Belief is a journey that one undertakes. My belief is a journey I have been on for at least the last ten years. I am a seeker of truth and love. I don’t believe in the separation between divine love and other forms of love. I have taken different paths within this larger journey, but for me the most important thing is: wherever my heart takes me, I take that path. So my belief system is linked to my inner self and helps me developing my inner consciousness, but is also linked to the outer world.
This journey started at the beginning of my childhood. I was very curious about the outer world, and the big questions we all have: where did we come from, what is the purpose of life? I wanted to understand the connection of my own self with the world I am living in. And I want to live all the possible ways of life. So that’s how I started the path of Sufiism. Sufiism is difficult to define in words, it’s more of an experiential phenomenon. On this path I am finding some of the answers to questions I had since childhood. And I am still curious to know the meaning of life!
I always find myself very attached to my mother. And sometimes I think that this kind of curiosity and spiritual quest that I am on, is like living the unfulfilled dreams of my mother. She loved Persian language and mysticism and she used to tell me Persian stories related to Sufis. I think part of my own spiritual journey is a kind of continuum of her journey. But I also have come across so many different individuals in my life, who became my mentors. If a person is a seeker, everything becomes a teacher. A very famous saying from Rumi is: ‘If the student is ready, the teacher appears’. So I am in a constant process of learning: from the micro-universe I have inside me, each and every moment, if you are connected with the divine you will find moments of learning and knowledge. But you do have to cultivate that kind of consciousness to understand what the universe is telling you.
For a seeker of truth, love, or the divine, the answers are already given around you. You need to see with the right eye. The right eye can be developed with the right intentions. The path of mysticism that I follow is present in all the different religions in the world. And the seekers of the truth are present in all traditions, beyond the realm of religion. I have been associated with all these different traditions: whenever I found a person who is also taking the same journey, we would take the opportunity to share or learn.
I have been born in a Muslim family, and I have been socialised in a Muslim-dominated context. These different traditions, like Islam, prepare you for the right paths, they give you the tools, teach you right intentions. But I was always very conscious and critical of the question whether, whatever I am performing, even an outer practice of Islam, it’s connected to the inside or not. Asking, ‘what is the purpose?’
For me, a practice that is not informed by a belief is an empty practice. In Sufiism they say that you have to cultivate pure intentions first, and then the practice. So the practice is a manifestation of your belief. For instance, cultivating good moral values would manifest as compassion for others. So my practices come from my belief that we are all seekers, that we can learn from one another, and that we all come from the same source, and return to the same source. The belief is the inner dimension, and the practice is the manifested dimension. It is always connected.
One of the Sufi sayings goes: ‘the world is anything that distracts you from your beloved’. What this means for me, is that the material world in itself is not problematic. It’s the way that we find a relationship with this world, the whole process of seeing the world with a different mindset. Sufis always believe that even whether you are rich or very poor, if you are connected with the beloved, and not distracted from your path, you are doing good. So it’s about not seeing the inner and outer world in contradiction. Still, we live in a world where lots of things happen that are harmful for others. Yet, in the mystical path, Sufis always say, ‘you have to strive to find the right intention within you’. Always strive for the constant process of transformation inside, which lasts for as long as you live.
My path is also a way of life. I know as an individual we have certain constraints. We have been brought up in different contexts, different times. And people do expect certain things from us, and we from others. The most important thing is, how do we actually live with others, despite these expectations. One Sufi saying is: ‘Polish yourself like a mirror’. It’s also related to the Prophet Mohammed. People used to say bad things about him, other good things. And the companions of the Prophet used to ask him, ‘why are you not saying anything to those saying bad things?’ Then the Prophet used to say, ‘they reflect their own selves in me’. Through his own pure intentions, he became a mirror.
Another Sufi saying is: ‘you have to polish your heart like a mirror, so that the divine can be reflected in it’. The Prophet would also say that the divine cannot be contained in the heavens, or contained in the earth, but it can only be contained in the pure heart of an individual, a pure heart full of unconditional love and compassion. That’s where one can find the divine.