Love (mahabba) is the chosen path for most Sufis. Rumi is the most famous Sufi advocate of love, but he truly is one of countless who worship God as the Divine Beloved to be yearned after and sought, to be honoured and devoted to eternally. In that kind of relationship to the world, where love takes centerstage, the seeds of human knowledge, strife, intention and practice bear fruit, the result of which is that one becomes the hallowed vessel through which the healing and expansive power of divine love comes through, sustaining the life of all beings and bringing the world to a place of energetic sacrality and wholeness.
The Sufis have debated the meaning of the word love for many centuries, and many have come to the conclusion that it is a state that is beyond words that comes upon the heart when one feels ready to lose themselves in the divine presence. Though often considered an expansive state, love for the Sufis is a source both of utmost bliss as well as deep suffering. Rumi especially greatly extolled the gifts that blessed lovers enjoy as well as the depths of pain that is suffered at the feet of love. Love alone can heal through suffering, but only if one remains energetically open to the flow of love, which has the transformative potential to release you beyond all limitations and allow you to enjoy the true bliss of being free and unbound, woven into the fabric of being itself and no longer subject to the fleeting joys and pains of human life.
Love is a difficult state to talk about because what applies to divine love cannot and should not apply to human love. Releasing oneself fully to one’s lover on a human level can only work in a relationship that is spiritually whole and healthy, where the ego no longer animates dark forces that can ultimately cause harm. In a state of pure and sacred love, the soul is freed. In a state of any type of love that falls short of this, the soul is captive.
To explore love energetically within me, I periodically ask myself, “What am I in love with right now?” and I try to note where my heart often gets pulled. As in life, not all objects of your love are healthy. Some of my answers include: my dinner, being right, my husband, myself, my new career, feeling adequate, being loved. Our hearts by nature oscillate between many obsessions, the antidote to which is cultivating a fixed state of peace amidst all the fluctuations.
Sometimes, and only sometimes, I can honestly say I feel in love with the whole universe, in love with it all. And this is the state I want to cultivate more permanently, a state where I am in love regardless of external circumstances, where I am in love with life itself, with all beings and all events, good or bad, because that is a state of true liberation. It is a state of deep embodied wisdom wherein everything becomes food for the soul. The more I ask myself what I am in love with in each moment the more I notice patterns and recognize what kind of love nourishes my soul and what kind depletes it.
Only once you hold all things in loving presence and behold all things with a loving gaze can you open your heart and allow yourself to become the vessel for healing in this world.
A Loving Meditation Practice
To cultivate the presence of love within yourself, close your eyes, sit in meditation and call to mind all the different parts of yourself, the parts that have suffered, the parts that have prospered, the parts you consider weak and those you believe are strong. Greet each part of yourself with, “I love you.” For example, “I love you, you who have been hurt. I love you, you who has brought happiness to others. I love you, you who has worked hard, you who needed the day off, you who has gotten angry, you who has seen good days and bad…etc.”
Eventually you may feel filled to the brim with the loving presence you have cultivated within yourself: a love that transcends circumstance, that transcends feelings of pride or shame and transcends all judgment. Open your eyes and observe your loving energy flowing out of you into the rest of the world. Notice if it changes how you carry yourself, how you treat others. That is a small hint of the healing power of being a container of loving presence in the world.
I learned this practice from two of my dearest teachers, Serah and Donna, who beautifully embody and exude loving presence. I hope it helps you access the felt experience of sipping from the well of spiritual love.
I leave you with excerpts from a beautiful poem composed by the master of love himself, Rumi:
Is it not the case with everything in the world, that love is its vital soul? Apart from love, everything you see remains not eternally.
The way to heaven is within; shake the wings of love–when love’s wings have become strong, there is no need to trouble about a ladder.
Man’s body is a bow, breath and speech are as its arrows; once the arrows and quiver have gone, no more work remains for the bow.
May you be filled with peace,
Next, we take a look at Poverty, the fourth station on the Sufi Path (we are about halfway through now!).
See my introduction to this series: The Sufi Journey through Yoga.