It was raining heavily.
A beautiful sunset melting into the darkness of the night against the backdrop of tired birds flying back to their intricate nests, had perfectly completed the painting of her imagination. And the melodious reminder of life that was hitting the wooden roof of her cottage was tranquilizing her soul. She was at peace.
Glancing down at the book in her lap, she thoughtfully sipped on her tea. It was deliciously warm in her big, yellow mug. Smiling at her eccentricity, she read the inscription on the ceramic :
“When I was a child, I saw God, I saw angels; I watched the mysteries of the higher and lower worlds. I thought all men saw the same. At last I realized that they did not see.… —SHAMS OF TABRIZ”
Words from the book that was her personal treasure; her introduction to a startling world of Sufism and philosophy and everything that was challenging her evolving intellect.
She chuckled at the fact that she was reading ‘The Forty Rules of Love’ again. And now she had lost count. Each new read triggered a reawakening that imprinted a celestial revolution on her puzzling personality, and that was exactly why she read it. It gave her the heaven she thought she was destined for, the exalted serenity that she aimed for. She was born a human, not a four footed animal or a bird with wings or a slithery reptile or a photosynthesizing plant.
“We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.”
She was an important creation on an important voyage towards an important destination.
“God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving toward perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us separately because humanity is a fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture.”
Comfortably seated on the rocking chair that was once her grandfather’s, she tried to suppress the guilty voice that was trying to steal her selfish joy of pampering herself in her own way.
Responsibilities. Ambitions. Work. Deadlines. This and that and all of it.
This was the life that she had chosen, and she was not ungrateful. Not many get the right to choose the path of their choice. Or to call it a ‘right’. She was just tired, looking for a way to rejuvenate her soul. For it was as much about the human soul as it was about the human body, and she preferred to nourish both.
“Real filth is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure waters, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.”
The love of God. The love for humanity, for herself. The love for God.
She was here, relishing the song of the nightingale that had its home resting tall beside her own. She was breathing in the freshness of the mountains, the unpolluted oxygen energizing the cells running the mechanism of her body. And she was happy. Almost. But then there was the devilish ego.
“The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.”
She smiled to herself, mocking her attempts at taming this wild beast. Mournfully reminiscing all those times when she had let this three letter word stand in the way of what was bigger and better, she considered herself to be an ancient monument stubbornly rooted to its origin, trying to shadow its importance on the rest of the world by being purposeful in uncanny ways like mirroring what was deliberately hidden from the rest of the world.
She shivered. The harsh memories beat the piercing cold that accompanied the rain. And she loved rains.
“If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside.
For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness,
accident, loss, or fright, one way or another, we all are faced with incidents that teach us how to
become less selfish and judgmental, and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before. The only way to get closer to Truth is to expand your heart so that it will encompass all humanity and still have room for more Love.”
As the years splashed across her, she lost friends and foes to the mercy of dynamic relationships. And she did not even know how, or when.
Regrets did not define her past. She was too proud for that. Or maybe, it was an easy acceptance that descended into her heart, composing a new rhythm, silencing the ‘what-ifs’ and healing all the ‘buts’.
“Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.”
And with all the strength that she had, she had bowed down in prostration. Her cool, aching forehead touching the black velvet of the prayer mat, she had silently sighed.Speaking without a voice, crying without tears, heaving without regrets, she had set herself bare in front of her Lord. Her silence was killing her. And then she had suddenly smiled. She had smiled with the joy of a child whose excitement at acquiring a new toy makes you want to live your childhood again.
“Thank you for denying me the happiness of my choice, God. Thank you for reminding me that Your plans are bigger and better. Thank you for this,” her voice was barely above a whisper.
Immortal contentment gushing through her veins, she had tasted cosmic relief. It was bitter-sweet.
“The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move
through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.”
Pulling her shawl over her slender shoulders, she gently closed the book and got up. It was time to go back.
“East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.”
She was nothing but a ‘dervish’.