Inner Work

The soul is a knowing substance. So what is the
substance? It comes from the sacrifice we make,
every day, every morning, every afternoon, every
evening of our life and the self finally knows itself.
Then what happens? It becomes everlasting, it
takes wings, as fine as the membranes of a butterfly,
but the soul has to know itself first. God cannot give
it to us. He only gives us the possibilities. The idea,
the very idea of the soul can know itself and in
embryonic form you have it, wonderful!

Reshad Feild

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.
Lao Tse

What applies for life in general is also of utmost importance on any inner path: it is questioning our motive and intention. This is at the heart of any inner work. There is the ever so subtle danger that we might try to achieve something for the wrong reasons. We should never forget that “knowledge is given and not acquired” (Muhiyddin Ibn Arabi). Read about the three walls that divide us. Inner work is so much at the centre of our work that this is the

title of Reshad Feild's two volumes of study material used in this school. It contains most valuable inspirations for our real questions. However, since balance is one of the most essential issues on the spiritual path, the Three Lines of Work need to be well balanced.

The Way of the Masters

Eight laws according to Abdulhalik Ghujduvani, 11th century
(from "Inner Work I" by Reshad Feild, chapter "The Way of the Masters")

1. Hush der dem. Be present at every breath. Do not let your attention wander for the duration of a single breath. Remember yourselves always and in all situations.

Remember every breath. As we breathe we should place our attention on each successive breath and be aware of our own presence. Inattention is what separates us from God. The more that one is able to be conscious of one’s breath, the stronger is one’s inner life.
What a challenge this is! To be present at every breath, to be so awake that what lies within the breath is unfolded in each and every moment.
A great Sufi, Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi, once said, “All is contained in the Divine Breath, like the day in the morning’s dawn.” Surely the challenge here is that we so sacrifice our personal will that it is no more ‘our’ breath, but that we become living and willing instruments to both the Divine Will, and thus the Divine Breath.
In this law is the responsibility that we maintain such an inward collective state that our attention cannot wander for the duration of a single breath. After all we do not know if, at the end of this very breath, we will still be alive. So it is necessary to remember ourselves in all situations, to observe, to see what is going on, and thus, to build into our being the “permanent I”.

2. Nazar der kadem. Keep your intention before you, at every step you take. You wish for freedom, and you must never forget it.

Watch each step. Remember where you came from and where you are going. You wish for freedom and you must never forget it. Keep your attention on the step you are taking at this moment.
Freedom - what is this illusive word? The Buddhist takes the Bodhisattvic vow, pledging not to attain enlightenment before all sentient creatures are freed. Sufism is similar, in that real freedom is only possible when we are free ourselves. Thus, to work for freedom is not a selfish act, but rather an act of service.
To hold an intention at every step we take, whether those steps are physical steps or inner decisions, requires that the intention is never lost. Again, here is a challenge that we can look at. How is it possible to keep our attention with every step? Obviously, we have to be awake for this to be possible at all. To be awake, with each passing moment, from the vantage point of our own soul, our own eternal self, which lies beyond the limitations of space and time - that is the key for us.
We have to surrender, to sacrifice, in order to be awake. Nothing is given to us as a gift unless we make some sacrifice. Even a gift for our birthday, however beautifully wrapped, is useless we take off the wrapping.
The wrapping paper is the concept of our self existence separate from the Divine Unity. The wrapping, the pain of separation, is also part of the gift, but some work here, some sacrifice, is necessary for the gift to be seen, and then to be given out into the world.

3. Safar der vatan. Your journey is toward your homeland. Remember that you are travelling from the world of appearances to the world of reality.

Journey toward your homeland. You are travelling from the world of appearances to the world of reality. Man cannot know his destiny so long as he is in the subjective dream state.
It is not possible to understand the real world through the world of the senses. The senses, not yet knowing their own innate purpose, can lead us astray. In the same way, the mind, feeding on a world of comparison, and producing its own linear thinking, can bring us to think that we know something. Real understanding comes about through other, inner senses which are not controlled by the lower, or ‘animal’ senses.
The world of appearances, the world that we think that we see all the time, is often called a world of illusion. In one way this is true; yet if we could realize that this world of appearances is a world from which we can travel, it can be a launching pad into being.
Once again, sacrifice is necessary. In this instance, it is the sacrifice of the control of the senses. What could this mean? A whole book could be written on this subject, as many writers have attempted. But it is our own inner work, our own inner action, that is necessary.
The Sufi tradition is not a tradition of asceticism. It is not a world of celibacy or abstinence. It can, however, bring us to realize that the senses can help us - that is, if they do not control us. The senses can be like watch-dogs, helping us to guard the inner life, or they can almost eat the inner life since we have not found out which type of food will satisfy them, and so allow the senses to fulfil their function in the Divine Plan.

4. Halvat der endjuman. In all your outward activity remain inwardly free. Learn not to identify yourself with anything whatsoever.

Solitude in the crowd. Enter into the life of the outer world without losing your inner freedom. Remember God and do not allow yourself to be identified with anything.
This law involves three aspects of time. First, there is the world of passing time, in which we are involved most of our so-called “waking” life. We are so identified to things that we do not realize that when we say “I”, the “I” that spoke is already gone. When we say “I” a second time, it is only in comparison to the first “I”, and that “I” is in comparison to the one before, and so on.
To live by this fourth law, we have to be free of the impermanent “I”, and come into an eternal “I”. Yet why can’t we get to this vantage point from which we can see both passing time and infinite possibility at the same time? What is it that prevents us?
In some traditions it is called karma. Just now, I would like to call it “false time”. This is the time we project so many times daily upon what is, in essence, perfect. It is the time that emanates from us when we cannot accept God. We build up worlds upon worlds of karma each and every day when we cannot accept the cross of time, which is simultaneously eternal and passing. The mind cannot understand this, for there is no comparison here.
A great Sufi once said, “Time is the Eternal Attribute of God” - a Divine Symphony which is both the shortest symphony ever written and also the longest. As the great composer Alan Hovhannes once said to me, “It is a pity that so many conductors ruin a symphony…”
By learning not to identify, we can learn that no one can create karma for ourselves but ourselves. We can thus remain free both outwardly or inwardly.

5. Yad gerd. Remember your friend. that is, God. Let the prayer of your tongue (dhikr) be the prayer of your heart (q’alb).

Remember your friend. You may discover the Friend, i.e. God, through the being of your guide. Let the prayer of your tongue be the prayer of your heart.
I recollect a very famous, and devout, man of God saying to me, “Reshad, if I have a friend in this world, I am worried. But if I have an enemy, I know that God is behind me…”
There is one Absolute Being, one Absolute God, one Truth, and thus one Guide. There is one Power, one Benefactor, one Provider, and so forth. The mind sees only the endless eternal manifestations of this. There is one Friend! Surely He manifests Himself in so many ways.
Sheikh Suleyman Dede* tells us, “The key to will is gratefulness.” If we can truly wake up grateful in each moment, and in gratefulness give up each moment, then we know that there is One Friend, who is God. Thus, the prayer of our tongue, the verbalized expression of objective hope and prayer, is indeed the prayer of the heart, for we have given up even our heart to the Divine.

*Suleiman Dede (died January 19, 1985), Sheikh of the Mevlevi Order in Konya, gave Reshad Feild the task to bring the Turn, the ceremony of the whirling dervishes, to the West. More about Reshad Feild meeting Suleyman Dede in Reshad's first book "The Last Barrier".

6. Baz gasht. Return to God. No aim but to attain Reality.

Return to God. We must be single-minded about our goal. The possibility of transformation is a gift to be valued above all other possessions.
Reality is! If only we could stop interfering wit reality, we would find, as I said before, that everything, in essence, is complete; and where else would we wish to return to? Where else? Is there anything else that could be of greater service than to return to that which is ever perfect, and complete?

7. Nigah dasht. Struggle with all alien thoughts. Keep your mind on what you are doing, whether outwardly or inwardly.

Remain watchful. Observe what captures your attention and why.
“O, my thought!” Thought is an energy field, consisting of 14 stages from the moment we were a thought in the mind of God! Thought is given to us as a gift, to be used for the benefit of all mankind. So often we are so beset by thoughts that nothing remains real for us.
Alien thoughts are those which relate to the notion that we exist separate from the One - from the Divine. We have to consider that we can do nothing by ourselves! Thought lies within the umbrella of the mind. It is not surprising that so many hpeople are ill when all they do is to analyze the mind without accepting the mind as a Divine Gift. Let us keep our minds on what we are doing.

8. Yad dasht. Be constantly aware of the quality of the Divine Presence. Become used to recognizing the Presence of God in your heart.

Be constantly aware of the Divine Presence. Accustom yourself to recognize the quality of the Divine Presence in your heart. The “loss of self” allows us to participate in a greater Being.
We can choose not only the quality of life that we lead, but also the quality of air that we breathe. There is a relationship between these two. The Divine Presence is perfect, and thus, if we become used to recognizing the Presence of God in our hearts, we may find that there is nothing else but this ever-living, ever-subsisting Presence, for we have ceased to exist to ourselves.

We can help our children, whether born or unborn, in this manner. We can show them, through right use of these eight laws, how they can learn to serve God and humanity, not as separate entities, but seen as one.
I pray that we will work with these tools that we have been given, to bring us into the world of freedom that is not “there” but here, within the known world.


The Three Lines of Work

In the first line of work we look in all honesty at ourselves and see how little permanency we have. Most of the time we are totally controlled and identified with our emotions and feelings. If at least we want to wake up to become conscious, it requires the First Line of Work. It is working on ourselves. It is not possible to become conscious without very hard work of a special sort so that the necessary “substance” is created through an inner alchemical process of transformation.
A living school is established to help everyone who wishes to learn how to work on themselves so that they can lead a life which may not be easier but "heavier with meaning" (Martin Buber)  for themselves, their families, children and children’s children.

Practices are considered of primary importance and are very carefully balanced. It cannot be stressed enough that "Breath is Life" and thus practices in this school are based on breath. Without breath we we will forget about life. Prayer, meditation, contemplation and our work with the Breath are all essential if we are ever to become totally awake and conscious.

There is also the necessity of study on a very regular basis.
Real study means to extract meaning even if this implies reading again and again the texts that are given until the inner meaning will be made available within one’s own heart and in one’s own language. We study in order to help to know the meaning and purpose of Life and, most important of all, to help to know ourselves. “He who know himself, knows his Lord…” (Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi)

Practises and study also help us to accept our dependence on God or the One Absolute Being. This requires gratefulness for every aspect of our lives. "Gratefulness is the key to will" (Jelalu'ddin Rumi)

The second line is to do with what we can do for each other. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” as Jesus said.
We are given so much and it is our responsibility to give back to our Creator, through His Creation. What do we need to do to consciously help each other and how much time do we take to actually find out what is needed?
The Second Line is also very much to do with what we can do together. God is remembered when we take action and give help to His Creation. 

The third line of work is concerned with what each individual is asked to do for the School itself. A very basic service to an inner school is involving oneself in regular group work and participating in bringing group work to life. To organise an event, to publish books and DVD’s or create and keep alive a website implies an enormous effort of many individuals and teams of people.
This work is vital if a Living School like this is to stay truly alive and thus be itself a “Chalice” containing the knowledge for future generations and thus the world to come.


So much from God
That I can no longer

A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
A Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me

That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, an angel,
Or even pure

Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed

Of every concept and image
My mind
Has ever known.

Hafiz, free rendering
by D. Ladinsky