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Nasruddin was taking boats across the smuggling route from Indonesia to Christmas Island. Whenever he arrived on Christmas Island the authorities would be extremely suspicious because he always arrived in a shiny new boat. One particular border guard was Nasruddin’s nemesis – he made it a point to inconvenience Nasruddin as much as possible, searching every nook and cranny on every boat for asylum seekers, drugs, money, any smoking gun that would prove what he suspected – that Nasruddin was a smuggler. He never found anything except completely innocent cargo, and Nasruddin’s papers were always in order.

Years later, the same border guard had retired, and Nasruddin had moved on too. Nasruddin was working in a pub in Darwin when who should come in for a drink but the same border guard from Christmas Island. The border guard recognised Nasruddin, sidled up to him and asked ‘Ok, I’m retired now, you can tell me. It’s been eating me up. I know you were smuggling something back then, but you beat me – I could never work it out. What was it?’

Nasrudin smiled and said ‘I was smuggling boats’.

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Perhaps another way to think of Sufism is that it is industrial strength spiritual training. That means no one tells you what to do. You have a trainer (the Shaykh) who suggests and advises and counsels. The final arbiter is you: You are responsible for what you think, what you say, what you do. Sufism is adaptive, flexible and coherent. It is reasonable and moderate. It is not a religion. It is a way of helping you make better choices.

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Marrickville Zikrs!

Marrickville Zikr

7-9pm, 10 November 2011
Above the gallery at the Addison Road Centre, Marrickville (near Reverse Garbage)

Regular Sydney Zikrs are on their way! We are meeting on Thursday, 10 November at the Addison Road Centre, Marrickville for the first of what we hope will be monthly gatherings, for those in Sydney who have wanted to experience a Zikr but have been unable to make it up to the Woodford Centre in the Blue Mountains. If this is you, please call Muhyi (0432 397 694) or visit our contact page for more info!

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Getting Out of the Way

(from the book: Getting Out of the Way: Living Sufism by Shaykh Ibrahim Ansari)
-a sohbet is a spiritual discussion-

Sohbet 03-03-05
Getting Out of the Way
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”.
Rose: 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.

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Sufism Overview

Sufism Overview

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.
Is there a trick to be a Sufi? Some shortcuts? You bet!

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.”

I grew up during the 60s and 70s in the spiritual supermarket of the world: California. Every possible flavor of religion bubbled around me as I sought to understand the nature of God and me. Some practices were older than others. But to understand the California culture one must understand that it is continually re-inventing itself. The very nature of California: food, the movie industry and spiritual endeavors is to be the newest, fastest, most-grossing, magical, biggest, darkest, lightest – any superlative ranks here.
So when I “graduated” from my Jewish religious school at 15, I still had no idea of who or what God was. Everyone talked about God and made a big deal about it, but I didn’t get it. So I knocked at every door available for help in understanding this God idea. And being in California there were so many nice people willing to help me. Entering college I discovered the rare and occult book section and began an investigation into Atlantis, and then onto Lemuria, a trip to Mount Shasta (the purple aura power centre), and soon ended up in pyramids and flying saucer research.
From there I was led to the doors of various perceptions including gurus, ministers, charismatic’s, Masonics, Rosicrucian, and oddly manufactured cults of Chinese sutras with biblical fire passages. Don’t ask me to explain.
As I was growing up, I was also seriously studying piano and music composition. The idea of a teacher and student relationship was already formed by the time I was six years old. It was not always pleasant and joyful. There were many tears, but my piano teacher became renowned as a master instructor for concert pianists. At fifteen I made a choice that I wanted to become a composer and not take the concert pianist track. I wanted to learn my own music, not others. Of course everyone was disappointed, but it was something that helped me move forward in understanding my own heart.
From then on I began to get a small glimpse that there are several kinds of learning: one that is heart-directed, another that is teacher-directed, and a third that is ego-directed.
After twenty long years of seeking I finally found my Sufi teacher, Shaykh Taner al Ansari: someone who knew what they were talking about. What he said was applicable to living life appropriately. As regards defining Sufism – well, how do you understand a flower or the sky?
There is no linear understanding or teaching that makes sense to the heart.
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.

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Sufi Workshop

Sufi Workshop
How can we make better choices, improve our relationships and life in general? This is a very specific question that only you can answer. However, Sufism provides a framework of how to approach this problem.
The Sufi answer is: you are too much in the way. There’s too much “you” interfering with knowing better answers.
So perhaps the best question to explore is: What gets in the way?
Usually our internal and external pressures: friends, family, teachers, ‘shoulds’, regrets, etc.
How do we fight these pressures (nafs) and return to balance? The workshop focuses on these tools:

-witnessing our obstacles (being honest with yourself)
-observing our environment (what is behind you? What color is the building?)
-deduction (determining a possibility of truth from observation)
-intention (setting the purpose of an action)
-induction (listening to one’s heart)
-reflection (letting the observations seep and percolate)
-listening (a high art – very rare)

Practicing with these tools you will be better able to make better choices emotionally, spiritually, physically and perhaps even more happily.