The Latifa is an ancient Sufi prayer that connects us with the essence of our being. It brings us closer to our (higher) Self, and is a great aid for discovering what truly moves us.
Its beauty lies in its simplicity and the combination of words with a movement of the hands over the body. Every line is connected with a specific body part.
Lata’if: the chakras of Islam
The prayer could also be seen as a guided meditation. It’s related to the lata’if system of Sufi psychology. In the mystical branch of Islam generally six lata’if are distinguished: subtle centres of perception, comparable to the chakras in Indian spirituality.
Awakening or activating these psychospiritual organs is part of the spiritual development of a Sufi.
A Path of love
Sufism is a path of love. The relationship between the spiritual seeker and God is often depicted as a relationship between lover and Beloved. Praying the Latifa is one of the many ways one can get closer to the Divine, who is ultimately to be found in our own hearts.
True knowledge of God is gained when the lover comes in contact with the Beloved through secret communion with Him.
Traditional Sufi saying
The Latifa prayer used to be a secret: only meant for initiates. Why? Because it’s a powerful prayer. And also because the Sufis believe in transmission of wisdom from heart to heart. The master-disciple relation is very central in this tradition.
Yet, the Latifa is now accessible for everyone, and to a greater benefit. There’s some magic in those basic lines: they catch you immediately and have a deeply transforming effect.
After being confronted with your desires, hopes and fears you’re stimulated to let go and find peace and trust and accept yourself as you are.
Praying the Latifa
In this meditation the left hand will guide the right hand. The right hand stands for acting, the left hand for receiving. Take a moment of rest and make yourself comfortable. You can sit or lie down. Make sure you won’t be disturbed.
Maybe you’d like to burn a candle or some incense, maybe you’d like to go out somewhere in nature.
- Place your hands in your lap, close your eyes and turn inwards. Become aware of your breathing.
- Take some deep breaths in and out. When you’re ready for it you start moving your right hand to the left side of your waist. Place the left hand upon it and say: ‘I exist’
- Let the words sink in:
It can be so simple: I exist. Nothing more, nothing less. You’re existing right in this very moment. There was a time you weren’t here. There will be a moment you won’t be here anymore. But right here and now: you are. How does it feel? Who is the ‘I’ that is here now?
Now move your hands (left guiding right) to the right side of your waist. Focus your attention on this part of your body, while you say:
What is it that you truly desire? Maybe it’s not what you expected. Not what your mind is telling you to desire. What emotions or thoughts belong to those desires? Try not to judge. Just observe what happens and let it be.
Then move both hands to the left side of your chest, at the height of your left lung, while you speak the words:
Do you notice the difference? How does hope feel? No matter how difficult the path may be that you’re walking, you can always restore to hope. Even if everything seems to go wrong right now. Hope will give you the power to continue: because there might be a day when your desires will be fulfilled.
Now move your hands to the right side of your chest, the location of your right lung. How does this body part feel? Then you say:
I believe and trust
Trust follows from hope. Hope may still be full of uncertainty. With trust you let go of those uncertainties and surrender to a higher power. Whatever you like to call it. Maybe the life force, maybe your higher Self, maybe trust itself. What do you believe in?
Then place both hands on your throat. The throat is a vulnerable part of the body: necessary for breathing and eating, for making sounds, for communication. Feel how things literally fall from your shoulders, how the lump in your throat is removed, while you say the words:
I let go
All those desires and hopes, the fears that come with it, your deepest wishes: you can let them all go. From trust you move into an even higher trust. No need to worry. Let go and just be.
When you let go of all of these, only one thing remains… Move both hands to the centre of your chest while you speak:
Feel your love. Let it flow through you: you love and you are being loved. It’s the deeper current in our existence. What do you love? Who do you love? Feel how this power radiates from your being and encompasses all that is around you.
Now you’re ready to reaffirm your place in the world. Place both hands right above your navel, the place of the solar plexus, the part of the body which reflects our place in the material world. And utter the last part of the prayer:
I am prepared
With this powerful closing you confirm your own existence. It’s a deep acceptance and willingness to confront life as it presents itself to you, unique in every moment. Being prepared is also: being prepared to step back into the world after the prayer.
How does it feel for you? What is it that you’re prepared to do? Listen deeply to the voice of your heart. Know that you have the power, the strength, the courage and all the love you need.
You can do the Latifa any moment you wish for it. It will definitely help you ground deeply in the here and now.