I live high in the Alpujarran mountains of Andalucia in Spain and the views across the mountains to the Mediterranean are stunning and give a great deal to reflect upon. The entire universe, including ourselves, is a great book filled with the signs of God waiting to be read. At this time of year, after the intense heat of summer, the weather is beginning to change. A pleasant drop in temperature, cooler breezes, a subtle change in the quality of the light are all harbingers of the coming Autumn and as I walk above the village and look out to sea I am reminded of the importance of rhythm in our lives and its connection with time.
From the beating of our hearts and the breathing of our lungs rhythm is an essential partner in the passing of time and the two link arms and appear throughout the natural and biological world and also manifest in cultural, religious, and social scenarios. If rhythm is honoured then the result can be a creative unfolding of divine surprises and moments of grace that reveal the true humanity of an individual. It is these divine surprises and blessings that suggest to me the melodies, keys, and chords for which rhythm builds the framework.
Time may appear to stop, to expand, or to contract according to our subjective experiences of the moment but the rhythms of the natural world and of humankind provide a framework for living and a foundation for the melodies of life that at times lift us out of this space/time continuum and allow us to experience the eternal present. How majestic are the rhythms of the tidal surge, the flow of seasons, the sunrise and sunsets of millennia? These rhythmic ‘beats’ are never a constant repetition of the same but rather a re-occurrence of the similar that coheres in the larger picture. That larger picture is that of the unity of all existence. How unique is each wave that beats upon the beach and yet all are from the one ocean and roll onto the sands as a result of the tides that are an effect of the gravitational pull of the moon. Walk on the wet sand at high tide or surf the waves as the tide turns and rushes back in to land and you are connected with the ocean, the moon, the sun and momentous cosmic events as the Lord of the Worlds manifests the unity of all creation. Surf splashing against the legs of a child can tell us the whole story of creation.
For me it is the rhythm of salat, the five daily prayers, which provide the essential framework for my spiritual voyaging. No prayer is ever the same as another and together with the regular practise of dhikr, remembering Allah, these are spiritual conduits that draw us close to an awareness of the unity of all creation and that there is nothing other than Allah. I feel this rhythm like embracing arms that contain those unexpected inspirations, guiding dreams, or the revelations of the inner heart that are released into life as the arms unfold. Ya Rabb! These mountains, this magnificent sea have many stories to tell for as the Qur’an says, ‘Wherever you turn there is the Face of God’ 2:115
I wrote this a while back for inclusion in the first edition of the Ansari Sufi Times. To read copies of the magazine click here.