Weaving a rich, heartfelt tapestry of personal connection and devotion, Tapping Into God will touch your soul and open your eyes to the abundant spiritual diversity of our planet. These stories illuminate the wonder of that indefinable power that fashions our world. Even the non-believer will find ample food for thought within these pages. Nurture your spirit as you experience the spiritual spectrum through Tapping Into God.
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TAPPING INTO GODExperiencing the Spiritual Spectrum
By Debbie Belmessieri
Balboa PressCopyright © 2011 Debbie Belmessieri
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLIVING CONNECTION WITH ALLAH
by Mubasher Ahmadby
Islam teaches: "To God belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth ..." (The Holy Qur'an, 2:285), and all that is created by God is naturally connected with God: "All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies God." (57:2) "He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He has full knowledge of all things." (57:4) Mankind is the epitome of God's creation and is innately superior to the rest of creation in certain qualities and abilities: "Surely, We have created man in the finest form." (95:5) The main distinguishing feature of humans is their freedom of will; the freedom to either remain connected with God – to remain in His light – or conversely, to remain in darkness, away from God.
In Islam, tapping into God is the very purpose of life, and to remain connected with the Loving and Merciful Creator through serving Him is not only desirable, but is in fact essential. It is a love-affair one cannot live without. According to Islam there are diverse ways to reach God, but the one called the "Straight Path" is the easiest and the shortest. The very first chapter of the Holy Qur'an starts with a prayer that serves as a key to opening the door that brings one face to face with God. This prayer, called Al-Fatiha, is repeated more than thirty times each day by devout Muslims seeking God's help to stay in His presence at all times: "Guide us in the Straight Path, the path of those on whom You have bestowed Your favors, those who have not incurred Your displeasure, and those who have not gone astray."(1:6-7)
The Holy Qur'an says: "Surely, to God we belong, and to Him is our final return." (2:157) A Muslim recites this phrase upon someone's death to remind him of his origin and destination, to reaffirm the higher purpose of life, that is, worshipping God Almighty (known by the proper name, Allah, in Islam), and to remember that at no point throughout the entire cycle of life, from birth to death, does God abandon His creation. God is very close to His servant who calls upon Him. God resides in his or her heart: "nearer to him than even his jugular vein." (50:17). Thus, according to Islam, everyone must constantly strive to keep this natural tie in tact by holding firmly onto the "rope of God" (3:104) till one's final breath, and must avoid breaking this bond through ignorance or negligence of the sublime purpose of life and through willful disobedience of God's commandments. Every soul must taste death and depart from this world – a universal fact beyond dispute – but a Muslim seeks not merely to pass on from this world but to leave in a condition of greater affinity and proximity with God.
Islam makes it very clear that no one is born in sin. Every child, as the Holy Qur'an states is created with "the nature made by Allah" (30:31), i.e., with a pristine pure soul and in a crystal clear image of the beautiful attributes of God. However, as one goes through life, it is necessary to maintain the purity of one's nature and to manifest Divine qualities in one's behavior. Everyone stands responsible for his or her own intentions and deeds. Everyone stands accountable for acts of spiritual lawlessness. Everyone, therefore, must shun evil behavior and sinful thoughts, must avoid temptations and wild passions, no matter how strong, and must control selfish tendencies in order to truly approach and associate with God, for He is a perfectly Holy, Pure and Exalted Being, and He particularly loves and draws nearer those who are pure of heart and righteous in conduct. Moral crookedness is the biggest hurdle that hinders spiritual advancement.
To be one with God, one has to give up entirely pride and vanity, and keep away from mischief and rebellion. One must adopt humbleness, cheerfulness, simplicity, truthfulness, courage, steadfastness and righteousness in its totality. To shun evil and embrace goodness is a daily struggle, the "jihad" (striving) that is constantly needed, vigilantly and wholeheartedly. Moreover, this struggle, as difficult as it may seem at times, is the impetus to progressing along the Straight Path and becoming one with God. It is the fuel that moves the spiritual engine forward and propels it towards its destination.
To facilitate movement along the Straight Path, Islam enjoins a formal structure of five fundamental obligations known as the Five Pillars of Islam. First and foremost is a declaration of faith in the existence of One God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad reached the highest pinnacle of closeness to God, and as such he serves as the ultimate model for seekers of God's love. From God he received a universal and comprehensive message for all mankind. The message is one rooted in peace – to submit to God wholly and in every respect. This act of submission helps achieve peace with God, as well as with fellow human-beings. According to his basic definition, a Muslim is one who poses no verbal or physical threat to others.
The second pillar is the liturgical Prayer called Salat – offered five times each day. As the physical body needs daily nourishment several times a day at regular intervals, Islam deems the same is the case with the inner self, the soul. Salat is the spiritual food of the soul, a short prayer service, which a Muslim observes before sunrise, after midday, late in the afternoon, after sunset and at night before going to bed. If performed in letter and spirit, Salat becomes an excellent means to remain Godconscious throughout one's waking hours.
The third important part of the outer structure of the Straight Path is termed Zakat. In general, this means giving one's excess wealth as alms to help the poor and the needy, or using one's time, energy, and natural talents to benefit others through charitable deeds. The fourth pillar is fasting in the lunar month of Ramadan. This is a spiritual exercise intended to cleanse the mind, body, and soul, to increase spiritual knowledge and enlightenment, and to strengthen good moral habits. Among other things, it generates sympathy for those who are deprived of their daily bread and basic needs. It also enhances discipline, willpower and self-control over worldly temptations and personal weaknesses by not taking in any food or drink in the daylight hours for one full month.
The fifth and final obligation is Hajj – going on pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in which there is an ancient shrine called Ka'aba that was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael to worship One God. The Hajj is the ultimate expression of Divine love in the heart of the worshipper. It symbolizes the desire to walk in the footsteps of the spiritual elect such as Prophet Muhammad and Patriarch Abraham, to return to the place of mankind's spiritual origin, and to reconnect with God on the highest levels through symbolic rites and rituals in and around His most sacred House. As commonly stated, the Hajj remains "the journey of a lifetime" for those fortunate souls who have endured the arduous trek through the desert and plains of Arabia, and who have gained a deeper relation not only with God but also with their fellow humanity, who gather there in millions during those few days from every country and culture around the world. The pilgrimage of Hajj is required only once in one's lifetime, health and finances permitting.
In addition to the aforementioned five pillars, Islam teaches other ways to explore creation and experience personal contact with God. Some of the most important ones are Fikr (mental effort), Zikr (remembrance of God), Khidmat (service), Sabr (patience), and Shukr (remaining thankful to God). Let us briefly elaborate upon these important ingredients necessary for tapping into God.
Fikr is the mental exertion undertaken to comprehend and appreciate the complexity, design, and beauty of God's creativity. It is the starting point to get in touch with God. To be one with God, one has to reflect on the fascinating mysteries all around and also within. Every human is a universe within a universe, and the pre-determined laws created by God keep these universes functioning perpetually and harmoniously. The Holy Qur'an repeatedly encourages its reader to observe nature, think about it, experiment with its elements, feel the awe, and come to the right conclusion as to the existence of God. Proper use of God-given intelligence brings home the realization that there has to be a unique and wise creative power, and that it has to be one and cohesive, not many "gods" working independently. The Holy Qur'an claims that for a thoughtful observer there are signs of God in all aspects of natural phenomenon.
Zikr means to contemplate about God's Being, to ponder over His limitless powers and to praise and glorify Him for the favors that we observe and experience. Zikr is usually done by invoking God's various attributes silently or aloud, and by appreciating their beauty. The Holy Qur'an makes it clear that Fikr (the use of our intellectual faculties) leads naturally to Zikr: "In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of the night and the day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding; those who remember God while standing, sitting, and lying on their sides, and ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: 'Our Lord! You have not created this in vain; nay, Holy are You. Save us, then from the punishment of the Fire'." (3:191 - 192) Salat is the best form of Zikr, since it enables the worshipper to directly communicate with God and fully concentrate on feeling His Living Presence. The Holy Qur'an is also called "Zikr." (16:45) To read and recite it helps overcome the daily distractions of life. It brings calm to the mind and soul. In this way the faithful turn away from materialistic pulls of daily life, and remain focused on God, appreciating His beauty and grace.
Khidmat, or selfless service, is connecting with God through actions. God loves His creation, hence to stay in touch with Him, it is imperative to love and serve His creation – humans, animals, and other lower forms of life – and to protect and preserve the environment. All created entities have their "rights." The Holy Qur'an, therefore, prohibits harming God's creatures, and exhorts one to remain occupied in their service and to promote their welfare to the best of one's abilities. To discharge one's obligations towards the rights of others is so important that it is impossible to have a loving relationship with God without it. Islam teaches love and service to others in a natural order, starting with the inner circle of one's parents, spouse and children, then extending outwards to near and distant relatives by blood or law, then friends, neighbors and companions from work, school, associations, etc., and finally fellow citizens and complete strangers of the larger human family. To win the love of God, one has to not only "love for his brother what one loves for himself" as Prophet Muhammad taught, but also aspire and strive for the loftier approach of "treating all like kindred" (16:91), to consider all as part of one's closest inner circle and to always remain ready to make all sorts of sacrifices for them naturally and unconditionally as a mother does for her child.
Sabr means patience and steadfastness. In the journey towards God, occasional trials, setbacks, and difficulties should be anticipated and expected. They are part of life and even the most beloved of God, His messengers, go through them. Accordingly Islam stresses the importance of remaining patient and prayerful under all circumstances in life, and advises against despairing owing to these trials. God rewards the person who endures trials patiently and He makes these trials a means of honor and distinction for some and a source of moral strength and reformation for others. An onslaught of any misfortune is like a strong gust of wind that helps the soul to soar higher towards God.
Shukr is an expression of thanks. God, Who sustains the universes and grants innumerable favors, deserves sincere love, reverence, and utmost thanks. The Holy Qur'an exhorts mankind to remain thankful to God. This brings further bounties from Him. Conveying gratefulness to fellow humans when receiving kindness is equally emphasized. In this regard, Prophet Muhammad said, "He who does not thank people, cannot be grateful to God."
God is Unlimited, Light of the heavens and the earth; Light upon Light to an infinite degree. Hence the spiritual wayfarer traverses numerous stages of advancement in the way to God. However, for easy understanding, three major stages or 'states' are broadly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an: Al-Ammaara (the uncontrolled or 'natural state'), Al-Lawwaama (the reproving or 'moral state') and Al-Mutma'inna (the soul at rest or 'spiritual state'). At each one of these stages, the soul feels a need to change for the better. Al-Ammaara is the state where one's conscience and consciousness of God are dull and immature. Consequently, at this stage one remains inclined to commit evil. It is the lowest of all stages. Here one feels helplessly torn between conflicting and opposing forces – light and darkness. It is like hearing two whispering sounds, one calling towards good and the other towards evil. At this stage, the soul tends to seek the temporary pleasures of the material world rather than the encompassing and everlasting bliss of Divine union and pleasure.
Nonetheless, the human soul is invested with a desire to find real joy that is not transitory; and that joy comes in meeting with God. Therefore, each time a person succumbs to temptations, his or her soul starts rebuking him for the wrongdoing. That is the state of Al-Lawwaama – self-accusation. Human conscience causes one to feel ashamed of doing bad deeds and urges one to start moving towards the light. Eventually, God's grace is attracted through sincere repentance and prayers, and one is taken to the next higher stage. The third and the highest state is Al-Mutma'inna – when the soul attains tranquility. It is then at peace with itself and in perfect accord with God and creation. In the Holy Qur'an, God says to the soul at this station: "O soul that has found its rest in God, return to your Lord, you well pleased with Him and He well-pleased with you. So enter among My chosen servants and enter My Garden." (89:28-31)
Thus, according to the teachings of Islam, a person can attain complete union with God in this very world. He or she can become a godly person by reflecting God's attributes in the mirror of their heart. Once all impurities and tendencies towards sinfulness are washed away, a complete transformation takes place in one's character. Worshipping God becomes the joy of life and enables one to experience the bliss of heavenly life even while still living in this world. One may then declare: "Truth has arrived and falsehood has vanished, falsehood is bound to disappear." (17:82)
As mentioned earlier, Muslims have a model in the person of Prophet Muhammad who reached the closest to God in spiritual union. God describes this exalted union as "one chord to two bows or closer still." (53:10) He was a perfect reflection of God's attributes as far as humanly possible. He demonstrated how to tread along the Straight Path, and through his words and deeds, he showed how to accomplish the purpose of life. He prepared spiritual leaders, both male and female, for future generations and reassured the faithful that they will always have spiritual guides and reformers. Following in his footsteps, his disciples became bright stars of guidance for others, and after them there have been countless saints and scholars among Muslims in all ages to keep them on the Straight Path.
For instance, during the past centuries, out of thousands of well-known Muslim spiritual mentors from around the world, a few are: Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 765 A.D.), Ibrahim Bin Adham (d. 777 A.D.), Rabia of Basra (d. 801 A.D.), Zunnun of Egypt (d. 860 A.D.), Junaid of Baghdad (d. 910 A.D.), Abu Hasan Ali bin Usman Hujwiri of Data Ganj Bakhsh (d. 1080 C.E.), Muhammad Al-Ghazali (d. 1118 A.D.), Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer (d. 1230 A.D.), Umar bin Abdullah Suhrawardi (d. 1237 A.D.), Muhyi al-Din ibn Arabi of Spain (d. 1240 A.D.), Mowlana Jalal-u-Din Rumi of Balkh, Tajikistan, (d. 1273 A.D.), Sheikh Ahmad of Sirhind (d. 1625 A.D.), and Shah Waliullah Muhaddith of Delhi (d. 1762 A.D.). There are several mystical orders flourishing among masses even today. Among the famous mystical orders are Chishti, Mevlevi, Naqshbandi, Qadri, Suhrawardi, and Shadhili.
Excerpted from TAPPING INTO GOD by Debbie Belmessieri Copyright © 2011 by Debbie Belmessieri. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsForeword Mary Morrissey....................ix
Introduction Debbie Belmessieri....................xiii
Appeal to the Reader....................xix
Living Connection with Allah Mubasher Ahmad....................1
Druidry Ayleen Augustine....................15
Connections: Baha'is and God Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff....................21
Tapping into God—Unity Reverend Karyn Bradley....................33
Why Am I a Mormon? David Brown....................39
Living Your Dream: Center for Spiritual Living David Bruner....................47
Wicca Christine Caldwell....................61
Metropolitan Community Church Reverend Terri Echelbarger....................73
Connection to God According to the Divine Science Perspective Reverend Christine Emmerling....................81
Practicing Eternity—Exploring the Tao Reverend Michael Genzmer....................87
Orthodox Judaism Rabbi Simchah Green....................99
Aspects of God: Buddhism Venerable Drimay Gudmundsson....................103
Huna Miracles Julie Hawkins....................119
The Sikh Way of Life Jessi Kaur....................131
The Shadow Preparation for Twelve-Steps Spirit Ken....................143
Gratitude as a Spiritual Connection B. J. King, RScP....................165
Tapping into God: An Eastern Orthodox Perspective Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias....................171
A Dance with the Divine Feminine and Goddess Spirituality Reverend April Lussier....................181
Evangelical Christianity Dr. Marc A. Maffucci....................193
The Path of Gnosis Cynthia McDonald, Ph.D....................207
A Course in Miracles Chere Miller....................221
Progressive Judaism Rabbi Yitzhak J. Miller....................235
Core Shamanism in Daily Life Susan Mokelke....................243
The Fire Within—An Abraham Experience Beverly Molina....................253
O Love, That Will Not Let Us Go Reverend Karen Oliveto....................269
A Day in the Life of a Bishop Reverend JoyceAnne Pierce....................275
Self-Expansion Through Love Asha Praver (Nayaswami Asha)....................279
Tapping into God: A Catholic Perspective José Antonio Rubio....................287