In my own Sufi order… there are three ways to become a dervish and enter fully into the practice of Sufism. The first way is to dream of becoming a dervish. The second is to fall in love with a sheikh, and the third way is simply to ask.
– Robert Frager, from Heart, Self and Soul
In his book, Heart, Self and Soul, American teacher Robert Frager talks about Sufism and his own process of becoming a dervish, or Sufi devotee. Frager describes being emotionally struck by the Sufi spiritual teacher he met and wanting immediately to become a dervish but worrying about what that would mean. Would he have to become a Muslim? Give up his passion for other religions? Give up alcohol? Like anyone who has fallen in love, Frager found these concerns no match for his newfound passion, which pressed him beyond all these objections so that eventually he followed the path it seemed to point him towards.
I used to think I fell in love relatively easily, and at one time in my life, perhaps this was true. Maybe it is true of all of us at some point. As I have written before, the energy of first love, before we have been really and truly hurt, is like nothing else. But we learn to guard our hearts more carefully, and in the process, it’s possible that we lose something of our ability to fall so completely and unreservedly as we once did.
Everything we fall in love with, be it a person, an image, an idea or a place, is a teacher. Falling in love creates wrapt attention to the object of devotion, which gives it the power to take us past what we thought to be the limitations of ourselves. Often the part of us that falls in love seems to know something we don’t. It reaches for the most unlikely, unpredictable, seemingly inappropriate object and then refuses to let it go. Sometimes old attachments we mistook for who we are just fall away in the wake of it. It’s hard to take being cracked open that way on a regular basis.
And yet, reading Frager and Hafiz, I could easily believe that falling in love completely and often is the best spiritual practice there could possibly be, the one we should all be learning but have somehow managed to forget.