

Shaykh Ibrahim: The smart person thinks, “Heck. If Allah is always the winner, I should be on the winning side. I’ll stop betting against the obvious.” Thus we end up where we started: Surrender is the key to getting out of the way. “I” give up trying to control the situation. Instead, I will listen to my heart, and remember Allah, and then I can’t lose. If the heart is happy, everyone wins.

Stephanie: Do you sometimes make a choice that mixes up the plan?

Shaykh Ibrahim: It is a continuous learning experience.

Suleiman: I screw up the plan by becoming too invested in the outcome of events.

Stephanie: It might just be a longer way to Allah at times.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Yes, it’s easy to become attached to what you put your energies into.

Suleiman: Interesting thought; I wonder if it just seems that way sometimes, as if Allah is further away.

Shaykh Ibrahim: The antidote for me is to ask myself, “What if Allah knocked on the door right now, and said, “it’s time to go!” I have to drop everything NOW. Could I do it?”

Suleiman: Ah yes! Excellent question. I’m writing that one down now.

Shaykh Ibrahim: One of the practices of being a Sufi is learning how to keep letting go.
And to practice it everyday. Because, y’know, someday… everything’s really gotta go.

Rose: Non-attachment to everything except Allah.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Here’s something for you to practice some day: Imagine this is your last 24 hours on earth alive. What will you do? What will you say? How will you act?

Suleiman: Ah yes, I remember that exercise from a couple of years ago.

Shaykh Ibrahim: And?

Suleiman: I was dismayed at how my last day started – too preoccupied. I just hoped I was doing zikr when the moment arrived.

Stephanie: Totally grateful and loving to all.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Actually, every day should be like that. Like it is your last.

Rose: I remember the Prophet (saw) said, “Pray to Allah as if you are going to die today”. I’m thinking what I’d do with only 24 hours left, what is my priority…

Shaykh Ibrahim: Right.

Stephanie: So if you are feeling frustration, is it different to Allah, acting on the frustration?

Shaykh Ibrahim: If you are feeling frustrated, it means there is an attempt to control a situation, because you did not get your way.

Stephanie: Ah. So watch and learn.

Shaykh Ibrahim: Feelings are indicators. Learn to read them accurately and honestly.
Feelings are neither good nor bad. Just read-outs of something occurring internally.

Risan Allah, Risan Rasulallah, Risan Piran, al Fatiha… Amin. May Allah give you much Love and Light and protect you from nafs and backbiting. Salaam Alaykum. Hu.