The Sufi Way

"The Sufi way is not a path of retreat from the world but a way of seeking the Divine while still actively engaged in the world. Engagement in the world provides opportunities for spiritual growth, opportunities to practice love, awareness, generosity, and nonattachment. The Sufi approach is summarized by Sheikh Muzaffer, a modern Sufi teacher: 'Keep your hands busy with your duties in this world, and your heart busy with God.'

"Our hearts have become frozen, armored against the pain and suffering we have all experienced in this world. With the help of a devoted teacher and sincere brothers and sisters along the path, we can defrost them.

"Love, service, and compassion help us reopen our hearts and comes closer to God. One of the greatest services we can perform is to help heal the injured hearts of others. Our hands are made to lift up those who have fallen, to wipe the tears of those who are suffering from the trials of this world. Sheikh Muzaffer also said, 'A kind word or glance softens your heart, and every hurtful word or act closes or hardens your heart.' "
Essential Sufism, edited by James Fadiman and Robert Frager

Seventy Thousand Veils

"There are, it is said, seventy thousand veils between ourselves and God. These are habits and ideas that prevent us from remembering and being aware of our direct connection with the Divine. Each time we pierce a veil, we come a little closer to our own spiritual center. Each time a painted image deludes us, we drift farther away from ourselves.

"The task before the Sufi is twofold: first, to develop the ability to recognize and remember the Truth; second, to help others to do the same. As one evolves, the two tasks merge and become, ultimately the same."
Essential Sufism, edited by James Fadiman and Robert Frager

Sufism: The Path of Love

"For many, Sufism is the path of love. To love others, to love the beauty of this world develops the capacity for love. The more we can love, the more we can love God. To love God is to know God.

"Many of us are afraid of love. We have been disappointed before, not only by our romantic loves but also by friends and family we have loved. We can become afraid to open up and love again. There is an old Turkish saying, 'The one who was burned by the soup blows on the yogurt.' Yet whatever our past hurts and fears of future pain, we must learn to love again. One of the most important functions of a teacher and a Sufi group of sincere seekers is to provide a safe place to risk loving.

"We also fear love because it may transform us. And it is so. For the true lover, the sense of self dissolves so that lover, love, and beloved become one. The ego is afraid of losing control, and even more afraid of dissolving, and comes up with reason after reason for refusing to let go, refusing to let ourselves love fully."
Essential Sufism, edited by James Fadiman and Robert Frager

Practice: Your Heart as a Sunflower

"As you go about your daily business, think of your heart as a sunflower that radiates light to everyone and everything you meet. Feel that you have a miniature sun in your chest. While your head and your mouth are busy with conversation, let the light from your heart touch and warm the heart of the other.

"Let your sunflower touch the sunflowers of everyone you meet. No matter who they are or what their personality is like, their heart is a sunflower just like yours, yearning for divine light."
Heart, Self & Soul: The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance and Harmony

All Is God

"Ibn Arabi explained these four levels. At the level of law (shariah), there is 'yours and mine.' That is, religious law guarantees individual rights and ethical relations between people. At the level of the Sufi path (tariqah), 'mine is yours and yours is mine.' The dervishes are expected to treat each other as brothers and sisters — to open their homes, their hearts, and their purses to each other. At the level of truth (haqiqa), there is 'no mine and no yours.' Advanced Sufis realize that all things come from God, that they are really only caretakers, and that they possess nothing. Those who realize truth have gone beyond attachment to possessions and externals in general, including fame and position. At the level of gnosis (marifa), there is 'no me and no you.' The individual realizes that all is God, that nothing and no one is separate from God. This is the ultimate goal of Sufism."
Heart, Self & Soul: The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance, and Harmony


"In our Western view of human nature, someone with 'heart' is one who feels deeply. The Sufi concept of heart is far richer and more complex. The heart is a divine temple found within the breast of everyone, made by God to house the spark of God within us. One of the foundations of Sufism is to cleanse and open the heart, to make the heart a fit temple for God's presence.

"If we remember that our hearts are divine temples, our sense of self and our whole psychology is transformed. From this perspective, we are not worldly creatures seeking the spiritual; we are spiritual beings seeking to discover our own true nature. What we truly are is to be found in our heart of hearts.

"If we remember that everyone's heart is a divine temple, then we will see everyone differently and behave with greater love and caring. After all, the holy temples of this world have been built by prophets and saints, but the temple of the heart was created by God. This image of others is the foundation of the Sufi practice of service. To remember to honor the heart in each person is a great discipline. We so often forget. But if we could remember, our lives and all our relationships would be transformed. A working Sufi community is, in part, designed to foster this remembering."
— Heart, Self & Soul: The Sufi Psychology of Growth, Balance, and Harmony

Reminder of Death: A Story

"Umar hired a man to remind him of death. Every day the man would come to him and say, 'O caliph, remember death. It is coming to you and to all of us.' One day, Umar called the man in and paid him his usual stipend along with a bonus. Umar said, 'Thank you for your service, but I will not be needing you any more.' Startled, the man asked if he had offended the caliph or done something wrong. 'No,' replied Umar, 'I do not need your services any more. This morning I found a white hair in my beard."
The Wisdom of Islam: An Introduction to The Living Experience of Islamic Belief and Practice

Reminder of Death: A Practice

"Medieval philosophers often kept a skull on their desks as a memento mori, a reminder of death. A computer screen saver can serve as a modern version. A picture of a deceased relative, of a casket or gravestone can serve as a reminder that we are only here for a limited time.

"For a week, make sure that you are reminded of death at least once a day. Notice how this reminder affects your daily attitudes and activities, and also how you feel at the end of the week."
The Wisdom of Islam: An Introduction to The Living Experience of Islamic Belief and Practice