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.