What Are the States of Constriction and Ease?
Constriction and ease are two polarized states that we all move between during the course of our lives. When we’re in a state of constriction, we’re faced with challenges. When we’re in a state of ease, we glide easily through life. We can spend a minute, a day, or a year in one of these states, but eventually we will return to the other.
All people, regardless of their spiritual rank, move from constriction to ease to constriction to ease, etc. Before we are spiritually educated otherwise, it may seem that states of constriction are less desirable and states of ease are more desirable. Spiritual mastery lies in seeing each state as a gift from the Beloved, giving up self-management, and being in a state of respect and politeness with our Lord as He purifies us.
Constriction: A Fundamental Part of Spiritual Evolution
It’s important to understand the nature of both constriction (al-jalal) and ease (al-jamal). For most people, constriction is considered a sign that something is wrong with others, with life, or with themselves. The Sufi understands that constriction is a fundamental part of spiritual evolution.
Constriction occurs when we are unconsciously going through a growth spurt. Something is changing. Something old is readying for transformation. Something is rising up from within for healing. Something is attempting to expand beyond its container. A download is about to be received. An upgrade is about to be performed. Something inside of you is surrendering, willingly or unwillingly, for healing. A veil may be about to be lifted. Misconceptions are giving way to Truth. Allah is squeezing something out of you that you no longer need. These are just some of the ways we all can experience constriction. You have not done anything wrong, you are just moving through a time of constriction.
The more you can let go and, as Sidi says, “Be like wool between the hands of Allah,” the gentler and the cleaner the process will be. Know that the majority of your being is still completely intact. It is only one part of your being that is in process and about to transform, not your whole being. Yet this part may feel like you are about to die or it may feel overwhelming. The truth is, you are actually fine, you are just moving through a time of constriction.
Consider a washing machine. With a washing machine, you have the solid outer structure that doesn’t move, along with the spinning/agitating parts that do all the work. The Sufi is like this washing machine: we have the solid container that is anchored in Allah and we have items that are “in process” at the same time. The solid container stands in its truth, while what needs cleaning is agitated and spun as it goes through the constriction process where Allah pulls apart, cleans, and reassembles whatever is “in the wash.” Feel for how Allah is supporting you and holding you with Love while a small part of your being is moving through a time of constriction.
Anxiety, fear, anger or any similar form of distress, in most cases, is the result of not witnessing Divine Truth. When the heart is veiled and is facing something that is not actually true, it reacts with distress. The veil distorts our perception and may contain a “picture” or a false belief. It is a mercy that the heart alerts us in this way so that we can do the healing needed to clear those pictures or misconceptions and replace them with what is actually real. The physical aspects of what we may be sensing may have some truth but our beliefs around it may be the main source of constriction. Sidi says, “Don’t stop with the pictures, go behind and behind until you reach the Truth.”
How Spiritual Practices Help
This is where the Sufi practices and Sufi Healing techniques are most helpful. These practices and healings help us cut through our misconceptions, pictures, and false beliefs. They help our hearts to be grounded in Truth, so that we see with the “eye of the heart” and listen with the “ear of the heart.” When the eye of the heart and ear of the heart are clean, we hear the Truth in its purity, with no distortions or veils. When we cut through to the actual truth, then the heart softens and is at ease. The truth always brings ease even if the truth is difficult and requires us to act in a challenging way.
If you are feeling anxious, then just know that whatever has grabbed you is not actually true, and do whatever works for you to cut through the false so that the truth is seen clearly. Any of the practices such as Remembrance, al-Wird, Writing Sidi’s books, etc., can help to open the door of Truth. Your heart will let you know when you have arrived at the Truth; it will soften and you will feel as if you have been given a Divine download. This truth will rest peacefully in the heart.
Many people testify that their anxiety issues are greatly diminished when they do the morning practices Sidi has prescribed for us. Deeper or more stubborn issues may require one of the many Sufi Healings Sidi taught us.
The True Nature of Constriction
When the wash cycle ends and we arrive at Divine Truth, the time of constriction gives way to a time of ease. With each cycle, you will begin to feel into the sweetness, love, and mercy that is employed throughout the time of constriction. Look for it and soon you will be equally content with either constriction or ease. Sidi has told us that the times of constriction are far more precious than the times of ease for the Sufi who understands. For the Sufi who finds happiness and contentment in cleaning, he/she is always happy. The Sufi doesn’t resist an opportunity for intimacy with the Beloved, therefore each constriction is given respect and room to unfold, which gives way to ease. Only Allah!
The Beloved Is Always With You, Regardless of Your State
This oscillation of moving through states of constriction and ease forms the wave that we are riding as we rise and fall through the changing states. The Beloved holds us firmly as He shakes out the rug of our being. You may experience the ripples of the shaken rug of our being through the lens of like and dislike or punishment and reward. Can you see with the eye of your heart and know that you are always held and that the shaking and subsequent rising and falling is just the Beloved’s way of opening, cleaning and healing you?
Sometimes the Beloved will give your rug a very firm shake in order to break loose the more deeply embedded dirt from the delicate fibers. This is done with love and wisdom but it may not be apparent in the moment. Can you let go of your assumptions and likes/dislikes? Can you surrender the rug of your existence completely and trust the Shaker Who shakes you from His deep love and complete mercy? He is the Owner of the rug. Be polite. Be humble and trust.
May you always feel the Divine Presence as you are being purified. Amin.