THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ JUN 2019
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
The Night of Power
Reflections on Al Qadir, Al Muqtadir by Camille Helminski.
“Ramadan Love Songs has been a wonderful companion during Ramadan and it was such a blessing to share a poem with the beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when I was last visiting Medina.”
Donia Fahim reads a poem from Ramadan Love Songs in Medina, from the Prophet Muhammad’s resting place.
“Reading Ramadan Love Songs is like wandering through a rose garden in full bloom on an early summer eve at twilight. Each rose is astonishingly different in color, delicacy and unfolding of the petals. If you follow the beckoning call of these songs, you will surely get a full glimpse of that rare, single white rose, the exquisite heart of the author, Camille Helminski.”
~ Shakira Shatoff
The Inter-Spiritual Challenge of Our Times
Outline of a “Homily” to be given by Shaikh Kabir at the Aspen Chapel, Sunday, July 14 as part of A Celebration of the InterSpiritual Legacy of Father Thomas Keating.
We are almost like two species existing side-by-side. One species is focused on the material world of the physical senses, accepting as reality only that which can be measured, motivated by an individual ego self and the emotions it generates: the desire to be free of discomfort and to maximize pleasure, to receive approval and avoid disapproval, to gain attention and to avoid being ignored, and to be in control of people and circumstances. The other species is motivated by an awareness that there is, perhaps, some nonphysical medium through which we are all connected, resulting in a degree of empathy, sensitivity to “vibes,” and glimpsing a sense of purposefulness in the unfolding circumstances of life.
Reflection on May’s theme: Leave opinions and blame; be an objective witness, and serve in love. ~Shaikh Kabir Helminski
~ Juan Thompson [Louisville, USA]
Blame, the act of pinning responsibility for my discomfort on someone else. It is regarded as a fault, yet it is so seductive, so appealing. I had not thought of myself as someone who blames others, but as I have looked closer at myself, I find that I am a person who blames, and furthermore, that I like to blame because it feels good. It feels much better than the alternative of taking responsibility.
I see it when I drive, for example when there’s a car in the passing lane of the highway preventing me from going the speed I would like. My first reaction is irritation, but when I have sufficient self-awareness, I see that my anger comes from my expectation that I should be able to drive at my preferred speed with no inconvenience. I didn’t consciously create this expectation, but it’s there nonetheless. When this expectation is thwarted, my immediate response is to look for something or someone outside of myself to blame, such as that rude driver who refuses to obey both law and courtesy and change lanes. In my mind I reprimand this person, and I feel better. I feel a little burst of warmth in my chest at the thought that I am a victim of people or forces acting against me and that there is nothing I can do. On the other hand, when I look at the truth and admit that I created my irritation I feel a prickly, constricting feeling in my chest. I repeat this pattern constantly, without awareness, every day, in a hundred different ways. Blame brings pleasure, responsibility brings discomfort, and I habitually seek pleasure and avoid discomfort.
How wonderful if this habit only manifested itself while I was driving, but of course it doesn’t. I have come to see this pattern also in my relationships.
A scenario: my partner makes plans for the weekend to stop by her friend’s birthday party. I feel angry and hurt. I tell her that I wish she had asked me, rather than told me, since we usually spend the weekends together. She sighs heavily and appears irritated. Her reaction triggers more hurt and anger, with some fear mixed in. I am very uncomfortable. We each say things that we should not and walk away angry. In my mind I carry on the argument, explaining why I’m right and she is wrong. Our hearts are firmly closed to each other.
Another scenario: my partner makes the same plans and tells me in the same way. I still feel hurt and ready to blame. Suddenly I have a moment of clarity where I can see what is happening. I make supplication silently and make an effort to redirect my thoughts. I look for the root of my hurt, and I see it comes from my irrational expectation that if she cared about me, she would ask me how I felt about going to the birthday party rather than telling me. I explain all of this to her and sincerely admit that my hurt is entirely self-generated. We agree to check in with each other about plans in the future.
I have repeated the pattern in the first scenario countless times in my relationships. Closed hearts are always the outcome. I decided that I couldn’t keep repeating this pattern. I don’t want to have a closed heart from hurt and anger. I decided to try something new. I want an open heart, knowing that may bring pain also.
Make no mistake, the second scenario is also very uncomfortable. My urge to blame is strong, and it is painful to own my reaction completely with no expectations of my partner’s positive reaction. However, when I can speak from my heart in this way, there is now room for her to hear me with her heart and tell me her own feelings and thoughts without blame. With a sincere intention to be gentle with each other’s hearts, our goal is understanding rather than blame. Instead of closed hearts we have open hearts. Instead of separation we have connection and the inbreath and outbreath of love from heart to heart.
When I have been blessed with the second outcome, it is not because I correctly applied a communication technique. What makes the difference is my intention, as expressed in daily supplication, to have an open heart with my partner no matter what, and to avoid thoughts of hurt, anger, blame, and victimhood. My intention is also expressed through sincere daily practice of prayer, remembrance, meditation, and seeking guidance from my heart. As a result, I find that more and more often, when an opportunity for blame arises in any relationship, I can stop the train of thought, examine the source of my hurt, and sincerely own my responsibility for it. It is still uncomfortable, I still don’t like the sensations I have, but I feel cleaner. Even if the other person cannot hear me with their heart and reacts with blame, at least I am not lashing out, and I am not stoking the fires of my own anger and hurt. This is how it goes on a good day, anyway. Other days I lack the awareness and I experience again how much fruitless pain is created by blame.
For me, it finally comes down to grace and longing. I am coming to trust that the willingness to be deeply uncomfortable for the sake of an open heart, and the awareness and the ability to choose a different direction in the moment of reaction, come through the grace of the Most High. I am convinced that the willingness to perform my daily practice is also by grace. Though I do not have great self-discipline, it is very rare that I don’t do my practice daily, though it is time-consuming. More and more I look forward to it because I have begun to get the faintest taste of the fruit of my practice. Experiencing the blessings that flow from setting aside blame has given me hope that I am on the track of that which I have longed for my whole life, that longing for nearness to the Divine which I am finding is sharpened by my practice. Perhaps it is true that, as the Indian poet and mystic Kabir wrote around 500 years ago, “When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.” May the strength of that longing become stronger and stronger in all of us.
~ Juan F. Thompson is a writer who lives in Louisville, KY. His first book, Stories I Tell Myself: Growing up with Hunter S. Thompson, is available on Amazon, Audible.com, or from your favorite independent bookstore.
Rumi’s Circle Zhikr ~ Bradford Literature Festival
Sun 7th July
Sunday 7th July 2019, 1:15 pm – 2:45 pm
The Ganges Theatre, Kala Sangam, St Peter’s House, 1 Forster Ct, Bradford BD1 4TY
Book your tickets.
Join us for a truly mystical event of zhikr (divine remembrance). Accompanying the zhikr will be recitations of Rumi’s poems of love and longing, and whirling by dervishes from the Threshold Society Mevlevi Order.
This is an interfaith gathering welcoming people of all faiths and none, whether to actively participate or to simply witness this celebration of love.
Resonance: The Spirit of Sound
Annual UK Retreat Aug 23-27
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.
More details and registration next month.
Costa Rica Writers 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.
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June 4: Eid al-Fitr
Jun 8: London, UK. Rumi’s Circle Zhikr at Waterloo Festival. Register here.
Jul 7: Bradford, UK. Rumi’s Circle Zhikr at Bradford Literature Festival. Register here.
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 soon). (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).
Jan/Feb 2020: Costa Rica Writer Retreat. More details. (KC)
Events with Kabir and Camille marked (KC)
Turkey & Bosnia
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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