Who is in the house of my heart,
I cried in the middle of the night.
“It is I, but what are all these images that fill your house?”
I said, they are the reflection of your beautiful face.
“But what is this image full of pain?”
I said, it is me lost in the sorrows of life
and showed her my soul full of wounds.
She offered me one end of a thread and said:
“Take it so I can pull you back
but do not break the delicate string.”
I reached towards her but she struck my hand.
I asked, why the harshness?
“To remind you that whoever comes to love’s holy space,
proud and full of himself will be sent away.
Look at love with the eyes of your heart.”
Yet again, I sat in silence, meditating upon that arisen anxiety felt within my Heart. What is it, and why is it seemingly ever present? Over the past few years I had learned how to empty my Mind, to enter into a neutral state where I could simply observe my thoughts and emotions without judgement as to their goodness or badness, without attachment. It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes a thought is just a thought, and an emotion is just an emotion. This is a skill that can be refined to better help us navigate our intrapsychic conflicts from which much of our experienced anxiety emanates from. The ability to enter into a meditative state between wakefulness and sleep is important. It’s really the core of all spiritual-religious practices, but also the most neglected. A sign of the times, no doubt. In all traditions, especially Islam and Buddhism, it is in this state that we may acquire spiritual revelation or insight. It is where we acquire the Principles of Being. In Islam this is called dhikr or remembrance, because just as trauma discombobulates the Mind causing us to exist in a state of ignorance or forgetfulness of our reality, dhikr is the path of rearranging and organizing our internal world around intimate knowledge of the Soul, of remembering the Divine Presence within us. And just as the Prophet had said, “Whoever knows their own Soul knows God.”
While in a meditative state our perception of self, and therefore of time and the prejudices we hold that define our reality become malleable, and also vulnerable. For this reason meditation can also be an uncomfortable, even frightening, experience because more than anything we want our perception of reality and our sense of self to be solid. When it is shaken we become deeply agitated, and that is the effect that trauma has on us. Sometimes meditation is blamed for opening a door to a room in the deepest recesses of our psyches that had been storing trauma all along, unresolved. I often wonder, how much of our lived experiences, our triggers, our thoughts and beliefs, even our attractions and desires and our personalities, are determined by that unresolved trauma? When we think about how much our complexes and neuroticisms come to define our personalities and character, what would we be like if the trauma from which they manifested was resolved?
A voiceless thought, seemingly from beyond nothingness and any sense of personal will tells me that It is God alone who has power over my Heart. It was a notion. Was this my thought? I follow it with my Mind. Focusing upon it I let my consciousness sink into it, absorbing it. Dwelling within this notion it was transformed into an insight – a profound experience. It became my experienced reality, and my internal world began to be ordered according to it causing the pain in my Heart to subside. The pain comes from an internal chaos, so when that chaos is ordered then our manifested suffering lessens. This is how a Principle organizes our internal world during the healing process from trauma. The objective is to attain an organizing Principle that is so overarching and invincible that all of our internal chaos arising from repressed trauma is completely organized and cannot become unhinged. In this insight there was felt a strong sensation of relief, like a weight being lifted from my chest. It felt like a sense of detachment from things external to me that had been pulling at my Soul and consciousness all this time.
We all have these things in our lives that pull at us, often without realizing, such as a stressful family or the city. Perhaps certain friends or our romantic partner that we’ve failed to recognize as toxic. It could be our job or unhealthy social standards that we’ve internalized, which helps to inform our negative critical voice. What all these things have in common is what they mean to us, that is, how we subconsciously use them to judge ourselves, which is based on how we judged them in terms of our value-relation to them. For example, when we have subconsciously adopted a social standard that conveys the message that we have to have a certain appearance or skin color to have value, then it first because we have placed society on a pedestal, and thus judge ourselves according to societies standards. Our Soul forms attachment to external things that we have judged as our source of value; value is a relational concept so when we judge another person as having high value we are actually devaluing ourselves in relation to them causing us to seek out their validation. We don’t mean to do that, it’s fairly automatic because of how we are constantly being conditioned to perceive ourselves and the world. The question is, what is it about our internal condition that enables this? Sometimes they are reminders, triggers for whom we had externalized our internalized trauma onto in our distant past. Other times, they are reminders of what we lack within ourselves. In Buddhism, this coloring of phenemona with negative Mind-States is referred to as defilements of consciousness, or Kleshas (किलेस ). When we externalize our pain onto external phenomena, for example another person, then we perceive them as having power over our Heart. This notion of power is very important, and perhaps is the key to all things.
This experience of the sovereignty of God over my Heart became a Mind-State, a vehicle to travel inwardly towards the center of my Soul, approaching a sacred precinct that seems to lie beyond the contingent material world, beyond the world of limit. As I approach it, it feels like my Heart is cracked. But why? I have a realization that my Heart has always been cracked. That is where the pain comes from. It’s acknowledgement is direct. I feel the unhindered trauma, pain rises sharply making me nauseous. I wish it would just disappear, but dwelling upon that wish just frustrates me. It is important, rather, necessary, to keep a calm and composed Mind, focused on the present moment and the inward journey.
This description of a cracked Heart is merely an expression or physical approximation of something that is deeply metaphysical pertaining to our nature. I believe this is in all of us, it is the human condition, exasperated by our experiences, disappointments, regrets, all references to an existential sense of devaulation. It was created out of the separation of the Soul from the Divine Source and the abandonment trauma of birth and death into this world. It is then colored and made manifest by our experiences in life that trigger that Original Trauma, especially during early childhood and also with those who resonate with us on that level; as Rumi writes, it is an “image full of pain” that we self-identify with, our sense of getting “lost in the sorrows of life.” We resonate with those that share in that image because we can relate to them, we see ourselves in them, they remind us of ourselves, with what is familiar. It’s unfortunate because of how powerful it is, because of how much we can be affected by them. But it can also be fortunate since it can be the cause for our growth because it allows us to finally realize our inward state and the truth of Suffering, which is the first of The Four Noble Truths. This self-identification with that “image full of pain” is at the core of the illusory material self, the ego. It has no faith and is full of worry and fear, desperately trying to control outcomes. It is the source of all self-limiting beliefs about ourselves through which suffering arises. Its basis pertains to the spiritual concept of Ignorance about the true nature of reality.
How have I always sought healing for this pain except that such efforts were only distractions away from confronting it and embracing it? This was my pride, and for this we are, as Rumi expresses, turned away from entering Love’s holy space in the Heart. This is not how we can approach Allah, the place of Nirvana, of Enlightenment, of Unity, regardless of how ardently we cling to labels and piety. That is not what religion is about.
Our pride tells us that others have caused this pain, and so through our pride we attribute power to them over our Heart. This is the placement of idols within the Heart and “setting up partners with God” as the Qur’an states. These idols are what the Buddha calls dhukka, “incapable of satisfying…painful.” This description defines their true nature of Nothingness, Emptiness, Impermanence. And yet, we attribute to them the cause of our suffering and thus, also, the cause of our relief from suffering. This causes us to crave them, to desire them, and so we form Attachment with them. Our manifested reality becomes defined by the anxiety of chasing and grasping at these mere shadows out of a need for healing. This is the worshiping of those idols. But in reality, they are incapable of satisfying us, healing us, and completing us. They have no power. Existing in a state of perpetual Attachment with empty concepts we thus exist in a perpetual state of Suffering; we are caught in a cycle of death and rebirth of the Soul, a grand illusion that we then call reality. In this state there is no submission to Allah with humility since pride has caused us to turn in need to other than God, to other than Truth and Reality.
In dwelling with the expanded Mind upon the pain with the recognition that it is God alone that has power over my Heart, another notion arises. It was that it is God alone that is creating this pain. I sat within this notion, directing the awareness of my Mind towards it, absorbing it until it expanded into an insight. This insight caused me to experience two important realities: the first was the direct acting of God within my Heart, which brought a sense of closeness and awe. The second was the dispelling of the illusion that others have power over my Heart, which was felt with a great sense of liberation and expansion. People, expectations, whatever had found a place in my Heart was effaced, regarded as mere empty concepts, illusions that faded away like a dream or memory, void of existential meaning or value. The anxiety diminished greatly and it became easier to breathe. There was a sense of relief. Out of this experience there was also born simultaneously the notion that it is God alone that is the source of relief from pain. Again, with the expanded Mind I dwell upon this notion. By now I’ve already lost track of time, but usually these sessions can last up to an hour, sometimes more and sometimes less. My legs should be totally numb by now, a sign of inadequate posture. My Mind feels like it’s swirling, or maybe it’s the world around me. At this point the distinction between the two is lost. My experience deepens and expands, and suddenly my Heart moves. I feel a warmth and a sense of exultation. This notion was transformed into an insight, and I experience the profound realization of God as the only source of healing for my Heart.
When we perceive on a fundamental level that God is the source of our healing and relief, then we can become more fully aware of the Divine Presence within our Heart. This is because the Heart starts to incline towards God in search of healing and unity. We learn how to go inwards to seek contentment rather than to grasp outwardly for external validation. In meditating upon this insight, absorbing it, and traveling more deeply into the depths of my Heart, I entered into a state of state of need for God, which erased – at least in this moment – the subconscious sense of need for others for validation and completion. Their reality as empty concepts of the Mind were made manifest to me, and they merely faded away like dust in the wind. Old emotional triggers and their associations lessened or were erased, and instead replaced with a strong sense of desire for a Light within me. I felt like I was becoming more grounded, like my awareness of the world as a Divine expression and of my own consciousness became more unified. This idea of God Consciousness, the premise for Ramadan, is the unity of the awareness of God and the consciousness of the Self; a unification of transcendence and immanence. Together this informs our sense of Self and self-concept, and thus determines our experience of the world. Through the Divine meditative practices we can transform ourselves, self-actualizing in the knowledge of God.
This is experiential knowledge, the highest form of knowledge according to Socrates. It is gnosis, and is at the center of what are known as gnostic traditions. Christianity, in my view, is a gnostic tradition that revolves around finding the Kingdom of Heaven of the Heart. It is the state of Enlightenment that Jesus had taught how to approach. The inward path is the only path that, in my view, has any significance as far as the human condition and experience goes. After all, it was the light of my own consciousness that gave meaning and definition to perceived concepts in the first place. Why should we continue to define the world in a way that oppresses us? Who told us to do that? Unhealthy forms of religion, society, dominant majorities acting upon their entitlement, unhealthy parenting, school bullying. Perhaps the legacies of colonialism and intergenerational trauma, the list goes on. However, the great lie is that this is the way of the world and we are stuck with it. Rather, we have the power to define power structures. When we are untrained, we give meaning and value to things that don’t deserve them merely because of how they had resonated automatically with our pain, with the “image full of pain” that we thought was us. We are almost automatically and at once disempowered by others.
But in learning that the pain is God’s alone, I have learned also that meaning and value is God’s alone. I learn that nothing has power over my Heart except for God. It is an illusion that others have power over my Heart. There is no movement, no change, no arising and no cessation, except through Divine Will, which is felt intimately in the movement of the Heart. When we learn to internalize this understanding, then we can acquire an incredible power. This is a part of the Divine Secret of the meditative phrase in Islam, which the Prophet called a Treasure of Paradise.
لا حَوْلَ وَلا قُوَّةَ إِلا بِالله – “There is neither no change, movement, transformation, arising and falling, beginning and cessation, nor strength, power, force, and ability except with, to, for, through, and by means of Allah.”
We have a profound ability to heal and to experience. But it needs to be understood that, at the end of the day, we are the creators of those experiences and the ones that define all concepts. Not others. The path of God consciousness is the path of healing and Self empowerment, to know the Higher Self. It is through us that God manifests and creates reality. And so the closer we arrive at Divine Unity then the more empowered we become. Our reality can either be a barren wasteland or an abundant kingdom, what is alluded to as the “Kingdom of God.”
I believe this is how we are taught to approach “Love’s holy space”, the Holy Precinct, humbly with the Eye of the Mind, as Rumi writes. Dwelling within this insight, in this experience, there was felt a great sense of relief from Suffering. In the profound realization of this we sever Attachment to illusions, causing our then manifested reality to change in its constitution in a more expansive way that reflects the expansiveness of our Heart. This is the path of religion.
The pain of the Heart is what it means to be human. It is not meant to disappear per se. It is our sense of brokenness from the trauma of death and birth into this world that we continually polish. Just as trauma unhinges our organizing Principle, by resolving it we attain to the primordial organizing Principle by which our sense of Self becomes ordered. As this happens our perception of that pain is transformed from an imperfection and debilitation to a signpost that points us towards God. It is a thread that Allah uses to pull us back into “Love’s holy space.” It thus serves as our means towards the Source of power that gives new life to our existence through humble submission. As Rumi said, “The wound [crack] is where the Light enters you.” But without this path of healing the pain and the anxiety continues to fester. It turns into resentment and anger, then malice and hatred. Disguising itself as power and dominance, it devours the Soul and then the world. That is Hell, and we become demons.
As I write this I cannot help but be reminded of the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha:
The truth of suffering (dukkha)
The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)
We have to recognize the truth of Suffering within us and the world in order to resolve it. By recognizing it, we will seek out what its origin is. This is the path of Enlightenment. As we travel this path, we will grow, we will heal, and we will transform.
The painting is an 1880 work of Jesus by Julius Sergius von Klever.