So how did I get to the doors of the Nimatullahi Order? Aside from an easy train ride from my house to really explain I feel I have to give some idea of how my mind and the things my smaller journeys on the path.
I have always felt that everything is knowable; meaning that the search for truth never ends in an impasse or a cul de sac. If it does it is because we are in some unknown way blocking our understanding or limiting the vastness of the potentialities of our being. “I was a hidden treasure and I desired to be known,” says one Islamic hadith. To add to that point, there is another sura from the Qu’ran which says we have made the signs clear for those who have knowledge. The same message exists very clearly in Christianity: [the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth the field] as well as Hinduism and every single religious tradition I have come across.
We are a mystery to ourselves. Human beings have the capabilities to operate on many different levels. The outside world is just one plane of the many that we operate on. Rumi in his Mathnavi says “The One who knows all secrets is here now, nearer than your jugular vein.” To Rumi we are in constant conversation with the source. We have forgotten the language of the heart and have to learn again through immersing ourselves in nature, in our responsibilities and in our passions. Nothing like tempestuous moments of grief and loss to me make Rumi’s words come alive.
Grief is better than Happiness, because in grief a person draws close to God. Your wings open. A tent is set up in the desert where God can visit you. Wealth that arrives in grief is what we spend in joy. The soul is greater than anything you ever lost
Well, I did not start out with such a balanced approach. My approach was to read as much as I can and talk to whoever was willing to talk to me and listen. I didn’t have a teacher, visibly anyways, and upon realization of the major ramifications of this I decided to let Life be my teacher. Meaning I left things completely in the air as to who I would talk to what I would read. I would take it as it came, for someone who is broke this is the easiest way. Interesting books came into my hands at the right time and the right place, as well as interesting people and opportunities. It was impossible to not notice an invisible hand guiding my search. I can’t answer how or why I read such and such a book at such and such a time after reading another set of books.
So you can see how the stage was beginning to be set unknown to me at the time. While I was reading and studying and looking and delving into the major questions of life, I was trying to go to school, with money enough for transportation but no food too many times. For most of college I couldn’t afford a computer or textbooks, or many essential things. I was for a period of time taking my sister to school which was far away. I had to wake up at 4:40 leave by 5:40 to make it to her prep school by 7:20 AM. Home became worse and worse, we moved every year and change because of money problems; moving late at night in the blistering cold and in the sweltering heat arguing parents, constant threat of divorce, stricter and stricter rules, especially as the eldest.
Finally we moved to a far out place in Queens and I was able to have my first real room, at 22-23. It makes me laugh to think about it. For those of you who don’t know me I laugh really loudly and often. There I was able to really further my personal studies. I read and studied intensely for a period of two maybe three years. Then for some reason I couldn’t continue. I hit a wall. I knew I had to leave home to really continue to pursue my studies, but financially I couldn’t. So whenever I had time I was there in my room trying to be consistent in my meditation and other practices. Home life became way too hard. I managed to finish grad school, and of course took a really long time to find a job, I did a year long internship to further my. Sallie Mae payments are due, no money.
To save money I started making bread every day for me and my wife. Yes man can live by bread alone. My father and I were getting into really heated arguments. One day if it wasn’t for my mom sister and wife I would have knocked him out Chuck Liddell style. I found a job, and hated it from day one but had to take it having college loans and bills to pay for, a wife and younger sister to look after. It was a humbling experience. Yet even in all of this, there was peace. There were smiles given to me by strangers that carried me through. Coincidences that were too strange to attribute to random chance.
Everyone now and then I would get solace in a most joyous and beautiful form. It’s like life would become so joyous I would feel it in my heart and it would spread outwards like waves of energy. When your spirits are broken due to lacking the necessities or sickness you lose the need for labels, you don’t care if you are an American or Russian, Muslim or Catholic. You can feel yourself as a living entity you can feel how fragile life really is. If at that point a desire comes forth from your soul, in a time of need and desperation, then I feel at the timeyou ar engaging in true prayer. Prayer isn’t rattling off some preformatted words, or going to church or the synagogue or temple because our parents and grandparents will complain, or starting off with a list of demands because you have taken your inner self hostage. It is a living experience. When you are broken, you realize that even in your moments of great strength and health you are living by the grace of God. That realization alone made it all worthwhile.
It’s clear to see now that I couldn’t have persevered through a lot of things by myself. Not mentioning a string of jobs I hated, having to quit, multiple evictions, my wife getting sick due to our difficulties have a child. There was always someone or something, I prefer the term The Presence there. There was always a feeling of love that would settle on me at key moments when I felt I was going to quit. It’s folly to think that I came all this way by myself, on my own volition and power.
From Nov 2007 to Dec 2009, I went through the most difficult period of my life. I also never studied and worked more intensely personally as well as with the many jobs I had.
One day I was looking online at the MysticSaint blog and saw a blog post about a book Jesus in The Eyes of the Sufis written by Dr Javad Nurbakhsh the then Master of the Order. I bought the book, but did not read right away. That’s not surprising, I bought another book and read it 7 years later and it just happened to be the right time. Something clicked in my head I don’t know what. Sirens went off in my head. A few days later I was on the phone with the Pir a Dalil, the spiritual counselor of the place Sufi meeting place. Once I heard his voice, I knew I was home, and this part of my journey was at an end. I felt a peace settle down on me. I went to talk with him July 25th 2008, started blogging Aug 17th and I became a Darvish and was initiated October 25th, 2008.
At this point up until July 25th, I was tired; tired of struggling, tired of fighting, tired of talking. I was done. I was done with my personal searches despite some interesting experiences I had had. I felt like a donkey that sat down from tiredness. Due to my responsibilities and promises I had to keep on pressing on even though my body was beyond tired. This culminated in my three weeks of sickness and sickle cell crisis. Two years of living on my own, intense work working as a laboratory technician, online course instructor, tutor to the spoiled and rich, and trying to kick start the small business I and some friends created to help and teach young children my body just gave out. When I was sick I had remember how before I said, I am going for broke, I am not going to leave any stone unturned, I am going to figure out what I had to do in this life, push myself to the limits to never have to come back to this place again. I remembered my blindness to the greater will that has a place and purpose for us all. That sickness really gave a hard blow to the little “I” in me.
As I recovered life took on a lot of more depth. I leave everything up to the Friend, I just play my part. I don’t worry, sleep fine and deep. I have made a lot of friends, and after a long period of time I have started smiling again. I am happy inside for days not matter if life crushes my plans. I remember that Rumi’s greatest celebration of the presence came on the heels of his greatest lost and grief (the disappearance of Shams of Tabriz).
There is much more to be said. I feel during this tough time I was sent many old friends, from who knows how many lifetimes past to help and assist me and I them. I feel that the comments you the readers send me are awesome. There are still intense pain and grief moments of great despondency. Some days where it’s hard to talk, let alone walk the path I pick myself up and a major difference between now and then is I walk it in a sense with all of you, whether you are in Latvia, France, Israel, or Australia, Muslim, Jew or Hindu we are all linked together in one big experience. Your struggles are my struggles. At any second if we [you and I] are completely committed to the present, to the Presence manifesting we transcend, this life and its follies instantaneously
It is through my friends, you the readers and the family of dervishes them that I learned the meaning of The Friend, a phrase so important to Sufism. I am reminded of a poem by Saadi and I think I will end this part with his words.
Human beings come
From the same source.
We are all one family.
If a part of the body hurts.
all parts contract with pain.
If you are not concerned
with another’s suffering
we shall not call you Human