Many of us experience stress — and distress — in the course of our daily lives. From time to time, we face challenges at home, at work and in our families. Perhaps our parents are aging or we are coping with a chronic illness. The current social and political climate, the perils of climate change, war and strife, and the suffering of humanity is often weighing on our hearts. Decisions are being made, policies implemented and directions taken that may not be in harmony with our values, expectations, histories, even our very being. We may feel a constant pressure to “do something,” to save the democracy, to serve our fellow humans, to take a stand. As healers and helpers, what can we do to sustain ourselves in the midst of all these challenges?
Murshid Inayat Khan shared with us his insight that his smallest work on the inner planes was worth all he could accomplish outwardly, which was considerable by any measure. These are wise words to remember at challenging times. Many of us have worked with practices, prayers, meditations, contemplations and study of the teachings for many years. Now is a good time to remember to use the skills we have honed and apply them to for ourselves and our communities. If you are new to this work, you can also use this approach. My teacher and guide, Shahabuddin David Less, has often said that worrying is praying for what you don’t want. We know this is true, yet it can be so difficult not to worry when things seem to be falling apart all around us. Worrying can feel like we are at least doing something, being engaged, reacting. What I would like to suggest here is that we hoist our consciousness up a level and respond rather than react.
When we react, we are caught in our automatic concepts, patterns that have been set down by conditioning. We may find ourselves repeating cliches and tropes that have lost their meaning from being imbued with fear and anger. Reacting is habit and it will happen; can we notice our reactions and make different conscious choices instead, choices that harness the energy we are expending and channel it towards healing, repairing and strengthening ourselves for what is truly needed now in our lives? In this way, we respond from the pool of our resourcefulness and elevate our awareness so that we choose our response rather than reflexively react. This orientation helps strengthen us and focus our attention. This is the practice I would like to offer for the next space of time.
Healing Retreat Guide Training offers the opportunity to guide and to be guided on retreats so that those in training can have direct experience. On a short retreat that I was being guided on, it came to me that I could work with a list of practices that would help strengthen the qualities I feel I need now. Working with a list of the 99 Most Beautiful Names and Physicians of the Heart (please see this resource for more information if you are less familiar with the Names), this is what emerged:
I am responsible for my state.
I have the tools to adjust my state and need to remember to use them daily.
I am the master of my life.
I may bring healing and balance to others.
I am never alone.
God is Great!
TRUTH Ya Haqq (HAAK)
STRENGTH Ya Qawi (KO-weeyy)
COURAGE Ya Mu’min (MU’-min)
OBSERVANCE Ya Wajid (WAA-jid)
PATIENCE Ya Sabur (sa-BOOR)
PROTECTION Ya Muhaimin (mu-HAI-min)
ADVOCACY Ya Wakil (wa-KEEL)
PEACE Ya Salaam (sa-LAAM)
and FAITH Ya Muhyi, Ya Iman (MUH-yee, eeMAN)
LOVE Ya Wadud (wa-DOOD)
TOGETHER Ya Jami (JAA-mi’)
(Ya signifies “O”. Pronunciations of the Names vary; I have used those given in Physicians of the Heart )
The first part is my affirmation to myself of what I want to develop and keep in my consciousness. The list is the group of qualities I need right now to help me manage my daily life. These do not replace my regular practices and prayers, but are an additional and flexible work in progress that may grow and change as I work with it. There are many ways you might choose to work with a quality as a practice. One approach that is often used is to repeat the word in the Arabic as given above. The sounds of the words in this ancient sacred language vibrate in the subtle centers of the body, attuning us at a visceral and physical level to the Quality that we are invoking and revealing depths of meaning beyond their simple definitions. The act of invoking a Quality calls that quality to us, kindling its latent counterpart within, strengthening it and making it more real as a part of us. You may prefer to repeat a Divine Name or Quality in another language, such as English. Either way, you may find that subtle layers of meaning and implication become clearer as you continue to work with this practice over time. Typical numbers of repetitions are 11, 33, 99 and 101. You might commit to working with your list of Names for one month, or take one at a time for a specific period.
You may wish to add the practice of working with the Name or Quality on the breath. You could be aware of breathing in and out while thinking of the word, or you might concentrate on it only on the inhalation, or only on the exhalation, as seems right for you. Then you might want to just rest in the feeling that has been evoked as a result of the practice. Notice your state of being. If you have a spiritual guide, please consult with that person for guidance and support.
On another short retreat, I found a source within me that is overflowing with abundance and that supplies everything that I need. It appeared as a limitless field of blooming flowers in my inner sight. I was reminded of Murshid Samuel Lewis, the Sufi teacher and originator of the Dances of Universal Peace, who said he felt like a gardener who had sowed many seeds over the years and nothing came up, year after year, and then one year, everything came up at once. He ran around, trying to take care of everything until he realized that he could do what was possible and leave the rest to God.
If you are drawn to this path, to this inner work and the path of healing, you have access to inner treasures that are longing to be known. These practices and Divine Qualities exist as pure essences in themselves and as friends to us in our work. If you care to, you could take a bit of time to turn within and find your version of this way of supporting yourself so that you can meet the challenges of your life in these times with grace, strength and love.
May the work of your hands be blessed.
Thank you Zaynab