March Theme

This is the work of the heart, not the work of the head.
~Shams of Tabriz

We welcome your reflections on this theme.


Holistic Islam – In Conversation with Shaikh Kabir & Baraka Blue

Shaikh Kabir joined Baraka Blue for a wide-reaching conversation on the themes in Holistic Islam and the future of Islam in the west.

Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud.

And if anyone is interested in studying Holistic Islam or has already studied it, please get in touch with Astrid Canelle as she would like to create a group to discuss the book:


Into the Sea

Camille recites from Ramadan Love Songs.

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There will be more videos released throughout this month.
Keep an eye on our Facebook and YouTube page.

The paperback book is now available from Amazon USA & UK.
The Kindle version will be available soon.


Reflection on February’s theme: Character is the spiritually infused balance of Love and Intelligence. ~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski

~ Zakiuddin McNulty [California, USA]

Human character remains a perennial subject of inquiry. The Book of Character begins by positing Al Ghazali’s quote “a trait of character…is a firmly established condition of the soul, from which actions proceed easily…” alongside the premise that “someone who ‘has character’ means that he or she has taken some real steps toward becoming a human being.” [1] Our tradition links character to fitrah, one’s essential spiritual nature. In this primordial state of connectedness, we begin life “stamped” with our endowed qualities and form, and set off into the turbulent world to live and learn.

We experience Love. Over time, Love may teach us that what it offers is not self-gratification or just worldly pleasure, that it offers more than benevolent impulses or even burning desire. Love may awaken us and lead us into unfamiliar country; very likely it may transform our motivation and cause us to see things in a new light. Mevlana and the other great Sufis have tried to teach us all about how God loves his creation, how Love emanating from the highest realm is unconditional, a limitless fountain of Mercy and Beneficence, and how the human heart is uniquely qualified to know and receive and actualize this Love.

Intelligence too is a guiding force in our lives, and at the meta level God says, “Be!” and orders His creation. But Intelligence applied at the individual level is easily coopted for personal gain. While our Intelligence is informed – and even “owned” – by God, it is often in the service of another master. Valuable, clear-eyed discernment and the ability to speak and act from it grow out of innate capacity tempered by experience; however, a critical aspect of Intelligence is that which is bestowed. In our earthly realm this is the enhanced Intelligence of spiritual perception, the ability to consciously witness and to comprehend God’s signs and His revelation. We are reminded in the first surah revealed to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), that God taught by the Pen – taught the human being what he did not know. [96: 4–5]

The “Pen” and the “Tablet” represent active and receptive principles of the Divine at the meta level, and this image suggests the manner in which Love and Intelligence work together: one generates, while the other receives, dispenses, yet also draws forth creativity and yearning. Like two hands, each relies on the other for balance and fulfillment. Down in our realm, Love awakens and motivates the creativity of Intelligence and this is actualized in the just and beautiful deeds that can result from those of sound character.

But the practical reality is not that easy, as we know. The nafs is cunning and persistent and often subtle. Our efforts in spiritual practice play an important role in dissipating the obstacles (e.g. preoccupations) that perpetuate heedlessness. Prayer and dhikr of course are key: ritual prayer demands effort, but surrendering to its timing aligns us to a natural, cosmological order favoring devotion and praise, whereas dhikr offers spontaneous remembrance. Both engage the balance of Love and Intelligence at the meta and the micro levels, and offer complementary refreshment akin to our fitrah. Remember Me and I will remember you.[2:152]

Our tradition is replete with examples of the rigors of virtue, and advice on aligning intention, choice and action so that the nafs can emerge trained. Here is Imam Ali, in his letter to Malik al-Ashtar:

So let your most beloved treasure be the treasure of virtuous acts. Dominate your inclinations, and exercise self-restraint in the face of that which is unlawful for you – for indeed self-restraint engenders within the soul a proper balance as regards what it likes and what it dislikes. Infuse your heart with Mercy… [2]

Like the hands of God, Love and Intelligence shape our ecosystem. They exist as a singular balance, in constellation with all the Names, and we are Its servants with borrowed clothes and tools. So back in everyday, contemporary life, we can consciously rely on Love and Intelligence in matters great and small, in our actions and speech, and in non-verbal communication through our quality of attention. We can refresh ourselves through spiritual effort, both to minimize heedlessness and error, and leverage our good character in service to God in His infinite Love and Intelligence, in all manner of circumstances.

Truly in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation between night and day, there are signs for those of substance, those who invoke God standing, sitting, and reclining on their sides, and reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth… [3:190–1]


[1] Helminski, Camille A., The Book of Character (Watsonville, Book Foundation, 2004), p. 9

[2] Shah-Kazemi, Reza, Justice and Remembrance: Introducing the Spirituality of Imam ‘Ali (London, Tauris, 2006), p. 220

~ Zakiuddin McNulty has been a student in the Threshold Society since the early 1990s. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Halima, and works at an engineering firm specializing in ‘Deep Green’ projects.


How to Increase Your Patience and Contentment

Shaikh Kabir on how to develop gratitude.

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Reflections from Playa Coyote

by Donia Fahim

From the age of about seven, I loved reading and reciting poetry. I treasured this imaginary world of words and the musicality it brought when the words were recited out loud. Only later in life, when I was introduced to Mevlana’s poetry and that of the other mystic lovers, did a deep appreciation and relationship with the poetry from our tradition begin. In the Preface of Camille Ana’s book, Words from the East, she tells us that “within each of us is such a well-spring of love and pure water that is just waiting to be tapped,” and that “these days there are many ways to speak to God” and “to share an enlivening conversation.”

Just like the miracle of Lady Hajar and baby Ismail, well-springs of pure water were tapped, and over the week of our retreat in Playa Coyote flowers bloomed to share their fragrance. Each day after lunch, we were given time to reflect on the poetry we studied and encouraged to write some lines. I never imagined that writing poetry would be such a powerful, therapeutic and transformative tool. For this, I am humbly grateful. Writing the poetry provided images which are often easier for the mind to comprehend and a means of listening to and understanding “the self” in a playful way, in order to discern the voices from the echoes.

One of the lessons towards the end of our time together was on translation of poetry. We were asked to translate some lines from Mevlana’s poetry. This was a sweet gift wrapped in green silk cloth smelling of rose. It felt as though we had been given permission to have a private meeting with Mevlana, to intimately listen to each word as he explained their meanings. In doing so we entered a sacred, timeless space. To prepare for my meeting, I redid my ablution, read Al Fatiha for him, and then sat by his side and began the translation below. After I completed the translation, I went for a swim in the Ocean and as I looked up to the sky, it was then that I understood that it is only Allah, who witnesses our every breath, who can understand the yearning of our troubled hearts and provide the perfect remedy.

During our last full day together in Playa Coyote, I opened my Pocket Rumi and Mevlana’s line “I shall become that which could never be imagined...” appeared. Words of gratitude and thanks will never suffice in expressing how this one’s heart felt in the loving presence of our teachers and friends, as we gathered, heart to heart, to study poetry under the stars, with the sound of the Ocean always in the background.

It is narrated in the prophetic tradition that the Rowda of Medina is part of paradise; if you pray there, then you have prayed in Paradise. I wonder if it is also written somewhere, that Playa Coyote, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, where a group of dervishes gathered in retreat, is also part of paradise. If you visit there, you too have been in the company of the prophets, angels and masters.

Mevlana’s poetry, beginning with a word for word, literal translation by Kabir’s close friend, Ahmad Rezwani, from Mashad, Iran.

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim
Ghazal 2722, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi
Translated by Donia Fahim

The Mystery of a Knowing Heart

For some time now, I have sat in this chamber,
waiting for a sign to understand the state of this heart,
but all I saw was sadness and echoes of longing pain.

So I travelled to seek counsel from the ones who are wise,
I found they too were crying from a similar affliction.
There was no place I visited where I did not see or hear this distress.
This stirred a suspicion within me: is there a different story to be told?

If there is no answer to be found in my intellect
then I must look somewhere else,
so I travelled from my mind to my heart, and heart to mind,
trying to make some of sense of this all.

When I had almost given up, my heart called out loud,
only the Creator can understand what He has created.
How can the dead appreciate the beat of a living heart?

If you want a Knowing heart go to the Source, to the One who Sees.
Only Al Shahid can witness the complexity of our intentions
and all that is hidden in the heart.



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Practices of Spiritual Intelligence
San Francisco Annual Retreat, March 8-10 2019

With Kabir & Camille Helminski, and special guests including
Robert Abdul Hayy Darr, internationally respected author, Sufi teacher
and Sufi musicians Amir & Nasreen Etmenazade.

Registrations close on Sunday, only a few places left.

The Mercy Center, Burlingame, California (a few miles from San Francisco Airport).
Join us for these days of spiritual practice, music, poetry, conversation, and friendship.

Spiritual Intelligence is the Queen of Intelligences because it is concerned with the highest truth and therefore is the most comprehensive intelligence. All other forms of intelligence should ideally serve Spiritual Intelligence. Science, art, ethics, economics, and law altogether form a coherent pattern when they are brought under the organizing principle of the highest truth (Haqq).

Abu Hamid Al Ghazali once wrote: “Sufism is the best way to the highest truth.” The discipline of Sufism is a comprehensive spiritual education that involves every aspect of life, for every aspect of life needs to be sacralized in light of the Sacred. The reality of the Divine Presence will eventually suffuse and saturate every aspect of existence.

Registrations close on Sunday, only a few places left.


Pacific Northwest Sufism and Islamic Spirituality Conference
Oregon, Mar 15-16

Join the Muslim Educational Trust for an uplifting conference that will bring together people of good faith to share the beauty of Sufism, its relationship to Islam, and its importance in today’s world. The two keynote speakers, Shaikh Kabir Helminski and Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, will present their wisdom and knowledge on Sufism and Spirituality in Islam. The keynote speeches will be followed by a panel discussion of local Sufi leaders, small group discussions, dinner, and finally dhikr (remembrance of God). Inclusion, dignity, respect, religious understanding, inspiration, hope and community building are intended outcomes of this conference for all who attend.

More details and registration.


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Mar 8-10: San Francisco Annual Retreat – Practices of Spiritual Intelligence. More details.   (KC)

Mar 15-16: Portland, Oregon. Pacific Northwest Sufism and Islamic Spirituality Conference. More details.    (K)

Mar 23: Kendal, UK. Ruminations: Sacred Balance & Ecology of the Soul. More details.

Apr 27-28: Istanbul, Turkey. Shaikh Kabir will deliver a paper at an international symposium on “Abu al-Hasan al-Kharaqani: Sultan of Futuwwa” at the Institute for Sufi Studies of Üsküdar University.   (K)

May 4-5: Sarajevo, Bosnia. Shaikh Kabir will be attending events related to the book launch for the Bosnian translation and publication of Living Presence (more details soon).  (K)

May 5 – June 4: Ramadan & Eid al-Fitr

Jun 15: Madison, Wisconsin. Rumi’s Circle: Awakening with Rumi (more details soon).

Aug 11: Eid al-Adha

Aug 23-26: Dorset, UK. Gaunts House Annual UK Retreat (more details soon).   (KC)

Oct 18-20: Kendal, UK. Rumi’s Circle/RAY Sacred Roots Retreat with Beth Hin and friends (more details soon).

Events with Kabir and Camille marked (KC)


Costa Rica Writers Retreat


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