Sunday, March 15, 2009


Becoming initiated and stepping onto the mystical path is a very exciting time for an individual. It is a period of expansion.

The person feels exhilaration. One has started the most important journey of one's life. Perhaps, one feels a sense of direction, purpose and belonging which previously had been absent or marginalized in one's life.

Very likely, initiation has been the culmination of a fairly intense period of: uncertainty; wavering back and forth; doubt; anxiety; exploration; and, reflection. Somehow, whether by careful consideration or a feeling in one's heart or in some other way, one finally decides to commit oneself to the mystical path. One experiences a lifting of tension and a accompanying sigh of relief.

One can't wait to read about the path and talk with one's fellow travelers. One looks forward to spending time with the teacher and receiving instructions concerning practices.

One entertains the future with a mixture of anticipation and bewilderment. One doesn't know what to expect. One wonders when one will have a mystical experience and what it will be like.

One thinks about stories one has heard or read concerning the great mystics of the past. One marvels at their wisdom and wonderful moral qualities. One feels a degree of pride for being permitted entry to the same path on which they have been wayfarers.

Enthusiasm courses through one's body and mind. One tries not to miss anything which is said, or goes on around one, concerning the path.

This initial encounter with a species of expansion lasts various lengths of time for different people. For some, it lasts for a few days. For others, it lasts for a week or a month. For others, it lasts longer. Moreover, different people experience it to varying degrees of intensity.

Eventually, however, many of these feelings fade. One may still feel excited about, enthusiastic toward and happy with the decision to step onto the path and, finally, be underway on one's journey. Nonetheless, one's feelings in these respects do not remain as intense or as focused as they had been earlier. The feelings are not as pervasive and constant as they had been. They are somewhat sporadic.

The problems of the world or with one's life begin to seep back into the center stage of one's consciousness. One's ego begins to create problems in a number of different ways. Doubts, questions and anxieties may begin to assert themselves.

One may be having difficulty in establishing a regular pattern in relation to one's spiritual work. Perhaps, one is encountering difficulty in freeing up time for the practices one has been given. One may be experiencing some sort of tension or resistance in relation to certain aspects of the path which are troubling to one.

One may begin to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the undertaking to which one has become committed. One may be confused by some of the teachings or wonder how they can be implemented in a feasible manner in modern society.

Now, one is experiencing a form of spiritual contraction. Everything seems difficult, frustrating, problematic, and somewhat of an unmanageable burden.

Before, during the experience of the expansionary aspects of initiation, everything kind of bubbled and flowed. Things seemed to come easily. Life was light and happy or pleasant.

In contraction, things appear to drag and have a heaviness about them. Events do not flow. They trickle and, maybe, not even that.

Everything seems to come with tension and conflict attached to it. One may feel somewhat alienated and out of sorts. One has to struggle.

These cycles of expansion and contraction will continue to occur on the Sufi path. They may change their modalities of manifestation as one makes, God willing, spiritual progress along the mystical path, but they are an important structural feature of the path.

When the heart is opened up, when one feels close to God, when one is gaining spiritual insights and understanding, when one embraces submission, and so on, then one experiences various kinds of happiness, joy, peace, and contentedness. These are expressions of spiritual expansion.

On the other hand, when, spiritually, one's heart feels closed down, when one feels far away from God, when one does not seem to be acquiring any spiritual insight or understanding, and when one is struggling with one or more aspects of the process of submission, one experiences being down, separate, restless and uneasy. These are expressions of spiritual contraction.

Both expansion and contraction have much to teach one. In a sense, the lessons of contraction till the soil of the soul and heart and prepare them to receive the seeds of expansion so that the latter may grow.

The lessons of expansion, on the other hand, provide spiritual strength, sustenance and consolations. Through the spiritual support which comes, by the grace of God, from the experience of expansion, one is enabled to continue with the aspects of the spiritual journey involving the struggle and work of contraction.

The difficulties of contraction, in turn, will pave the way for further expansion. The tears of contraction will be exchanged for the tears of expansion. The tears of struggle will be transformed into the tears of joy and ecstasy.

Along the Sufi path there are many different stations. These stations deal with themes such as repentance, longing, patience, dependence, gratitude, and love, to name but a few.

When one is struggling with the challenges and trials peculiar to such stations, one goes through a form of contraction which is appropriate to that station. When, by the grace of God, one is opened up to the mysteries of such stations and becomes adorned in the qualities of those stations, one experiences a form of expansion which is consonant with those stations.

Some people are able, by the grace of God, to find peace, contentment and even happiness during periods of contraction. They have been given a deep rooted understanding that all things, including contraction, come from God.

Consequently, they are at peace with, and discover contentment in, the condition of contraction because it has been sent by their Lord especially for them and their spiritual progress. For them, contraction becomes a gift to be savored, appreciated and, yes, enjoyed.

Alternatively, by the grace of God, some people, while in a condition of spiritual expansion, nonetheless, feel a special form of contraction which has its own bliss and beauty. This species of contraction concerns the condition of being true servants of God. Although these people have been raised to the highest spiritual realms, they humble themselves before God and do not have any desire other than to be the servants of Divinity.

Those who undergo this sort of "contraction" are extremely happy and well-satisfied with such a condition. They do not feel down or uneasy or restless. There is no heaviness or difficulty associated with it. There is no sense of its being a burden or a struggle. Those who enjoy this spiritual condition have found an essential kind of contentment and peace.

In fact their experience is characterized by all of the qualities of expansion. However, the people of this condition know they are the servants of God. They are not God in any essential way.

This distinction between Divinity and the servant is sometimes marginalized in certain conditions of expansion. Nonetheless, the distinction is always present, and it is absolute.

The placing of the above distinction at the center of consciousness, understanding and actions constitutes, relative to the transcendence of God, a contraction of sorts. The distinction between Divinity and servant indicates that no matter how great the spiritual expansion of an individual may be, it is insignificant in the context of God's incomparable greatness.

In many ways, distinctions between expansion and contraction tend to lose significance in these advanced mystical stations. Whatever may be the truth in relation to such stations, these lofty spiritual heights are a long, long way from the point of departure at the time of initiation and one's initial taste of expansion.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sufi Reflections Podcast No. 29

Sufi Reflections Podcast No. 29 is now available for downloading. This edition includes poetry, Quranic recitation, music, an original story entitled The Sufi and the Snowman, an essay entitled Devolution, and a commentary entitled Shari'ah, Part 2. We hope you will join us.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Anab's Kindle Books for iPhone

There is a new FREE Amazon Kindle app for the iPhone. All kindle books can now be read on the iPhone without an Amazon Kindle. The app seems to work very well.

If you have an iPhone and would like to find out more, just visit the iTunes app store on your computer or on your iPhone and download the free app. You will then need to enter your Amazon account user name and password after clicking on app on your iPhone. Then sync your phone and computer. You will then be all set to visit the Amazon Kindle store and start getting books for your iPhone.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Anab's Spiritual Peaks and Valleys MP3s are now available at Amazon for instant downloading. If you would like to listen to previews, click on this link:

Amazon Spiritual Peaks and Valleys