That source is longing to be known, is longing to be in relationship to you

This time-space continuum is just the theater in which the attributes of the divine, the attributes of spirit, manifest. And we’re here to understand and experience this theater qualitatively so that we begin to sense that there is a source to all of this and that, that source is longing to be known, is longing to be in relationship to you. And that your greatest satisfaction as a human being will come when you enter into that relationship. This is what we mean by worship. But by worship, we don’t mean ritual or ceremony. This is what we mean by prayer, but by prayer, we don’t mean asking for something. We mean a relationship, a conscious relationship with something intensely spiritual, intensely real, loving, generous, beautiful.

When we have that experience, as it grows in us, as it becomes, you might say our baseline, everything in life changes. We have fears, we have disappointments, we have sorrow, we have pain, we have all these things, but they’re in a way transformed because we know we’re living in Love’s universe. And we know that how we relate to the challenges of life and even the pain of life, how we relate to all of this is enriching and developing our souls. And that maybe this life, this existence, is a place for the development and the education of souls. Maybe the nature of reality is to cultivate souls. Souls being conscious entities that can fall in love with God, because what we mean by God is something very beautiful.

Everything wants a place in your heart

This changes the nature of all of our experiences. It gives us a kind of intimacy with the purpose behind existence. We now feel that nothing is a waste, nothing is random, nothing is purely accidental. Everything is part of our own, if I may say so, individually designed curriculum of the heart. The heart is the most precious thing in the universe. Everything wants to get into your heart. Everything wants a place in your heart. Presidential candidates want a place in your heart. Coca-Cola wants a place in your heart, et cetera, et cetera.

Well, what are you going to make central to your heart? Rumi says in another poem, a man dies, and he comes before God, and he’s carrying bags of gold. And God says, “What’s all this garbage here? What are you bringing me this for? Bring me the heart. If your heart is pleased with you, then I am pleased with you.”

And they asked the Prophet Muhammad, “What is sin?” He said simply, “Sin is what troubles your heart. Leave it behind.”

So the heart is central. Paying attention to the heart is our guide. And yes, there are disciplines. It requires commitment. It requires the practice of attention and meditation in one form or another. For Sufis, meditation is maybe half an hour in the morning and otherwise 24/7. Every breath is our meditation. We take a little time, a half-hour, a day, or maybe an hour a day, including our ritual prayer, which is an embodied form of worship to actualize this state of heartfulness, of awareness, but the rest of our day is just living, serving, being creative, being beneficial to humanity. Always with an awareness of this greater context and always referring to the heart as, “What’s needed now? What’s next? What do I need to pay attention to?”

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Bring your mind into your heart. Your heart truly is your mind

Consult with your heart. Bring your mind into your heart. Your heart truly is your mind. The mind separated from the heart is a pretty useless instrument. It can mislead us. But the mind brought into the heart, the thinking mind serving the heart, allows us to be practical. It all comes back to this incredible faculty that we call the heart, which is an array of, you could say, subtle subconscious faculties. Just as you have a sense for sight, or a sense of smell, or a sense of taste – What if you also had a sense for unity? A sense in your own being that could encompass the unity of existence, that could make you feel at one with the trees, with the garden, with other human beings, with the atmosphere, with the oceans.

Well, you do have that sense, whether you’re aware of it or not, and it can be developed. It can become your primary organ of perception. You see evidence for this if you look at the greatest souls of humanity if you look at St. Francis or Rumi, a Mohammed or Jesus? They all could hear the stones speak. They could all communicate with nature, with natural living beings. They were not alienated from existence. They were at one with it. So this is our natural human state. This is not just for those one in a million kinds of people. Yes, we know of them, and we remember them and honor them, but this is something for every human being to attain according to our own capacities.

What if it is our natural state to have an awakened heart?

But that through miseducation, through the ignorance prevailing in society today, which has become overly mental, overly utilitarian, overly egotistical, that we are in a sense miseducated, and the heart is denied. The experience of the heart is devalued. It’s not encouraged. What if there might’ve been, and maybe there still are, traditional societies where the heart was better understood? At the same time, we are crippled. Our hearts are crippled by the prevailing values and the false reality that surrounds us. The false reality or reality created by and for egos, and yet there is a maturing process that is possible and necessary. The heart is such a precious faculty. It deserves to be cultivated.

Everybody, even a Mozart with his precociousness still needed to train. He needed a teacher too to bring forth even his precociousness. People who are artists, people who are healers, people who are whatever walk of life, we are developable beings. But let us not neglect the role that the heart plays in the development of every aspect of human development. Whether it be medicine, with heart, you will be a better doctor. You’ll have intuitions; you’ll have a quality of perception and openness that a person without heart will not have. Even if you lose in the Olympics, even if you come in last, if you have heart, you’re winning. It’s true. In every sphere of life, heart will enhance performance. It’s the ultimate performance enhancer.

Hearts can become diseased

I’m speaking literally and metaphorically. Hearts can become dis-eased, they can become hardened, and this leads to certain physical conditions. At the same time, people’s hearts can be broken. People can die of a broken heart. I know of a Sufi Shaykh. After certain very terrible events that he witnessed, he died of a broken heart.

So we also need to strengthen our hearts. And again, it is the love of God, trust in the purposefulness of existence that leads to a strengthening of the heart. The human being as a whole, we are holistic creatures, and our spiritual well-being is related to our physical well-being. People forget that we have an innate capacity to experience the infinite. And by the infinite, I don’t mean some mental abstraction. I mean something expansive and regenerative that we have a right to experience. It’s even an ecstatic experience. We have a need for it, and the cheap substitutes we seek will never quite do it. But for our own health and well-being, we need some experience of the divine.

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Can our education system help awaken the heart?

The best of teachers will do this naturally if they’re compassionate and if they’re caring. It tends to get lost in the teenage years as the focus of education becomes more mental, more instrumental, more strictly career-oriented. In this country [the USA], education is becoming utilitarian. It’s to help us fit into a certain kind of economy. It’s not really education. It’s something else. It’s programming. Yeah, the education of the heart needs to be re-introduced, needs to be understood and developed consciously. To do that within our own system today, we may need to find the right language to present it to people so they don’t think it’s something sort of.

But I think it’s quite a reasonable proposition, I think from this conversation that we’re having. Do you think there’s a rationale for educating the heart? Even relativity theory and quantum theory may reveal some absolutely amazing mind-boggling truths, but it still is not the science of qualities. It’s still not what touches our innermost and important subjective experience, namely an experience of meaning and value. I think these two sciences are not antagonistic. They need to be reunified.

When I used to lead the whirling dervishes on tour as a Sheikh and give an introduction to the ceremony, one of things we would always say is, view this ceremony with your heart, not with your mind. And that seemed to be a good preparation to shift people to a different kind of perception.

The heart unifies, the heart affirms. It’s intellect that analyzes, segregates, denies, and negates, but the heart is that power in ourselves that can say a true yes.

Thank you for your service, your aspiration. Whatever motivated you to undertake this work. May it be fruitful and may it… You know what we say in the Mevlevi Sufi tradition, may it become love and beauty.