"The Spirit opens us to the third chamber of the heart, Mystery, Sirr. Its color is white and it belongs to intimacy with God. Sirr also means secret, and for the Sufis the greatest secret of creation is that we are one with God. In the chamber of Sirr you experience this secret inwardly and outwardly. Within your heart you are merged into the oneness of God in which there is nothing other than God. The duality of lover and Beloved has dissolved to reveal love's deeper truth:

" 'Whose beloved are You?'
I asked,
'You who are so
unbearably beautiful?'
'My own,' He replied,
'for I am one and alone
love, lover, and beloved
mirror, beauty, eye.'

"Our Beloved whom we have longed for is in our heart in such intimacy that there are no longer two, but one. We are with our Beloved in complete oneness. This is when the love affair becomes fulfilled, a fulfillment that is tangible, that lives inside of us with every breath — it is intimate, it is oneness, and it is love. It is so tender; He is our friend, our companion, our lover, and He is always with us. Even when we are left alone He is with us. It is a meeting, a merging of lovers such as we long for in sexual union, in which we forget our self completely: we die and are dissolved in love. And yet the intensity and sweetness of this inner meeting make sexual intimacy seem shallow. It is not a meeting of bodies, but a merging within the heart, within the substance of our own soul.

"There is a price to be paid for this experience of union, which the Sufis call the process of fana, the annihilation of the ego. The ego defines our sense of being separate, the 'I,' and mystics have long known that in order to reclaim our true oneness and divine nature the ego has to bow down and relinquish its control. It is the ego that separates lover and Beloved, as al-Hallaj affirms:

"Between me and You there lingers an 'it is I'
which torments me. . .
Ah! lift through mercy this 'it is I!' from
between us both!

"The price of love is our own self, which we pay with our tears and suffering. . . .

"Sufis say that until you swim in the ocean of unity you are not a real Sufi; you are just a traveler on the road of intent. You are on your way to being a Sufi. Only when this mystery has been awakened within you does the real transformation begin, not the transformation of the ego, but the transformation of the soul as it becomes infused with the deep knowing of the oneness of God. And this secret is a gift. With all of your efforts, your strivings, your longing and devotion, you could not find it. But when you are ready you are taken into this embrace, into this chamber within the heart. He whom you love takes you back to Himself, back to the primal oneness that belongs to every cell of creation. And it is a meeting of lovers, a merging into oneness, that gets deeper and deeper, more and more intoxicating, more and more complete. To quote the martyr of love's unity, al-Hallaj, 'I have become the One I love, and the One I love has become me!' "