It may happen at any time – a lifting dawn in the heart, a sense of light somewhere behind the eyes, a recognition that for an uncountable number of heartbeats we have known peace, or breathed joy, that we have effortlessly forgotten ourselves in the absorbing flow of beauty. And commonly, as we become aware of the moment, meaning as we step away from it, we resolve to hold it tightly, to cling to the recognition that our horizon could be much wider than we usually permit.
But then, inevitably, we are beset by one thing after another – family, work, friends, duties, temptations, habits – each one demanding attention, and before we know it, like the apostle Peter, we have denied three times our momentary glimpse of Divinity.
There is good reason for the Sufis to hold as a central practice ‘remembrance’, or zikar. The Truth is never absent; it is our essence, as it is the essence of a rose, or an oak, or a star, or the all-pervading life in space, but the play of manifestation means that we must grope our way toward the goal through a cloud of forgetfulness.
What can we do to really remember? When we stumble, like Peter, it is normal to feel remorse, but if the regret makes us indulge in self-flagellation, we don’t come closer to what we are seeking. Thoughts such as “I cannot; I am too weak; I am a failure,” only reinforce the illusion of separation.
We usually view ‘remembering’ as an act of the mind – as when we try to remember what was written in a textbook, or how to calculate the area of a circle, or where we put the car-keys. But the heart is a much more powerful memory – what we hold in the heart doesn’t leave us. When we truly love, there is no need to grope blindly to rediscover the feeling – it is always present, often overwhelmingly so.
Therefore, the surest way to ‘remember’ the Truth (or the Divine presence) is to find all that is worthy in those moments of realization, and store them in the heart. Then, as often as we can, and above all when we are most distracted, to take a moment to look again into the garden that is growing there.