THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ AUG 2018
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
We have just joined the world of Instagram! Uzma Taj, a dear member of our London circle, is using her wonderful creativity to create beautiful posts that share Mevlana Rumi’s words with a new audience. Follow us: www.instagram.com/thresholdsociety
“I love Mevlana Rumi, his words have created a deep space growing in my chest. Mevlana has expanded my imagination to places I never thought possible. The Masnavi is a difficult adventure, sometimes I want to stop reading, sometimes I am breathless at how deep the well is, and other times I cry. I grew up with Islam, but this Islam was at a far distance. Sitting with Mevlana Rumi has drawn me closer, a closeness to something I don’t know how to describe, a closeness I recognise in the stories of my dear Prophet and his friends. I think there’s so much and what a joy to be with this endless ocean of Mevlana Rumi’s words…so I guess this is why I am working with the translations of Mevlana’s words from my dear teachers Camille Ana and Kabir Dede on Instagram, and I pray this joy is received…”
~ Uzma Taj
Reflection on July theme: To come to know the deep well of your own being is better than to chase after the heels of the world. ~Rumi
~ Ajoy Datta [London, UK]
The rise of the individual and economic liberalisation have together meant that we’re increasingly being expected to manage ourselves and our relationships as if we are a business. Apparently we are simply not good enough as we are. We should subsequently value ourselves as a product and upgrade ourselves every year. We need to take solutions from the workplace (such as accountability checklists, branding sessions and targets) and transfer them to the home. We need to treat our relationships like they are a business. And we should turn our experiences into a brand by networking and promoting ourselves.
We are encouraged to have personal goals just as we have performance goals at work. We make ourselves flexible and accommodating – aided by an array of gadgets and devices. We obsess with improving our health and our bodies. We digitize and optimize ourselves with fit-bits. We employ personal trainers and life coaches. We feel compelled to be the ‘best that we can be’ and not to ‘settle for anything less’. And we are entirely responsible for our own futures. So, if we are marginalized, poor or unsuccessful it is because we have not taken personal responsibility or we have made the wrong choices.
What does this all result in? A fragmented attention, hyperactivity, passivity, burnout, anxiety, loneliness and depression – with little space to talk about any of these. We lose a sense of being rooted, of belonging. We become suspicious and envious of others, as we are told to rely solely on ourselves. We avoid eye-contact and face-to-face communication, reducing our capacity for empathy. And we lose our ability to engage with each other in the messy, often tricky process, of staying in relation to others.
The question we need to ask ourselves is not what do we want to achieve in five years time? but rather, how can we more fully engage with ourselves and the people around us in the ‘here and now’? How can we be more creative, inventive and improvisational as life and the world unfolds around and within us? And how do we engage with the masculine and feminine energy that resides deeply in us?
The answers seem to lie in knowing that we are enough as we are and in making contact with our own Being. We don’t need to embark on a personal development project or hire a life coach. We are not a drop in the ocean but like a fractal, we are the drop that contains the ocean. As Shaikh Kabir says “the well-being, the beauty, and the love we seek outside ourselves are truly within” and… “without Being, our activity becomes chaotic, delinquent, purposeless and wasteful.”
But ‘Being’ is not about trying to be ‘good’ or ‘right’, but about being authentic, open-hearted and courageously present in this and every subsequent moment. It is seeing one’s daily existence as a sacred performance where one intends to take each step consciously, effortlessly, spontaneously and skilfully. To experience the sacredness of everyday life, the eye of the heart needs to open. It is the heart and not necessarily the intellect or the senses that is perceptive of this sacredness.
Opening the eye of the heart requires emptying oneself, to create a spaciousness around one’s thoughts and feelings. It requires being able to activate and direct a more refined attention at will. It is an experience of being at one with the Whole – an experience that can be brought about through practices such as fasting, prayer, meditation, zhikr, singing, turning, playing a musical instrument, contemplation and service as well as by living within a framework of courtesy, ethics and engaging in a socially useful livelihood. Through such day-to-day practice, we can more easily become the expression of love that we are meant to be and we can embrace our authenticity, our true Self. As Rumi says, “Be as you appear, or appear as you are.”
Paradoxically, we are more likely to come to know our true being and to become more fully human through relationship with others. As Shaikh Kabir says, we cannot mature on our own, we need to learn from the experience of others: we need others to show ourselves and to help us become complete. Relationship is the mirror in which we see ourselves as we are. It is in relationship we can come to know our reactions, our prejudices, our fears, our anxieties, our sorrows, our pain and our grievances. Being in a group encourages one to bring to the surface difficult emotional obstacles within a context of trust and affection.
There is something to be learned here from Giant Sequoia trees. They can reach 350 feet in height and can weigh up to 500 tonnes, live for centuries and can withstand strong winds, earthquakes, fires storms and prolonged flooding. But their roots only go down about ten feet. The trees grow very close together and beneath the surface their root systems are entwined with those of others around them, like a community of people who have their arms interlocked. Together they ensure that together they can withstand major shocks and that there are plenty of nutrients to promote continued growth. As in the case of these trees, other people (whether they be in this world or the other) are important for our own existence and maturation.
This is especially so in an intimate relationship. As John Welwood says relationship (with all its shocks and surprises) “provides a ferment that allows for deep transformation through forcing us to keep waking up, dropping preconceptions, expanding our sense of who we are, and learning to work with all the different elements of our humanity.” It is no surprise then that the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said marriage is half of faith. But, as Rainer Maria Rilke said, for one human being to love another: “that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation.” Making contact with our own being then, may be the key, but is far from straightforward…
~ Ajoy Datta is a London-based Mevlevi dervish. He is a researcher, writer and facilitator in the international development sector with a focus on the transformation of individuals, groups and societies.
Practices of Coherence
UK Annual Retreat
Aug 24-27 2018
With Shaikh Kabir and Shaikha Camille Helminski
Selcuk Gurez, Master Mevlevi Musician from Turkey
Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge
During times of change and challenge, our refuge and strength is the holy Mysterion accessed through the Heart.
Join us for a contemporary experience of sacred space, beauty, friendship, whirling, music, poetry, and prayer in beautiful countryside with precious community!
Tuesday 28th August, 6:30pm ~ £5 on the door, refreshments will be provided
St Ethelburga’s Centre, 78 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AG
Camille Adams Helminski explores stories of women of faith including Mary, Miriam, and Fatimah, and others of our Grandmothers of Spirit, with reflections from her recent poetic offering, Ninety-Nine Names of the Beloved: Intimations of the Beauty and Power of the Divine.
Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski is a teacher in the Mevlevi Sufi order, and has been a student of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophets for more than 40 years. Camille and her husband, Kabir, teach internationally through the Threshold Society which they founded in 1988, encouraging all to awaken to the Divine Presence in every moment of our lives. She has produced some of the first modern English translations of Jalaluddin Rumi, rendered a significant portion of the Qur’an into English in The Light of Dawn, Daily Readings from the Holy Qur’an, and compiled the wisdom of female Muslim saints in the now classic guide, Women of Sufism. Her most recent poetic offering, Ninety-Nine Names of the Beloved, is a beautiful collection of poems bringing the ninety-nine Divine qualities into awareness in everyday moments and giving readers an exquisitely personal window into Divine Presence.
Copies of Camille’s books will be available on the night for signing (cash only).
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The Language of the Soul
Playa Coyote Writers Retreat
7 nights from: February 2nd to February 9th, 2019
With Kabir Helminski, Author, Poet, Translator
A spiritually oriented writer’s retreat at the beautiful Zen Spirit Yoga Retreat located right on the pristine Playa Coyote on the Pacific Coast, Guanacaste, Costa Rica (zenspiritcr.com)
We will focus on the power of writing to explore the soul, the world we live in, and the nature of reality.
A few hours each day will be spent in scheduled sessions, including one meditation session per day, leaving abundant time to appreciate the natural beauty of the ocean and the Costa Rican environment. Limited to about 22 people.
HeartSpace is now available again. If you already have the app please download the update.
“I have truly found tranquility through the practices, and by listening to the Wird and the audios. Almost like magic, this app has helped me in queues and at airports which I recently discovered stress me out. The Ninety Nine Names brought back sweet memories of whirling, and I await with eager anticipation the reminders at the times I have set each day. Such a blessing to have these tools at your fingertips.”
~ Amira Abd El-Khalek
Please leave a review in the app store.
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Aug 24-27: UK Annual Retreat, Gaunts House, Dorset. Register now. (KC)
Aug 28: London, Women of Faith: Learning from our Grandmothers of Spirit. More details. (C)
Feb 2-9: Costa Rica, Writers Retreat: The Language of the Soul. More details. (K)
Events with Sh. Kabir and Sh. Camille marked (KC)
O Lord, truly, Your grace is not from our work, but from Your mysterious giving.
Save us from what our own hands might do; lift the veil, but do not tear it.
Save us from the ego; its knife has reached our bones. Who but You can break these chains?
Let us turn from ourselves to You Who are nearer to us than ourselves.
Even this prayer is Your gift to us.
How else has a rose garden grown from these ashes?
[Mathnawi II 2443-49, The Pocket Rumi]
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