(For explanation of Sufi terms see article Sufism.)
The psycho-energetic teaching in Sufism is performed so that all students receive special tasks from the sheikh, according to their individual peculiarities and capability of comprehending. At the same time, the sheik gives psycho-energetic training for groups of students.
On the initial stages of psycho-energetic practice, the sheik suggests to murids many different exercises for development of the ability of concentration, for stopping the flow of thoughts and achieving the “mental pause”; they also work with images. After that, various psycho-physical exercises are used: rhythmic movements to music, Sufi whirling, etc.
The use of the whole spectrum of these means creates a remarkable purifying effect, develops the energy structures of the organism (chakra anahata, in particular). Some of these exercises cause “subtle attunement” of the body, mind, and consciousness, and bring the participants to the ecstatic state which the Sufis call
hal. There are different kinds of hal. Most often the student gains the following kinds of this state:
kurb — feeling of the nearness of God, mahabba — felling of the fervent love for God,
khauf — deep remorse, shauq — passionate longing for God, etc.
Let us consider some of such practices.
Dances of dervishes, for example, require absolute relaxation of the body and achievement of the full mental pause. Against such background of relaxation and meditative attunement of the consciousness to the Creator, harmonious spontaneous movements of the body occur. They are not planned; they do not originate from the mind, but as if occur spontaneously, Usually, the dances of dervishes are performed with use of meditative music or meditative singing. This ensures proper attunement of all dancers and brings all ready participants to the state of hal.
Another interesting technique is Sufi whirling. It allows one, in particular, to move the consciousness out from the head chakras, what facilitates entering the state of hal. There are various modifications of this technique. Whirling can be performed to music or without it, with use of mantras, with concentration in certain energy structures of the organism. In the latter case, whirling contributes to the development of the chakras. The general rules of performing this exercise are the following:
1) one can start whirling not sooner than three hours after meat meal;
2) whirling is performed to any convenient side, against the background of full relaxation of the body;
3) the eyes are opened and fixed on one of the raised hands or not fixed on anything at all;
4) whirling is performed in individual rhythm, with as smooth beginning and end of the exercise as possible;
5) in case of falling during whirling, one has to turn on the stomach and relax;
6) after performing the exercise, it is necessary to relax;
7) also one needs to be fully confident in the technique, fully “open” when performing the exercise. The duration of the exercise is individual and can vary from several minutes to several hours.
On the “mature” stages of tariqa, one performs intensive work on developing, perfecting the energy structures of the organism. In Hindu terms, this concerns, in particular, the chakras and
nadi (meridians). In this work, a special emphasis is put on developing the anahata — the chakra responsible for producing the emotions of cordial love.
One of the techniques of this kind is the meditation of laugh. Its participants lay on the back and completely relax. After meditative attunement, they place one hand on the region of anahata, and another hand — on the region of
muladhara, to activate these chakras. Then they begin to move through the organism waves of soft light-laugh (from muladhara — to the head chakras). The meditation of laugh creates a purifying effect and contributes to the development of the chakras, the
middle meridian, if it is performed on the due level of subtlety.
Another technique used in Sufism is zikr. There are many variations, modifications of zikr — according to the traditions of the brotherhood or order, the sheik’s mastery. Zikr is performed in the following way:
All participants stand or sit in a circle. The sheik gives meditative attunement and then, by his instruction, the participants begin to perform a series of consecutive exercises. These exercises are rhythmic movements performed in ever-increasing tempo (for example, bows, turns, sways of the body). With movements, the participants chant praying formulas.
In some orders, they attach a great importance to music, to singing in meditation classes. They believe that music — the food of the soul (ghiza-i-ruh) — is one of the very powerful means contributing to spiritual progress. They widely use music that makes the body move spontaneously (tarab), facilitates entering deep meditative states (saut), etc. In some orders and brotherhoods, they have everyday listening to music, collective classes with singing of mystic verses (sama), ecstatic dances to music, etc.
The effectiveness of these techniques consists, in particular, in the fact that meditations are performed not only in motionless positions of the body but also against the background of movements.
Thanks to the complex use of different methods, one activates several “centers” of the organism: emotional, moving, and intellectual one. Coordinated, harmonious work of these centers makes possible a quick change in the student’s psychoenergetic state.
Apart from ordinary methods, in Sufism there are “accelerated” techniques of spiritual development. By means of these secret techniques, murids can make very fast advancement. These techniques are given only to those who possess very high psycho-energetic readiness.
The Sufi meditation tradition is very rich and multifarious. It accumulated vast experience of work with the body, mind, and consciousness. The Sufis developed the ways of cognizing Wajd (Samadhi, in Hindu terms), the techniques for accomplishing correct crystallization of consciousness in the higher spatial dimensions, and methods for mastering
Fana-fi-Allah (Nirvana in the Creator).
In Sufism, there are many original things. However, one can see its remarkable similarity to the spiritual traditions of other best religious schools and directions — the similarity of goals, the ways of their realization, and even of the methods. This indicates an important thing: that Sufism,
Hesychasm, Taoism, Buddhist mysticism, classic Hindu
yoga, the way of the Mexican school of
Juan Matus, and some other directions are based on the same laws of spiritual development. It is only the realization of these laws that can be different in different cultural and historical conditions. And always there are people who — independent of their spiritual traditions — can successfully walk the Sufi path.