Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Asra Nomani: Child of Truth

Asra Nomani, a Muslim, born in India, and raised in West Virginia, USA is a contemporary mystic. I won’t say she’s inspiring, it’s become such an insipid word, as it’s so overused these days. I’d say Nomani is illuminating, showing us the way to travel where there is no road, revealing how to travel to places where no one has ever traveled before.

She wrote an amazing book, Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love, that is a much better read than Theresa of Avila’s over quoted Interior Castle—I know, I know, I read that tiresome piece of work in my twenties. Okay, sorry to dis a saint, but come on! We really are alive and living in 2016; today’s world is the one in which we must cultivate and explore and test our spirituality. So maybe, Tantrika is just more relevant to the modern mystic.

At one point in her book, Asra Nomani sees herself as a bridge, one of the rope ones; I’d add … one of those rope ones over a high gorge with treacherous body-smashing rocks below.

Her ancestry and life experience is so foreign to me, despite my also being raised in the United States—honestly, before I read her book, I didn’t realize Pakistan had been carved out of India, for Muslims, and the Hindus left—I know, ignorant American—and yet Nomani's story, her search for Self and authentic identity, her returning to her ancestral home and roots, the spiraling of her path, the stop-start-backward-forward, her grappling with the questions, reality, station of gender, resonated deeply with my heart.

There are so many gems in Tantrika. I don’t want to spoil them for you because you really need to read it. But let’s just say, Cheenie Bhai and Cheeni Apa are two of my favorite characters, because … well, the freedom of flight has always been one of my favorite metaphors for independence.
One of the gifts of Nomani’s journey is her clarity and her ability to articulate that. She’s not dogmatic—as someone who wore a head covering in solidarity with her Muslim sisters after 9/11, her co-written article As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear a hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity rings with greater awareness than if it had been written by someone who has never worn a head covering, has always refused to.

And the Divine is not dogmatic, in fact, the Divine is so fluid, humans seem incapable of comprehending—or accessing the power of that fluidity—perhaps our fascination with magic, a blink of the eye, snap of the finger, wave of the wand, transformation. Intuitively, we grasp that being responsive to the moment, being open in the now, is a key. But we’re so often stuck. Stuck by our ideas of how others perceive us, stuck in the actualities of how other’s perceive us—you know those people, the ones who feel so free in sharing their oh-so-limited opinions of us—and stuck in how we perceive ourselves.

The final chapter in Tantrika is: Child of Truth. Right behind Love is the Divine as bringer of Truth. Nomani’s evolution through personal truth to Divine Truth is one which can give us courage to ride our own tiger through streets crowded with illusions that are meant to define us as something other than who we really are.
Sometimes I think—know—only the power of the Divine breathing our hearts is the way out of the cage. Nomani reminds us that the journey is not only a worthy one, but a necessary one. I thank her.

Curious yet? Enjoy this recent interview of Nomani on THE SAAD TRUTH.
On Friday, I’ll be sharing another contemporary mystic with you!