About a thousand years ago in the area of Central Asia around the Amu Daria and Syr Daria rivers some interesting things happened.
During this period, because of interesting events in Baghdad, the seeds were planted that produced most of the modern "Sufi Orders", the various schools designed for different types of people, to bring them toward awakening. One of those seeds was placed near a town called Tashkent in what is today Uzbekistan.
A man by the name of Ahmet ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali of Yasi, called Ahmet Yasevi built a school there.
He is considered by many to be the first of the great Turkish Sufi Masters, and was one of the original students of Yusuf Hamadani as well as his third successor, (though for some reason many of the Naqshbandi lineages leave him off their silsilas). He was responsible for the final training of Abd al Khaliq Ghujadwani, who we will speak of again shortly.
Hoja Ahmet's thoughts are contained in a book called "Divan i Hikmat", which to my knowledge, has never been translated into English.
Hoja Ahmet's work is of special interest as it has been suggested by some of the Masters Of The Path (tm) That in his time the Khwajagan (those in the lineage of Hoja Yusuf anyway), split into two lines, The exoteric group, lead by Hoja Abd al Khaliq Ghujadwani, which planted the seeds of many of today's Tariqas, such as the Naqshbandi and Kubrasi, and the esoteric side led by Hoja Ahmet, who went into retreat in Turkistan, and formed a group around himself which carried on the tradition that Mr. Gurdjieff called the Sarmoun.
As much as some (but not all) the Naqshbandi lines would like to claim that they are the source of Mr. G's teachings, I think that a careful reading of his accounts will show that at best they just provided clues and direction. Further, if you read carefully the accounts of his visit to the Sarmoun and pay attention to the geography (and political situation) it begins to seem very much less likely that he was in Afghanistan and more likely that he was somewhat farther north and east.
Interestingly, Yasevi Shaykhs pop up fairly often at important nexus points in the history of Central Asian Sufism. For instance, Bahauddin Naqshband received training under two Yasevi Shaykhs before he began to teach.
Thee are some very important differences between the traditions of the Yasevi and that of the "outer" branches of the Central Asian Masters.
Ahmet Yasevi was the first of the Turkish students in the line of Yusuf Hamadani, the other eleven of his students having come with him from Persia. Hoja Ahmet's early training had included the traditions of Central Asian Shamanism, with its emphasis on sacred dance and music as an important discipline. He was also very friendly to the local Buddhist community, and was known to have exchanged teachings with them. There is also a martial arts thread in the teachings of the Yasevi, which can be found in their love of archery, fencing and wrestling. For the Yasevi, movement arts were very important, and I believe, represent the origin of the "dervish exercises" that we occasionally find mention of.
Before Ahmet Yasevi and his group went into retreat, Hoja Ahmet returned to Bukhara from Tashkent and spent three years finishing the training Abd al khaliq Ghujduwani, who then took over guidance of the main group that would be known as the Khwajagan, or "masters of wisdom".
Abd al khaliq Ghujduwani was known even his lifetime as a great saint, but he is most famous for his "aphorisms of the Path". These are eight short sayings that are usually thought to be "wisdom sayings". In recent times various Sufi orders, most notably some branches of the Naqshbandi, claim ownership of these sayings.
One thing that I have never seen mentioned in any of the modern texts on the aphorisms is that they are in fact not aphorisms, but rather mnemonics for a set of discrete, interlocking practices. Without this understanding the aphorisms are of limited use.
As to the "ownership" of the sayings, they belong to those who can use them for the purpose intended. It matters not one little bit what your lineage is, how many silsilas you can claim or who your parents were, if you cannot demonstrate the practices and teach them to others then the aphorisms do not belong to you.
This being said, let's examine each of the aphorisms and dig into them for some deeper meaning. The first eight were expressed by Abd al khaliq Ghujduwani and the ninth (in three interrelated parts) was articulated by Bahauddin Naqshband.
The first of the Aphorisms is
which can be translated as "watch your breath", or "Breathe consciously" or "awareness of breath".
Interestingly, great emphasis was put on the moment between the end of the out breath and the beginning of the in breath in the practice of the Central Asian Masters.
It was suggested that conscious breath provides the "nourishment" that builds a real "soul".
The practice, Hosh dar Dam, is the single essential practice for bringing the whole person into an Awake state. This is accomplished by moving awareness away from the "objects of conditioned sleep" and back "into" the body.
Your body is your main tool for awakening. This is why exoteric religion is so often anti-physical and works to deny the experience of being as body-consciousness continuum. Without this inital connection of body and spirt through the medieation of breath, true self development (the kind that breaks through the deep conditioning and waking sleep of everyday life) is nearlly impossable.
Rather than lecturing you on these ideas, I am going to present to you part of a conversation that took place some time ago between myself and my friend Jeff.
I had started to scribble out something last week about breathing after reading a reply you gave to Kevin asking about holding his breath:
Sufis have considered breath work (habs-i-nafas) to be central to the Work, but it is no doubt less important than which shoe you put on first in the morning.
That pause between the outbreath and inbreath has fascinated me for a number of years now. I spend an inordinate amount of time every day trying to follow my breath, well, trying to remember to follow my breath, would describe it more accurately. Once I remember to follow my breath, then I sometimes have trouble doing it, so I turn to counting the breaths. Sometimes if I just can't seem to even do that. The technique that always works for me when that happens: just take an extra long pause after an outbreath. It doesn't take long (as your Nasruddin story pointed out) for my attention to shift.
Here is a Secret for you. You can't really make progress in "Hosh Dar Dam" by using you mind. It is your Body that has to maintain the attention of breath for you. This can only happen when the whole body becomes involved in the breath.
There is a line from "Jesus Son Of Man" by Kahlil Gibran, where Mary Magdalene describes meeting Jesus for the first time;
"And I gazed at Him, and my soul quivered within me, for He was beautiful.
His body was single and each part seemed to love every other part."
That is Hosh Dar Dam.
Really that pause between breaths seems like a beacon for me. It seems like time stops for just a moment. Sometimes it seems like I pause there at that moment forever. Sometime I flash on dying, because I know eventually it all ends with that last outbreath.
One wonders if this may be the ultimate cause of all the "breath holding" that happens under stress.
I wanted to ask you about the importance of which shoe you put on first, (Al ma'bud an-nafs?).
According to the Wahabbis and others of that ilk, if you put the wrong shoe on first when you get dressed, Allah will be really pissed with you and will not accept any of your prayers and will most likely burn you forever after you die.
You mentioned habs-i-nafas as breath work. Does Hosh dar dam fit into that? Can you E-gram breathing? (I always have this hunch that the inner lines mean something, but don't really know what exactly) And I also don't know how, if at all, octaves might work with respect to breath work.
You can plot ANY process on an enneagram, and breathing is indeed a process.
To understand where the octave comes into play, you have to look for the two shock points where something has to come in from another process to help complete the octave.
You will have to do a little research on blood gases and oxygen transfer to find what you are looking for.
BTW regarding the kitchen enneagram, and your AT&T friend who encountered some resistance applying it. I've seen the same sort of thing. Our organization has gotten into a Service Management orientation, and we focus on People, Processes, and Technology. I can show that triad, but that's all. If I try to show other interrelationships, it gets me in trouble.
Our species as a whole does tend towards extreme conservatism. Only about one person in every ten thousand is a true Neo-phile.
So be careful, the other nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine will often respond with extreme prejudice.
Anyway.. I just wanted to chime in. I always enjoy the nourishing posts.
Thanks Jeff, I do enjoy these moments between the time I get the political wankers to shut up, and the time the trolls start busting in to tell me why I don't know anything and that everyone here should be following them because they are the real khalifas of Idries Shah. It is in this small period that the real work of this list gets done.
Here is something to think about that for some reason many of the people who talk about "Breath Work" never seem to notice or address.
This means that in and of themselves, they just sit there and do nothing, it takes other "parts" of the body to make them "work".
Since the lungs only work by movement of the body (Diaphragm and such) all the residual muscle tension created by the Nafs (and the Nafs can pretty much be defined by the patterns of residual tension held in the body) is going to have an adverse effect on breath.
So you cannot really get to Hosh Dar Dam until the residual muscle tension that creates the pattern of the Nafs is released and the body is reclaimed for Dhat. This is the reason for all those "Dervish Exercises" that are written about but that no one does any more.
You can't bring your Nafs under control until you are willing to be embodied, and you will not be embodied (not truly) until you have archived Hosh Dar Dam.