As people filtered into the room they stood and said their own personal prayers, kneeling or bowing occasionally when they felt like it. While everyone else prayed to Allah, I just put my hands over my heart and felt it pushing out against them, reminding me that I am a living being, present here and now. I focused on listing all the wonderful elements of my life--the opportunity to experience Germany, a look into the sufi religion, Easter eggs dyed the most beautiful colors I had seen, great friends, all the growth and change this year has brought, and the beauty and strength of both my mind and body.
Then, Murshid walked in and he sang the formal prayers in a sweet voice (actually it is "intoning" not singing, but it sounds like singing) It reminded me of a gregorian chant, and sometimes the other people praying would reply in with a sweeping melody. I imagined a thousand people singing it and how powerful that must sound. Then, the chanting began so seamlessly that I am unsure when the praying ended and the chanting began--probably because the chanting was just an extension of the prayer.
It was early in the morning, so my voice was not warmed up. I eased into the chanting and "intonement", making sure not to strain my voice. I realized that it was excellent singing practice to speak aloud, concentrating on keeping an open throat and using breath support. Oftentimes, when I read aloud or give speeches, my throat gets sore, so you can imagine what forty-five minutes of chanting at six in the morning would do.
So, while everyone else was sending their devotion to Allah, I was concentrating on vocal technique, because I am a nerd like that. I had no idea what I was saying (or what they were saying), so I just made consonants with my tongue and lips and kept a hand on my throat so I could feel when any muscles tried to control the sound. The idea came to me that I could do this in my dorm room with poetry or German.
The zikr was very meditative because I was completely focused on keeping relaxed and easing into the chants that were more demanding. It was like singing in a choir; it felt good to have a place to free my voice. It was very cleansing, which I was later informed was the theory behind it. It was supposed to cleanse all of the chakras, which hold all your impressions of the world and make you more open. Well, I definitely felt more open.
After the zikr we did actual meditation. It felt so good just to sit and breathe. I wasn't very disciplined with my mind, letting it roam around in the positive insights it had, but that was okay. That was what I needed, so I let it happen that way. Every once in a while I would lead it back to my breaths, but overall I was meditating on meditation (metameditating?). I realized that I tend to plan a lot--create what if scenarios and plan for them. Though that is good to do, I need to balance a little more with living now.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my traditional muslim Easter. I felt that there was a lot of appreciation and connection between everyone. But more importantly, I got the chance to connect with myself more deeply.
Now I want to find a field and sing