Sufi Method of Being Still, Becoming Still / The Why and How

From Discourse of Shaykh Ebrahim
Featured in the Millenium Discourses

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

The reason we do dhikr (divine remembrance, recollection) is that it enables us to worship Allah with our mouths, our tongues, limbs, and hearts and with our chests. This worshipping with our whole beings allows us to open a door. The opening of the door is the dhikr itself.

The entrance into the court of the King is in the silence that follows the dhikr and in the pauses between the various dhikrs. If, in those few moments of quiet, you sit deliberately still and watch, like a cat before a mouse hole, you are ushered into the presence of the Lord for a personal audience, and it is you who are doing the listening and the hearing.

Our freedom lies in our capability to be still

It is only when we are still that we are in a position to correctly appraise that which Allah is putting in front of us. If you are on the path you must have the capacity to suspend your own agenda and to stop talking to yourself; to silence your inner dialogue. The dhikr delivers us to a place where, for a few moments, this aperture of silence appears. We have a taste of peace.

Peace is not full of something

Peace is not full of something. The more full you are of things, the more disturbed your being is. The noisier your inner dialogue is, the more you ramble on inside your mind about your concerns, your fears, and your hopes, the less peace you have. It is precisely the fact that we are always talking to ourselves about what we would like to have and what we wish to avoid, that we are in a state of agitation, in a place where we have no peace or fulfilment.

Suspending our inner dialogue

The capacity to suspend our inner dialogue is the first aspect of our path, because being able to still your own desire creates the conditions where your attention can be appropriately orientated towards the other, toward the person who is in front of you or the situation that confronts you. If you appraise the situation that is in front of you on the basis of what you want from it, on the basis of your own agenda, you create the conditions where the situation has power over you.

If you want something from somebody else, that person’s ability to withhold what you want makes you manipulable. They are strong and you are weak. When you appraise the person or situation in front of you with your own agenda, with what you want to get and with your desires, you create the condition where the situation that is in front of you determines you. It has power over you.

Then of course there is another possibility: You do not deal with the situation in front of you on the basis of what you want to get from it, but you deal with it on the basis of what you should be contributing to it. What you should be giving. When you respond on that basis, you are immediately responding on the basis of something which is bigger than yourself. The person who defines the outcome of events is the person who deals with the situation from the basis of what he should be putting in, on the basis of what he is willing to lose. In other words, what he is willing to give away. The more unconditional you are about that, the more you change the outcome of events. In its extremity, you will see this in the case of the person who is utterly unconditional, and is willing to lose everything.

The man who is willing to die right now for what he believes is right, cannot be manipulated by anyone. You cannot manipulate a kamikaze pilot. In other words, the more unconditional you are about what you need to contribute, put in, or give to any situation, the more you grow out of that situation. You transcend the situation. It no longer defines you, you define it. You become bigger than it, you change. Whereas if you confront the situation on the basis of what you want to get from it, it defines you and you get stuck.

Every Moment Allah Presents Something and we are to give its Due Courtesy

Another way of looking at this is that every moment that Allah presents to you has something due to it from you. Acting consistently with what is due we call courtesy. If you do not respond with the appropriate courtesy then the moment denies to you the message it has for you, the learning it has for you.

You first have to hand over the toll to the Gatekeeper before you can continue on the journey. The toll which is asked of you in the moment is always a pittance. When you pay what Allah asks of you in the moment, then by His Rahmat, He will give you many multiples more than you could ever have imagined. This is the extraordinary nature of His design. He gives incalculably more than you can give. How many times did the Rasul (s.a.w.s.) refer to the blessing of Allah for good actions to be in seemingly unreasonable multiples; tens, hundreds, thousands and so on. This is what this means.

Any good deed is rewarded beyond measure. In other words, when you deal with the situation in front of you on the basis of what Allah wants from you, what you should be contributing, you are increased and you grow. You change beyond measure. Whereas, if you confront the situation on the basis of your desires, what you want to get out of the situation, then you are frozen there. You are delayed at the gate.

Its Not about mine / our Agenda but His

When you act on your own agenda you are attempting to manage your affair, and we know that when we wish to manage our own affair Allah lets us get on with it. He leaves us to manage our own affair. The person who wants to manage his own affair is left to manage his own affair. This managing of your own affair is closing off the portals to the multiple effects of Allah’s Baraka. So at best you can only have what you thought you would have. What an anti climax. What surprise is there in getting what you knew was your due?

At best the outcome of managing your affair is mediocrity and boredom. At worst, it is a catastrophic mess because it is not possible for you to manage your own affair. Your affair, by definition, is infinitely more complex than your capacity to be in charge of it. Whether you recognise it or not, life only continues, moment by moment, because of a superordinate genius which you cannot remotely begin to fathom, let alone manage.

You cannot even account for the metabolic processes that make your finger work. Now you want to account for your life. What presumption! Which means to say that the more you try to be in charge and work out what it is that you want and make the universe fit your desires, the more you go astray and lose control.

The attempt to control the fundamentally uncontrollable is what one could call lack of control. It is losing it utterly, to the point of collapse. All control is fundamentally concerned with making sure things go our way. It is about defining the future. However, we are all going to die. Our future is not definite, it is indefinite. It is fundamentally uncontrollable. It does not matter how you build the wall, how secure you build the structure of your security, death will find you there. It will seek you out.

Which is to say, the whole process of our growth as human beings is based on a very simple dynamic, and that simple dynamic is that we give every situation that confronts us its due. Giving every moment its due is only possible when we see it for what it is, when we give it the attention due to it. In other words, that when Allah confronts us with something, we do not immediately try to work out what we can get out of the situation, rather, we give the situation it’s due attention. We suspend our agenda to see what really is required by the other. We silence our own inner chatter so that we can properly appraise the situation and are in a position to see what we are being called on to give.


You cannot give any situation that you are in the attention that it requires unless you stop talking to yourself about the situation

If you ever had a conversation with someone, and in the course of the conversation you were trying to say something to the other person but that person answered you back before you finished speaking, you would not have felt heard. This means to say that for this person to give attention, they have to shut-up. They have to stop giving attention to their own agenda because only then can they give attention to yours. They have got to stop talking to themselves. This means that you cannot give any situation that you are in the attention that it requires unless you stop talking to yourself about the situation. Unless you have this capacity to shut-up.

We are taught that this path is about being still. This is the necessary precursor to seeing things as they are and giving everything its due. Seeing things as they are is based on the ability to suspend one’s own agenda in any given situation. Giving the other it’s due is based on enacting the rule of courtesy that is operative in that situation. The situation has a requirement, which is the courtesy appropriate to it. If you act consistently with that courtesy, you change. If you act against that courtesy, then you do not go out of the situation, the situation diminishes you.

[+] Continue Reading from Zawiya Ebrahim

Sufi Meditation to be Still, becoming Still: a Meditation Method

Make sure that you are sitting comfortably, sit on a pillow if you like, cross your legs and keep your back straight. Look around the room and visually identify three things in the room (e.g. red/black/green), then close your eyes and identify three sounds, the furthest away first, then bring them closer.

Breathe deep from the belly, not your chest. Scan the body for any tension, if you find any try to let it go.

After this process finally bring your attention to your breathing. Then breath in with the syllable “Al” and breath out with “llah”, thus forming the full word “Allah”, the Divine Name. Do not articulate the name with your tongue. It is as if you are hearing it being whispered on your breath. When your attention wanders to something else, bring it back to your breath. Try to relax, slow down your heart rate and try to quieten your mind.

Sit for minimum 20 min’s, ideally 40 min’s. Take a minute or so to come out. The ideal time for this is just before or after the Fajr salah.

We know from the sacred tradition of Islam that after Prophet finishing his morning prayer (Fajr salah) he would not leave his place until the daylight fully broke. This tells us that during the time between his Fajr salah and getting up, he used to contemplate and meditate.


This practice seeks to achieve two things:
(1) silence internal dialogue,
(2) change the nature of our internal dialogue into something benign: from an ambience of resentment to an ambience of gratitude.

The key to meditation is ‘resting your attention’ and not focussing. When you rest your attention on the three sounds try not to focus on them, we are ‘listening’ rather than ‘looking’ at the sounds. When we rest our attention on the sound of our body, we are listening to what our body is telling us, its present story. This conversation takes the form of sensations in the body. If we liken our senses to computer programs, we want our programmes ‘running in the back-ground’, still present, but not being used.

We are resting and not focussing, in order to let go, in order to develop a ‘receptive’ way of using our attention. When your attention wanders in the meditation just bring it back. This is in the spirit of, ‘when you forget, remember’, because ‘when you forget, remember’ has no judgement in it, you are not a ‘bad’ person if this happens, just pull it back and get back in the saddle again. In this process we are putting a bridle on an animal that has never been ridden before. Few people try to ride their attention in this manner, so expect resistance, it will try to buck you. It will be a long period before we befriend, domesticate and break in this wild horse. Be patient and do not give yourself a hard time, you will get there.

The aim of the meditative practice is to learn to silence or find the dimmer switch of our internal dialogue. To use that analogy we want to turn the volume of our senses right up and our inner dialogue right down, to then as a result, rest in the silence of Being. This teaches us how to completely withdraw all attention from thought, so that we can give full attention to what Allah is putting in front of us, in the moment that we are in. This practice should therefore give us an eloquence and skill at working with our attention which can then be applied to all aspects of our lives, especially our Islamic practices like salah, dhikr, fasting etc.

When we commit to ‘process’ instead of ‘results’, its by-product is the effect of quietening us down, it roots our attention in the present and this affects the quality of our consciousness in a positive and transformative way.

[+] From The Practice of Intent by Shaykh Ebrahim Schuitema

# Further:

* Maata Lynn Barron Guides Sufi Meditation "Be Still - Awake"
(Youtube Video)



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Technology of the Heart: Sufi Method of Being Still, Becoming Still / The Why and How
Sufi Method of Being Still, Becoming Still / The Why and How
Sufi Method of Being Still / The Why and How / How to Silence the Inner Dialogue/ Waswasa/ Whispering?
Technology of the Heart
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