Mar 28 2012

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – The sum total of our life is a breath

Published by at 8:40 am under Poetry

The sum total of our life is a breath
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

The sum total of our life is a breath
spent in the company of the Beloved.

— from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian

/ Photo by bee wolf ray /

I find it fascinating that “breath” and “life” and “spirit” are synonyms in most languages and cultures. When you read sacred writings and the word “spirit” is used, substitute the word “breath” and see how the meaning changes and expands.

This connection between breath – life – spirit is much deeper than the simple observation that the living breathe and the dead do not.

We tend to think in terms of borders and boundaries, constantly noting what separates ourselves, mentally and physically, from everything else. But the reality is that there is a constant flow of awareness across those borders. Every one of us has the unseen movement of the breath. Through the breath, what is outside becomes inside; what is non-self becomes self. And what was self is released again out into the world. This is communion, nothing less.

That inbreath of yours is the outbreath of another. The air we breathe is the breath of all.

A deep breath opens the chest and expands the heart. A full breath requires us to feel. We feel ourselves, and we feel others. Feeling, too, is communion. When feeling is shut down, the breath is shut down, and life has become limited.

The currents of the breath continuously teach us that the boundaries of self exist only in the mental map. In reality, we flow out into the universe, and the universe flows back in. The only way to secure our borders is to stop breathing, which is, of course, death. Life requires breath, and we live in each other, in the same breath.

When we really breathe, with a sense of the fulness of life, we might just come to the same conclusion that Sheikh Abu-Said Abil-Kheir came to: An individual’s lifetime may be brief or long, the experiences of life may be tangible or fleeting, but this communal breath – life – spirit in which we participate, is the very breath of the Beloved.

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

Shaikh Abu-Said Abil-Kheir was one of the earlier Sufi poets. He lived more than two centuries before Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi yet, like Rumi, much of his mysticism follows a similar path of annihilation in divine Love.

Abu-Said’s poetry ranges from the ecstatic and celestial, to struggles with abandonment. His poetry has an immediacy and even a sort of devoutly wry petulance that can draw comparisons with the great Bengali poet, Ramprasad.

Abu Said referred to himself as “Nobody, Son of Nobody,” to convey the mystic’s sense of having completely merged or disappeared into the Divine, leaving no trace of the ego behind.

He lived in Mayhana in what is modern day Turkmenistan, just north of Iran and Afghanistan in Central Asia.

More poetry by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – The sum total of our life is a breath”

  1. Terez Stolzeon 28 Mar 2012 at 10:26 am

    Just wonderful, simple and profound like breathing in and out itself!

  2. Tito Dutaon 28 Mar 2012 at 12:27 pm

    The poetry is really a good one! I feel this portion is fascinating: “spent in the company of the Beloved”. The use of capita B in the word Beloved is significant!

  3. Theoon 28 Mar 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Hello Ivan
    You describe in a beautiful way how we are connected in life.
    thank you, Theo

  4. steveon 28 Mar 2012 at 1:36 pm

    words, concepts, ideas..
    pointers only… not the experience not the thing itself.
    and even these words point to a teaching but is not the teaching.

    how many more words do we need?


  5. rena navonon 29 Mar 2012 at 6:04 am

    That last moment with the beloved must be the essence of what the two can give each other. This can’t be more than pure intuition, for experience is projected forward in time. But life crowning in this way is pure poetry in a perfect life.

  6. Nanci Warneron 29 Mar 2012 at 10:44 am

    As close as the breath–God is the breath. We cannot be without that breath, we cannot be without God. The Beloved surrounds us in every moment.

  7. vimalon 02 Apr 2012 at 10:23 am

    The lines:
    A full breath requires us to feel. We feel ourselves, and we feel others. Feeling, too, is communion.

    We have forgotten to feel,even our own presence/being.
    We are humans,without any sensitivity & are living at mind’s level only.
    Poetry arouses feelings of beauty/love.
    You are nourishing the soil of the soul !!!
    Keep it up !!!

  8. Lakshmion 04 Apr 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Beautiful thought:)

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