Re-visiting Hagia Sophia


Today, Hagia Sophia’s entrance is not as crowded as it was when it was newly opened. We can finally visit her. We pass through the check point. A policeman stopping the queue says: “First we will empty the place, people just finished their prayers. And then we will disinfect the whole space. It will take one and half hours.”

We decide to have lunch somewhere until Hagia Sophia is ready to receive us. Women and men queue up separately. It looks like the sensitivities of the majority has been considered. Although I am afraid of burning under the sun for many hours in the queue, the women’s side starts flowing towards Hagia Sophia like a river. The woman behind me constantly steps on my shoe. They push each other with the excitement and curiosity boiling in their bodies, sweating as well. I remember how we used to enter when it was a museum. Same crowd. But there is a clear difference when it comes to the level of enthusiasm of the visitors. These women are moving and being moved with a raw and primitive force in their bodies. I feel intimidated by this untamed force. I take off my hat and put on my veil. I am ready to meet Sophia. Am I really? My heart is pounding, my tongue repeating the prayers that I repeated God knows how many times.

I greet Hagia Sophia, my hand on my heart. The middle-aged woman in front of me has already taken out her mobile phone to make a photo of the newly put sign at the entrace: “The Great Mosque of Hagia Sophia.” The first words of the visitorswhentheystepinare “Ohhowbeautifullycoolitisinhere.”Wetakeoff our shoes. It feels magical to step on the marbles. I feel the place deeper. Smooth, very soft. It feels like stepping on a very thick layer of ice. Roots start coming out of my soles and go deep down into the heart of Hagia Sophia. The officials at the entrance of the main hall are chatting, with zero idea of my experience. Would it make a difference if they saw the roots growing so deep? Would they try to cut them down?

When I enter the hall, my feet meet the turqoise-coloured carpets. It feels like I am being hosted as a guest of honour. Like how the women in the small town I grew up in used to spare a special room for guests and put their best things in there.

When I look around to see the new face of the place, mostly what I see are the mobile phones flying in the air. People are feeling the space through their mobile phones. They use them to perceive the space instead of their five senses. The mobiles became a medium between the lover and the beloved. The mobiles are functioning as clergy meditating the divine encounter. They are having video calls with their families or the people they want to show off to, I think. Whenever they make a selfie of themselves or take photos and videos of Hagia Sophia, they turn the place into an object that is exhibited in a museum. These people who are rejoicing the fact that it is now a mosque are now acting like museum visitors. Where is the peaceful atmosphere of a mosque? Where is its community who knows how to relate to a sacred place?

Children are playing on the carpet. Once Marian lied down under the dome and one by one people did the same until the security guard came and warned them: “Here is a museum, it is forbidden to do such things.” Just look around, it is suspicious to just sit like this in the corner in a secularized place. Our friend did it, closed her eyes while sitting and was warned: “It is forbidden to meditate here.” It really broke my heart to see such a powerful place stripped of its sacredness, that we even have to be scared of closing our eyes here.


A young boy is lying on the carpet and a bright golden light is beaming on him. He is sitting in a diamond. He is being washed by this light. He is playing with another boy in a deeply innocent joy. Sophia whispers to me: “These young boys are signalling the rise of the conscious masculine power. As long as they are here with me, they will be washed with the light of the sacred feminine. This light will be decoding all the patterns they receive from their ancestors, especially the ones about religion and politics. They will be contributing to the making of the new world.“ I smile and take a deep breath of relief. I can not pass to the side where the qiblah is (direction of Mecca). It is spared for men to pray, there are some still in the prostration. These men are the wounded boys who could not reach the adult consciousness, while physically being in the body of grown-ups. Mother Mary has become their guardian. It makes sense that this place is spared for them, I tell myself, in this way they will be closer to Mother Mary and thus will be healed. Without them noticing. The subconscious is working non-stop. They are infused with the frequency of this special field. No escape.

I feel Mother Mary is doing fine. Many years ago when I visited Rumi’s shrine, I received an inspiration. People visiting the shrine generally share their disappointment with it, expecting something more special. Rumi explained why this is the case, to me and this was the guidance. He said: “Dear, this is the field of the feminine, contrary to the shrine of Shams where people feel the power of the masculine field. The feminine is veiled, hidden behind the curtains of mystery. Only a real seeker can lift this veil. If you don’t know how to do it, you get bored in the feminine field thinking there is nothing to discover there. And this works as a natural selection of who is sincere and who is not.”

Is it the same thing with Mother Mary, now that she is veiled with white curtains in the Hagia Sophia? Is she veiling herself not to burn the ones who are not yet ready to receive the holy power reflected through her presence? If so, what affection and empathy! She might be veiling herself for the sake of the ones who

are willing to see her: She is waiting for the people praying there to make one step closer towards becoming a holy vessel and giving birth to their own Jesus. She is waiting to become their midwife. And it is for sure that if one does not love Mother Mary and know the truth of Jesus, one can not be a true believer of Islam. As it gets more crowded and the phone traffic becomes more intense, I find it difficult to breathe. Using a mask is not making things any easier. People on duty are walking around to warn people who are putting their masks down, mostly old people. It feels almost like a circus. I find a spot to sit (one of the areas touched by sun beam) and chant a surah from the Quran; the surah of expansion; both for myself and for Hagia Sophia. I feel that it might be challenging even for her to host that many of her children. I am sure these visitors did not visit the monument when it was a museum for many possible reasons. Maybe because of the expensive tickets, or they lack the culture of visiting museums. They might not have the necessary cultural and social background to be interested in its art and history. I see very clearly that the profile of the previous audience differs a lot from the profile of visitors right now. And in fact, both groups are very similar to each other in some ways. I do not believe that the visitors of the museum times with their secular and modern background are better or more respectable than the ones right now. I realized that the museum visitors are as unaware of Hagia Sophia’s spiritual dimensions as the visitors of the mosque. Both of them are mainly focused on the worldy facade of it. Because they are the children of modernity who mainly relate to things on the surface and lack the culture and traditions to acquire an adult consciousness. The newcomers are not aware because they are the children of a religion traumatized by patriarchy. Therefore, regarding the consciousness level the audience did not change. How they appear to be relating to Hagia Sophia has changed according to their background. The women visiting now are mostly covered. A lot of men are wearing traditional Islamic clothing (shalvar and turbans), holding stick in their hands. There are small

girls covered, holding their teddy bears. The elders of Anatolia are meeting Hagia Sophia, most probably for the first time, with all their lacks, traumas and deeply ingrained destructive patterns. Sophia is welcoming Anatolia as it is. These people must be praying in a church structure for the first time in their lives. Though it looks like a great challenge, it is also a great opportunity for transformation; for both sides.

I would like to express it one more time that when I write these words I try not to judge people based on their consciousness level and clothing. In fact, I find some women very beautiful who are fully covered in black, which represents nothingness in its essence, gracefully and modestly. I admire them as much as I admire beautiful women who wear their white summer dress on tanned skin. The point is not how we appear. The point is the willingness to see how divided and polarized we have become and slowly ready ourselves to listen to each others’ truth. I can not imagine a better place than Hagia Sophia for this to happen.

I pass to the women’s section and take a deep breath. Here it is more spacious. I always feel very

page5image20278240nurtured in women-only spaces. I get the same taste in the women sections of the mosques as in women circles or feminine retreats. Women, old and young, pray, chant mantras with their tasbihs, read from the Quran. These women who are the places for the direct manisfestation of the feminine have so much responsibility in this space. It looks like they have already started working. Knowingly or unknowingly. I hope they will gain more awareness in time why it matters to pray here and what it means to pray here in its essence.

A small boy sitting next to his praying mother is playing games on the mobile phone. A small girl is imitating her mother’s prayer postures and in the end walks like a funny spider on the carpet, this is her special posture for prayer. Another two boys stick their foreheads to each other and one of them imitates a voice in English: “Bless your heart.’

A mother is calling her son, “Kadiiiir, pose for me; I am making a photo of you.” I remember the conversation I had with a dear friend the other night, it was about one of the attributes of god, al-Qadir, which works through all the creatures. Even through this small boy, as his name indicates. Another mother is fixing her daughter’s skirt which is so out of fashion, before they start praying. A deep voice in my heart screams: “I promise you, dear girl, I will design you clothes for prayers. In them, you will look like a queen. For meeting the Beloved, you will be wearing your best clothes and it will give you great joy and excitement for this date.”

In one moment, there are lots of stories emerging. After a while it becomes difficult to follow each one of them. I decide to close my eyes by putting my sunglasses on. Afterwards I see a woman behind me, with closed eyes as well. Now we are allowed to do this. I take off my sunglasses.

I am inviting all of us to take off the glasses we are used to wear and see the newly emerging stories from a fresh state. I believe Hagia Sophia deserves this kind of witnessing and so do the people of this land.

Homecoming in Corona Times

Corona has arrived while I am writing my book “Coming Back Home”. Such a timely arrival! As I am from home, it did not occur to me that it would change my rhythm. Yet it did a great deal, to my surprise. Before telling you what kind of transformations I am going through, I would like to talk about “homecoming”. As for me, it is at the center of what we have been experiencing with the arrival of corona times. The first 18 couplets of Masnavi talk about homecoming in detail through the story of the reed flute. It is cut off from the reed bed, carved hollow from the inside and burnt. We hear its complaints. It tells us the stories of separation. Let’s for a second put ourselves in its shoes. Are we aware of the separations we have been going through? If not, corona is voicing it on behalf of us. Telling us the strories loudly, in a way that it makes it impossible to avoid it any more. What kind of separation am I talking about? Dislocated wild life, burning forests, immigrants, people including me and my friends feeling away from home in a system that does not properly function any more. I witness how disconnected we are from the Earth, from the life forms on it. I witness how isolated we become by our own presumptions, assumptions and scenarios of how things are and should be. Clinging to them, we are being blinded and deafened to what really is. On top of that, we are trying to find solutions that are coming from the same root as the problem. In fact, we have already put ourselves in quarantine long before corona arrived, by keeping ourselves in the comfort zones of our fictional realities. In the midst of this rush, we are numbed to the existence of the earth below us, and sky above. This rush does not have to be a physical one. Not only white collar workers but also freelancers, those who are into yoga and meditation, people practising five times prayers a day and fasting, enviromental activists, they are all part of this rush. It is an intellectual as well as a spiritual rush. As long as we do not slow down and thus allow ourselves to be humbled by the greater whole we are part of, embodying it each and every day in devotion, many so called crises and disasters are arriving to align us with the Greater Story. In its core, it is about homecoming. It shows how invalid our small fictional stories are. They smell of plastic. They are distrupted again and again until they come to a halt, until we lose the grip and let it go, let it die and dissolve in light and love.
For some of us home is our family, our work, projects, productions. Trying to survive, our salaries and insurance become our home. To some, what is home is their social status, positions and prestige. Sometimes it is a group of friends we are trying to compensate our loneliness with or a community we be-long to. For some it is workshops, trainings or retreats. Even the spiritual path we walk and the practices tend to become our home. What if, for the sake of feeling satisfied, consoled and even for reaching truth, these homes of ours are actually blocking the paths going towards Home? What if none of the above was our home? What if home lied in the unknown as our near future does? What if we came to realize that we can not pin home down to a concept, rationalize and systemize it, but instead we have to stay receptive to it and wait for it in patience, in humility, in respect? What if we eventually understood leaving the limited human will and its power dynamics behind is not any more an option but an existential must and responsibility? What would change, shall we start imagining? There is a Quranic Surah which I find very much related to this topic. The Clot Read, in the name of your sustainer who has created man out of a germ cell read, for thy sustainer is the most bountiful one who taught men to use of the pen taught men what he did not know nay verily man becomes grosly overweening whenever he believes himself to be self-sufficient for, behold, unto thy sustainer all must return (Quran, 96:1-8 For Sufis, there exists nothing but the Sacred One, The Intelligent Wisdom. It manifests itself in different forms. The word “Rab”, which is translated as “sustainer”, also means the one who teaches. As the Sacred unfolds itself in us in a way that is compatible with our potential, everyone manifests the Sacred in a different way. We can observe this around us very clearly. However, the Sacred is not something residing in the skies, checking on us only to find our mistakes and punish us. If nothing exists except it, then there can not be any duality. Therefore, I am the one who is sustained and who sustains. I am the one who is taught and teaches. This means I have full responsibility. I am the forests burning, I am the animals going extinct, I am the refugees suffering at the borders. I am that Sacred which is manifesting itself on different levels; through water, fire, earth and air.
Coming back home marks the journey of discovering our personal and unique ways of relating to the Sacred one. Home is the Sacred itself which escapes from definitions. That’s why the Quranic verse invites us to “read”. This practice of reading is the act of self-observation in the moment. In order to practise this, we need to first of all slow down and be brave enough to let go of what we already deem to be true (for ourselves and for the world). Right now, what we are called to “read” together as a human family is not the already memorized, systemized and legitimized information, but a formless and ever-changing scripture written in the air. “Taught men what he did not know” points out to the same thing. We learn again and again that we actually do not know. And we learn what we do not know because we let go of what we already know. The next step is again to let go of the newly known and sacrifice it to the unknown. It is a dynamic journey. In this way, we re-member our potential gifts and welcome them back home. We are welcoming the Sacred back home whose pieces are scattered and buried all over the place. We are welcoming every misplaced living being in the universe back to where they belong, honouring them in their original beauty in their original place. This is a fundamental right for all beings. If we fail to do it, we experience wake-up calls and so called “crises.” I am talking about a transition from ego-logy to eco-logy. Ecology puts the whole at the centre. It is based on interconnected relationships instead of hierarchy. Being aware of the real worth of all life forms and taking care of them is an ecological attitude and the most spiritual act to do. If I come to re-member that I am not an isolated, separate being but connected to a Bigger Life Form with seen and unseen bonds, my perception shifts and I come to know myself as a small cell of this Great Body. This is very humbling. The verse “nay verily man becomes grosly overweening/whenever he believes himself to be self- sufficient” explains what egology is. The components of this life view are individualism, self- centredness and self-righteousness. A person who is trying to survive in modernity comes to abuse his inner and outer sources and all the living beings around him because he does not know his limits/boundaries. He does not know where to stop. He consumes and he is being consumed. Since he is living in the story of separation, he is miles away from his home. Even at the times of isolation, he never hesitates to buy all the toilet papers in the supermarket without taking care of others’ needs. His only truth is himself. He is trying to be self-sufficient, he is trying to survive and become a hero in this time of crisis. He believes that he can keep living alone. The virus is inviting us to wake up from the stories we are told. A new story is emerging. Are you willing to take up the pen and write it down? To write down what you read in the field… Someone who is not aware of her/his potential, talents/gifts/service to life is away from home. S/ he does not set aside any special time to discover these gifts through practices. Even if s/he has some practices, after a certain period of time, those practices are turned into idols to be consumed in the end. As human beings we tend to fall into duality, to worship something that is
separate from us and to be worshipped by others in turn. That’s why we enjoy the heroic games and its dramas. As a result, the world is full of professionally trained and educated people who are in fact “illiterate” since they do not have an alpahabet to read what is happening right now. How can we get in touch with such an alphabet? Who will teach us? Do we have wise elders and ancestors who will train us from an equal place, a place which is based on loving compassion? Our elders and their role in this rite of passage Before diving deep into the topic of ancestors and elders I would like to share why we need them. I read the times we are in as a rite of passage. First of all, the world is going through this passage, it is very clear that it is in a deep transition. So are we, as humanity. But there is a problem: We lost the wisdom of holding such rites. They are not transferred to us. That’s why our elders in Turkey are mostly acting like small children or teenagers. Children are forced to act like elders to be able to survive in the system. Therefore, instead of waiting for elders to teach us how to do it, we need to become our own elders. We need to become each others’ elders by facilitating these transitions into adulthood. Only an “adult” consciousness can understand the function of boundaries, otherwise you think freedom is giving you the right of doing whatever you desire to do. In fact, freedom is the ability to set conscious boundaries around your choices and actions in a way that serves everything you are in connection with. Recently the physical borders have been closing down, and humans need to understand where to set boundaries as well. Yet, people who have not tapped into that consciousness persist to act according to the narratives they are part of. An adult is willing to let go of her present narrative for the sake of entering the field of the present moment. She is willing to deeply listen to what is emerging in the moment and surrender to the flow while staying in the unknown. Without humility, it is almost impossible to value things, be attentive to their needs and respect them since people without humility continue walking on the road set long a go, their eyes fixed at a certain goal. They are not willing to change their perception and habitual behaviour. Therefore, corona is inviting us to act from “us” rather than “me” and act in service of the whole. This is an opportunity to become an adult. And still, it does not serve to give up the hope in our elders when it comes to receiving their wisdom. Nowadays we are trying to take care of them. However there is another way of taking care of them which is holding space for them to reconnect with their roots, cultures of wisdom, their ancestors. In this way, we give them an opportunity activate their roles in the society. In this way, they feel that their presence matters to us and they can serve. By asking them questions about their traditions and elders we can activate the spark in them. Moreover, it can be quite
helpful and beautiful to include them in the rituals and circles we are having, offering them to sit on the witness cushion. The crisis we are facing right now gives a taste of what our elders had to go through. Thinking of the history of Turkey and all the struggles that happened on this land, it is not surprising that there is so much trauma inherent in the psyche and genes of its people. And most of these traumas are not seen and heard; they have been buried in the silent waters of collective psyche. As long as we do not welcome them back home to be grieved, they will continue haunting us. There are so many people excavating the burial sites of lost traditions and cultures. I am deeply grateful to them because thanks to their work, we get to start feeling the long belated pain of the universe. Until we look into their eyes, the stories of the past will keep coming back in new forms to be acknowledged as in the case of pandemics. So, our collective traumas needs to be welcomed back home too. Grieving and lamenting During a vocal training session my mentor told me that grief and sorrow are collected in the lungs. I observe how my belly is contracted when I breathe in and out. My lungs are not filled with air fully. It became clear to me that my lungs are already full; full of ancestral inheritance that shaped the choices I made. In order to breathe fully we need to look right into the watery eyes of these sorrows and grieve them. The suffering we co-created as humanity can be turned into a healing experience. What does the corona virus have to do with our lungs? Pains of centuries have been leaking from the psychic container they are locked in. It is time to release what we have kept inside, detox it out and mend the cracks of our containers with gold. What does it mean to grieve? How to grieve? I would like to quote from my upcoming book “Coming Back Home”: Rumi initiates the Masnavi with two actions: To tell stories and to complain. The first 18 couplets of the Masnavi talk about the story of the reed flute. What is the flute complaining about? The separations. How is it complaining about? By storytelling. In fact, the whole 18 couplets are the unfolding of the nature of these two actions. Let’s try not to project our daily perception and understanding of complaint (like the crisis and catastrophes we experience such as the virus) onto the flute’s act of complaining. Its complaint has a different nature, since it is not based on desperation, rebellion and disorientation. The flute has a clear awareness of what it is experiencing. That’s why its complaint is its unique way of grieving.
When we think of grieving, maybe the first images we receive are the people who lose themselves crying or captured by a deep desperation by disconnecting from life. In fact here in Turkey I heard lots of people telling each other not to cry at funerals in case we might disturb the soul of the dead. For this reason, most people numb themselves with medication when they face loss and instead of going through it, they step over it (and this is mostly the automatic reaction we show when we face pain and fear). Telling the stories of the complaints is the outer expression of the flute’s grief. Rumi uses these words (story telling and complaining) one after another for a reason. Someone who grieves has a story to tell. Sharing this story willingly from a vulnerable, yet trusting place is a healing experience. And on top of that if you do it through poetry and art, the grief turns into lamentation. Grieving can not be reduced to the mere act of losing control and destroying everything around you. It does not only express itself through the body, but includes other dynamics in it. My grandmother used to kiss my feet when I was a child. Actually, in this way she kissed the feet of my father, the son she had lost. This was her way of grieving. I feel there is a thin line between grief and lamentation. Lamentation is the creative expression of grief. It is the embodiment of the feelings and experience of grief through a poem, dance or a drawing. That’s why the act of grief which can not find expression in the form of lamentation might pull some towards desperation. The complaint which is not grieved turns into whining, while the complaint grieved turns into lamentation and starts breathing freely in the realm of creativity and hope. Most of our elders are in a state of constant passive whining because they are cut off from their roots and alienated from their traditions. A person might be paralyzed and controlled by the heavy and challenging emotions. They start constantly talking about them because it becomes their coping mechanism, just as the non stop broadcasting of negative news on TV. However, because he is dominated by his emotions he can not manage to experience grief. He is paralyzed by it. Therefore, repeating the same stories over and over again gives a subtle satisfaction to people, for it perpetuates their condition and gives them a sense of self-righteousness and victimhood (so that they have people’s sympathy and love). The sense of loss and estrangement we feel for whatever reason deepens the collective pain we have. How do we welcome this pain? How to engage with it? Who is grieving for it? If grieving necessitates the presence of witnesses, it can not be a solitary experience. We need a community to grieve (even with two people). Think for a moment, when you are challenged by life, whom do you turn to? Can you really drop your heroic persona and be vulnerable with your witnesses? If so, how your witnesses help you to do it?
The fact that people are called to isolate themselves physically does not mean they will be disconnected from the world. For sure, there will hopefully be disconnections from the egological attitude, from the comfort zones we designed, from the addictions and stimulants we use to satisfy our complexes, from the illusion that everyhing is under control. In my opinion, the virus first of all invites us all to stay by ourselves; to slow down, stop, check in with ourselves and re- evaluate our priorities to align ourselves with the collective intelligence. To re-member the A B C of the wisdom of the moment. To get the compass and maps to help us come back home. At the same time, in this challenging times we come to realize the worth of authentic and intimate relations more. In this way, we will make efforts to find more serving and creative ways of connecting with each other. We will grieve for the collective pain. That’s how we will give and receive healing. And maybe the online circles we are having will facilitate our process of maturing and guiding initiation ceremonies. Instead of whining about the virus, we have started finding ways to grieve. Right now people are offering group conversations, jam sessions, breath and body work etc. People who have been collecting gifts in their sack are now coming out of their holes and sharing with generosity because there is a deep sense of urgency and responsibility in the air. We are not imprisoned, we are retreating Therefore, we are not imprisoned in our houses, we are retreating. The way old Sufis practiced retreats are hard to be sustained in post-modern times. The ancient wisdom needs to be updated according to the soul and callings of the times we are in. Life is presenting us the great master saint Corona to open such sacred spaces in our lives. We need to be present wherever we are, just like the dervishes were present in their retreat cells with a strong intention, prayers, ablution and sense of devotion. And we are already practising the famous saying of Mohammad “Cleanliness is rooted in faith.” Taking care of our immune system, our relationship with what we eat and how we eat have been undergoing transformation as well. Nowadays I can not start my days without apple cider vinegar with honey and lemon. I am more dedicated to my dream work and daily physical exercises. No more postponing. My body became my priortiy, since in order to be able to be present in the moment and deeply listen to the wisdom whe need to open the antennas of our bodies. We tend to freeze in times of crisis, that is why it is much more important to move our bodies and dance. There is a Turkish saying: “There is abundace in movement.” Rituals In one of the circle classes I was offering we talked about routine and rituals. In fact we may have daily practices we regularly hold and call them our “routine”. When I relate to my routine with a
strong intention and do my practices with an awake attention, I witness the unfolding of the sacred. However, there is always a risk of turning them into idols; something that we worship, that we depend on, something beyond us and larger than us. For this reason, it is helpful to keep our rituals fresh and dynamic and let it be transformed into whatever form it desires in time. Staying in the unknown is present in the nature of rituals, because we can not plan the process beforehand (though you can design the container). When I initiate a ritual, what wants to emerge from me depends on the moment’s wisdom and how I welcome it. We can not calculate what emerges during the ritual. Rituals differ from routine, because they belong to the incalculable field. How can I prepare my apple cider water every day like a ritual? How can my daily rituals help me lament for the process we are in? How can every food I prepare contribute to the wellbeing of the ecosystem? Actually these practices come from a natural state of wholesome living. Thanks to corona, we are realizing their importance. Without delaying them anymore, we are slowly taking the responsiblity of leading dedicated adult lives. Now I come to understand that the workshops, trainings and retreats we have been joining for the past years have been preparing us for such times. As a result, dear souls, rather than freezing, numbing and escaping in the face of the virus (and the fear, anxiety and panic it might trigger), let’s try to stay grounded in our bodies and souls to stay awake. Let’s start sharing what we have collected in our sacks. I think one of the most beautiful prayers we can make at this point is to come back to our essence, sharing it with all the life forms we are in connection with and continuing to walk each other home hand in hand.

Journeying Home

Sufis believe that all of creation is a manifestation of the Truly Divine (Al Haq). If all created things are divine manifestions, then nothing can exist by itself. All are parts of a whole. Sufis call this principle tawhid, or unity. All created things are a reflection of this Truly Divine Being on the plane of multitude. They do not have their own existence. If we believe there is a separation between the creator and the created things, we bring about duality. However, this does not mean that the Divine Being and Her creation are the same and equal. Creation is like a drop in the ocean of Divine Being. Chemically, the drop and the ocean have the same nature, while quantitively they differ from each other. To give another analogy, if God represents water, the created ones are the different phases of water, such as liquid, vapour or ice. Sufis ground the story of creation on tawhid. By saying “I was a hidden treasure, I wanted to be known (and loved), that’s how I created everything” (Hadith Qudsi), the Truly Divine Being positioned the human being as a mirror into this realm to actualize Her potentiality and Beauty. The Divine witnesses Herself in this mirror and experiences Love through the human being. That’s because the human being is the only medium which unites all the divine names in his/her being (yet this does not make them superior to other life forms, but rather gives more responsibility to them). All creatures are journeying towards spiritual completion, which is a process of home- coming. According to the Sufi understanding, all creatures are evolving towards the perfected human Being (including humans), so that they may experience divine Love in the fullest expression possible. Here we realize that Love according to the Sufi understanding is not a romantic affair or even a physical or emotional human experience, but a way of knowing and witnessing the Divine, a state of being at home. All of creation is thus based on Love as a place of home. The act of creation is not linear and is not over; it is an ongoing process which deepens in spirals. This is how Love moves. This is how we are constantly arriving home; there is no end to it. In order to help humans remember this love story with the Divine and facilitate their home coming, they were asked in the realm of souls, “in the presence of everyone’s essence
and its witnessing: ‘Am I not your Rabb (teacher/trainer)?’ and the souls answered: ‘Yes, you are!’” (Qur’an, Surah Araf, 172) This primordial conversation sealed this love commitment. However, when the souls took the bodily form, they forgot this commitment. They forgot the feeling of being at home. Sufis call it the state of forgetfulness, gaflet. In order to remember this divine covenant, they practice the act of remembrance, or zikr. Humans relate to the material world through their limited and conditioned perceptions. This leads to the state of gaflet. Our human identity is shaped by our desires and fears that stem from certain judgements, habits and conditionings. We become attached to our identities. We stay in the state of not be-longing and eternal longing. According to Sufis, the Divine is the only thing which owns a being (zat) in itself. Everything else does not exist out of itself, it just reflects the Divine Being. So if human beings think that they exist by themselves, this assumption takes them out of the state of love as expressed in the covenant with the Divine in the realm of the souls. You are expelled from your true home when you are in duality. This situation keeps us in a state of constant longing, which we try to compensate through different addictions and attachments. That’s why it is crucial on the Sufi path to disentangle yourself from the ties that keep you attached to the things you assume exist. This journey necessitates leaving behind what-is-no-longer-home. It is towards nothingness. A Sufi is not someone who becomes, but someone who un-becomes; not takes but gives; not dresses up but takes off what is on him/her. When our souls cannot fit into the present realities we find ourselves in, the present homes we reside in, they feel suffocated. They start searching for their true home, the place where they belong (the state of unity which changes its form based on the momentary emergences). This state of searching is the first step towards zikr, as in the verse “When you forget, remember your Rabb.” (Surah Al-Kahf, 24). A Qur’anic verse asks us “So where then are you all going? Surely this is only a reminder to all the worlds.” (Surah At-Takwir, 26-27).Where we go surely depends on what we leave behind. Going back (or forward) home contains the act of becoming aware of what-is-not- home at a given moment. The tricky part is that this is a dynamic field and it is difficult to
fixate a certain image of home or not-home, since the Truly Divine is manifesting Herself anew every second. So, where are we going? Maybe to start with, to the practice of deep listening, “as a reminder.” That’s because the one who listens has the possibility to witness this ever changing play of manifestations. When you witness it, you can take part in this play willingly and align yourself with different manifestations of the Divine without necessarily being captured by them. For Sufis, home is the state of someone who is not shaken by this constant play of Divine attributes and their manifestations. Rooted in the unshakable place of “knowing,” you gain the flexibility of flowing with what wants to happen, yet not being captured by it. Your home is where you meet the ground, the foundation of your home. If we manage to embody the practices of deep listening and witnessing, our body parts are activated to partake in this journey back home. As the Qur’anic verse states: “Have they not travelled in the Earth, so that they have Hearts with which they understand of ears with which they hear? For it is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts in the breasts which are blind!” (Surah al-Haj, 46), journeying back home is an initiation process through which our bodies remember their true potentiality and come to serve the whole fully. Our hearts remember themselves; they are not numb any more, they gain vitality. Our ears, through deep listening, gain a unique understanding of what is. We come into contact with our feminine power. The veils before our eyes are being lifted. When I am fully in my body, I am back home. Everything around us that helps us reconnect with our bodies, souls and thus our true nature helps us remember our essence. Anything can become a means to keep our remembrance alive and fresh. Therefore, I feel home. My partner, friends I gather with in a circle, animals, stones under my feet, the water I drink, a beautiful breakfast I enjoy. All of them can take me from sleep into wakefulness; from longing to reunion. In fact, I witness the Divine on the face of my true friends, I taste Her in delicious food or in a wild flower I smell. I do not perceive myself as a separate “self”, but rather merge with all the manifestations of Truly Divine.

Breath in Sufi Tradition

According to the Sufi tradition, nefh comes before nefes. Nefh means “to blow”. God blew Her soul into Prophet Adam. In the Qur’anic Surah Sad (38:72) we find the expression “when I … breathed into him of My [created] soul”. Sufis believe that all creation is the manifestation of the Divine on different levels. Therefore, the foundation of creation is tawhid, unity. If we think there is a separation between the creator and the created one, we create duality. However, this does not mean that God, the Divine Being and Her creation are the same and equal. Creation is like a drop in the ocean of Divine Being. Chemically, the drop and the ocean have the same nature, while quantitively they differ from each other. To give another analogy, if God represents water, the created ones are the different phases of water, such as liquid, vapour or ice. Sufis ground the story of creation on tawhid. By saying “I was a hidden treasure, I wanted to be known (and loved), that’s how I created everything” (Hadith Qudsi), the Divine Being positioned the human being as a mirror into this realm to actualize Her potentiality and Beauty. The Divine witnesses Herself in this mirror and experiences Love through the human being. Therefore, all of creation is based on Love. The act of creation is not linear and is not over; it is an ongoing process which deepens in a spiral movement. This is how Love moves. The fact that God is breathing Her soul into the human being shows the intimate relationship between the lover and the beloved. In the imagery of Ottoman classical literature, the beloved gives life to her lover through her lips and sometimes she is called “the one who has the breath of Jesus.” Jesus is believed to heal people and even bring the dead back to life. Therefore, God infuses all of creation with love through Her breath. The most natural state of a human being is loving kindness and the most basic need to be loved. In a Sufi dictionary the act of breathing is explained as the closeness of the loved one to the lover. Another dictionary states “The lover needs breath, otherwise s/he would be ruined by losing power in the face of love.” May all lovers have abundant breath and may their intimacy with their beloveds be everlasting. Surah Al Nahl (16:40) says: “Whenever We will anything to be, We but say
unto it Our word ‘Be’ – and it is.” The command “Be!” is the word of God which comes from Her divine breath. According to Ibn Arabi, the great Sufi philosopher, as letters are formed with human breath, creation emerges through divine breath. All of creation is the embodiment of this breath. This makes duality impossible. Kenan Rifai, a 20th century Sufi master, explains in his commentary on Rumi’s Masnavi: “A human being has two kinds of soul. The first one exists in the other sentient beings, which is the life force that keeps them alive. It is called the animalistic soul. However, in a human being exists another soul which is unique to him and this is the divine essence. This soul is not impermanent like the first one but it is permanent. The second soul is a kernel made of divine light and potency and it is not visible to the eye. This essence can be also called the breath of God manifested in the human being. The famous Sufi poet Yunus Emre says ‘There is another me inside me’ and this is the divine soul we are talking about.” Sufis generally use the symbol of wind for the Divine Breath. The Prophet Mohammad said: “Do not curse the wind because it is the breath of God.” Of course this means we need to respect and honour nature and its forces, while on a deeper level we can understand the wind as the breath of creation. It helps flowers to be pollinated in spring and wakes nature up from deep sleep. Therefore we can say that winds are the breath of God giving life to nature. Other than that, when a human being breathes in and out, wind is blowing through his/her body. Sufis define breath as a mildly blowing wind. If we keep in mind that Sufism is the art of becoming a real human being by realizing our true self, the wind circulating in us serves spiritual growth. In that case, what is the nature of this wind? When this breath moves in us freely without being limited or held back, it opens space and gives us relief. Surah Al-Inshirah helps us understand this better by saying: “Did We not expand for you, [O Muhammad], your breast? And We removed from you your burden which had weighed upon your back and raised high for you your repute. For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease. Indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (REFERENCE)
If the Divine Breath is indeed creating every second and manifesting itself on different levels, it means that when I am receptive and willing to host these manifestations unfolding in me, through me and all around me, I am aligned with the flow of things. I expand. My life expands. However, when I resist to the manifestations by trying to impose my own scenarios of how things should unfold, then I feel a burden on my body. My breath is restrained and challenges follow. Inshirah, the name of the above-qouted surah, means “to expand, open up, to rejoice.” When the winds of life in us can move around freely and when we are connected to our breath, we open ourselves to the Divine as It manifests itself every second. I re-connect with my divine essence in this way and an intimate love relationship is founded on this ground. From this space, I am able to love every creature with each breath I take. Then it is not “me” anymore who loves, but the Divine loving through me.

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