THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ NOV 2023
In the Name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate and Most Merciful . . .
O our Sustainer, You are Peace and from You comes all Peace
and our ultimate return is to You, to Peace.
O our Sustainer, continually You enliven us with Peace.
Allow us to enter Your Garden, the Abode of Peace.
O our Sustainer, bless us with Peace.
With Your Peace You have exalted everything.
O Lord of Majesty and Infinite Generosity. All praise and glory belongs to You.
Limitless are You in Your glory. We could not worship You as You truly ought to be worshipped,
O You who are worshipped.
Subtle are You beyond all knowing. We could not know You as You truly ought to be known,
O You who are the object of knowledge.
All praise is due to God who guides one to well-being.
I ask God’s forgiveness for my mistakes.
[Opening prayers of The Mevlevi Wird]
We hold in deep prayer the peoples of Palestine and Israel and all areas in this world where we human beings are in strife, praying for peace, wisdom, and well-being for all people and creatures through the guardianship of Divine Grace; may all be bathed with Light and Love and the best justice emerge with wise healing for hearts, that all might thrive, enlivened and supported by the Source of All Life, the Infinitely Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful. Ya Nur, Ya Hakim, Ya Shafi, Ya ‘Adl, Ya Alim, Ya Wakil, Ya Wadud, Ya Hayy, Ya Rahman Ya Rahim!
And peace be with all His/Her messengers!
And all praise belongs to God alone, the Sustainer of all the Worlds!
(Surah As-Saffat, Those Ranged in Ranks, 37:181-82)
Follow the breath within to a light more fundamental than your thoughts, emotions, or “self."
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
SUNDAY 17th DEC 2023, 12pm ET / 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 on the theme of Universe of Love.
This is an interactive experience. We welcome all friends who may wish to whirl, whether you have robes or not, to join in. You may wish to create some space for turning, perhaps light some candles and have some red roses or rose incense/oil.
Hafsa Lodi reviews The Way of Mary.
When I first joined Sofia Rehman's read-along book club focused on Islam and Gender, the prospect of Mary/Maryam being a female Prophet came up in conversation numerous times. Regardless of how we may “label” her, there’s no denying the fact that the Mother of Jesus/Issa holds a tremendously high stature in the history of all 3 Abrahamic faiths. In the Qur’an, she is the only female mentioned by name. Yet, we aren't taught much about her, aside from the fact that she divinely conceived her son, who would become a leader of Christianity and highly esteemed Prophet in Islam.
Camille Helminski, author of one of my favourite books, “Women of Sufism: A hidden treasure”, took on this elaborate and enlightening project of chronicling Mary/Maryam’s life, before, during and after the miraculous birth of her son. Quranic and Biblical verses, along with quotes by Rumi, and poetry by Helminski herself, is intertwined with a bibliographical tracking of Mary/Maryam throughout the various stages and spiritual stations of her existence. It’s fascinating to learn about all of the similarities between the three faiths, in their reverence for Mary/Maryam, and about the alleged sightings/visions of her in modern times – like the 1917 appearance (one of 10 appearances officially recognised by the Catholic Church) in the Portugal town of “Fatima”, named after the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. Interestingly, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also named both Mary and Fatima as among the leaders of women in Paradise.
This is an immensely inspirational interfaith read (and a long one, at nearly 500 pages) that celebrates the light and grace of Mary/Maryam: an undeniably exalted and beloved woman in religious history.
We encourage you to share the book details as we come into the Christmas season, especially with your local bookshops and libraries. You can download an information sheet from the website or send the link by email.
San Damiano Retreat Feb 23-25
The Radiant Eye of the Soul
Feb 23-25 2024, San Damiano Retreat, Danville, California
with Camille & Kabir Helminski, & Amir Etemadzadeh, master of Sufi music
The amazing soul qualities latent within a human being are begging to be awakened. The spiritual path of Rumi awakens and develops the soul leading to a joyful relationship with the Divine Friend.
Whatever dark curtains seem to drop before our eyes, the radiant eye of the soul is neither deceived nor distracted from the Eternal Presence. We come together to deeply experience and nurture our souls through community, spiritual dialog, prayer, meditation (muraqaba), music, and zikr. All are welcome, especially the young at heart.
All-inclusive from Friday afternoon until Sunday lunchtime.
$550 single ensuite
$510 double/twin ensuite
Registration opens Dec 1st with more information in the next newsletter.
Excerpts from Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz
May the Remembrance of Your Tongue
Be the Remembrance of Your Heart
Someone said, “I want to call upon God.”
Another responded, “May you not be separated from the One whose name you call.” Then your calling becomes the remembrance of the heart; remembrance with only the tongue is not enough.
How can one join the community of Muhammad? Where is Muhammad (upon him be peace)? Where is “following him” both in form and in meaning?
That light and brightness by which Muhammad’s eye saw should become the living light of his eye. The eye of Muhammad should become his eye.
He should become adorned with patience and his other qualities. Leaving other attributes aside, he should become adorned with patience and even more beautiful characteristics.
Make Use of the Light
Muhammad (May the Peace and Blessings of God be upon him) has said, “O My God Most High! We could not worship You as You ought to be worshipped.” But Bayazid said, “Glory be to me; how great is my glory!” When things come to this, if someone looks at these words of Bayazid and thinks that his state is stronger than Muhammad’s state, then he is an ignorant fool.
If you are looking for the reality of the Law, yes, there is the Law, and there is the Way, and the Truth. The Law is like a lamp, and the purpose of the lamp is to give you light when you journey. You can trust it simply—you put a wick into it and hang it up, and you can see the surrounding area by its light. But if you don’t go anywhere, what is the use? How can you reach the Truth with a light that just stays put? It is essential that you reach the Truth! Journey on the Way!
The Loving Mind
The heart is greater, more expansive, more pleasant and more illumined than the heavens; why would one narrow it with useless words? How could it be appropriate to constrict a very pleasant universe into a prison for oneself? What is the purpose of turning a universe like a fruitful garden into a tight prison, wasting time with delusions and ugly imaginings and throwing oneself into a dark universe and sleeping in ignorance all the time, wrapped up in a cocoon like a silkworm? We are of the people who turn the prison into a fruitful garden. If our prison turns into a fruitful garden, imagine what our fruitful garden might become? Just watch, and see!
None of the gracious words of the Prophet have surprised me; only one hadith has bewildered me: “The world is the prison of the believer.” I don’t see the world as a prison at all. “Where is the prison?” I’m asking. But that blessed one said, “the prison of the believers,” he didn’t say, “the prison of the servants.” The servants are a different community (see footnote).
One doesn’t have to fit one’s own meaning into that narrow thought. Whatever comes from the Friend, quickly say, “It’s just like that,” and keep going.
“The Truth is the mirror of the servant, and the servant is the mirror of the Truth.”
And 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 is 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.
[Surah an-Nur 24:35]
Gratitude Elicits Grace
A little light is coming—it increases when one gives thanks for it. Expressing gratitude with the tongue of one’s state, one says, “My God! Show us things as they really are.” The answer comes, “If you are grateful, I increase My grace….” [14:7]
Regarding worship and service, we are reminded in Surah al-Ma’ida:
Never let dislike of people who try to prevent you from entering the Inviolable House of Worship lead you into the error of aggression, but rather support one another in increasing virtue and God-consciousness; don’t support one another in the increase of harmfulness and discord. And remain conscious of Divine Reality—for behold, Divine Reality is stringent in reckoning. . . .
Be just: this is the closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: truly, God is well-aware of all that you do.
God has promised those who have faith and do the deeds of wholeness and reconciliation that theirs shall be forgiveness and a magnificent recompense.
[Surah al-Ma’ida 5:2,8,9]
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 October's theme: In a universe of Love, a dervish is not governed by fear.
~ Matthew Wright [Hudson NY, USA]
La ilaha illAllah. All of existence, with its seeming polarities, contrasts, conflicts, and opposites, is the expression of a single Source of Life and Being that is educating our souls in a school of Love. We say these words, La ilaha illAllah, to remind ourselves of the Oneness of Being, and to remind ourselves to not make idols, false gods, of our limited conceptions and judgments, or of the whims and desires of our egos.
It is easy to fall into fear. It may be a big fear, like fear for our life, but more commonly it’s probably fear that life will simply not go the way we want it to. I won’t get the job I want, or the relationship I desire, or be understood by the person I hope understands me. And so I begin to live in an atmosphere of fear and worry. And if things then don’t go in the direction I had hoped—which is bound to happen in life—I’m now not far away from judgment and blame. It’s his/her/their fault! And now I’m skirting awfully close to the territory of hatred, which when stepped into becomes a powerful poison for our souls.
Trust is the opposite of fear. On the dervish path, we’re learning to trust that this world truly is a school of Love, and that through the clash of opposites, through surrendering into disappointments and failures, we are learning to cultivate a trust that rises above the rise and fall of the waves of the dunya. Can I trust that these are the perfect conditions—whatever they may be—for my soul’s education and growth in Love?
When I was working on my Master of Divinity degree, I found myself disappointed that the education was not more explicitly focused on prayer, spirituality, and transformation. This pushed me to find ways to incorporate these desires into the program—through applying for extracurricular credit to attend an intensive co-taught by Shaikh Kabir and Camille, by receiving an intercultural grant to go on pilgrimage to Turkey, and through an internship with a local organization dedicated to contemplative spirituality.
I began to think of these other outlets as my “real” schooling, and the program itself as a sort of obstacle or hoop to be jumped through, which I felt some degree of animosity towards. And then one day it hit me—all of these other opportunities were possible because of the school I was attending. I was perceiving a good/bad polarity, but in fact the two were very much a unity—the things I “liked” being generated or made possible by the things I “disliked”—and my very frustration was the grease oiling the machine, pushing me towards more creativity in my approach to the program. Suddenly I saw the whole experience from an “aerial view” and was liberated from the self-generated “poor me” trap I’d been living in. It had been La ilaha illAllah all along.
Returning to trust, breath by breath—These are the perfect circumstances for my growth, whether I like them or not, whether they are pleasant or uncomfortable, “just” or “unjust”—frees me from fear, helps me to see the unity beneath life’s polarities, and opens me to Love. I’ve been working to bring that learning into other areas of my life, and I’m holding it now (although it’s admittedly much harder to do) as we face into the ongoing tragedy unfolding in Israel-Palestine, with which all of our hearts are breaking. As the death toll mounts, I feel the heart of the prophets breaking as well. Modern-day warfare, with its callous calculus regarding civilian lives on a mass scale, is utterly haram and unjustifiable by prophetic standards.
Many of us, I’m sure, feel a push to “take a side”—from friends or the media or simply our own impulse to identify a clear “good guy” and “bad guy”—“I stand with the Palestinians” or “I stand with the Israelis.” And we likely feel a push towards the self-righteousness and blame that tend to come with such stances. But what if we resisted that initial impulse to “take a side” and instead attempted to take an aerial view? What if we took the side, not of one people or another (most all of them manipulated by forces beyond their control), but of humanity, trusting that these tensions and tragedies are also a part of the school of Love in which the soul of humanity is being educated?
Can we name injustices, power differentials, and a complex history without pitting one section of the human family against another? Can we re-center those on the ground, Palestinians and Israelis, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who are working for peaceful coexistence and a new way forward? What if we resisted our blanket blame and judgment, which can only perpetuate themselves, and instead returned to trust, asking how we can be the presence of Love within these conditions?
God is working out Truth through all of the circumstances of our lives and our world. This moment of horror in Israel-Palestine can awaken us to the reality that no trauma will be healed simply through taking sides, unless it be the side of humanity itself. Personally, I find myself in disagreement with close friends right now. I’m trying to listen to (and through) their pain. What will happen if my humanity (rather than my anger) can authentically meet theirs? Will we cultivate more fear, hate, and division in the world, or awaken more sympathy, compassion, and understanding than we thought possible?
Taking the side of humanity does not mean passively watching the suffering of another or pretending injustice is an illusion, but it does mean releasing our judgment and fear and trusting that we are in a school of Love; that all of Reality is speaking Haqq, speaking Truth, which is always the truth of La ilaha illAllah, of Unity. The tensions, conflicts, and polarities we face are, in truth, the expression and outworking of a deeper unity, through which the mirror of our hearts is being polished, helping us rise to that place where we can see from Oneness, and where all is forgiven in Love.
~ Matthew Wright is a Mevlevi dervish living in Woodstock, New York.
InterFaith and Interspiritual Fluency for Spiritual Directors and Companions
Camille Helminski will be offering a session for this course with Spiritual Directors International on December 5, 2023 on “The Way of Mary, the Way of Love.”
In all our movement through the caravans of this world, we may sometimes become lost in the wanderings of the mind, but then we are suddenly found by the One Finder (al-Wajid), by Love (al-Wadud) and our hearts and souls are strengthened in remembrance of that One. And so the Water of Life flows, greening our hearts and our world, enabling the outpouring of Divine Compassion (ar-Rahman).
During this session we will reflect with the principles of the Sufi path as inspired by the Quran and the example of Prophet Muhammad, the teachings of Rumi and his beloved mentor, Shams of Tabriz, as well as the being of Beloved Mary, mother of Jesus, “Hazrati Maryam,” as the purest of souls, receptive to Divine Inspiration, an open doorway of Love.
Rumi’s mentor and beloved friend, Shams of Tabriz, encourages us to keep turning towards the heart to find that One who finds us—even as beloved Mary must have done when she had lost her son—and in that process to be willing to undergo the trials that expand the heart to be able to encompass more and more fully that Presence of Enlivening Grace. We will share reflections from The Way of Mary: Maryam, Beloved of God, facilitating our witnessing together of the Oneness of Spirit enlivening us all.
As Rumi says:
The eye of the Sea is one thing, the foam another;
leave the foam and look with the eye of the Sea!
The water has a Water that is driving it;
The spirit has a Spirit that is calling it.
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: Listen to this talk, On the Mevlevi Zhikr, given at the 2010 London retreat and you will have a sense of how it is done.
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)
Dec 17: Rumi's Urs online celebration, more details (KC)
Feb 23-25, 2024: Retreat with Kabir & Camille, San Damiano, Danville, California. More details soon (KC)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
1288 Cherokee Rd Louisville, KY 40204
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