THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ MAR 2023
Opening to the Light in all six directions, and bringing it within the body, within the heart, within the self, through God’s Grace, one’s inmost being becomes infused with Light and radiates that Light back out into the world. May our prayers of light be received by all those in need, and especially to those dealing with the aftermath of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
Light upon light! Ya Nur ala Nur!
~ translated by Camille Helminski, available mid-March
Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim
As Ramadan approaches, we invite you to journey again with passages from the Qur’an, to partake of its blessings and to recognize once again how beautifully woven into its framework is the awareness of both the stringency and the deep beauty of Reality, and the acknowledgement of the Gracious Beneficence of our Sustainer and how all that is encompassed by Compassion in the vast womb (the root “rhm”) of Reality, how everything is ultimately permeated with the qualities of Compassion (Rahman) and Mercy (Rahim).
The early Muslim community suffered much distress; oppressed by the people of Mecca, they were welcomed by the Jewish tribes of Medina. Within the ayats (the verses, the “signs”) of the Qur’an, we witness great respect and honoring of all the prophets of the Abrahamic tradition, with the underlying recognition of one God, One Reality, the Real, Compassionate and Merciful One (Al-Haqq, Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim) unifying and sustaining all that is.
No matter what faith we may profess, the same challenge is before all of us—to understand what it is to be a human being, to understand our place in this creation and to strive to act in the best way possible for the greater unfolding of harmony and well-being for all that is, that this life with which we have been gifted might blossom with fullness of meaning, and that good fruitfulness might pour forth through us, as we return to our Source. We give thanks for the abundance bestowed by our Sustainer in every moment, even in moments of great duress, as we learn to recognize that it is sometimes in the moments of greatest difficulty that we discover the most blessed intimacy with our Beloved Sustainer, Friend, and Healer of All Ills.
May your Ramadan be much blessed, and every breath be a remembrance!
Volume 1 of 11, Surahs 1-3 of the Qur'an will be available, God willing, by mid-March through Amazon.
I received an invitation to participate in a project: ELEVATOR PITCHES FOR GOD: Proofs of God’s Existence in 500 Words by World Leaders, Scientists, Mathematicians, Astronauts, Doctors, Historians, Religious Leaders, Authors, Artists, Poets, Sports Figures, and more. As far as I can tell, I was the only Sufi or Muslim invited to contribute. I considered it an interesting challenge, though of course I could not imagine myself in an elevator pitching belief in God. In light of the audience I am addressing, the majority of whom seem to be Jewish, and not particularly religious, here’s what I wrote:
Yearning and Cosmic Intelligence
Is there a Supreme Being, an eternal and infinite Spirit? And what is our relationship to It? Do our personal thoughts and actions elicit some response from It? Can we cultivate a relationship with It?
Can we recognize in our lives a yearning for a relationship with something, a “Holy Unknown,” a longing that persists even after our material and personal needs are satisfied?
Religious beliefs and dogmas may intervene and fill the gap of yearning with concepts and doctrines, which can, to some extent, erect a barrier against this existential yearning. Beliefs can be mere second-hand information. Such beliefs may then become mere accessories to the ego, subjects to argue about.
Apart from our habitual ego-based emotions, thoughts, and beliefs, we may also recognize a longing for something more, for subtle experiences like awe, wonder, reverence, a sense of the sacred, that carry us beyond the ego-self. In some human beings these feelings may be so strong that a person makes them central to their life, cultivating a deeper sense of a numinous, spiritual presence. What they report to us is that this relationship with “X” is more satisfying, more enduring, even more beautiful than the experience of their ego-bound feelings. Should we pay more attention to this portal of yearning?
In the complex, intelligent, and beautiful phenomena of the natural world we glimpse exquisite design, function, and beauty—down to the deepest, darkest trenches of the oceans. But the more we learn about how the natural world operates with interdependent consciousness and purpose, we sense that a vast sentience is at play. Nature’s intelligence has not only accomplished these majestic feats of engineering, but the natural world seems to arrange itself in ways that bring balance, provide support, respond to changing conditions, including even subtle, intangible communication. Nature seems to have an aptitude for looking after life, for nurturing creation. Is the individual human psyche somehow excluded from this interdependent system of communication and nurturing?
It’s curious that we recognize this Intelligence in the natural world and yet we imagine that the realm of inner human experience is merely random and purposeless. Is the Intelligence that is visible in the depths of the oceans absent in the depths of individual consciousness? Is the world of physical nature governed by a “universal intelligence” while the inner life of the human being is random and accidental, without design, meaning, and purpose? Is the human psyche not equipped to know something about this other dimension of existence? Could it be that this dimension of intelligent Beneficence can be experienced and communicated with? Synchronicity, effective prayer, saintly intervention, and angelic agency are examples of a dimension beyond the materialist paradigm.
Is our yearning for something unknown and transcendent actually the call of the Transcendent Itself? Or as Jalaluddin Rumi says:
The thirsty one moans, “Water, water!”
The Water calls, “Who will drink me?”
Our thirst is the magnetism of the Water:
We are Its, and It is ours.
And here’s the response I received:
Dear Mr. Helminski,
We can’t thank you enough for the incredible essay you contributed. I really feel personally that it is the most thoughtful and well written essay we have received yet…
I love your method of questioning throughout the piece which I think clearly leads the reader to your conclusion.
For now, Thank You for this invaluable, unique and helpful addition to our book. It is going to make such a difference.
We believe this is going to be an important book, coming at a critical and urgent time in our culture and history. You would be sharing the pages with other thought leaders like yourself - inventors, heads of industry, theologians, artists, authors, athletes, celebrities, political figures, and scientists - including
• Admiral James Stavridis, Ph.D., US Navy (Retired), former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, author of Sailing True North
• United States Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate, Joseph Lieberman
• Former United States Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman
• Former Professor at Harvard and media legal analyst, Alan Dershowitz
• Tamir Goodman, dubbed by Sports Illustrated, the “Jewish Jordan”
• Ken Spiro, historian, author of World Perfect and Destiny
• Physicist, Rabbi Dr. Jeremy England, author of Every Life is on Fire
• Radio talk show host and author, Dennis Prager
• Nuclear physicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder, author of Genesis and the Big Bang
• Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor
• Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo, logician/ mathematician
• Ari Sacher, inventor of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system
• Andi Arnovitz, world-touring visual artist
• World-renowned heart surgeon, Dr. Paul Stelzer
• David Suissa, editor-in-chief, Tribe Media/Jewish Journal
• Donald O’Neal, fund manager
• Kabbalist and specialist in near-death experiences, Nomi Freeman
• Prominent theologians, including Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe (#1 Jewish subject podcaster in the world), Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz (Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem), Rabbi Lawrence Kellemen (author of Permission to Believe), and Rabbi Simon Jacobson (author of Toward a Meaningful Life and founder of The Meaningful Life Center)
• David Sacks, TV writer and producer of "Third Rock From the Sun"
• American professional boxer and promoter, Dmitry Salita
• Zach Bodner, CEO of the Oshman Family JCC and author, Why Be Jewish?
• Israeli journalist, TV and media personality, Sivan Rahav-Meir
• Jonathan Feiner, Ph.D. author of “Mindfulness, A Jewish Perspective”
• Bushra Amiwala, Glamour "College Women of the Year," Seventeen "Voice of the Year," Cosmo's "Change-maker of the Year" and youngest Muslim women elected to office in the United States
• Entrepreneur, humorist and owner of The Babylon Bee, Seth Dillion
• Dr. Jack McCauley, Engineer/Inventor of Guitar Hero and the Oculus
• Former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, founder of the Brandeis Center, Kenneth L. Marcus
• Filmmakers and editors of "Table for Five" of the Jewish Journal, Nina and Sol Litvak
and many others.
Join us for a monthly online meditation and sohbet with Shaikh Kabir and Camille, and special guests from the Threshold community. Held on the 1st Sunday of every month at 12pm Eastern Time (5pm UK).
Zoom meeting: https://zoom.us/j/435138208
Zoom passcode: threshold
Watch last month's meeting below and see all our videos here.
This thirst in our souls is the magnetism of the Water. ~ Rumi
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Reflections on the February theme: The spirit is gladdened by an I-ness without “I” and springs away from the I-ness of the world.
~ Daliah Merzaban [London, UK]
Shortly after receiving a prompt to reflect on this month’s theme, I felt drawn to share a story that may begin to convey a sense of what an experience of I-ness without I looks like in our world.
It’s a story about a little adventure Anna and I recently had with a butterfly we met in a train car in London’s busy Waterloo train station. I encourage you to read Anna’s rendering of this tale on her blog, as it accentuates and elaborates my own experience of what unfolded.
After spending a joyful afternoon visiting Hana and her little ones, Anna and I decided to go for a walk along the river before completing the journey back to my home. As soon as the train we were on stopped at Waterloo, its final destination, a butterfly began fluttering around our carriage, appearing suddenly, as if it had crossed through a threshold from the invisible realm into plain sight.
She perched her delicate self onto a light fixture near the ceiling, displaying striking wings of orange, purple and black. A number of people leaving the carriage took photographs of what we later identified as a peacock butterfly. This sent a pang of discomfort through my body that I couldn’t immediately articulate.
The pang stayed with me as Anna and I stepped off the train, and started walking. It felt wrong to leave the butterfly on the train, but I couldn’t find the words, as though they were not meant for me to find.
Anna, in that moment, looked at me and said in a calm and determined way: “We have to go back.”
My body relaxed — what it was sensing had been expressed through my dear soul sister, whose heart often feels to have an open channel with my own.
We returned to the train car, and the butterfly had moved to a railing above one of the seats. I stepped onto the seat, and Anna offered suggestions on how I might pick up the butterfly. I hesitated. It dawned on me that my body was tense. I was afraid I would crush this subtle creature with my clumsy fingers. And somehow I knew the butterfly would pick up on my fear.
So, as if following instructions, I stepped down and asked Anna to try. As anticipated, she scooped up our new friend with ease and grace, as though she’d handled butterflies many times in her life. It was actually the first.
Without going into too much detail, the first time Anna tried to free the butterfly, she flew out of Anna’s hand back onto the train.
The second time, we walked to a more open space on the platform, but by then the butterfly was happily perched on Anna’s hand, and didn’t want to fly away. Freedom, it seemed, was on this hand, not out there.
We both had a sense of being transported into the butterfly’s orbit and seeing the world around us from her vantage point: cement, train tracks, steel, buildings. Not a trace of green. Nothing with a pulse. No sign of nature anywhere within easy flying distance.
In that moment, Anna was so calmly grounded in Love Itself that she emanated a vibration that soothed our butterfly friend, so much so that the hand on which she sat became the hand of Nature itself. Anna could have been a tree, a bush, a blade of grass, a rose.
This became even more apparent as we made our way through the Waterloo train station, across the street, up the stairs, past a string of busy cafes on the left and Southbank Centre on the right, all teeming with people on a Saturday evening. Yet it was as though we were walking in another dimension, invisible and shielded from view, guided by a force beyond our bodies.
Near the Thames, we found a little enclave of bushy green next to a bench facing Southbank Centre. Anna proceeded to transfer the butterfly from her hand onto a rosemary bush. I watched in awe: The butterfly still wouldn’t fly off her hand. In fact, Anna had to nudge her onto the bush, where she continued to rest. The fingers of my friend were as delicate as the needle-like leaves of this fragrant shrub.
The symbolism of the unfolding was significant and instructive for both Anna and myself. In subtly different ways, it gave us insight about the next steps of our earthly journey, a sense of having a role to play in creating spaces of refuge for the butterflies stuck on trains of this world.
And so, what is I-ness without “I”?
I can’t answer this question in any concrete way. Perhaps the answer lies in the ethereal.
What I do know is that I sense it most palpably in sincere friendship, in moments like the one described here where our little I dissolves into something greater that holds all of us, and reflects through our hearts and our bodies in different ways. It is found in these moments when we are so transparent that it feels as though our embodied I is a subtle instrument being moved.
Which calls to heart a Hadith of the Prophet that Dede mentions in The Knowing Heart, in which our beloved Muhammad, peace and infinite blessings upon him, says: “I am he, and he is I. Except that I am he who I am, and he is he who he is.”
On this day on the train, I was she and she was I. And we were both the butterfly.
~Daliah Merzaban is a writer and editor based in London. After spending more than 20 years telling thousands of news stories, Daliah uses oral storytelling techniques to guide women to unlock their authentic voice and express their genius. She also loves using her own voice in singing and recitation, spoken-word poetry and, most recently, narrating the audiobook for The Knowing Heart, by Shaikh Kabir Helminski.
Ramadan, Ancestors, & The Lightness of Being
"Your inner being is a sanctuary, cleanse it with the light of compassionate awareness."
During this sacred month we fast between dawn and sunset from food and drink, from daytime sex, from gossip, and even from expressions of anger.
We have an opportunity to experience a new lightness, emptiness, and what some have called transparency. We discover that with this fasting we have a different experience of our inner being.
This [...] theme reminds us that our inner being is a sanctuary. I asked myself what does this feel like? Is it just an idea, a concept, or can I witness the state of my inner being right now?
On the second day of Ramadan I was feeling a little more tender, a little more sensitive than usual. Asking “What is the state of my being right now?” for some reason my grandparents became very present to my heart.
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century they came, brave and young, to America from Poland, with little more than their wits and their hopes. Did they ever think of what lives their grandchildren would have? Could they have imagined the spiritual path their grandson would follow?
I was feeling each one of them as I have never felt them before, and at the same time I was realizing that I carry within me a debt to them for their sacrifice and courage. I felt it had something to do with the dignity of human life, the striving of generation upon generation to achieve a better life.
And what responsibility does my heart carry? What rights do I have to allow in my own being anything that is trivial, indulgent, or selfish? What right do I have to take any backward steps on that path of dignity my ancestors travelled and which I might, inshallah, continue?
So this is where my own self-examination led on that second day of Ramadan. Fasting had made me more sensitive to my own heart, reminding me that the heart is something quite extraordinary and precious. After reflecting on the debt to my ancestors, and to my parents, and that this debt is also about my relationship to God, what do I do now? How can I be responsible to fulfill the debt of my existence?
The wise ones of our tradition speak of a “doorkeeper of the heart.”
The doorkeeper discerns what to allow into the sanctuary of the heart. Just as we pay attention to the foods we eat to select what is most healthy, likewise we can pay attention to the impressions that we allow our heart to consume. The doorkeeper of the heart is responsible for discerning the right food for the soul. Is this the true meaning of “halal”? And that doorkeeper, on an even more subtle level, can monitor what we give our attention to, what we allow our minds to dwell on.
And is the doorkeeper also a caretaker? Who will sweep the heart clean? Who will polish the mirror of the heart? Who will open the heart to the Light of the Divine? Who will fill the heart with the blessings of the Divine Names from a tongue moistened with remembrance?
My brave and beloved ancestors were simple people and I never knew any of them to be unkind: Wincenty, a coal miner who worked hard enough to eventually buy a dairy farm in the Pocono Mountains, and his wife, Sophie, who bore nine children. Julian, a cabinet maker and jack of all trades, and his wife, my grandmother, Michalina, mother of seven, a community leader in Bayonne, New Jersey, so beloved that 2000 people came to her funeral. On that day my father had to search the local bars to find my grandfather, sober him up, and get him to the funeral.
They felt so present today. Was that merely imagined, and if imagined is it less real? And why at the beginning of Ramadan do my Catholic ancestors appear in my heart? And why does my heart tremble? And will this caretaking of the heart resound in our children, and our children’s children, on this path of human advancement?
With your permission, I will leave now. I still have cleaning to do…
“Your inner being is a sanctuary, cleanse it with the light of compassionate awareness.”
UK Retreat Aug 18-21, 2023
The UK annual retreat for 2023 will be changing venue to Broughton Sanctuary in North Yorkshire. The dates are August 18-20/21. Registrations will be opened in May and will close mid-July. We hope to share more details soon.
The Threshold Society, rooted within the traditions of Sufism and inspired by the life and work of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, is a non-profit educational foundation with the purpose of facilitating the experience of Divine Unity, Love, and Truth in the world. Sufism is a living tradition of human transformation through love and higher consciousness. Our fundamental framework is classical Sufism and the Qur’an as it has been understood over the centuries by the great Sufis. The Society is affiliated with the Mevlevi Order, and offers training programs, seminars and retreats around the world.
Each month we intend to highlight an article about our lineage and its principles. This month we offer Love in Islam by Mahmoud Mostafa:
Dear brothers and sisters, the guidance of Islam is the guidance of love. The innate, natural and ancient religion that is Islam is the religion of love. The Prophet (puh) came to guide us to love and to make clear the love that is at the core of all religion. Our purpose as human beings is to consciously manifest Allah’s love in our lives. This is the most significant meaning of Khilafa and Ibada that can bring purpose to us and transform our lives. When we reflect upon the history of the Prophet (puh) and the spread of his message we will realize that Islam could not have taken root in the world without the love that filled the heart of the Prophet and was clearly manifest in his way of relating and interacting with people that brought out their own deep and profound love for him. Without this mutual and abiding love, none of us would be here today. Without this love Islam would not have been possible.
1st Sunday of every month: Online Meditation, more details (KC)
Ramadan: Mar 22 - Apr 21
Eid al-Fitr: Apr 22
Aug 18-21: UK Annual Retreat at Broughton Sanctuary, more details soon (K)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
1288 Cherokee Rd Louisville, KY 40204
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