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ARTICLES

The Practice of Stillness

Generally there are three stages towards the expected good outcomes of stillness in body, mind, and heart.

1. Preparation and Intention

This preliminary stage is to overcome the natural mental noise that goes on in your head. Anything that exists seeks to perpetuate itself. All thoughts are froth from the neuron circuitry, so allow them to exhaust themselves and leave you.

Ensure you are not interrupted and your attention diverted to worldly needs. As you do your wudu concentrate on the meaning of every move so you purify the decaying body (see ‘Transformative Worship’ for more on this).

Using sound is a useful approach when used repetitively as a way of tricking the mind through  self hypnosis to reduce the circling of thoughts in the head and bring them to one point. It is not so much the intensity of being mindful but the frequency and constancy. This approach incorporates any of a dozen methodologies or ways.

Recitation of Qur’an 
Sit quietly and follow a recitation or read aloud yourself. Repeat only a few ayat of your choice.

Dhikr
This is an introduction to leave behind your identity, your biography, your worries. Choose a dhikr that is effective for you.  Recite the Name ‘Allah’ in any fashion, or any other Divines Names.  E.g. if you are ill ‘Ya Shāfī Ya Mu’āfī’ may be helpful;  if worried for provisions, ‘Ya Fattāh Ya Razzāq‘.

Visualisation
Visualize anything you are easy with such as a divine name on the horizon,  a colour, rainbows etc. Whatever you choose concentrate on it.  For example, take a rose in your hand and ask it permission to de-petal it. Your mind is a trickster; you have to outwit it.

Breath
Become aware of inhaling and exhaling, extending the period of exhalation.

2. Entering the Ocean

The moment you have made your intention you are on the shore wading in, in the hopes that the sea will engulf you and that you will lose all self-consciousness, self-awareness and identity.

In Muslim cultures certain terms were used to denote meditative retreats, such as khalwa (which connotes a status and prestige that is quite misplaced and abused in this day and age), i’tikāf  (which has remained a tradition practised during the last 10 days of Ramadan) and ‘uzla (a more neutral term denoting setting oneself aside).

Whilst wading along the shallows many aspects of the self will be revealed to you. Allow them to emerge, face them as they recede and exhaust themselves, as if you are in the guesthouse described by Rumi, welcoming them without judgement. Persist and be patient and do not judge your progress because this zone takes the bulk of energy and time.

3. Transcending Space and Time

As you are wading there may be occasions when you slip or lose your foothold; do not panic but be patient.  Now you are approaching  the deep end:  experiencing different qualities of silence. Flow with that state with trust but no fear.   You are now entering a zone of higher consciousness that is at the edge of truth.

All these approaches are to move you along towards higher consciousness.

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