RECORDING: Embracing Paradox - Apr 4, 2021 

Embracing Paradox

From a 1973 Lecture: Mysticism; Pir-o-Murshid Fazal Inayat-Khan


Know that you cannot experience the unlimited in the unlimited.  You cannot be free in freedom.  You need a medium.  Whether the medium is meditation; whether the medium is music; whether the medium is silence.  Just in the same way as the emptiness, the voidness, is unable to realise its own existence without the illusion.  

This is the beginning of real mystical thinking that you can find woven throughout the Sufi Message once you realise the subtlety of the sentence structures.  The incredible vision pointed at, beyond the form.  And so, in my opinion, in my humble opinion, in saying that everything is an illusion, we have not destroyed reality.  It is up to you to realise that.

From the Tao Te Ching


In today’s world we depend a great deal on vision.  Now I am generalising here, and I am just referring to the fact that we rely less and less on our other senses for our life skills.  Taste, smell, hearing, touch – we use them less and less to determine our safety, or find our food – or enjoy our food, or locate ourselves – so many things in fact.  I offer the following exercise as a question for exploration, rather than an answer.   It’s called, what the eyes can see?

What The Eyes See?

Sit comfortably in your chair, with your head facing forward, eyes open, looking ahead.  Focus your eyes on an object or a recognisable focal point, in front of you. Now I am going to describe the following instructions twice – the first time so we know what to do and the second time, then we will do it together.


I invite you to lift your head slightly so it is nicely pivotal on its axis and slowly and gently turn your head to the right as far as it comfortably goes, without straining, and make a mental note of the object or focal point you can see furthest over your right shoulder.  

And slowly turn your head back to the centre front, eyes looking forward, reconnecting your focus with the object or focal point in front.   


Next I am going to ask you to slowly turn your head to the right again but this time, to keep your eyes looking at the object in front of you, so that your eyes are looking left as your head is turned to the right.  You will find that your eyes want to move to the right.  Don’t let them. Keep them looking at the space or object in front of you. Move your head slowly and gently and only as far as you can without strain.  

and then turn your head back to the front, eyes returning to the centre. Now focus again on the object in front.


Now, for the third time slowly turn your head to the right again, this time allowing your eyes to look to the right, once again, notice the object you can see furthest behind you or to the right over your right shoulder.  Bring your eyes back to the front and relax them.

What’s the point of this?

So, most of us will see further with the second over the shoulder glance.  A few may see the same, a very few may see less. It doesn’t matter.  Because what this exercise offers is a physical paradox. From the reality of the eyes, the head must follow their path.  From the reality of the head, the eyes should follow it.  And so, that is what we do.  This reality or that reality.  And it doesn’t end there.  The brain believe it controls our reality. And to prove it, it constantly edits what it thinks it should tell us of what our eyes see. It fails to report what is happening on the outer edges because it thinks we don’t need to know that.   We never use that information and so it’s edited out.  Ah I see, we say.  But do we?  What might this mean as we inquire into certainty and reality and embracing paradox?


In my introduction I said that Embracing Paradox calls me “to offer myself toward a kind of transparency, so my content can become less dense, and instead I might fill with spaciousness until neither self nor embrace nor paradox have separate existences.’ 

I invite us to share another short experiential with this idea in view:


Space Inside Space Outside, no edge

Sitting with strong back, open chest, relaxed shoulders, eyes open, take a couple of breaths, releasing fullness on the out breath.  Relax eyes into peripheral vision.

Close your eyes.  Keep eyes gently closed and relaxed …

In the quietness of self that this offers, bring your awareness to the space behind your eyes, and up into your forehead, … and now include the space between your ears, … and inside your mouth …and your cheeks,… your chin… and your awareness, of space inside..


Like water spreading through sand, awareness flows downwards to include the spaciousness within your chest, between the front and the back, with every breath, space inside.  And down into the round ball of the belly, space inside. Your upper body, a felt sense, of space inside held in awareness. Stay in this for a moment and enjoy the open and natural way of it 

Keeping eyes gently closed, Lift your arms a little and hold your hands out in front of you.  Move your fingers in space, turn your hands gently in front of you. 

Notice now that awareness includes the space your hands are moving in.  Rest your hands on your lap. Now awareness includes the space, in front of you. And behind you… and above your head.  And the room you are in,  and beyond the walls of your room, the space outside,  the ground and sky, all held in awareness : space inside, space outside. No edge.

And come back to the room, and back to inside your body, behind your eyes, space inside, space outside. No edge.

And when you are ready, open your eyes.   Keeping peripheral vision, recall awareness within and beyond yourself.   Space inside, space outside. No edge.

The Eye Sees Itself


Today, I invite you to wonder and wander with me a little in an experience of Remembrance. Some, perhaps many or most here today know Remembrance, often called Zikr, as an esoteric sufi practice. It is indeed about remembering...remembering what? 


Perhaps the most well known or recognizable recitation is La-illaha Il-allah, which is often translated as “there is god, there is no god; or ‘there is no god but god…”, there are others.  In the Open Path, we often say, ‘Only This’.


Today we will pass through phases of recitation, silence and listening. The recitations, which I ask you to participate in will occur a few different times during the experience.


Before we begin I ask you to write down a few words which will be the primary recitation: these words are;


It is all what it seems to be 

Yet nothing is as it appears


Just a thought or two about our act of recitation. These words do not represent an assertion; they are not intended to habituate your thinking into some form of trance induced acceptance. In fact, as you recite them, if you stumble over them or change the wording somehow, or find yourself emphasizing one word in the phrase or another, that's all ok. Just be with them as they fit for you.


You will know when each particular recitation is ending, as I will slightly raise my voice and we will aldrop into a moment’s silence.


Once this experiential  begins, we will share an image on the screen  to stabilize the setting. You can have your eyes open or once you're comfortable enough with the words in the recitation, please feel free to close them.

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Embracing Paradox Inner Pilgrimage (Extended Chilla)


Three months ago we began this Living Sufism series together and we introduced the idea of engaging in an extended chilla together, as if walking an inner pilgrimage.  We recalled that a chilla is a very personal task, a task which takes on a spiritual light, a meaningfulness, if that is the regard we offer to it as we enter to it.  It offers us what we offer it.

It also became clear that we couldn’t suggest your starting point or final destination; how to begin, what to do; the meaning of the chilla to you; the longing that you move towards.  Because only you know that.  And even if you knew it back then in January, or now in April, it may well change.  Aspects of the chilla that were and are unclear to you may reveal themselves in times to come, or may not.  Other aspects may fit with ease.

In each of the three months, January, through March, we offered reflections, according to the theme for the month.  They are on the webpage if you want to remind yourself of the details. In brief they were

Original You 

  • Plan and prepare for Inner Pilgrimage

  • Understand your beliefs and stories about Original You

  • Create an invocation calling Original You into presence


  • Seek Beauty

  • Speak to what you find remarkable

  • Nourish Uncertainty

Sacred Story

  • Contemplate Your Tree of Life story and its meaning

  • Do what is to be done

  • Activate your seed word but tell no-one 


This month our theme is Embracing Paradox.  We invite you to become aware of how your inner landscape responds to the concept of Embracing paradox.


In doing so, you may wish to look back over your Inner Pilgimage journey so far.  Contemplate the struggles and avoidances as realities pull you in different directions. Notice if the mind is editing your actions. Notice moments of Embrace.

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Visual Paradoxes saying that everything is an illus

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