THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ AUGUST 2016
Sufism and the Power to Transform
~ Qantara.de interview with Shaikh Kabir Helminski, May 2016
The U.S. American and Mevlevi sheikh Kabir Helminski is founder of the international ″Threshold Society″ and one of the most important Sufi teachers in the West. Marian Brehmer talked to him about the role of Sufism in the modern world and the dangers of religious extremism.
The Oneness of All Being
~ Shaikha Camille Helminski
Every human being is born with an inner sense of unity. The infant knows itself as one with the mother. It is only after some time elapses that a sense of separation occurs. For a long while, the mother is the mirror of self; it knows no other. Then as we grow we are drawn outward to discover and participate in this miraculous creation of which we are a part. For many the process of that journey becomes filled with struggle, but sometimes a whisper, a glimpse comes to allow us to see into the essential nature of life, into its core and with that glimpse, that whisper, we set out upon the journey to know more. As adolescents, we query our world and the premises upon which it has stood. As we age, we are led to look in so many places for something that will fulfill our need for connection, our need to return to that state of unity from which we were born.
Though in Reality we have never left our Source, we sometimes must journey a long ways to remove the veils placed upon us by life in this world so that we may see the Truth. Our journey passes through recognizable stages, referred to in the Sufi tradition as the seven levels of the nafs or “self.” When the glimpse of the Essential first catches us, it pulls us from the state of nafs-i ammara, the commanding, demanding self. Absorption with our particular, limited self and its grasping needs diminishes as we discover the existence of Eternal Wisdom and begin to be drawn home to our deepest, Essential self. Step by step the process unfolds.
Slowly, we begin the process of discrimination, distinguishing between that which is true and essential and that which is false, which inhibits and veils us from Truth; we witness our own shortcomings and begin to develop a conscience. This is the stage of the nafs-i lawamma, the blaming, judging self. We begin to little by little see that we are not separate, but that we are at the end-point of a ray of God’s Presence. We can then turn to gaze upon that Light and make use of that Light to better see our own situation and to gauge how we behave in the world of interactions.
As we gain more experience, new vision opens for us and we come to the stage of nafs-i mulhaim, the inspired soul. New ways of being become apparent to us as we see by God’s Light, by the Light of the Oneness with which we are still connected.
Just as a leaf on a tree, looking outward, might imagine that each leaf is a discrete unit of being, separate and individual, making its own movement, yet if it looks back at the tree it will recognize how it is connected and from where it gains its nourishment. Just so, if we really look, we cannot help but see that we are indeed a part of an integral, living, flowing system; not just in the way we move in our lives, but from the very root of our being through which we gain our nourishment. In the Qur’an it says, We shall show them Our signs on the farthest horizons and within themselves.
All of nature is a reminder of the Unity of all Being. Sometimes it is a prophet or friend of God who reminds us. In the Qur’an, God tells Muhammad,
Go on reminding: for reminding benefits the faithful.
And I have created the invisible beings and human beings
only that they may worship Me.
No sustenance do I require of them
nor do I require that they should feed Me.
For God is the One Who gives all sustenance,
the Lord of Power, the Steadfast. [Surah 51:55-58]
He is the One Who sustains us and Whom we worship, for as is said in Surah Ikhlas, the Surah of Purity, There is no God but God, and He is One. He has not begotten, nor is He begotten, so everything that exists is still a part of God. We are all still connected even if it be from the farthest reaches of that expansion of His creation. There is only Ahad, there is only One Reality and by and through it we are all connected and united in our very substance, in our very Essence.
It is the deepest acknowledgement of this that takes us further. While not attributing wisdom and truth to ourselves but to our Source, we look to see how it is reflected in others—we naturally seek to know all aspects of this diamond of Being of which we are a facet. This is the level of the tariqa, the Sufi brother/sisterhoods. There is protection in working together. It is said that the faithful are mirrors for the faithful. Together we enable each other to see more clearly and to reflect more purely praise of our Source rather than the individual, limited self.
As the mirror becomes polished, our contentment with what we see increases; here we come to the stage of nafs-i mutmainna, the satisfied soul, for here we find that as it says in the Qur’an Truly in the remembrance of God, hearts find rest. What is now more often at the core of our awareness is Our Source, the underlying, Self-Subsisting Sea of Being rather than the foam of partial, particular experience flying through the air.
The will to flow with that Sea increases and we come to nafs-i radiye, the pleased soul; the soul that is not just satisfied, but pleased with that which its Source, God bestows. One no longer attributes partners to God, one’s own impulses are absorbed into the impulses of One’s Maker and one acts in consonance with His/Her will.
Now it is that the soul becomes fully pleasing to God: the nafs-i mardiye, the satisfying self. One can more purely serve others, bringing the fragrance of Life, the Light of Life to others, and awakening the awareness of the Life-giving water within them.
Beyond this we are told is the nafs-i safiye, or nafs-i kamile, the purified or completed self for whom there is no longer any separation, empty of self, open totally to the will of the Source for there is no more distinguishable self; there is only the Beloved. Wherever you turn there is the Face of God.
Reflection on July’s theme: To know reality remember: Reality is Love
~ Gunter Richter (Ontario, Canada)
This is a love story.
Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to have a love so complete that it permeates every atom and fiber of your being; a love so creative that when it’s no longer possible to contain it, the resulting explosion gives birth to entire universes; a love so masterful that it commands every possibility waiting in non-existence to burst forth into existence; a love so selfless that it goes into hiding, not to disturb the wishes of even a single particle in all of creation; a love so aware that it sees beyond time and space and arranges itself so that exactly what is needed is there when needed; a love so awesomely powerful that a single command, Be, makes it happen.
This is reality. Love permeates everything. This is home.
If you can imagine what it would be like to have such a love or to be such a love, ask yourself, what would you want and hope for? Perhaps to share it, to let your beloved know the infinite boundlessness of your love, to experience it with you?
Of course, but imagine this: with a single command you could order your beloved to experience your love. But it would be empty, devoid of meaning. So in a final act of self-sacrifice you introduce the possibility of error. You introduce risk and failure. You ask all of creation, “Which among you is prepared to be separated from this love?” Only one answers – the human being. So to human beings, you give the gift of free will. They become free to choose, to embrace or reject your love. In doing so they provide the one thing that none of the rest of creation can – their love for you has meaning. These are the creatures you fall in love with deeply.
For human beings, this is reality. Because of separation, it may be a reality that no longer feels like home. But it holds the promise of returning.
As human beings, we have the gift of being able to understand with our hearts, so we’re not completely out of the picture. It’s just that for our time in existence, it’s up to each and every one of us to decide how to use this gift. Do we draw closer to love, or drift further away into spaces of the most unimaginable loneliness, horror and cruelty? Free will, a uniquely personal and individual gift, leaves the decision up to each and every one of us. We can invite others to join in our quest, but no matter how much we may love someone, we can’t make the decision for them. Each person must do so on their own.
Those willing to take the steps towards returning to love soon find a major obstacle in the form of self-interest. It’s entirely understandable. At night we fall asleep. In the morning we awaken. It’s still the same person. We get to know and love this person, we want to protect it. When survival is at stake this is clearly a good thing. On the path to love it’s an obstacle. Self-interest blocks the ability of whatever love we may be able to experience, from transforming into unconditional love. So we love others for how they make us feel, not for their sake. We introduce condition after condition until love itself becomes mundane and taken for granted.
Please let me explain how all of this became clear to me. This month, I fell in love with a very beautiful soul named Beverly. All the levels of reality opened the door for me and, totally oblivious, I walked through.
I soon found myself in a place with no familiar anchors to attach to. Everything other than love became meaningless. For several days “I” no longer existed. The joy of being in Bev’s presence made me feel like I was going to explode. The pain of being apart from her made me feel like I had entered the seventh circle of Hell.
Feeling my pain at being separated from Bev, reality let me return to a sense of self after a few days, still in love, but functional, not dysfunctional.
Then one day something happened. Bev works as a housekeeper at my mother-in-law Mary’s retirement home. I visit Mary almost every day. I often run into Bev. I did something that must have caused a great deal of sadness in Bev judging by her change in demeanor. I asked to have “Sunday Lunch” with Mary moved to Saturday. Bev was off work on Sunday and I simply wanted to be with her. That was the mistake. “I” wanted to be with her. I placed my own desires and interests before everyone else’s. Bev rose out of her chair and went back to her duties.
I was shocked at my realization. Even something that appears insignificant to us, when done from self-interest, betrays love. The downhill slide begins. This was likely what Bev sensed. She has a very powerful intuitive sense.
I corrected the error and through Love I was forgiven. With Bev’s help I’ve managed to discover that we are created from Love by Love for Love. We are placed into Love’s Reality. We can find our way home at any time by simply taking a few steps towards it; first ask, then be there fully when we’re with others, attentive to their needs and their presence, then trust. Should we choose to ask for Love the door will open for us. To go through we must abandon all self-interest. With Love’s help we can learn how in an environment of trust. Should we succeed, we will know and unite with the greatest Love there is, the infinite and unconditional Love we call Reality. It gives everything, asks for nothing. Is it painful? Of course. Is it joyful? Of course. Is it everything? That it is.
Gunter Richter is a Mevlevi Dervish living in Victoria Harbour, Ontario. His hope is to become and remain the best human being he can possibly be. May it become Love.
Practice submission to your higher self, and mastery over the impulses of your lower self.
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
UNVEILING THE DIVINE: Honouring the Sacred Feminine
October 14-16, 2016
with Elizabeth Anne Hin, Fatimah Ashrif,
Tania Henzell-Thomas, Rabia Malik and others
We believe that deep respect and harmony between the masculine and feminine principles of existence is necessary for the well being of communities and society as a whole. The present imbalance is reflected in the increasing sexualisation of women and young people and in structures which continue to favour male biology and perspective. These are damaging not only to women but also to men. We trust that human beings should be free to discover and determine for themselves what it means to be male, female, both or neither, here and now, and to express their sexuality without it impacting on their role in society. We begin by reconnecting to the Sacred Feminine.
We aim to create a safe space to explore these issues with a range of spiritual practitioners from different backgrounds and faiths, sharing what the Feminine means to us and how She supports our lives.
Join us for a weekend honouring the Sacred Feminine through spiritual conversation, heart reflections, meditation, prayer, music and movement. We are blessed to offer this gathering in the beautiful setting of Kendal in the Lake District, with it’s rich spiritual heritage and long tradition of social activism. The weekend includes a Sacred Music concert with Latif Bolat, Zeliha Akdan and whirling dervishes.
(accommodation not included)
More details about the range of speakers, the programme
and to register your place: unveilingthedivine.com
Personal Sovereignty, Divine Sovereignty
Annual Threshold Society UK Retreat, Gaunts House, Dorset, England
Aug 26-28/29, 2016
With Shaikh Kabir Helminski
& special guests, Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, and Mevlevi master musician, Selcuk Gurez
Sufism is to be authentically yourself in cooperation with the Divine. One of the gifts of the spiritual path is to come to a true experience of your self. In these times we are bombarded by countless influences, impressions, distractions, most of them coming from a false reality which breeds false values. The Sufi path is a path of deconditioning, reconditioning, and unconditioning. Psychological self-awareness, adequate metaphysics, a comprehensive practice, and the support of the conscious community help us to know ourselves at the level of the soul, and to be infused with divine grace and love.
Join us for a long weekend to deepen our understanding and practice. At Gaunts House in Dorset, we will be close to nature, at a distance from the habits and demands of our everyday lives, with friends who share this beautiful quest.
This year we will also have as our special artist in residence, Mevlevi master musician, Selcuk Gurez, to deepen our appreciation of Mevlevi music, culture, and practice.
Registrations are now open. The main retreat will start on Friday 26th August at 5pm with arrivals/registrations. We will again have an additional day with a lighter, more informal schedule. The main retreat will end at 2pm on Sunday and the additional day will begin from 4pm, ending 2pm Monday (Monday 29th August is a UK bank holiday). We ask attendees leaving on Sunday to kindly vacate the grounds before 3pm.
FRI-SUN ADULT Boarding £265
MONDAY ADULT Boarding £100
Please register your place as soon as possible. Please read all the information carefully and contact Saimma if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let us know what you think by commenting on the posts — join the discussion at www.patheos.com/blogs/livingtradition and “follow” The Living Tradition.
Women of Sufism study group
Friends of the Threshold community are invited to a study group to read and discuss Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure, Writings and Stories of Mystic Poets, Scholars, and Saints by Shaikha Camille Helminski.
The book has been split into segments to be studied over six months. At the start of each month we will post an invitation for you to offer reflections. See the website for more details, guidelines and access to the monthly discussion posts.
The password to access the discussion posts is khadija.
See the Resource page for the recording of the community call last month and an excerpt from Shaikha Camille’s poetry collection Words from the East.
“Thank you Aliaa R Rafea and Aisha Rafea – and for the reminder for the Mercy of our Prophets – the Mercy of striving and to read my own book. I loved the walk into Hagga Zakiyya arms – surprised to feel the embrace of a mother.”
~ Uzma Taj
Join the discussion: womenofsufism.com
The monthly breakdown of the book has now completed – we will continue the discussion to allow people to catch-up and re-reflect on previous chapters.
Aug 26-29: Dorset, UK. Annual UK Retreat at Gaunts House, more details. (K)
Sep 24: London, UK. Islam & Sexual Diversity day workshop with Mahmoud Mostafa and Dr. Shanon Shah. See the website for more details due soon.
Oct 14-16: Kendal, UK. Unveiling the Divine: Honouring the Sacred Feminine. With Elizabeth Hin, more details.
Oct 20-23: San Jose, US. Science & Non-Duality Conference; Shaikh Kabir will lecture on Spiritual Perception. www.scienceandnonduality.com (K)
Dec 13-17: Konya/Ankara, Turkey. Shaikh Kabir will speak at the Celebrations for Rumi’s Urs. Other guests include Cemalnur Sargut & Omid Safi. (K)
Feb 24-26: San Francisco, US. Mercy Center Retreat. (KC)
May 5-9: Paradise Island, Bahamas. Meditation Symposium at the Sivananda Ashram. Sivananda.org (KC)
July 7-9: Whistler, Canada. Annual Retreat British Columbia, deep in nature, following Ramadan. (KC)
Events with Sh. Kabir and Sh. Camille marked (KC)
Pictures from international circles
Please do send us your pictures!
Words from the East
~ Shaikha Camille Adams Helminski ~
Oh Lord, give me energy;
let it fill my veins
that I may do
that which awaits me here.
I cannot stay on Your mountaintop.
and order must be served —
Oh guide my hands, Lord,
and gird my bones
with Your muscle and sinew.
Strengthen my soul, Lord,
that I may be in this world,
and yet be only with You.
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at email@example.com