The immediate benefit of hadra is twofold. The one is the silencing of internal dialogue and the second is the shifting of attention or if you like the assemblage point of attention from behind your eyeballs to behind your solar plexus. These are the two immediate physiological attributes of a good hadra. That’s what hadra is trying to produce. It is these two effects. And I’m going to indicate why we do what we do deliberately because what we assume when we do these things is that you have those two effects.
..those two things together conspire to deliver you in haqq..
The product of a hadra, a good hadra, is two things – nothing hocus-pocus, visions of the shuyukh and things like that, because that’s scary stuff – nothing like that at all. There are two definite physiological outcomes of a good hadra. The one is the silencing of internal dialogue and the second is the shifting of the assemblage point of attention from behind your eyeballs to behind your solar plexus and you understand, based on the conversation we had before, why both of these things are important – because those two things together conspire to deliver you in haqq, in the moment, in reality, out of illusion which is past and future. So let’s first explore how it is that the hadra as it stands effects your internal dialogue.
Internal dialogue actually has to be aspirated. If you get somebody who is really distressed you can actually see the physiology of speech working a little, so internal dialogue doesn’t work without aspiration, without having air blown through it. Also the most important thing about internal dialogue is that it doesn’t just sit in your head. It sort-of sits in your entire being. The locality of your being is your chest. So what you do with a hadra, with this bellows effect of “Hayy! Hayy! Hayy! Hayy!” is that you are literally pumping your chest dry and that’s the intention. You are blowing out all the cobwebs, all the little bits of subtext that are running because the key issue about internal dialogue is that most of what happens is not conscious. Most of what happens is subliminal.
So little bits of subtext that are running over your being to the very depths, into your dream world, into your unconscious world, little bits of text that are running, basically keeping you rooted or trapped in your sort-of nafs identity. So what happens, what the hadra does is it starts pumping this nonsense, literally blasting them empty, blasting them dry and you see that’s why one of the physiological effects of a hadra is that you are just quiet afterwards. You really are quiet afterwards. You’re not thinking a lot because you’ve pumped out your internal dialogue literally, which is why you’ve got to do this thing with some oomph! You’ve got to put some oomph into this. You can’t play with this. That’s silly. Do this with the intention: I’m going to empty myself of myself – the energy that you put into it.
I’m going to empty myself of myself – the energy that you put into it.
Also the two dhikrs that you’re working with are Hayy and actually Allah. Neither of those two things are actually the point It’s the physiology of what happens not the meaning of what’s happening. It’s the attention.
There are three layers to existence. There is the action/the material/the world. There’s the realm of intentions or energies and there’s the real of attention. It’s this deeper world, this deeper world of attention that we’re trying to affect. So really the meaning of what you’re saying is important but it’s not that important. But – Hayy! Hayy! Hayy! – Living! Living! That which is real – Allah Hayy! Hayy! And it is also a sound, that aspiration of literally breathing. It’s a breathing sound. “I want my life back!” “I want to escape this!” It’s exactly the conversation we had before.
“I want my life back. I’m not willing to become cannon fodder of an identity that I’m carrying over time. I want my life now.” That’s what Hayy means to me. And it’s therefore interesting that the Hayy, the dhikr itself – Tawheda is very insistent on this – it’s not ALLAH-HAYY – it’s LAA HAYY. It’s a negation and an affirmation. It’s like Laa ilaha illa’Llah – LAA – LAA HAYY, not ALLAH HAYY and HAYY-LAA, HAYY-LAA, HAYY-LAA – so it’s – “I want none of this. I want my life!” – Because there’s only one life. My life is a subset of that life. If that Life withdraws from my life, my life is not a life. It is a corpse. So that’s what I want. I want that life, nothing else!
..like opening windows, opening perception windows.
Now the other physiological effect of this is that the harder you pump the dance, basically the more oxygen you put into your blood, which is another physiological attribute of the silencing of internal dialogue, it’s basically hyperventilating. It’s literally pumping you full of oxygen. A lot of transcendent practices throughout the world, various traditions, use hyperventilation as a technique to gain altered states of consciousness because you just open up, you enliven, you give life to far more things than you would normally have access to. It’s kind of like opening windows, opening perception windows.
The movement is very important in hadra. HAYY LAA! HAYY LAA! First of all your arms have to be down and think of it almost like being a marionette. It’s like a floppy thing, almost like a whiplash – HAYY LAA! HAYY LAA! So the top of your body is relaxed. When you start doing this [raising arms] it becomes pronounced. What happens is you tighten and what that does is it keeps everything back in your head. And actually what you want to do, which is why when we’re in the circle I go around and I tap people – what I’m saying is – get out from behind your eyeballs. Function from here [solar plexus]. That’s why I tap them on the chest which is one of the reasons also when you are in the hadra you don’t look at anyone. People can go as crazy as they like but don’t look at them. Not eyeballs. Keep eyes downcast. In fact attention is not visual fundamentally. You’re giving attention to everything else other than vision – to the sound, to the feeling, to the sweat trickling down your spine – the physiology of everything else other than vision because when you do that you immediately start functioning, your attention starts operating from a deeper place in your being other than behind your eyes. It starts working from her [solar plexus].
You’re giving attention to everything else other than vision..
Also, if you’re leading a hadra and you create the conditions where you can see that people are getting into it – unless somebody is enormously disruptive, don’t stop them. Use the wildness. That’s what you want people to do. You want them to put all the crap that they are dealing with, all of the frustration of the week – it’s a cathartic experience. You are pumping dry so all little anxieties HAYY-HAYY-HAYY. So allow people to become a little bit kind of wild. It’s only when they start doing things which become counterproductive [like when arms are raised] you want them to get it lower so you can help them. But in fact you want the thing to get almost a bit hysterical because you know that people are really – let go! It’s not rational. You don’t want reason. You want anything other than reason. You don’t want thought. You want experience – direct experience.
Hadra, if it’s done properly, has to have some Qur’an at the end and preferably it has to have a dars. Whoever is giving the dars, it is like – the metaphor for this is – you can sit for five minutes if you need to and you just wait until something arises – and metaphor for this is like a thread, it might just be a statement, a word – “resentment – why is it that we get resentful?” You tease out that thing until this meaning comes forward. That’s what a dars should be. It’s not text. It doesn’t come from here [head]; it comes from here [heart]. The person who’s giving the dars should be operating from here [heart].
More often that not all the darses that I give, I think afterwards – “What did I actually say?” You know, I really don’t know. But in a sense what we’re saying is that when you start articulating from that level you are articulating – Sidi Abu Madyan used to say, “Feed me with fresh meat!” That means, don’t tell me what the book said. What do you have to say? What’s your experience? That’s the platform that you start to speak out of. That doesn’t mean you don’t quote a book or whatever but you’re speaking from that realm and then even if it’s clumsy and cack-handed there’s something transmitted that happens, something transformative happens both for the person who is speaking and for the people who are listening.
Things that are helpful – this transition from LAA HAYY to HAYY – you have to get the LAA HAYY fast enough so the transition of the HAYY is like halftime. So it slows the whole thing down. So the dhikr naturally articulates in two points – HAYY-LAA! HAYY-LAA! HAYY-LAA! — HAYY! HAYY! HAYY! So it’s literally like a halftime with the same rhythm and at the very end it is like this – hayy-hayy-hayy-hayy-hayy-hayy! There’s a name for this in yoga. It’s very fast aspiration – keep that going as much as you can, for as long as you can. If you liken internal dialogue to waswas – because that’s exactly what it is, the actually English phrase for waswas is internal dialogue – there are bits of your internal dialogue that are loud, bold bits of text in neon lights in your consciousness, and the most dangerous ones are the subliminal ones that are going, those little ones. Blow them out! So you hold that.
Only if you’ve developed the skill and maybe you should – I’m going to do something – we’ll do a bit of hadra together now – HAYY-LAA! HAYY-LAA! HAYY-LAA! Now you don’t want every voice to do that staccato sound, but if you have somebody who does this staccato thing, there’s a bit more complexity to the rhythm. When you put a bit more complexity to the rhythm it catches people’s attention more. They are a bit more conscious. That’s one of the reasons why drumming helps. With the drum you can add a level of complexity to what’s going on. So the more complex, I mean most people can’t deal with too much complexity in terms of what they can do themselves but if you add a little bit of complexity to what they are hearing you see that it has a much more profound effect. (Saleem’s comment: They become accustomed to it and they think it’s nice!) Yes, their body is doing it but they are not there. But it’s not complex enough so it’s not captivating their attention.
And throughout the dhikr I’ve also found it useful suddenly to say – ALLAH! – But loud – ALLAH! HAYY-LAA! HAYY-LAA! ALLAH! Try always to respect the rhythm so you stay with the same beat but there’s complexity to it, sort-of like something that shoots out over there. And that creates the sense of wildness and that’s what you want. You’re trying to induce people into this, the untamed parts of yourself. This is one place where you have licence to do that, if you do it all well. Alhamdulillah. Then you’ll find that this becomes for people, it’s like their life blood because over the week you just accumulate all this stuff, all this freak-out and stress and then you have this incredible opportunity for catharsis and it’s a physiological cleaning out, on your dhikr night and everything is different after that.
..our approach to this thing is allopathic not homeopathic.
And one of the things you may find is that also people might become ill, physically. Don’t ever say to someone don’t come to the dhikr because you’ll get ill. Let them get ill. It’s a cathartic thing and it might not be pleasant and comfortable but – take it a bit easier with the next dhikr but don’t “not do” the dhikr. But I do think our approach to this thing is allopathic not homeopathic. You are meeting the thing with its opposite. Spit it out. Get rid of it. If you think of waswas as almost like a small snivelling being sitting in the corner of your consciousness muttering in its beard – how can that thing be sustained? HAYY-LAA, HAYY-LAA, HAYY-LAA. He runs away. So it’s raw life.
Alhamdulillah. Shukran. Alhamdulillah.
This discourse was given by Shaykh Ebrahim after a dhikr session on the 3rd of March, 2012.