THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ JUL 2019
Be cleansed of shallow idolatries; affirm the Real. Ya Haqq.
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
What is Sufism?
~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
Sufism is a way of life in which a deeper identity is discovered and lived. This deeper identity, beyond the already known personality, is in harmony with all that exists. This deeper identity, or essential self, has abilities of awareness, action, creativity and love that are far beyond the abilities of the superficial personality. Eventually it is understood that these abilities belong to a greater life and being which we individualize in our own unique way while never being separate from it.
Sufism is less a doctrine or a belief system than an experience and way of life. It is a tradition of enlightenment that carries the essential truth forward through time. Tradition, however, must be conceived in a vital and dynamic sense. Its expression must not remain limited to the religious and cultural forms of the past. The truth of Sufism requires reformulation and fresh expression in every age.
Reformulation does not mean that Sufism will compromise its challenge to a stubbornly materialistic society. It is and will remain a critic of “worldliness” — by which it is meant everything that causes us to be forgetful of the Divine reality. It is and must be a way out of the labyrinth of a secular, commercial culture. Most importantly, however, it is an invitation to meaningfulness and well-being.
A Door Held Open Wide
~ Matthew Wright [West Park, NY, USA]
I can only speak for myself, but I imagine that for all of us who have found (or been found by!) this Mevlevi Path, what I say here will ring true: finding the Way of Mevlana was like finding my heart given expression outside of my body. Finding these teachings was like finding my own deepest knowing put into words. Finding this path was like finding home.
For those of us who have found this Way, it’s a treasure we would trade for nothing. And yet a treasure like this is meant to be shared, not hoarded or hidden. How many more might benefit from the gifts of this path, if it were made accessible to them? Such sharing, however, is not always an easy or straightforward task, as the times (and places and cultures) we live in present unique challenges to transmitting the Mevlevi Path today.
I imagine that the work of human transformation has not much changed over the centuries—but the conditions in which we live out that transformation have. In times past, perhaps, a seeker was born into, and lived and died in, a single village and a single religion. In that context, certain questions and concerns simply never arose. Today, however, we live in a global context, faced with pressing issues like climate change; we are interconnected as a species through social media and travel like never before; we are confronted with religious diversity, pluralism, and the reality of a growing “Spiritual but Not Religious” population; and all the while the pacing of life seems to be moving faster and faster.
I believe our Mevlevi Path is primed to meet the needs of these times: to offer a vision that transcends dogmatic sectarianism; that is holistic and fully capable of embracing the unified ecological vision called for by our present crises; and that can transmit a science of human transformation and spiritual awakening that is our primary and most urgent need. But how do we hold the door to our tradition open wide, while also preserving the integrity of what we’ve been given?
Reflection on June theme: Patience is consent to the present moment; patience is crowned with faith. ~Shaikh Kabir Helminski
~ Fatimah Ashrif [Hale Barns, UK]
Are you happy with your Beloved?
People often want to know.
If I’m happy or I suffer,
my Beloved is still mine — ahh, what does it matter? —
my Beloved is still mine.
The words of this ilahi always touch my heart each time I sing them. My heart recognises the truth: whether in happiness or sadness, “my Beloved is still mine” and I am still His. To be a dervish is to aspire to be a true lover of God, to bow deeply to each moment whatever state one might find oneself in.
My heart is drawn to Rabi’a Al-Adawiyya (b.717 CE) who lost her family, was enslaved, and, when freed, lived in poverty. Yet her heart did not swerve from the Divine. For a true lover of God, God becomes all that is needed:
Without You – my Life, My Love –
I would never have wandered across these endless countries.
You have poured out so much grace for me,
Done me so many favors, given me so many gifts –
I look everywhere for Your love –
Then suddenly I am filled with it.
O Captain of my Heart,
Radiant Eye of Yearning in my breast,
I will never be free from you
As long as I live.
Be satisfied with me, Love,
And I am satisfied.
[Women of Sufism, Camille Helminski]
These words set my heart on fire, reminding it of its own deepest longing. True lovers might complain to the Beloved but the relationship does not end simply because the Beloved has not provided “adequate” sustenance or left roses at the door. What matters is that the Beloved is always here, closer than our jugular vein, swaying with us with our every movement, wishing and desiring that we might beautify ourselves with the light of His Holy Names.
When He casts thorns in our path, we might not see immediately the calamity He is preserving us from, or what quality of ours is being refined, so that we might dye ourselves in the colours of His ultimate love. Over the years on this path, I have noted that I am more patient and sometimes in deeply challenging situations, but still it seems that God is teasing me “little by little” into a deeper and all-encompassing patience and surrender.
I found myself in a traffic jam some weeks ago. A journey which should have taken 30 minutes took over 5 hours. Usually something like this would not upset me but I found myself agitated and muttering in annoyance. What I realised as I sat in my car in the heat was that my impatience was not due to the traffic or my failing air-con but something deeper within me, an underlying “unfulfilled” wish and my impatience with my incapacity to accept that the wish has not and may not be fulfilled. I see that God is asking me to let go of (be less attached to) my judgements (including of myself) and my preferences: my judgment that situation A is good and to be wished for, whilst situation B is bad and to be avoided. In the moment, I realise I may not see the benefit in B but time has always shown me something different: that the thing I so wished for was somehow a distraction and what I so wished to avoid was so essential to my pruning for the next step of my journey with the Beloved.
It seems to me that the Divine deepens us in our patience and grows the love in our heart through many means, including disappointment. Rumi said:
You make a hundred resolutions
to journey somewhere,
but he draws you somewhere else…
He fixed your heart on a hundred passionate desires,
disappointed you, and then broke your heart…
Your resolutions and aims now and then are fulfilled
so that through hope your heart
might form another intention
which He might once again destroy.
For if He were to keep you completely from success,
you would despair:
how would the seed of expectation be sown?
If your heart did not sow that seed,
and then encounter barrenness,
how would it recognize its submission to Divine will?
By their failures lovers are made aware of their Lord.
Lack of success is the guide to Paradise:
Pay attention to the tradition,
“Paradise is encompassed with pain.”*
[Mathnawi III, 4456-67, The Pocket Rumi]
*Saying of the Prophet
It can be a bitter-sweet love affair at times. I often get this sense that God is a jealous lover; He may indulge my small distractions but will often seek to remind me where my heart will truly find rest: Is not God enough for His servant? [Quran 39:36]
In the car that day, I had to acknowledge my unfulfilled wish and how this was making me feel. There was no escape – I had 5 uninterrupted hours to reflect with God and to share my disappointment. Casting light on my feelings allowed a release and surrendering. As the hours went by my frustration was eased, Grace entered and my heart turned to prayer, expanding and re-fueling with love.
I feel that when we say “yes” to the path, our capacity for surrender to the Beloved is constantly and insistently tested, pushed, expanded. We are persuaded to ease our hold on our judgements and preferences, which results in a freedom from the hold of our limited egos. In such a state we might truly consent to the moment. Patience is truly “crowned with faith” when it is moved by the humble glow of longing within the heart.
The wine of love has been forbidden
by those who never loved.
But I pour it and I drink it,
this love is all I know — ahh, what does it matter? —
this love is all I know.
[“Shirt of Blame”, Threshold Society ilahi]
~ Fatimah is a Mevlevi dervish living in Cheshire. She facilitates a monthly Threshold zhikr circle in Manchester/Wilmslow and supports the work of Rumi’s Circle.
Al Hadi, The Guide
Camille Helminski’s poetic reflection on Al Hadi.
Resonance: The Spirit of Sound
UK Annual Retreat Aug 23-27
With Shaikh Kabir & Camille Helminski,
Mahmoud Mostafa, Selcuk Gurez, Jeremy Henzell-Thomas
All of life is governed by vibration. The music born of the spiritual path can unify, inspire, and heal. The soul is refined and enriched through the spirit of sound.
Our retreat this year will offer a special focus on music, movement, and zhikr. Join us for a contemporary experience of sacred space, beauty, friendship, and prayer in beautiful countryside with precious community!
More details and registration.
Costa Rica Writer’s Retreat Jan/Feb 2020
A 7-day 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. This event is appropriate for anyone who wishes to improve their capacity for written expression, access their imagination, and increase their appreciation of spiritual literature and culture.
7 nights from January 25th to February 1st, 2020
7 nights from February 1st to February 8th, 2020
Two week-long programs, each with its own theme, and yet each arising from the lived moment and the confluence of souls.
A video about the 2019 Costa Rica Writer’s Retreat:
Poetry, prose, song-writing are all welcomed. Seasoned or aspiring writers. Attend either week, or both.
Threshold’s collaborative blog channel The Living Tradition on Patheos.com is reaching new audiences and sharing the experiences of our community in a unique and vibrant way.
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.
The expectancy of listening by Anna Rohleder
Following Unexpressed Pain Into the Arms of Mercy by Daliah Merzaban
We encourage you to leave reviews on Amazon.
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Jul 13-14: Aspen CO, USA. A Celebration of the InterSpiritual Legacy of Father Thomas Keating. More details. (KC)
Aug 11: Eid al-Adha
Aug 23-26: Dorset, UK. Gaunts House Annual UK Retreat. More details. (KC)
Aug 31: London, UK. Meditatio Centre: There Is More to Rumi Than People Imagine with Shaikh Kabir. Register here. (K)
Oct 18-20: Kendal, UK. Rumi’s Circle/RAY Sacred Roots Retreat with Beth Hin and friends (more details soon).
Oct 23-27: San Jose CA, USA. SAND Conference (K)
Nov 2: San Diego CA, USA. Day retreat (KC)
Jan/Feb 2020: Costa Rica Writer’s Retreat. More details. (KC)
Apr 3-5: San Francisco, USA. Annual Retreat. (KC)
Events with Kabir (KC) & Camille (C)
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at email@example.com
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