Being in Love Together

Being in Love Together October 9, 2019

I recently attended a retreat where a fellow seeker described the sweetness of the companionship that unfolds on the Sufi path. He likened the sensation to “being in Love together.” It was a beautiful way of putting it. Each of us is seeking the Cosmic Love at our core, side by side. Each of us is facing our unique inner battles to tear away the veils that have separated us from this Love as we were growing up. And the more we dismantle, the more we see that the nature of Reality is Love.

In one sense, spiritual work is incredibly personal. As many friends and I journeyed through Turkey last month, one Sufi master we met spoke of how even our murshid, our spiritual guide, can walk with us only to the edge of the desert. The inner work that happens in the desert, that scary place where we grapple with the innermost wounds of our psyches, we must face alone. I appreciated this analogy because my own jihad, or struggle with the lower self, sometimes feels like walking through a desolate place with the scorching sun on my skin and no shade to give me respite.

And yet as isolating as this image may appear, that’s not how I experience it. Even in the depths of the pain of processing psychological wounding, I’m aware that my teachers and companions are cheering me on from the sidelines. They love me unconditionally and long for me to reach my highest potential. Over and over again, I marvel at how this sense of being loved completely gives me the courage to sink into dark, painful places and allow light and healing to unfold. It is this Love that is moving me to wholeness.

The importance of companionship is something that Mevlana alludes to frequently, encouraging us to surround ourselves with mature souls whose hearts are glad. In one verse, he says:

“Between our hearts there’s a window that can open.
But what is there to open when no walls remain.”

I’ve had a deepening sense lately of what it’s like to wade in this place beyond the walls that Mevlana describes. Geographically, many of my fellow seekers live very far away — from the west coast of the United States and Indonesia, and various points in between. What astonishes me is that despite these distances, their hearts are only a beat away. These are people with whom I can put my masks down, and be authentic and totally and utterly vulnerable. Love flows effortlessly between us in what I will call our Heart Space, the only place that remains when we remove the barriers to love in our selves.

Experiencing this Heart Space has particularly come to life for me since working on a community needlework project with other women in our tradition this year. It started as an idea from a few women to secretly create a quilt for our beloved teacher. Very quickly, it grew into a project involving more than 50 women in seven countries. Each of us stitched one or more of the 99 Names of the Beloved, the Qualities of Being that reside in the human heart, which were then sewn together into a gorgeous quilt.

The quilt itself was symbolic for me of this process of being in Love together and bringing down the walls Mevlana described. The tapestry that came to life is stunning because every square was woven in each woman’s distinctive style. And yet, while each quality of Allah shines radiantly in gold from its own colourful square, it is inextricably bound to the whole. The very act of bringing together the separate pieces is what birthed this work of art.

As I stitched my three squares, Ya Basir (The All Seeing), Ya Sami (The All Hearing) and Al Hakam (The Judge), I felt the same process of bringing down the walls happening in my own heart. It was magical. There was a dissolving of my sense of our separateness and a deeper and more effortless love unfolded. I realised in a more wholehearted way that like each square, each of us radiates a distinctive beauty at our core that must be shared in order for the tapestry to be complete.

At one point while embroidering the name Ya Basir on a navy blue square, an image entered my mind’s eye. I visualised generations of feminine seekers and guides joining us in our creative project from the Unseen. It was as though the two worlds were coming together, like the two bodies of water: one sweet and one salty. My companions and I were bringing into manifest form something eternal. Using our hands to weave together the qualities of Allah was profoundly healing, too, because it felt symbolically like we were mending the fabric of our feminine ancestral lines that had been ripped apart over the centuries.

When this visualisation entered my consciousness, I sensed my heart whirling in a circle of Love that isn’t bound by time and place. A place where our false notions of separation burn away, as described in these lyrics we often sing together:

Welcome everyone, drawn to this love
Burning, burning, saying Hu.

Eighteen thousand worlds containing worlds,
Burning, burning, saying Hu.

In the center, the truth that you are,
Burning, burning, saying Hu.

Oh, Mevlâna, may wisdom fill our hearts,
Burning, burning, saying Hu.
Burning, burning, saying Hu.

(Burning, Burning, Threshold Society ilahi)

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