THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ DEC 2022
Beginning 15 January 2023
Shaikh Kabir Helminski invites us to a 12-month interactive online exploration into the meaning and possibility of our human existence through the universal insights of Rumi.
The 13th-century poet and mystic Rumi has become one of the most popular spiritual voices of our time—known and loved by people of many faiths and worldviews for his rich metaphors, images, poems, and stories. Using his upcoming book, The Mysterion: Rumi & The Secret of Becoming Fully Human,
Kabir Helminski, one of the foremost translators and writers of Sufi texts, offers a program to deepen our appreciation of Rumi’s teachings by illuminating both the practical psychological dimension behind them, as well as the universal spiritual truths they offer about what it means to be human.
Publishers Weekly Booklife Review
The Way of Mary: Maryam, Beloved of God
A celebration, mediation, illuminating archival adventure, and a deeply reverent dialogue between faiths, Helminski’s lavish tome blends scholarly rigor with a believer’s awe as draws from key texts from the three Abrahamic religions to examine accounts of the life of the woman often know as Mary—or Madre, Maria, Miriam, or the Blessed Virgin. (Helminski notes that “the variations of her name indicate her universal story.”) In warm, inviting prose that’s rich with insight and a sense of grace, Helminski presents this multifaceted study as a “devotional journey,” one visiting the “twelve stations” or “passages” of Mary’s life, as established in scripture, poetry, art, and the writings of mystics. These “passages,” Helminski writes, “radiate blessing to all of us when we hold them close in remembrance.”
Readers familiar with this most beloved figure only from the perspective of one faith will find much of what Helminski presents fascinating, as she digs into Quranic accounts of Mary’s life—including the story of the infant Jesus offering a spirited defense of Mary in the face of gossiping neighbors, and several other miracles. Passages contemplating Rumi’s reflections on oneness and the “Hidden Mysteries” of divinity are rousing: “Through Rumi’s words we recognize a Love that encourages us to remove our coats—the veils of our hearts which burden us.” So, too, are the illustrations, sourced from centuries of great artwork, and photos of holy sites.
What readers of faith will most take from this is renewed appreciation for the figure of Mary across religious traditions and millennia, as Helminski, a thoughtful and nuanced guide, leads an engaging tour through a life sketched out in the gospels, assembling from her array of sources both a human portrait and dazzling radiance, as she contemplates and interrogates ancient accounts that don’t always fit cleanly together. In their points of connection and disjunction, though, she finds fresh insight and power. Believers will find this a book to treasure.
Takeaway: A radiant study of the life of Mary, drawn from the three Abrahamic faiths.
Cover: A Design and typography: A Illustrations: A Editing: A Marketing copy: A
In a loving effort of community outreach during this season of Holy Light, we invite you to order a copy of The Way of Mary: Maryam, Beloved of God to gift to a local library, inshallah. You might print and tuck in this review info page to accompany it.
Blessed Holy Days of Light!!
Seeing with the Light of Love (Reflection with Surah al-Falaq)
~ Camille A. Helminski
we take refuge
in Your Light—
in the Dawn
of Your Everlasting Grace—
from all the darknesses
that may seem to gather,
but are dispelled
by the wave of Your Hand
upon our hearts,
within our glance,
that is no other
than Your seeing
in every moment
of our lives,
even when we think
we may have died—
You are Everliving
and will not let us go
beyond the brink
of Your Knowing
that we are pure
or intrinsically of harm—
are the Lord
of the Dawn,
of Your Everlasting
Sat 17th Dec, 12pm EST / 5pm GMT
Celebrate Mevlana Rumi’s union with the Beloved – the anniversary of his passing into the Unseen – with an online gathering of remembrance. Join Shaikh Kabir & Camille Helminski and Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes for zhikr, music, and poetry.
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.
Be conscious and thankful in this moment.
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Reflections on the November Theme: Solve your problems with love.
~ Jeremy Henzell-Thomas [Glastonbury, UK]
Approaching my 75th birthday I am reminded that getting older is often regarded (even stigmatized or stereotyped) as a time of declining faculties, increasing disability, and progressive crystallization (one might even say ‘cementing’) of existing habits and attitudes, including ‘living in the past’ and getting ‘set in one’s ways’. In As you Like It Shakespeare famously depicts the final stage in the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ as one of dotage, senility and second childishness, culminating in ‘mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.’
Sadly, many seniors do see themselves as having been consigned to the ‘scrap-heap’, and even if they don’t they are often treated as such by others. I remember well a BBC interview with a very senior nursing officer on the mistreatment of elderly people in the healthcare system. Her explanation for the culture of neglect and abuse was simple. Fewer and fewer people, she said, had any religious faith or spiritual values, nor any belief in an afterlife. They therefore saw old people not as precious souls approaching the transition to the next stage of existence but only as dispensable material bodies which had outlived their usefulness. This rings true. Ageism and the culture of contempt for the old is the ultimate consequence of a brutal and nihilistic materialism which reduces everything to base physical utility, to a mere mortal body devoid of soul and spirit.
Well, I want to buck the trend and affirm that as we grow older, we are blessed with the opportunity to transcend the problems which come with age, and awaken those deeper faculties that connect us to our essential nature as fully human beings created ‘in the image of God’.
For me, the experience of true intimacy is integral to that awakening. As the Qur’an tells us, God is ‘closer to you than your jugular vein.’ I love that affirmation because it confirms for me that aging offers a transformational opportunity to ‘come home’, to feel the Divine Presence intimately in the very core of the body. Several years ago I had a striking dream that I had descended from Mount Everest into the foothills, although I still had to descend further into the valleys and levels. The stunning 190-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales, which I trekked at the age of 65, actually involves a total ascent of 30,000 feet, higher than Mount Everest, so the image of Everest in my dream was referring not only to the fact that it is the highest mountain but also that it was a ‘height’ that I had scaled in my walk. I understand now that the gift of aging is to come down from the lofty heights of heroic personal achievement and transcendent spiritual experience and exercise more warmth, love, compassion, intimacy, reconciliation and tenderness in the immanence of our relationship with others and with the world at large. In short, to become more fully human.
In one sense, the transition to a Heart-centred life runs counter to the process of aging, for the physical heart is subject to various diseases. These include coronary heart disease, which occurs when the heart muscle's blood supply is blocked by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries, and aortic stenosis, when calcification causes narrowing of the aortic valve which reduces blood flow. I am familiar with the latter, as I have a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital condition which causes stenosis, and which is monitored annually by echocardiogram. It has recently progressed from a mild to a moderate level and I am told that when it reaches a severe level I will need a replacement valve, perhaps before I reach the age of 80.
The physical deterioration of the heart, as manifested in ‘narrowing’, ‘blocking’ and ‘hardening’ offers useful analogies to similar defects in the psyche. We can speak of someone having a ‘hard heart’ or a ‘narrow view’ without in any way implicating the physical organ. In the same way, the word ‘sclerotic’ can be used to describe someone’s thinking or behaviour as rigid and unresponsive, losing the ability to adapt, without referring to sclerosis as a physical condition.
Given the common stereotype of growing old as a time of the narrowing of one’s outlook, I am very much aware of how this tendency (one might say ‘disease’) needs to be countered by cultivating a soft, open and expansive Heart that brings light, love, healing words, and compassion into one’s life and the lives of others. As I age, and hopefully before I need a replacement aortic valve, I pray that I might be true to my own Heart, and thereby to exemplify the Sufi injunction to ‘die before you die’, to let go of the egoic or false self, and live and speak by the light of the true Self. There comes a time when one must sincerely embody and enact what one knows and expresses in words.
I love the moment in the film Greystoke (accompanied by the noble opening theme of Elgar’s first symphony) when Tarzan returns home to the place of his ancestry, the beautiful country estate of his elderly grandfather, the Earl of Greystoke. My eyes fill with tears when Tarzan alights from his carriage and is embraced by the earl, played with great feeling by Ralph Richardson. This ‘coming home’ is deeply symbolic for me. Tarzan, lost in the jungle, comes home after years of exile from his family, culture and native land, to be welcomed with open arms by his grandfather. But my response is not an intellectual response to symbolism but a profound emotional feeling of ‘returning’ to the place where we all belong. In so doing, we fulfil the purpose of our lives, which is none other than the realization of our essential unity with the ground of being. It is coming to rest in old age, in that remembrance of our ‘origin’, which on the deepest level is none other than being embraced by the ultimate Source of Love.
~ Jeremy Henzell-Thomas is an independent researcher, writer, speaker, educational consultant, former Visiting Fellow and Research Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge, and Associate Editor of the quarterly journal Critical Muslim. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2021 for services to the Civil Society and the Muslim Community.
Reflections on the November Theme: Solve your problems with love.
~ Jason DeLuna [Connecticut, USA]
It’s humbling to attempt to write on things one doesn’t feel a particular confidence in. It’s like being a passerby stopping at a storefront window where “Solve your problems with Love!” is on display and whispering, “That’s utterly amazing!” but never thinking to enter the store and inquire as to the cost of such wonders. The price would undoubtedly be too steep—too unfathomable.
Are you fleeing from Love because of a single humiliation?
Obviously, there’s very little time to obsess over “love solving my problems” when one is a champion of holding resentments and nurturing regrets. And of poisoning oneself with anger and impatience. And of obsessing over the mental tape loop of “I’m right! You’re an idiot! Why can’t you just SEE that?!?”
Rest your cheek, for a moment,
on this drunken cheek.
Let me forget the war and cruelty inside myself.
I shake my head in dismay—how hard it is to let go and navigate through all of the inner war and cruelty with love! Do you have my family? Do you have to live this crazy life? Do you have any idea the pain of disillusionment and betrayal I carry within and how hard it is to forgive it?
You keep complaining about others
and all they owe you?
…why are you asleep in a prison?
Think of nothing but the source of thought.
Focus on the source of Love, His Face—I sense the peace and firm footholds in that holy edifice and, certainly, I pray my salaat prayers and my zhikr Allah faithfully enough. But, astaghfirullah, I come up against those who weigh my soul down and cause so much friction within. The triggers they unleash are legion and the need to lash out and defend myself often consumes me.
Those weapons are your selfish strategy,
the defense that wounds your own soul.
And, regrettably, that is the truth, isn’t it? Why do I feel worse after my latest heated encounter with my father? Or my tense phone call with my brother from four months ago? I’m constantly seeking to protect my sense of self, my identity, my fragile ego from any and all perceived threats to it.
Save us from ego; its knife has reached our bones.
It cuts deeper than it ever should be allowed to and its energy holds my spirit down, like being lashed to a sinking ship—suffering and pain all the way down. And yet…
If he could see his nothingness…
pain would arise from looking within,
and that pain would save him…
Pain has often been the great humbler, hasn’t it? How many nights has this one sat, slouched over, at the end of Isha prayers in near darkness, numbed and sick to death of the amount of righteous egoic clutter wreaking havoc within.
I have a self that is stubborn, drunken
and won’t mind its own business…
How awe-inspiring to think of the great ones of all ages (and within all traditions!) who willingly sought to “lose their heads” and seek foolishness or holy madness instead of the sad, limiting madness this one has created for himself.
He wishes me to get out of myself.
He wishes me to sit in freedom…
The intellectual is always showing off;
the lover is always getting lost.
My frayed relationship with my brother has weighed heavily on me as of late. I had so much mentally prepared for our next phone call. I was armed and confident, prepared and well-versed in my positions on religion and politics. But then a curious and delightful thing happened when I visited him recently after not seeing him for half a year. I didn’t have the heart to put on my armor, strap on my sword and shield and wave my banner for all to see. I was overcome with surrender and humility instead.
Love is reckless; not reason.
Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.
I simply wanted to enjoy his presence and our brotherly bond for a few short days and I wanted nothing to get in the way of it—least of all my frantic ego screaming, “Get ready to defend yourself! Watch out for his passive-aggressive shots! Have the best comebacks ready to win the argument! And yet, amazingly, none of that happened.
Love, too, is a furnace,
and ego its fuel.
We both burned away our egoic temptations to lock horns and proclaim rhetorical victory. The love and mutual respect was palpable and rich with the fragrance of the Beloved. So much time spent in seeking control and nurturing angry righteousness all to be swept away in the courage of letting go and falling into the loving energy of the One.
Don’t ask anyone about Love;
ask Love alone about Love.
If you give your life for God’s sake,
you will be given Life in return.
On that recent family trip, I was like a wide-eyed and defenseless hare caught in the penetrating gaze of my fierce brother the lion. I would have gladly sacrificed a thousand “truths” just to be devoured by him—to love him and be loved in return.
Better to be prey than the hunter.
Make yourself My fool.
Stop trying to be the sun and become a speck!
And so, this fool, this speck might feel more courage now to linger a bit longer at that mystical storefront display where we “solve our problems with Love,” and maybe, just maybe, climb a step or two toward that once unapproachable door. Curiously, it’s somehow more inviting now than what was first thought.
[All quotations from The Pocket Rumi, tr. Kabir and Camille Helminski]
~ Jason DeLuna is a Muslim dervish stumbling humbly along the Path in Norwalk, Connecticut. May it be Love!
Live In the Vibration of Love
The Circle of Indonesia was very fortunate to meet and greet Kabir Dede during his important trip for G20 R20.* It has been five years since Kabir Dede visited Indonesia, and everyone was so touched, joyful and full of longing. For the Indonesian Circle, it felt as if Love came in through the door.
Two important lessons came up:
1. Solve your problems with love.
2. Live in the vibration of love.
Love is the foundation of existence, and Mevlana’s teaching is full of the knowledge of Love. Yet it is sometimes difficult to practice it. By imagining living in the vibration of love, it is easier to manifest and to practice love of God, love of one another, and love of the Earth. The evening ended with a beautiful invitation from Kabir Dede: “Do your zhikr.” Let us do our zhikr. Huuuuu!
* Religion20 (R20) is part of a series of G20 events initiated under Indonesia’s G20 Presidency. It is a forum of inter-religious figures from various countries. The Nahdlatul Ulama Executive Board initiated the forum in cooperation with the Muslim World League (MWL) with the theme: “Revealing and Nurturing Religion as a Source of Global Solutions: A Global Movement for Shared Moral and Spiritual Values.”
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: Adab; The Courtesy of the Path
The Sufis created a system of human development grounded in love and using the power of love to awaken and transform human beings. Rumi taught that it is everyone’s potential to master the art of loving. Love is the answer to the problem of human existence.
The way to God passes through servanthood. The point is to love and be connected with others in that love. The form of Sufi work is typically a group, or spiritual family. The Sufis created a milieu in which human love was so strong that it naturally elevated itself to the level of cosmic love. All forms of love eventually lead to spiritual love. “Ashq olsun,” they say. “May it become love.” They cultivated a kindness and refinement in which love fermented into a fine wine. They encouraged service to humanity as an expression of the love they felt. They accepted a rigorous discipline in order to keep the fire of love burning strongly.
1st Sunday of every month: Online Meditation, more details (KC)
Dec 17: Rumi's Urs, more details (KC)
Jan 15: The Mysterion School, more details (K)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
1288 Cherokee Rd Louisville, KY 40204
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