The Human body comprises not only a body of flesh, but another aspect, commonly refereed to as “I” or “the self” (described in Sufi terms as nafs). Mystical experience activates the “I”. Like an electrical current, it runs through an individual, bringing forth untapped potentials. With the activation of self comes a certain degree of consciousness and insight. A person starts to sense that his or her “I” reflects another “I”- the “I” of a Supreme Being. He or she becomes conscious of God acting in and through creation.
Hazrat Azad Rasool
Please find below a very inspiring and very brave post on recovery from mental health challenges from the city of Pune, India by N. From depths of our heart we thank this brave person for sharing her personal experience with us. There are many pathways to recovery and meditation is one such method that has united two of us in our journey to recovery and healing. We’ve been blessed to learn from each other and to help each other.
Thank You for Beautiful Pics N
Uniting in Recovery with Meditation in Pune
I woke up this morning at 4 am feeling anxious. I got out of bed to take one of my SOS pills for anxiety, then went back to sleep. When I woke up again at 7.15 to take my dogs for a walk, the anxiety was back. We went downstairs for our morning walk, and once I’d given them their breakfast, I took my regular morning anti-depressant and another SOS anxiety pill.
This has been my life for the past two years. Yesterday my psychiatrist told me that while he initially diagnosed my condition as borderline personality, his regular meetings with me had convinced him this was not the case. He said the generalised anxiety I had been experiencing for the past four years was probably a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
I found the School of Sufi Teaching in 2015. I had just returned to India from the United Kingdom, where I used to practise meditation with a Zen group. The Sufi School didn’t have a group in my city, Pune, but they sent me the meditation instructions and I started to practise on my own. The practice helped relieve the terrible anxiety I had been struggling with. I slowly started to trust the woman sending me the emails about the Sufi practice as I opened up to her about my difficulties. She was a lifeline to me during one of the most challenging phases of my life, as I looked after my mother who had Stage 3 ovarian cancer. I decided that I would never let go of her hand.
I met my shaykh and others on the path in 2017, when I was invited to attend a Sufi retreat in London. That’s when I met Maha for the first time, who has turned out to be the best friend I have ever had. Her support has gotten me through this past year on medication and helped me to stay on the path.
It is difficult to describe exactly how the Sufi practices have changed my life for the better. I used to practise Buddhist meditation, where the emphasis is on slowing down your thoughts so that you gain some control over your mind. This helps to consciously weed out the negative thoughts that characterise depression and anxiety.
The Sufi practices are very different. The muraqabah, or meditation is about opening your heart and gaining a connection with the divine. As you open your heart, you start to understand the world in a way that is derived not only from the thinking mind, but also the loving heart. It’s a beautiful way to live, but how does it help with mental health conditions?
I remember reading somewhere that the great Sufi Al-Ghazali had been a prominent scholar of Islam before he developed mental health challenges which led him to seek out the Sufi path. He gave up his scholarly career and devoted his life to spirituality. In my case, I haven’t yet been able to give up dunya, the material world, which mainly consists of my own scholarly career. But the Sufi muraqabah and zikr, the contact with others on the path and my shaykh, and the deep friendships I have formed have all been healing forces in my life. Sometimes when I’m very anxious, I go to the dargah of
Hazrat Babajan in Pune and sit down there to meditate and recite my zikr. I usually come out feeling composed and calm.
More mysteriously, I’ve seen the conditions of my life change, slowly but surely. Situations in my family and my own personal life that have caused me much anguish over several decades have started to inexplicably shift. New people have entered my life—people I can trust and depend on. My relationship with my father has improved. All of these blessings, I believe, are the result of my practice and the blessings of my shaykh. These problems were the root cause of the depression and anxiety I have suffered from most of my life. If these root causes disappear—will I still be depressed and anxious?
I have no quotes from books about Sufism to pepper this article with, because I’ve stopped reading about Sufism. Hazrat Azad Rasool writes in his book Turning towards the Heart that it’s best to throw away all your books and just do the practices. Similarly, Saeen Zahoor sings the following kalaam of Baba Bulleh Shah: “Padh padh ilm te faazal hoyo, te kadhi apne aap nu padheya nahee…” Meaning essentially that gaining scholarly knowledge is useless if you have never studied yourself. So I’ve given up on trying to understand the Sufi path with my mind—which, according to Rumi, “is less than road dust.” Instead, I just do the practices, as my friend Maha often advises me to do, through all the ups and downs, and trust that the path will lead me to my destination.