Beloved Friend: The Practice of Gazing at the Beloved
Image by A. Debus

As human beings, we have but three requirements in life: food, shelter, and someone to love and be loved by. If we have these three, then our journey through life can be a journey of riches. Everything else is filler.

When queried as to their hopes for their twilight years, most people reply that they hope for a comfortable life and someone to share it with. Only rarely do we come across anyone who hopes to remove himself or herself completely from the social fabric of life and live alone in a cave.

Prepare Yourself

Can a man who longs for a woman to complete him really believe that he needs to do nothing more than lose himself in television sports and drink imported beer while he's waiting for his beloved to appear? If he then walked into a room, his head filled with alcohol and his mind distracted by homerun statistics, and Parvati herself were standing there, would she really be attracted to him?

If you truly want a friend with whom to enter into the practices, then work to become the best that you are on your own, a person with whom an angel of God would want to associate. For your beloved friend will become like an angel to you, as you will to him or her. However, if you don't properly prepare yourself for a meeting of this magnitude, you may miss it entirely when it appears. The perfect friend may walk right past you, and you may not even notice:

In order to see you,
Your face, your eyes,
One must first clean the surface
Of the heart's mirror with love.

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Prepare yourself by continually cleaning the surface and depths of your heart, and commit yourself to a disciplined practice.

Seeking An Inner Radiance

It's not just a physical beauty that draws you to the beloved friend. It's an inner presence as well -- an inner radiance. Sometimes, the friend who comes into your life may not look anything at all like the kind of person to whom you're ordinarily attracted.

Trust your feelings and trust your eyes. Don't miss what's just arrived on your doorstep because you haven't cultivated enough vision to see it for what it is. Anyone can fall in love with a beautiful face only to realize, many months down the road, that there was much about this person that was somehow ignored or unnoticed at the initial meeting.

Practice Seeing and Feeling

Continually examine the relationship between the part of you that sees and the visual field onto which you look. Notice that when you're lost in thought, you lose your awareness of both bodily sensations and the visual field.

All preliminary practices serve to help us learn how to be present in each moment -- this moment -- in the most relaxed way possible. There's never been a better time than right now to see and feel. And in the next moment, right now is again just as good, as it is in the next one and the next one still.

The more you can practice seeing and feeling, perhaps formally in a sitting meditation practice, perhaps informally as you move about in your life, the better prepared you will be when the one you have been seeking finally appears. Moreover, the ability to see and feel generates a palpable energy with a strong field of influence; this field of energy will help draw your friend to you.

Throughout his poetry Rumi keeps referring, over and over again, to two specific practices that can powerfully support the practitioner on the path of love. Both help prepare a person's body for the shock to the system that inevitably occurs when the beloved appears, and both help to keep the body healthy and the mind fluid during the mingling with the beloved.

Periodic Withdrawal of Food Through Fasting

The first of these practices is the periodic withdrawal of food through fasting:

Try to obtain the eyes which see God
Through the eyesight of fasting.

Food is the addictive drug of choice in Western culture. We are all like the caricature of the Mexican laborer who wisely takes a siesta after his heavy midday meal. The purpose of the practice of gazing at the beloved, however, is not to enter into a soothing slumber, but to wake up to the reality of union.

To be hungry and in need of food is a terrible thing, but to overeat because of the abundance of food that's available is one of the guaranteed ways to stay forever domiciled in the land of separation. Learning to eat nutritiously and lightly is one of the cornerstones on which good physical health is built. Practitioners on the path of love must keep their bodies healthy and strong. Even fat and happy Buddhas have likely undergone periods in which they temporarily refrained from eating.

Food isn't all that nourishes the practitioner oh the path of love:

Don't eat too much of the food
That becomes a curtain over your eyes.
If you do, you won't be able to find your way back home.
Although you think your life
Depends on this little morsel of food,
It's actually more like a hair
That has grown too long
And is covering over the eyes of your soul,
A curtain covering over your head's eye.

Too much food dulls the awareness of your bodily sensations and sets you dreamily adrift in your mind. When you eat lightly, however, it becomes much easier to feel the full range of the body's sensations and to yield to the pulls and currents that draw two friends in the practice together into union. Eating lightly turns food for the body into food for the soul, and powerfully stimulates the practice of gazing at the beloved.

The Cleansing Power of the Breath

Just as you want to decrease the amount of food that you routinely take into your body and to undergo periodic fasting, so too do you want to increase the amount of oxygen that you inhale with each breath. Surrendering to the cleansing power of the breath is the second technique to which Rumi constantly refers in his writings. A full and natural breath blows you to the shore of union while a restricted and shallow breath will tie you up at the dock of separation:

Just as wind is under God's command,
So is breath under yours.
Breath can either curse loudly or sing praises.
It all depends on you.

The condition of your body is a direct reflection of the condition of your breath. If your breath is shallow and restricted, you will have only a very limited awareness of the sensations of your body, but if your breath is naturally full and free, then your body will be filled with vibrant sensations.

One of the most effective ways you have to practice surrender to God is to give in, as much as possible, to each and every breath you take. You can turn your back on the energies of God, but you can never completely banish their controlling influence in your life.

So too can you diminish the force of the breath you allow into your body, but you can never ever stop breathing until it is time for you to leave this world. Surrendering to each and every breath gives birth to God through your body, over and over and yet over again:

See how you can bring new Soul
Into every breath you take

Just as you can train yourself to remain aware of the full range of sensations that you feel in your body, so too can you learn to feel the full force of your breath moving through your entire body from head to foot. When you truly relax and surrender your will, your breath naturally explodes open. Instead of your lungs and diaphragm, your whole body then becomes your organ of respiration, just as your whole body can be experienced as your organ of vision.

From time to time during the day, as often as you possibly can, remember to examine your breath. Feel how the holding and tension in your body interfere with the free flow of breath. Relax the holding and tension and see how your breath immediately opens and becomes fuller. Feel the entire range of sensations that exist in your body right now, and then join your awareness of breathing to the feeling-presence of your entire body.

Life is a journey that you ride on your breath, from your first inhalation to your last exhalation. Unfurl the sail of your body, and let your breath fill you from head to foot and guide you on your way. Feel how this powerful, yet completely natural and unforced breath wants to fill your sails and move through your whole body, massaging sensations into wakefulness as it passes over them.

Prepare Yourself Well

Prepare yourself well for meeting your friend. Prepare your body and mind as best you can for the encounter that you're drawing to yourself. Use this time wisely. Do sitting practices in front of a mirror. Practice gazing at a candle or a piece of sacred art. Eat lightly. Bring your awareness to your full range of bodily sensations and the fullest expression of your breath.

Remain mindful of the sounds, sights, and sensations of this moment as you move about in your life. And keep your heart open as much as you possibly can. You never know when the beloved is going to show up. It is this passion and dedication, combined with the longing you feel for the beloved who hasn't yet appeared, that will draw him or her to you.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door:

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
Will eventually open a window
And look out to see who's there.

When the beloved finally knocks on your door, when suddenly the friend appears, standing innocently in front of you, welcome him or her immediately with open arms and heart. When, through the perfect mixture of preparation and grace, someone comes to you and you are both drawn into the practice, acknowledge your great good fortune. Honor and respect your friend, because nothing in the world can compare to the wonderment of this encounter:

When the ocean finally comes to you as a lover,
Marry, at once, quickly,
For Gods sake!
Don't postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.

No amount of searching
Will find this.

A perfect falcon, for no reason,
has landed on your shoulder,
And become yours.

What, Then, Are Friends For?

What brings two friends in the practice together? It's that something in each soul needs something in the other soul in order to grow and evolve.

First and foremost, friends are permission givers, offering each other complete permission to be themselves. What a blessing to relax completely in the presence of another! By feeling fully accepted by your friend, you feel safe to accept yourself more fully.

Real friendship always requires a deep surrender to the mixing of souls that the friendship has brought into being. Two friends bring out what's inside each other and protect the easement that takes them both into the world of union. Through this shared trust, friends give each other what they desire the most:

At last I have found what patience can bring,
This one whose face can answer any question,
Who simply by looking can loosen the knot of intellectual discussion.
You translate what is inside us.
If you were to vanish,
This vast meeting room would shrink to a closet.
Protect us.

The Practice of Gazing at the Beloved

While you can profitably explore the practice of gazing at the beloved with anyone, you'll feel much more of an attraction to enter into it with some people over others. Eventually, someone may come into your life that you feel so magnetically drawn to that all you want is to do the practice with him or her.

Until that time comes, continue to do your preparation, explore the practice informally with as many people as possible, and trust in the ultimate matchmaking skills of God. The person that you most need to encounter in your life may be knocking at your door right now.

Don't turn someone away because he or she doesn't match your perfect pictures of what a beloved friend should look and act like. At the same time, don't settle for a lesser relationship than you deserve. We all crave connection and long for completion. Keep as a constant prayer in your heart your burning desire to meet your friend.

We're all on a journey back home to God. The only unknown is whether we'll experience that homecoming while we're still alive in our physical body or enter into it when we die. Meeting the friend, with all the joys and heartaches that may entail, can help move you along on your journey so that you can live your passion here and now.

So do whatever it takes to find your friend. Play together. Bathe in the practice together. Explore this most consummate of mysteries together. Find out what it means, no, what it feels like to be human, what it feels like to be fully alive, what it feels like to be one with a friend.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Inner Traditions Intl. ©2003.

Article Source

Rumi: Gazing at the Beloved: The Radical Practice of Beholding the Divine
by Will Johnson.

Rumi Gazing at the Beloved by Will Johnson.Reveals the esoteric techniques of achieving divine Union based on the practices of the Sufi poet Rumi and his mysterious spiritual companion Shams-i-Tabriz. Reveals the actual practices that transformed Rumi from a conventional Islamic scholar into the mystical poet who originated the dance of the whirling dervish. Demonstrates how anyone can achieve similar states of ecstatic divine Union through the simple practice of intentional gazing. Interweaves the poetry and writings of Rumi to document this radical practice.

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About the Author

Will JohnsonWILL JOHNSON is the founder and director of the Institute for Embodiment Training, which combines Western somatic practices with Eastern meditation techniques. He is the author of Balance of Body, Balance of Mind; The Posture of Meditation; and Aligned, Relaxed, Resilient: The Physical Foundations of Mindfulness. He lives in British Columbia, Canada. Visit his website at

Video/Podcast with Will Johnson - Breathing with the whole body
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