Monday, November 14, 2011

The Sacredness of Everyday Life

A spirituality adequate to our times would have to establish the sacredness of everyday life in the face of increasing challenges to our humanness. The acceleration of time, the coercion of mass media, the commercialization of human relationships, and the artificial environment that technology is creating – all serve to create conditions that present new and unforeseen challenges to the human soul. While we seem to be advancing technologically, the capacities for sustained attention, for spiritual aspiration, for deeper relationships, and for spiritual presence seem to be diminishing.

Amid all this noise, are we becoming deaf to the overtones of transcendence? With so much entertainment at our fingertips, is humanity’s range of experience actually shrinking? Are we becoming trapped in appearances, oblivious to the essential ground of Being?

Sufism is a path formed from the cumulative experience and wisdom of generations of human beings who have attempted to live according to what they consider a divine way of life and to empirically resolve the conflicts of existence. Sufism aims at the highest spiritual attainment within the context of everyday life. Sufism has been called “the path of return”. It is fundamentally a movement of consciousness from the state of separation, or exile, to a reunion with our Source. In essence, if we trace our own consciousness back to its Source, we will find that we have never been separate. We will experience the dissolving of what which never was in that which has always been.

There is a Hadith Qudsi that aptly expresses the intimate union of the self and its Source:

As My servant continues to draw near to Me through voluntary practices,
I become the Hearing with which he or she hears,
The Seeing with which he or she sees,
The hand with which he or she touches,
The feet with which he or she walks.

It should be clear from this saying that a mysterious cooperation is acknowledged between the human and the Divine. It is less a matter of the human knowing God than of God being discovered in all the sensibilities of the human. From the perspective of Truth, I cannot know God, but God is both the knower and the known. Only God knows God.

Practically speaking, what are the human capacities required to experience the sacredness of everyday life?

We have a heart, by which is meant an organ of perception through which the reality of Spirit can be apprehended. We cannot begin the spiritual journey unless the “eye of the heart” is at least slightly open. It is for the heart to know that Reality which is not immediately apparent to the intellect or the senses. Every other organ of perception discerns through its own limited window; only the heart sees from all sides at once and can perceive Oneness.

It is necessary to distinguish the heart from our common emotions that are rooted in our egoism and that mostly obscure the knowing of the heart. The spiritual process from this point of view is removing the distorting factors of egoism that veil the heart. This is often described as “polishing the mirror of the heart.” Muhammad p.b.u.h said, “There is a polish for everything, and the polish for the heart is the remembrance of God.”

(Kabir Helminski. The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path to Transformation. Shambala Publications, Inc. Boston, 1999. P.181-182)

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