"Mevlana Rumi, the inspiration of our Tradition, offers the following in a poem of his:

"Expanding Friendship

"Money and real estate occupy the body,
but all the heart wants is expanding friendship.

"A rose-garden without a friend is indeed a prison;
a prison with a friend becomes a rose-garden.

"If the pleasure of friendship did not exist,
there would be no reason for men or women to exist.

"A thorn from the friend's garden is worth more
than a thousand cypresses and lilies.

"Love sewed us securely together,
We owe nothing to the needle and thread.

"If the house of the world is dark,
Love will find a way to create windows.

"If the world is full of arrows and swords,
the Armorer of Love has fashioned our defense.

"Love itself describes its own perfection.
Listen and be speechless."
(Divani Shamsi Tabrizi, 1926)

"This kind of poetry grows in resonance over time. The more you read of it and of Rumi, the more bells go off in the heart and the more overtones you hear. There are some really important essential things expressed in this poem. Silence is not a lack of sounds. Silence is presence itself.

"In a Sufi circle one of our primary objectives has to do with opening up our inner life. This develops a capacity of the soul to sustain a certain kind of consciousness.

"That consciousness is not unlike what some call 'mindfulness.' We call it 'presence.' One dimension is becoming present to our own inner space and allowing the spaciousness to open up. That spaciousness is usually filled with a lot of content, thinking, emotion, desires, and distractions.

"We tend to focus on the content. We think we are the content. An inner voice making statements like 'I'm happy,' 'I'm sad,' 'I feel good about myself,' 'I feel terrible about myself,' is the typical content of our inner space. But what each of us essentially is, is not the content, but rather the context. Our essence is a frame of consciousness. It is a capacity for seeing and perception. Beyond any kind of belief or religion, there is the reality of opening up inner and outer consciousness.

"This process of mindfulness is more than a way to achieve stress reduction and relaxation as it has been and is being used in the corporate world, pop psychology, and academia. Mindfulness is just a first step.

"We're intending to awaken a capacity to see and to be present. Ultimately that capacity is going to lead to something quite extraordinary, aside from ourselves, aside from who we think we are. Ultimately it's going to lead to a relationship with what we could call 'Divine Guidance,' 'Wisdom,' and 'The Source of Cosmic Love' itself.

"It's said in our Tradition that the human heart is a threshold between two worlds. The threshold is between the limited material world and the infinite spiritual reality. The heart is the threshold. We should be on that threshold all the time, bridging these two worlds.

"When we live in that reality and are aware of that presence, we are in remembrance. It changes everything. We can realize that we are not just the content of our experience. We're also this beautiful context, which is divine and purposeful, guiding us stage by stage to deeper and deeper truth. Every stage of our life, if we're seekers, leads to a greater richness of meaning in our lives. Then we can be grateful even for the thorns because we know it has come from the Beloved.

"All the heart wants is expanding friendship. It is not the kind of friendship that is a social satisfaction and can even lead to dependency and attachment. Rather, it is the friendship of other conscious hearts, who are in that state of remembrance and in that state of coherence and resonance. That's what lifts and heals us."