The Latihan: an inner awakening
“When you come to zero, when you come to the nothingness, at that moment there is a vibration.” *
Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo
The latihan, the central experiential practice of Subud, is an awakening of a capacity that all human beings possess: to come to a place free from those worldly influences that distract the mind and feelings, disturbing an overall sense of equanimity. In letting go, or surrendering in the latihan, it is possible to be aware of and feel the 'sound of silence'** that is the universal vibration of life.
Freed from the turbulence of day-to-day thoughts and feelings, it is possible to become aware of an inner spiritual intelligence that guides our experience in the latihan, as well as in our daily lives. And those who practise the latihan may discover their own truth and understanding, which enable them to develop their individual human potential.
Since the latihan is a process of spontaneous inner receiving it is different for everyone, and often changes with each latihan. In letting go and allowing the subtle energy within to move through us, we are better able to follow our inner guidance, which varies from physical movements and sounds, to inner sensations and understanding. It is possible, in this state of quiet acceptance, to feel a deeper connection with the whole.
In Muhammad Subuh’s words: "Clearly the only thing that separates one person from another, especially when they are not related, is the ego. If it is the soul that is working, there is no separation." ***
Practising the latihan
In Subud, people meet to practise the latihan in a local venue, men and women separately, with each latihan being approximately 30 minutes. There is usually a preparation period of up to three months before a person comes to their first latihan, which is known as the ‘opening’. Many people find this period useful, as it is can be a time of subtle change, creating an inner readiness to experience the latihan.
Meaning of the word latihan
The word latihan, short for latihan kejiwaan [Indonesian], translates literally as spiritual training. Since the experience of the latihan is unique for each person, people in Subud often have different ways of describing their own experience of the process and the impact it has on their individual lives.
What people say about the latihan
Here are a few words from people who practise the latihan in Subud, which illustrate the differences in personal experience of the latihan:
The latihan is the core of my life. It has led me by the hand and shown me who I really am.
Being someone with a well-trained critical mind, the latihan has helped me to know the forces behind my thoughts and emotions and enabled me to live in greater harmony with this tough world we live in.
The latihan itself has been an incredible journey encompassing every experience in life - a very powerful feeling of space, depth and joy.
For me, what sets the latihan apart from any other spiritual practice is that it's not about trying to leave a part of you behind in order to feel some kind of 'out-of-this-world' enlightenment. The beauty and intricacy of the experiences I've had during latihan come about because something (which I like to call 'God') is making every part of me - mind, body, heart and soul - come alive. In other words, I'm being trained to become my truest, fullest self, for both this world and whatever comes after.
The latihan helps me get closer to my true self, as it fine-tunes my intuition.
Over the years the latihan has become an invaluable life tool - the regular practice of tuning into my inner awareness provides an essential balance to my thinking, feeling and being. To sense inwardly, as well as outwardly, the dynamics of relationships, of my work, and my sense of self. The latihan broadens my awareness and deepens my understanding of the stuff of life.
After doing the latihan since July 1966, I have no doubts about it. I’ve learned to accept my faults, learned to laugh, have a clean calm feeling inside and my heart has been opened.
I hoped the latihan would enable me to become more 'spiritual' and wise. Oddly enough it did something different. I slowly became more practical, and also more connected with my body and emotions. I now see this as a sort of foundation level, which had been missing on my journey towards wholeness.
It's like learning to dance a new dance with life. I used to live in narrow field enclosed by walls and knock my head on the walls thinking: that's it, that's what life is about. Latihan has reopened a sense of discovery and unexplored possibilities in me. I now have discovered a door, and behind it a peaceful lake and some fields of joy. It's not all sorted for sure - there are always new walls! But I have scope for action rather then just knocking my head on the next wall... and I know there are beautiful spots on the way.
It frees you up to live – and shine your colours in the world!
My practice of the latihan has been like having access to my own personal doorway to a world where the mystery of my deepest self lies, connected to God, to other people and other beings. I make the effort to go and open the door twice a week and get something different at every visit – sometimes nothing more useful that a little peace of mind, and at other times a pure feeling of grace or contrition or awe. I try to live up to the knowledge I have gained of who my deepest self is and can be like in my regular life, and am amazed that the door has never ever been shut when I reached for it.
When I attended my first latihan, at a time of depression, I was frightened that I was going to be taken over by something out of my control. Instead I experienced a sense of joy that I recognised as being my own true self. It was truly an unexpected gift and I went home happy for the first time in months. That was 34 years ago. When things are difficult and I feel doubts, I still remember that experience as a touchstone.
* Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 17 January 1981 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reference 81 JKT 2
** "... When you come to the place where you are completely free from all the material influences ... then you will feel the sound of the silence: the vibration of life which is the Adil Ilham ..."
~ Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 17 January 1981 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reference 81 JKT 2
*** Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 31 July 1966 in Cilandak, Indonesia. Reference: 63 TJK 2