THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ FEB 2024
The Mysterion School 2024: Living Presence
9-month interactive online study of Living Presence: The Sufi Path to Mindfulness & the Essential Self with Kabir Helminski
Beginning in March 2024 we will begin a study of the seminal work, Living Presence, The Sufi Path to Mindfulness and the Essential Self. The course consists of 9 live online sessions, including suggested spiritual practices, and 18 discussion sessions led by senior “dervishes” of the Threshold Society. Living Presence is a classic work translated into at least 7 languages. This is the book that first brought many people to the Threshold Society and has been the foundation of a unique approach to spiritual development.
Living Presence was first published in 1992, and significantly revised and updated in the 25th Anniversary Edition of 2017. It contains teachings we received from the extraordinary spiritual companions, elders, and murshids that we were blessed to know and from experiences we had during our own spiritual training. Living Presence is based mostly in our lived experience, a practical body of knowledge, not from ideas taken from books. Of course, I also refer to the primary sources of our Sufi tradition -- for instance, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi and other Sufis, select Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad, may he be blessed, and the Qur’an -- interpreted from an esoteric perspective that has been preserved in a living tradition. It is a joy to be able to share this knowledge and experience with a community of sincere seekers. I invite you to take this journey with us.
We will focus deeply on these nine themes:
Creative Energies and Human Capacities
The Power of Being
Meditation: The Refinement of Our Attention
Mysteries of The Body
Emancipation from Fear
What We Love We Will Become
Worship: Contact with The Infinite
The Religion of Love
Ninety-Nine Names of the Beloved
“O our Sustainer! Behold, we heard a voice calling to faith:
‘Have faith in your Sustainer!’ —and so we came to have faith.
O our Sustainer! Forgive us, then, our sins, and erase our ill deeds;
and return us to You with the gently righteous and just!
O our Sustainer, grant us that which You have promised us through Your messengers,
and do not let us be disgraced on the Day of Standing Straight!
Truly, You never fail to fulfill Your promise!”
And thus does their Sustainer respond to their prayer:
“I shall not let the labors of any of you be lost,
whether man or woman: each of you is a part of the other.
And so, as for those who left behind or were driven from their homes,
who suffer hurt in My Way, and struggle, as though unto death—
I shall most certainly clear from them their ill deeds,
and shall surely bring them into gardens
through which running waters flow,
as recompense from the Presence of God—
for from the Presence of God
is the most beautiful of recompense.”
Al Hasib, The Reckoner
One year ending, another opening—
You give us moments to take account
of all the passages
of our lives—
You who know
the good and the harm,
and the secrets
of all hearts. . . .
[Read full poem]
Fatma GÜZİDE Çelebi, born 1927, the co-founder of the International Mevlana Foundation, the beloved wife of Celaleddin Bâkır Çelebi, the 21st generation grandson of Mevlana, and the dear mother of our president Faruk Hemdem Çelebi, passed away on January 30, 2024, may God preserve her secret.
Newly restored iqama, salaat and tesbihat recited by Camille Helminski.
Preserving Our Souls in The Face of Soullessness
We stand before the threshold of a different humanity and what will guide us? If we approach this question from the highest spiritual vantage point, the most important question may be how to be an instrument of God’s Mercy and Mystery.
~Shaikh Kabir Helminski
Complete background notes for Kabir’s speeches at Princeton’s Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and at the R20 International Summit of Religious Authorities (ISORA): Religion’s Role in Addressing Middle East Violence and Threats to a Rules-based International Order in Jakarta, Indonesia: Let Us Unite to Abolish the Primordial Cycle of Hatred, Tyranny, and Violence that Plagues Humanity. In the gracious presence of Indonesia President H.E Joko Widodo, Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Yahya Cholil Staquf, Global Faith leaders, Spiritual elders, Ambassadors, Religious Authorities.
Taqwa: Human will is a gift of the Divine. May we use it wisely.
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Tending the Heart: Rumi’s Path of Transformation Through Love
with Shaikh Kabir & Selçuk Gürez, Master Sufi Musician
The human heart is the most precious faculty in existence, needing conscious tending, and energetic purification. Our retreat will be a deep synthesis of mindful awareness, a sharing of practical teachings from Rumi, an introduction to the practice of “turning” and dynamic group zikr. There will also be an opportunity for dialog about the spiritual challenges we face in a dramatically changing world.
Le Case Agriturismo Assisi is a country residence immersed in the splendid setting of the Monte Subasio Natural Park, among streams and woods, livestock farms and organic crops. Please note that you will need to book your accommodation and catering directly with the venue.
Shaikh Kabir will be back in the UK for the annual retreat, to be held Aug 2-5 at The Vedanta retreat centre in Lincolnshire. More details in June.
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.
Reflection on January's theme: Ya Nur. Our original food is the light of God.
~ Skip Maselli [Virginia, USA]
Friends, I confess that I’ve not been a good dervish; having given into an unnourishing hunger. Absorbed with “the news,” I’d embarked on a misguided hypothesis that if I consumed the views of all sides, I’d find and show the light. Instead, I only found the intoxication of darkness. Full-bellied and broken from grief and weakness, I’m blessed with the light and reflection of this month’s theme.
I lead a satellite imagery company. We take pictures of the earth with “hyperspectral sensors” that detect hundreds of wavelengths of light, invisible to human eyes. This light reveals many things about objects, characterizing them beyond a basic “identity.” My days are consumed with the journey of light.
I am fascinated by the invisible properties of the interactions between the sun and the earth it illuminates. Metaphorically, it is the primordial connection between God’s Light through which our soul originates, and our soul’s essence and nourishment from that Light.
Yet with light everywhere, some seldom see it with their hearts. Why do those with plenty stop seeking nourishment beyond the bottom of their bowls, while others whose bowls are empty, know the original truth of food itself?
This month’s theme led me to the opening passages of the Mathnawi, Book V. Reading it slowly and carefully digesting, my eyes filled with tears at times. The story is about the gluttonous traveler who gorged himself with food to placate a misguided hunger, while a guest of the Prophet (PBUH).
Sickened and having soiled himself from excess, the heretical guest would find the original food through the Prophet’s compassion and humility as Muhammad washed the man’s dirty bedding. His professed belief cleansed him of bodily craving, revealing God’s Light within. At his next supper with the Prophet, he needed little food, for he was satiated with “the sweetness of faith.” The light (the ocean) of his “lamp had been filled by this one drop of oil.”
Satiety is from God, but how should the unclean attain unto satiety without the mediation of bread?
Beauty is from God, but the corporealist does not feel (the charm of) beauty without the veil (medium) of the garden.
[Mathnawi V:232–33, trans. R.A. Nicholson]
We are born into darkness, and like many a traveler, the Prophet’s Light illuminates our path. Showing that were it not for the hunger darkness brings, how would we seek the light within?
Be like an eye. Feed on the Light.
Make glorification of God your food.
[Mathnawi V:297–98, trans. Helminski]
I wake daily to reminders of a world that is starving for love and compassion; and for a moment, I lose hope. Yet hope springs from where hope is lost and there is light in the hunger of darkness.
Search the darkness, don't run from it.
Night travelers are full of light…
[Love is a Stranger, trans. Kabir Helminski]
The shadow is the companion of light, and when dining with our shadow, that is the moment to turn around to face the bounty of the ever-present Light of God.
Where shall I go, where from thy presence? Thou Art everywhere.
[Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, XII, trans. Gertrude Bell]
I’m reminded of the story of Rumi’s cook, Atesbaz-i Veli, named so for his devotion to our tradition. When Atesbaz was out of stove wood, Mevlana directed him (perhaps jesting) to use his feet to finish cooking the meal. And faithfully he did. In a moment of doubt (shadow) and diversion from light, Atesbaz’ toe was burned. Ashamed, he hid this from Rumi who’d returned to the kitchen. I’d like to believe Atesbaz was serving the dervishes much more than simple food; he was serving the Light of God that he himself was served.
While saddening to see starvation in the streets and grieving in the eyes of so many, I pray that those hearts in service prepare the true original food, and that our illuminated faith inspires whole deeds, providing all with food, water, and shelter.
And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.
Rumi sees our hearts as the lantern niche; the glass, wick, and oil from which sacred Light is served.
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth.
The parable of His light is,
as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp;
the lamp enclosed in glass; the glass like a radiant star,
lit from a blessed tree—an olive-tree,
that is neither of the east nor of the west—
the oil of which would almost give light
even though fire had not touched it: light upon light!
God guides to His light the one who wills to be guided;
and God offers parables to human beings,
since God has full knowledge of all things.
[Qur’an, Surah an-Nur 24:35, trans. Camille Helminski]
We walk with lanterns held out, seeking that which is unseen by eyes aglow in the darkness, starving for its meaning. The heart’s lantern is filled with God’s Light, by which we not only seek our homecoming—but in the darkness—are found.
The light which shines in the eye
is really the light of the heart.
The light which fills the heart
is the light of God, which is pure
and separate from the light of intellect and sense.
[Mathnawi I:1126–27, trans. Helminski]
It seems at times that darkness of “news” surrounds us, our bowls left with only crumbs of anger, vengeance, blame, and fear. But in the niche of the heart’s lamp, the unfathomable nutrients of God’s Light flood through the narrowest apertures.
Indeed, as Rumi shows us, “the wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
In the two years that the Prophet spent in proverbial darkness after being visited by Gabriel, his sustenance, was the Light of God, our original food.
By the glorious morning light
and by the night when it is still
your Sustainer has not forsaken you…
[Qur’an, Surah Ad-Duha 93:1–3, trans. Camille Helminski]
~ Skip Maselli lives in Virginia… just an empathetic dervish who loves this community of wanderers.
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: Basics of Practice in the Threshold Society
Basics of Practice in the Threshold Society
This is a simple summary of guidelines for spiritual practice within the Threshold Society.
Basic Mevlevi Zhikr
When someone has been initiated into the Mevlevi Tariqah through the Threshold Society, it is recommended that they commit to performing this basic zhikr daily: Fatiha, 100 estaughfrullah (May God forgive me), 100 la illaha il Allah, 300 Allah, 11 Hu.
The zhikr can be done audibly or silently. And there are various ways to do each, see the recording here.
Silent and Audible Zhikr
Jahri. The audible zhikr has more power to focus us when we are extremely distracted. It is also physically energizing.
Khafi. Silent zhikr has even more power and at a deeper level. A simple and fundamental silent zhikr is: breathe out “la illaha,” breathe in “il Allah.”
Working with Names
Appropriate and Inappropriate Names. It is not generally encouraged to experiment on one’s own with the Divine Names. Some of the Names are too powerful or destructive to be used without specific direction and protection. Yet, after several years of exposure to group practice under a teacher’s direction, one gradually becomes familiar with a repertoire of Divine Names that are appropriate.
Pronunciation. Pronunciation of the Names of God requires some exposure to proper Arabic pronunciation. The “h” on the end of Allah is very important, as is the fact that there are two “l’s.” In Arabic there are consonants that we do not have in English, including certain t’s and d’s that are unlike our usual t and d. There are also three different h’s. Likewise there are vowels that are slightly different from our habitual English vowels. `Ali, for instance is pronounced like the word “alley,” not ah-lee.
Adab, or spiritual courtesy, is fundamental to the whole Sufi Path. It is applicable both to our relationships within the Group and the Order, as well as in our relationship with a Shaikh. The principles and details can be studied in: Adab, also found in The Knowing Heart.
Working with Intention
Formulating an Intention. Making an intention and expressing it in a few clear words has a power.
Completion. Acknowledging the completion of an intention develops will and prepares us for further stages of the journey.
Sacred Space and Time
Preparing a Space. It would be best to have a place dedicated to our spiritual practice. Minimally, it should be a place where we can put a small prayer rug, or a simple sheepskin. A sitting pillow, or a meditation bench, will complete the setup.
Consciousness of Time. We should endeavor to have a daily practice at a specific time. At least one half hour of inner practice is recommended. For most people, the morning hours are best. Additionally, there are the five times of prayer, which should be remembered: Fajr, between first light and actual sunrise; zuhr, just after noon; asr, mid-afternoon; maghreb, just after sunset; isha, anytime after complete darkness. Altogether, one hour of spiritual practice per day is recommended as the optimal or normative amount of time for spiritual practice. This might, for instance, include half an hour of contemplative practice or zhikr, as well as half an hour of the ritual prayer. Students who have not yet found value in the ritual prayer are encouraged to find another way to make the hour of practice, but the idea of punctuating the day with periods of remembrance and worship is essential to Sufi practice.
Concentration & Inner Focus
Maintaining Presence. To state something very obvious, but which is nevertheless often forgotten: All the practices we do should be done with care and precision. Every practice, done mindfully, develops the power of Spirit within us. Using prayer beads (99 count) we can learn to be aware with each bead. Typically we may use one bead to mark either one or three repetitions of a Divine Name, or zhikr. If we notice that we have lost count, have been day-dreaming, or absorbed in some inner dialog, we start again at the beginning until we can complete ninety-nine beads. If this proves too difficult at first, reduce the number to thirty-three.
As we do any spiritual practice we may receive suggestions, indications, inspirations. It is all right to briefly be aware of these and remember them later.
Practices from other orders or traditions
Once someone has made a commitment to a particular Sufi path, they should avoid using any spiritual practices learned from other sources, in order to develop clarity of connection, loyalty, and depth of practice.
1st Sunday of every month: Online Meditation, more details (KC)
Feb 23-25: San Damiano retreat, California. FULL (KC)
Mar 12: Ramadan
Apr 9: Eid al'Fitr
Jun 17: Eid al'Adha
Jul 12-15: Assisi Italy Retreat, more details (K)
Aug 2-5: UK Annual Retreat, The Vedanta Lincolnshire (K)
Sep 27-30: San Juan Bautista, California retreat (KC)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
PO Box 45143, Madison, WI 53744-5143
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