One important aspect of the Sufi path is that we live in the world while we do our inner work, and this means that just as others have an effect upon us, we also have an influence on those around us. This came up recently in a conversation about the phrase from the Gayan Suras, ‘Spiritual attainment is attuning oneself to a higher pitch,” and we had begun to talk about the consequences of such work. Does spiritual tuning change one’s behaviour? Does a Sufi become ‘saintly (according to the popular conception) and therefore never oppose that which is harmful?
It is very common to question what actions are considered acceptable or correct by the Sufi, but as briefly mentioned in this letter to mureeds and in this text from Hazrat Inayat Khan, actions cannot be classified; they depend upon circumstances. There is, however, another way in which we affect the world, a way of which many are unaware, and that is through our atmosphere.
Our thoughts and feelings create a vibration that surrounds us, an unseen movement which has an effect, whether noticed by others or not. Just as a sound may produce a sympathetic resonance in the string of a musical instrument, we also respond to our environment, and our environment responds to whatever vibrations we produce.
In other words, if we have persistent thoughts of bitterness or anger or envy, perhaps we may keep a smooth countenance but our troubled atmosphere will disturb others anyway. Similarly, if we keep our mind focused on a high ideal, holding our heart warm and open, we need not say anything about that but it will certainly touch the minds and hearts around us.
Atmosphere also lingers in the environment; it may be felt in places of worship, or where some crime or tragedy has occurred, for example. That is why the house blessing form of Universal Worship is performed, to refresh the atmosphere of a home. But perhaps the most affecting atmosphere of all can be felt in places where people seldom go, in the wilds of nature, for there one may feel more distinctly the atmosphere of the Divine spirit.
Very often we are puzzled to know how to help the world in these times of difficulty – to know what action is best; what may be appropriate one moment might be inappropriate at another. One very positive contribution, though, which is always reliable, is to maintain a good atmosphere, so that everyone can breathe more easily. That is achieved by a higher tuning.