The quickest path to Allah is through Love. The recognition of Allah is in the heart.  In Ayurveda, (Hindu art of healing) the heart is considered the most precious organ and the seat of human consciousness. The fourth chakra, the heart chakra-Anahata, is the powerful center of balance in love and peace. It is the center point above the three lower, world of matter chakras and  below the three, upper world of spiritual chakras. The heart chakra is the pivotal point between the material and spiritual worlds. Love is an emotion that steps into both the material and spiritual worlds. Love crosses all boundaries.

Working to cleanse the heart of pollution, veils, beliefs, unfound truths is the work involved in sufism, with the help of a True Shaykh, Inshallah. The pure heart is a reflection of the Truth, the pure heart is vast and open, the pure heart is unbiased and creative, the pure heart is not cankered with sores of hurt or resentment, the pure heart is love. From love, to love, with love.  This is the quickest way to Allah.

Inshallah, we may walk into our day filled with balance in love and Allah.

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Ar Rahman Ar Rahim

The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate. Allah’s Ar Rahman is the masculine mercy and Ar Rahim is Allah’s feminine compassion/mercy. To experience them seperately is a blessing, but to experience them together is utter balance to the heart and body. I can only compare the physical experience of Allah’s masculine and feminine mercy to yogasana. I have been away from Allah’s Rahim in my personal yoga practice for some time now and when I experienced it today it was as if I came home to a place that is soft and familiar. Lately I find myself practicing with the strength of Rahman. Day after day of sun salutations brings firmness to the body yet lacks in reflection of  steadiness and depth of the breath, alignment of the joints, and muscles that may be overworked or too soft. An example of Ar Rahman and Ar Rahim together in yogasana is the opening in the hips in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II).

The quadriceps and the hamstrings hold the legs in a wide stance supporting the spine to lift. The abdominal muscles also support the length in the spine by firmly engaging yet remaining soft enough to ecnourage nice, slow, deep breaths. The hips are now in a position to open and soften, knowing that the rest of the body is supporting their musculature while they let go into the pose. This attention to both the strong and the soft is where surrender in a yogasana is attained. It is pure bliss to measure how, in the physical body, we can be with Allah. Alahu Akbar! (Allah is Great!)

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Ya Latif

Al Latif–The Subtle One.

Looking within life’s subtleties are beautiful ways in which we can consciously live in order to become closer to Allah. The path to Allah is riddled with instances that we can be aware of His (Her/It’s)  presence and sometimes not be so aware. The subtleties of Allah are hidden within our perceptions and our perceptions can be veiled by not being aware of our five sences. The five sences are what we have to experience all of Allah’s beautiful names and attributes. Think about an instance that you are caught in fear, or anger, or any other strong emotion where you are not relaxed and present. Now can you remember the scent of the air, or feel the floor under your feet? If we are not conscious of what we are sensing then how can we be conscious of the subtlety that is Allah all around us.

Ya Wadud, Ya Wadud, Ya Wadud (O Love). If we can be Love, embody Love instead of embodying our naf’s (ego’s) whims then can we be aware of the subtle shiftings in each moment?

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Eid Mubarak!

Al Qawi, Al Matin–The Strong, Enduring One.

Doubt is a form of fear, fear of the Truth.  Doubt comes in many shapes and forms. Doubt is the nagging voice that whispers in your ear trying to counter the Truth as it comes to your heart. Shaytan and the nafs are good at sabotaging the inner certainty that we train to know. This Ramadan I have been shown with the help of my Shaykh and Shaykha how to  act with what we know is from Allah and not with what is from the nafs. For example, if someone angers me because they are speaking ill of another person because that person didn’t do ‘a good enough job’ I can see that this anger comes from Allah as this action is not pleasing to Allah. I would have no problem saying something like “That’s too bad that you had to correct someone else’s mistake, perhaps something distracted them from completing the job.”  But sometimes depending on the situation or the person it is more difficult to be forthright. Instances that I can think of that may bring up the nafs are being in a new situation with new people, being with someone that rubs you the wrong way, etc and so on. It seems to me that it shouldn’t matter how we feel about the person or situation if it means speaking the Truth. But it’s that doubt that sneaks in and says; “It’s not going to hurt anyone to turn the other way this one time”. It’s the nafs way of staying in the comfort zone. Every situation, of course, warrants reflection and discernment as to whether or not to act, speak or pray. In theory this sounds easy. But at different stages along the path we may become more self-conscious than other times, much like a teenager figuring out they’re way in the world, with their friends and with their family. The bottom line is that holding onto the rope of Allah means staying connected through your Shaykh and doing zikr and learning the names of Allah so that we can put out the right energy at the right time and in the right situation. So today as I reflect upon the lessons of this Ramadan I see the names Al Qawi Al Matin; The Strong and Enduring One. Recognizing Allah’s strength and His enduring nature within helps to stay firm in the Truth and encourages the strength to counter the doubt that sneaks into our consciousness. I repeat that now as a reminder to me and all of you for the sake and love of Allah to keep us firm and steadfast on His path.

Eid Mubarak!

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Ar Rahman-The Merciful

“You who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be mindful of God. Fast for a specific number of days, but if one of you is ill, or on a journey, on other days later. For those who can fast only with extreme difficulty, there is a way to compensate–feed a needy person. But if anyone does good of his own accord, it is better for him, and fasting is better for you, if you only knew. It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was revealed as a guidance for mankind, clear messages giving guidance and distinguishing between right and wrong. So any one of you who is present that month fast, and anyone who is ill or on a journey make up the lost days by fasting on other days. God wants ease for you, not hardship. He wants you to complete the prescribed period and to glorify Him for having guided you, so that you may be thankful.”                                                                                                        Qur’an II:183

Mercy, to be merciful, to truly be merciful is only with Allah. We can only be thankful for His Mercy. In seeing mercy, we are reminded of Allah. When we see actions that are contemptuous we can be reminded of nafs. Allah gives us chances to choose in every moment–nafs or Allah.

Ramadan is a time for remembrance of our connection with Allah. What gets in the way of this connection? Distractions. Distraction are of the inner and the outer. The inner distractions come from our nafs; our thoughts, our emotions, our feelings.–To have emotions is not distracting yet it’s when we get carried away in our emotions that we lose sight of our true goal and become lost in ourselves. The same goes for the outer distractions coming from dunya; the material world–things like food, water, clothing, money, etc and so on. These are necessary for living yet how much importance do we put on things?

Sometimes it isn’t until a life altering event occurs that one reflects upon the conditions of life and what is important and what is not important. I think back 14 years ago when my grandfather lay in a hospital bed–dying. At that time I was a young, married woman with a newborn baby. I had my whole life ahead of me and here was the man who helped raise me ready to release his last breath. What was important in that moment, my new shoes? I think back and try to remember if I wondered–Could I have loved him any more?

Ramadan is a time that we are given to practice being less distracted. We are given plenty of distractions such as hunger pains and deep thirst but what occurs despite the obstacles is the strengthening of will. Are we willing to slow down and reflect upon our relationship with Allah and to not be lured by our nafs and dunya. With the intention of fasting for the sake of Allah, Ramadan teaches us about our limitations, our strengths and how we can allow the blessings of this time to Love Allah more. We give up, we serve others and we smile for the sake of Allah. And we have tomorrow to do it again. We don’t need a life altering event to shake up how we interpret our life today. We have Allah’s mercy to be thankful for–and that in and of itself is a life altering event.

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Ya Hayy-Life

Life. The life breath is coursing through our bodies with every inhalation and every exhalation. Often breathing is taken for granted; in, out, in, out, pause, pause, in, out, in, out, in, out, pauuuuuusssssse. The rhythm of breathing is like this. If it were in, out, in, out; evenly paced and deep we would find our state of mind to be open, free, and more stable. However, as it were, breathing is quite sporadic, shallow and sometimes non-existent. The life force, chi, prana, energy, is governed by the breath. If breathing is sporadic the channels for this life force become stuck, congested, erratic, or in others unable to flow smoothly. Any number of emotions and physical sensations might cause this disruption in our breathing such as fear, anger, uncertainty, guilt, pain, illness. Any given day arouses a number of emotions that effect our breathing.

The zikr; Hayy, Hayy, Hayy, Hayy, Hayy, Hayy, Hayy, Hayy, Hayy out loud and repeatedly focuses on the exhalation. With every exhale we are letting go. Often that is exactly what we need to do when we are holding on to our emotions for dear life. Don’t we all need a little surrender from our fears, angers, frustrations, and maybe even our joys if they are preventing us from living with Allah fully.

Another zikr; Allah Hu brings balance. Inhale Allah, exhale Hu. It’s a very natural rhythm. I find that incorporating this breath pattern with Classic Yogic Pranayam techniques such as Ujayia very soothing. Tonight at our congregational zikr, Shaykh Kevin lead us through a breathing exercise focusing on the chakra points while breathing in Allah and exhaling Hu. Alhumdullilah for the opening the breath creates. May we always be conscious of Allah with every breath.

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Ramadan Mubarak

Peace and blessings as the second full day of Ramadan commences. I pray that our fasting of both the outer and inner are accepted and blessed. The inner fast is as important as the outer fast from food, water (drinks), and sexual relations. The inner fast encompasses the ability to avoid negativity and to stay focused on Allah at all times. May this intention remain throughout the year.


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Al Hakim-The Wise

Allah says in His Quran-i-Kerim over and over again statements like “To those who are mindful…”,  “for those who have understanding…” and “there are signs for those who use their reason…”.  My Shaykh says “We don’t want anybody to believe blindly.”

In order to love Allah as sufis we need to have a relationship with Allah. To have a relationship means to be steadfast in His reality, to comprehend His words and His examples, to see Allah in everything actively and not just conceptually. So when we read Quran, when we sit with our Shaykh and listen to his teachings about Allah, when we are in nature feeling the breeze and seeing the trees moving with the wind we are asked to comprehend and understand Allah. How do we do this? Contemplation. Allah is asking us to use our wisdom-Hakim. Contemplation is active. First we hear about something, we investigate it, study it, look at it from different angles and then we act with it and then it becomes a live manifestation of Allah. This manifestation is not just intellectual, but it is a love, an unconditional love, that we can share. What makes it unconditional is our intelligence; our ability to think, reason; understand and act with what we know.

Allah’s wisdom can be seen in our own bodies; every moment is a miracle. We are alive, the heart beats and is the vessel for circulating blood 1,000 times a day throughout our bodies without stopping, as well, the lungs continue to circulate and exchange gases without hesitation. This is reason enough to eat healthy and exercise. The more we know…

Allah Hu Akbar! Allah is great.

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Al Qabid-Constrictor: Al Basit-Expander

In sufism we are constantly trying to temper our nafs in order to hear Allah in our hearts. This play is much like training the physical body in yogasana. To maintain a yoga pose one must be both strong and relaxed. If there is too much one way or the other it overpowers and the pose is either rigid or floppy. Practicing yoga therefore becomes a discipline of strength and surrender. Take uttanasana (standing forward bend) for example. Bowing at the hips and folding over the legs requires the front of the body to endure with strong quadriceps and firm abdominal muscles to uphold the pose. Yet it also depends upon the back of the body– the hamstrings of the legs, the glutes, and the erector spinae of the back and all the smaller muscles along the spine and ribs to soften and relax to be able to deepen into the pose. When this fine balance of surrender and strength occur the pose welcomes well being to the body and mind. Some of the benefits of uttanasana include calming the nervous system, toning the kidneys and digestive system, it also encourages humility. Can this be achieved when we are fighting against the pose, forcing ourselves to get to what we think is a full stretch? Or being so passive that the torso hangs off of the legs like moss on a tree? We need that attention and awareness of the yin/yan of the pose to reap the benefits of it.

So how is dealing with our nafs any different? Our nafs are the part of us that want to push ourselves beyond our limits. Our nafs are the part of us that feel lazy and want to just do nothing. Our nafs are the opposite of Allah. But without them we wouldn’t have choices. Allah says in Quran i Kerim “There is no compulsion in religion”.  Allah is saying we are not forced to do anything. We can choose. We can choose to be lazy, we can choose to be led by the donkey or we can choose to see beyond our nafs and look for Allah everywhere we turn. Sometimes Allah may be guiding us to relax and take a nap. But we have to know the difference between when its from Allah and when its from our nafs. As sufis we want to move away from ignorance and move towards Ya Haqq-Truth. Ignorance is not recoginizing the trap of the nafs and Ya Haqq is seeing other points of view and surrendering.

So the question of the hour is “How do you tell the difference between what’s coming from your nafs and what’s coming from your heart?”

1)Guidance; it’s difficult to see for ourselves our own short comings, where we are being ignorant. There’s a story about a man who walks into a dark room and sees shadows in the corner. He screams snake, snake and runs out of the room. That same man now enters the room with a lantern and looks to the corner and sees not a snake, but a pile of rope. That light is the guide, the Shaykh, the Guru.

2) Practice; understanding that the true Shaykh knows your heart better than you. Heed his/her guidance and follow their example and do your assignments.

3)Be the observer-watch how you think, what you think and ask “Is this pleasing to Allah or not”? Choose accordingly.

4) Give yourself time to digest and absorb. Life is fast and busy. Beginning the day with prayer, yoga, breathing exercises help keep it all in perspective. Keep Allah in mind throughout the day; stop in the midst of the day to look up to the sky and see how vast Allah can be, take a few deep breaths and feel the life Allah has given to you or take a walk in nature to bring it all back to Ya Haqq.

Alhumdullilah. Thank you Allah for this opportunity to remember You and praise You. Forgive me for my incompleteness.

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Al Wadud-The Loving One

Al Wadud is the sole goal of the heart which seeks the love of Allah. But love is only possible if the lover is aware of the beloved, as well as the beauty and perfection of the beloved.

The Most Beautiful Names by Sheikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al Halveti

My Shaykh advises his students to “enjoy life-enjoy Allah in life”. I ponder moving through the day with such Allah consciousness that in enjoying life I am actually with Allah in every breathing moment. It’s possible to Love Allah with every one of our five, physical senses. When we are with our nafs we are only enjoying life based on desires, wants, and aversions. We are tethered and drawn here or there based on our animalistic intincts. One time, more than one time, I’ve craved a slice of pizza. The smell drew me in and the thought of the gooey cheese, the crispy crust, and sweet tomato sauce taunted me. When I finally sat down to eat it I was so unaware that I dug in furiously and burnt my tongue and mouth. Now I couldn’t taste that which I craved and desired so intensely. I lost interest in the pizza as soon as I couldn’t taste it anymore. This is what the nafs do, they overcome our senses, our critical thinking, and our common sense. Should we not eat pizza because of our nafs? No. We should eat the pizza without our taunting nafs and instead enjoy the pizza with Allah. It’s not food or objects of this world that distract us from being close to Allah it’s our perspective and how we interact with the world that draws our attention away from His beautiful essence. So, if we want to eat and be aware of our connection to Allah we are quite capable–with practice. I learned from my Shaykh that eating is sacred. We can sit down to a slice of pizza or any meal beginning with Bismillah ar Rahman ar Rahim, In the name of Allah the Compassionate the Merciful. With each bite, with every morsel– taste, truly taste what Allah provides for us. Food is Ar-Razaqq–Sustenance and Al Muquit–the Nourisher.

We have at least three times a day to practice enjoying life with Allah, Loving Allah. Alhumdullilah!  I think I will go have a snack with Allah. 🙂

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