‘God created man not by a word, which comes from Divine Wisdom, which itself comes from Divine Power, but by hand-shaping, which comes from Divine Love. Into the clay shaped by His hands, God breathed His spirit (sic) and the new-created being, Adam (in Hebrew: earth-made), came into life. Through the breath of God something was planted deep within the clay: man’s soul and the seeds of his future awakening. Upon this hidden entry within, an imprint was impressed, a memory of that experience at the beginning of time, an experience of the closest intimacy between man and God, a memory of sheer fulfilment.’
(Sara Sviri, The Taste of Hidden Things, The Golden Sufi Center Publishing, 1997. p.199)
Go you, sweep out the dwelling-room of your heart, prepare it to be the abode and home of the Beloved: when you go out He will come in. Within you, when you are free from self, He will show His Beauty. (Mahmûd Shabistarî, quoted by Bhatnagar, p. 118.)
The Sufi Meditation of the Heart
‘Emptying the mind, we create an inner space where we can become aware of the presence of the Beloved. He is always here but the mind, the emotions, and the outer world veil us from Him. He is the silent emptiness, and in order to experience Him we need to become silent. In meditation we give ourself back to Him, returning from the world of forms to the limitless ocean of love within the heart.
He reveals Himself to those who love Him, and it is always an act of grace. The work of the lover is to be waiting, always listening for His call. "Catching the divine hint" is an important Sufi practice in which we learn to be continually attentive to our Beloved in order to serve Him. But only too easily does the clamour of the world deafen us and the noise of our own mind distract us. In order to hear the guidance that comes from within, we need to attune ourself to the frequency of the heart and be sensitive to the still, small voice of the Self. We need to learn to focus our attention on the inner world and cultivate stillness. Shiblî tells a story of going to see the Sufi master, Nûrî, and seeing him sitting in meditation so motionless that not even one hair moved. He asked Nûrî, "From whom did you learn such deep meditation?" Nûrî replied, "I learned it from a cat waiting by a mouse hole. The cat was much stiller than I."
Meditation both takes us into the onenesss of love and prepares us for this experience. T.S. Eliot wisely remarked, "human kind cannot bear very much reality," and the tremendous experience of the eternal emptiness that lies beyond the mind and the ego can be terrifying. We are conditioned by the basic belief that we exist as an individual, separate entity. The ego is the center of our conscious awareness. In meditation we begin to glimpse a deeper truth, that the ego is an illusion and the outer world as insubstantial as a dream. In Shakespeare's words, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”
(This article was published in the book: The Experience of Meditation ed. by Jonathan Shear, 2006)