The Secret is in the Love

Perhaps you’ve heard it before. It’s about seeing God in others and in yourself. It is mentioned in all major religions. Though I have read it in several holy books, I will quote a song I learned when I was a child. “Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God because God is love. Let us love one another, beloved.”. In more ways than one, easier said than done.

The question I always had was: How can I love another if I am not truly loving myself? Although we love ourselves, it seems that we have been conditioned to demonstrate more compassion for others than for ourselves. How could I possibly believe such a thing? Take a moment to recall a time when someone you cared for, or even someone you knew, but weren’t close to, expressed their feelings to you. Someone is disappointed, maybe even heartbroken, and they come to you. Or perhaps they don’t come to you, but you hear their pain and you encourage them, you say kind words, you point out their qualities, maybe reminding them of how brilliant and smart they are? If one of my kids calls themselves stupid for failing at something, I immediately remind them that they are not stupid, and we all make mistakes. We all make mistakes, and mistakes are part of what makes us learn and succeed. Anybody who loves, cares, or has a decent bone in their body would say that, wouldn’t they? How do we handle failure? What happens when we screw up?

As I was reading Music of the Soul by Sidi this week (I’ll upload the link at the bottom), I was reminded that for some strange reason we are more likely to show love and compassion to others than to ourselves. It is only when we show ourselves love and compassion that we are truly loving ourselves, and if we are not loving ourselves then how can we truly love another? In order to love each other truly, we must also love ourselves.

“The Sufi path is the path of the Heart, of the deepest parts of the heart”. One must love themselves as well as others on a level the prophets modeled and taught. God, Allah, or Hashem are names I use to refer to my supreme being, but I’m not talking about religion here. My God may be different than your God. My focus is on God and love, and how we should care for others through our own mercy and dignity, not on any singular religion.

I always think of the advice we are given when we are about to take off in an airplane. If there is an emergency and the oxygen masks drop we need to put on our own mask before putting anyone else’s on. As a first step to helping others, we all need to put our oxygen masks on. To be able to help others, we must first take care of ourselves. The lesson here is important. Essentially, it’s a lesson in self-care.

If I think of self-care, I think of getting a massage, getting my nails and hair done, taking a yoga class, or hanging out with friends. It is true that these things are nice, but they only reach the outside world of a person. A deeper love is more difficult to attain and requires more effort from the one seeking it. Love that transforms our outlook on others, love that sees God in everyone, and love that leaves a lasting impact are all deeper levels and require more effort on the part of the individual. The self-care options mentioned above won’t make hatred, discrimination, war, poverty, and exploitation stop. As one becomes one with God, one must go beyond the world’s surface, enter the innermost parts of the self, the deeper heart, and then become one with God. A mirror of God.

As far as seeing God in everyone goes, I do not know if I will ever achieve this task. This is the level where there is no good or bad, just lessons and opportunities. It does not mean that there is no evil, but that when things that I consider bad happen to me, like a car accident, I am able to see it differently. It is this level of love and understanding that keeps a person calm and loving despite screaming from others. The amount of anger and selfishness in my life prevents me from reaching such lofty levels of love. I love my kids when I’m with them, but when the lady parked behind me is blocking my way to move my car, I have little to no love for her. Realizing this makes me sad. According to the Sufi guide Sidi, in order to reflect God’s love, I must first be courteous and merciful to myself and then others.

Is there a solution? What can I do to change? I will answer in a Sufi method because that is what I have learned so far. In addition to showing myself compassion, mercy, and courtesy, I must also engage in a purification activity. The act of purifying oneself isn’t so wild. Fasting, yoga, meditation, and so on are all good, but I am not sure these practices will take me to the deep levels I am seeking. The Sufi tradition teaches that we all possess the 99 qualities of God/Allah. It is the God/Allah part of each of us that we are seeking to see in others. This is also the God/Allah part within us. We can activate these qualities by committing to practices and being disciplined. There is a discipline/purification called remembrance that involves the repetition of a prayer or one of the 99 names of Allah a specific number of times. The heart and soul are cleansed in this way. It may seem odd at first, but the names of these practices have a different vibration, which affects different parts of the body. The tension in my back and neck dissolves whenever I do a remembrance. During the event, I felt warmth in my chest and tingling in my hands. The level of my pain has gone down so much less than it has in years! Having this experience lets me know it’s working. My intention was to approach the practice with an open mind, believing that there are so many things in this world we cannot comprehend.

The Sufi approach allows us to reach beyond ourselves by letting go of who we are, turning on the qualities of God/Allah within each of us, and seeing the Divine in everything and everyone. As a Sufi, to truly love this world, one must look at everything in it as an extension of God, beginning with oneself. Real self-care consists of this.

It is my hope that I did not misspeak my guide’s words. I hope that my heart was shared and I didn’t offend anyone. I hope to one day reflect God and to see God in everyone and everything. If I misrepresented the teaching, I ask for forgiveness and mercy. I am a new student and I know I will make mistakes, but I’m doing my best. I apologize for the mistakes I have made.

I mentioned a book called Music of the Soul that you can find on the web at www.sufimaster.org

Thank you, Bismillah

Jamila

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