It was like any ordinary evening of later in March in Lahore, just beginning to steam up ..... the breeze of blooming spring laden with promises of fruits ..... the hour of dusk, of meeting of times ..... Up on that vast open terrace the eye caught the glimpse of what sprawled around as an expanse of DHA's phase I ..... the scent of incandescent amidst the lavish drapery of rose petals on the white linen on floor ...... the light of a setting sun in that just post-maghrib hour, tens of candles and a fresh brilliant crescent ...... all endowed the atmosphere like an affectionate lover; and the sound of ney that was generous to ears like a soothsayer's prayer ....
A sense of profound ease seeped through my pores as I gathered with all others, dressed in white; absolute pure white. It was in regard to the Mevlevi tradition that all of us had gathered to celebrate. It was basically a workshop that was meant to let people ensure that they celebrate the beauty of life by opening themselves up to the divine mysteries of the ages as they turn themselves around - whirling away from the mundane.
Ayeda proved to be a wonderful teacher who ensured that all those in attendance could benefit from that gathering that was primarily aimed at learning to use the body as a divine instrument. "If everything in the Universe - from the cells to the atoms to the planets - is in a constant state of whirling, why aren't we?" she prompted and insisted, "Learn to see your body as a divine instrument, with your heart at the core of its being. Watch your body become like a moth circling the flame (your heart) and a planet circling the sun (your heart) as the heart circles the Divine", as we gathered to learn the sacred dance of the Mevlevi Sufis of Konya
As soon as enough time had passed and all of us had settled down into the quietness of the moment, Ayeda got her ney out and passing from one to another, let us had the feel of what Rumi thought depicted man so well.
Ney is a flute-like instrument, made out of bamboo reed and hollow from the inside. The instrument is played after months of practice when the breath is finally able to bring music out of it as it is blown thrown. In Sufi tradition, the Ney is the body of man and the breath blown into it is the spirit (breath of God). This refers to the Quranic verse: Behold, thy Lord said to the angels, “I am about to create man, from sounding (dry) clay...” and “when I have fashioned him (man) and breathed into him My spirit fall ye down in obeisance unto him (the Quran, XV/28 and 29); and “for God has poured His love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit who is God’s gift to us” (the Bible, Romans 4/5). The first eighteen verses of Rumi's masnevi, which are like an entrance to his great villa where he welcomes his guests and gives them the keys of the rooms without which the guests might get lost and falter in the corridors of his grand villa –the Masnevi; and which undoubtedly form the summary of the six volumes of masnevi, talk of the ney!
Huddling close together in those flickering candle flames we read out the verse line by line from the notes spread in front of each of us.
Listen to the ney
Listen to the one who is giving himself up
Listen to the one who has emptied himself
Listen to the one from whom the voice of Allah is heard
Turn, turn around the meaning of the Beloved
Do sema, turn, turn listening to what is being sung
Turn, understanding what is being sung
Turn, turn joining Allah
Who manifests Himself a new every moment
While turning become so pure so beautiful that you
start turning around yourself too
While turning know that the whole universe
even the electrons of an atom
from the tiniest to the greatest of the created turn
only to reveal this meaning
Sema is for the soul that cannot stand still
Do not sit with the idol - geet up at once go furthur
Do not sit lost in your own thoughts
Get up go to where the beloved is
With one foot I am grounded in Sharia
With my other foot I am one with all nations
I am free, free I am free because I am in love with Allah
I am in love with my Creator, Slave to no human, I am the servant of my love Allah
there is nothing to tie me down
I am free, free, free
They figured the value of my head, my robe and my turban
They were not worth more than a cent
Have you heard my name in this world?
I am Nothing, Nothing, Nothing
As long as I live, I am the servant of the Quran
I am the dust under the feet of the Prophet Muhammad
Whoever belongs to God, God belongs to him
Let yourself go, the ney will guide you to your goal
Demonstrate your love with your actions, your morals,
Be aware of the ways of servant people for the sake of Allah
Feel the pleasure of serving without expectations
Look at those with any faith with the eyes of your soul
From them nothing but a cry of Ya Hayy, or Ya Rabb can be heard
Friend I am You and You are me
Don't lose yourself
Don't forget who you are
The one following you like a shadow is me
My friend don't pierce your soul with your own dagger
Since you miss the sea let go of being a drop
Since you are me and I am you
what is this talk of me and you?
After death comes don't look in the ground for our grave
Our grave is in the heart of the believers
The schedule was divided into a couple of slots and after the verses, breathing practice was the first; a focused, coherent, conscious breath that channeled the flow of thought. One way for each of the four elements of nature: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, characterized by inhalation and exhalation taking place through nose and mouth in different permutations. While the inward breath was to be accompanied by the realization of richness of Divine bounties and gratitude, the outward breath was to take along with all that contaminated within.
At the onset it was more like a ritual to me, but when it set off, I experienced what could be related, albeit even remotely, to what can be termed as cleansing of the soul. It is an undeniable fact, that proper, focused breathing puts our organism in harmony with its own self, and thence the Self.
The evening was not about religion as much as was about catching up with the soul and with being in harmony with self. But those who interpret spirit and soul in light of religion ended up benefiting more, as per my understanding.
The meditation followed the conscious breathing, and it was here that the evening began to blossom into a mood of its own.
With eyes closed, breathing consciously, trying to let myself loose from every shred of thought that clung to my mind, I discovered a strangely strong sensation of heightened awareness of my surroundings ....... of sound of water dripping from someone's lawn hose close by and impact of its wetness, of wafts of incandescent through air currents, of that slight stir of movement by someone here or there, of the sound of my own heart beating in my chest, of the passage of breath through my lungs, of the way my fingers were curled with my hands resting on my knees ...... it was strange, and in a quite inexplicable way, quite liberating. Imagine a bolt of sensations hitting you like an avalanche, when all you have to do is to just lean back and cherish it. No fighting, no figuring the reasons, no calculations, no reactions, just plain simple contemplation ... an indiscriminate allowance for everything to sink down into your pit less being! Do you see the freedom it brought?
We raised our hands in a joint prayer heavenwards and the amen concluded with hands gathering and bringing down blessings from the heavens. Calmness being induced step by step, we reached the milestone of sitting sema: inner calm paving way for the expression of ecstasy. The sitting Sema had to follow the clockwise rotational movement, to keep the body in harmony and maintain the balance with the anticlockwise rotation of the standing sema (whirling) later. Following the pattern of LA ILLA HA ILLALLALLAH, that captured the essence of driving all the 'ILLALLALLAH' out of the heart, with eyes closed it was our heads that took the lead in breaking away from the movements of the norm. A few moments later, a slow, deliberate beat of arabic daff began to accompany that congregational rise and fall of our harp: LA ILLA HA ILLALLALLAH.
The sitting sema culminated in standing sema, which was indeed the highlight of the day.
Surrendering one's self in pure ecstatic joy of love of the One by forming a physical 'alif' and then proceeding on to creating a symphony of physical and spiritual harmony, with one foot planted on earth providing an axis into reality and with other whirling like a moth around The Real, was such a surreal experience that it later made me wonder if it was actually real!
We were quite a few in numbers, of both genders, and yet while whirling onto our same Real axes with eyes closed each one of us had a different reality. A few cried out of joy, and I felt an overpowering sense of elation, of liberty. A sweeping sense of profound peace, of gentle adoration for life as it is, of gratitude for being alive and free, free to love my Love, is what I had with me when I picked up my bag and made way to stairs leading down.
Whirling that evening on Saba's terrace was falling in love with life and Lord, and nothing in life can be comparable to the joy of returning to your first Love!
Usually I am not a lot into music, unless it just clings to me; I get immersed into the chords and beats, and more importantly, the lyrics. In such times, music becomes an antidote for every 'vitriol' in life.
Saaz aur awaz, taal mail, ilfaaz aur baazgasht, everything joins hand and intricately weaves around a world, so magical, so intense, that I lose myself like a beloved in her lover's arms...
The entire world with all its hustle bustle and useless noise is shunned to enter that realm of ecstasy and profound calm that seeps in like water under the roots of bougainvillea.
In such times, music does become what they call, a solace for soul, or probably soul itself.
Here I am sharing with you, one of the MOST precious gem of my magical world, hope you shall enjoy it too.
Lyrics: Hairat mara ze har do jahan be niaz kard Een khab kaare daulat e bedaar meekunad (Rumi)
Bewilderment has absolved me of both the worlds This is the consequence of awakening from my dreams
Khuli jab ki chashm e dil e hazeen, to vo nam raha na teri rahi Hui hairat aisi kuch aankh par ki asar ki be asari rahi Pari goshe jaan mein ajab nida ki jigar na bejigari rahi Khabare tahhayyur e ishq sun na junoon raha na pari rahi Na to tu raha na to main raha jo rahi bekhabari rahi... (Khamsa by Nazeer Akbarabadi for Siraj Aurangabadi)
The eyes of an anguished heart open... No longer moist.. Bereft of tears The perplexed vision Remained unmoved.. Devoid of response The soul heard.. An unusual sound That took the pluck of life away As wondrous love revealed itself The fairy vanished..The ecstasy lost Nor you remained.. Nor I was found mere oblivion was all there was...
Mujhe bekhudi ye tune bhali chashni chakhayi Kisi aarzoo ki dil mein nahi ab rahi samayi
O surrender in love, You have given me a taste that pales all worldliness No desire remains In the heart filled with submission
Na hazar hai na khatar hai, na raja hai ne dua hai Na khayaal e bandagi hai na tamana e khudai
Neither distance nor fear... neither hope nor prayer neither thoughts of subjugation nor desire of godliness
Na muqqam e guftagu hai na mahhall e justaju hai Na wahan havaas pahunche na khirad ko hai rasai
No place for exchange of words... no occasion for further quest Where neither consciousness reaches nor thoughts transcend its realm
Na makin hai ne makan hai na zameen hai ne zaman hai Dil e be nava ne mere jahan chhavni hai chayi No one resides..Neither habitation exist... Is where this wandering heart has come to camp
Na visaal hai na hijraan na suroor hai na gham hai Jise kahiye khwab e ghaflat so woh neend mujh ko aayi
Where there is no union... No separation no sorrow... no joy What is said to be an endless oblivion I enter such a slumber
The young Napoleon was trembling like a reed in the wind during the ferocious bombardments at Toulon. A soldier, seeing him that way, said to his fellow soldiers, "Look at him, he's scared to death." "Yes, I am," replied Napoleon. "But I go on fighting. If you felt half the fear I feel, you would have fled a long time ago. "The master says: "Fear is not a sign of cowardice. It is fear that allows us be brave and dignified in the face of life's situations. Someone who experiences fear -- and despite the fear goes on, without allowing it to intimidate him -- is giving proof of valiance. But someone who tackles difficult situations without taking the danger into account, is proving only his irresponsibility."
People say, "Well, it seems that freedom for man consists of choosing his own brand of slavery. I work eight hours a day, and if I get a promotion, I'll have to work twelve. I got married, and now I have no time to myself. I looked for God, and now I have to attend cult meetings, masses and other religious ceremonies. Everything that's important in life -- love, work, faith -- winds up becoming a burden that's too heavy to bear. "The master says: "Only love allows us to escape. Only love turns slavery into freedom."If we cannot love, it is better to stop now." Jesus said: 'Better to be blind in one eye than for the entire body to perish in darkness.' "Hard words. But true."
and only if I was sure that all this wet landscape underneath the lashes could lead me to the horizon....... only if I could ease the stabbing pain that makes me want to throw this throbbing thing out of my chest only if I could see anything beyond this moist blur