There was once upon a time a certain man who had devoted his whole life to the search for God, and although he was a humble person who never said anything about his experiences, to those who had eyes to see he clearly spread peace and light around him, Therefore, when he was sitting one day in the company of the blessed, one of them respectfully asked him how he had achieved the state of intimacy.
At first he remained silent, but then he said, “When I was first initiated by my worthy shaikh, may God bless him and give him peace, I asked him the best way to advance on the spiritual path. His reply was, “Spread your arms wide and accept the love of God.” That did not seem very difficult, and so I said my prayers and went about my affairs – for I had a family to care for and made my living in the world – and I tried to remember every day to spread my arms open and receive whatever God would give.
“As time went by, though, I began to feel that I was simply standing still. There were good days and bad days, but the cares of life were always pressing, and I did not perceive that I was any closer to God. So I asked my shaikh again how to advance, and he said as before, “Spread your arms wide and accept the love of God.” So now I began to study my inner condition when I spread my arms wide. By honest observation, I realised that I only spread my arms a little bit, for I was distracted by a thousand thoughts and complaints; I carried a great deal. The more I looked, the more I saw that I was like one who has been to the market, clutching to me many packages for which I had poured out the precious currency of my life. I carried concerns for my family, concerns for myself, opinions about those around me, countless grievances about things that matter very little. And I thought, ‘How can I accept anything from God if I have my arms so full?”
“So I began to drop whatever I could. I thought, if I can come to God empty-handed, he will give me what He wants, and I will be happy with that.”
“Little by little, I spread my arms wider every day, until I felt I was embracing from horizon to horizon. For a time I was pleased with this, even proud of myself that I could embrace so much, but then I thought, ‘Surely God is beyond any horizon. How can I reach still further?'”
“And what did you do then?” asked one of his companions.
“When I saw that I could not spread my arms any wider,” said the man, “I threw them away, and let God embrace me. And what has happened since I may not speak of.”