Lessons in the School of Love: The Adab of Sacred Space

~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski

Sufi training is accomplished, above all, in the Sufi lodge and the network of relationships cultivated there. Sometimes the Sufi lodge is an actual tekkye or dergah, a private home, a rented hall, and sometimes it may even be a “tekkye on wheels,” as when we travel to a foreign country together. What is most important is the intention and an understanding of why we come together. We are seeking to create and sustain an environment where spiritual realization can be optimized, where the influence of egoism can be minimized, and where the values and knowledge of the tradition can be preserved.

When we step over the threshold of the Sufi tekkye (lodge) we are leaving one world and entering another. We are leaving the environment of the mundane and entering sacred space. We do this, above all, with our intention. Our intention is to be present, courteous, and aware of our own self (nafs).

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Reflection on August’s theme: One’s behavior is the index of one’s mind. ~Imam ‘Ali

~ Matthew Wright [New York, USA]

Our August theme is a statement from Imam Ali: “One’s behavior is the index of one’s mind.” As I’ve sat with these words, I’ve found myself pondering the three key terms: behavior, index, and mind.

Index of course implies measure, and measure, value. And so, implicit in this statement is an understanding that we live in a universe of value, of meaning and beauty. Existence is not random; or, perhaps better, existence contains both the possibilities of meaning and meaninglessness, and we get to choose the direction we move in. Do we chase after the distractions on the surface of life, or do we go for the depth?

Mind, then, can slide both up and down the scale of value. While I don’t have the Imam’s original Arabic in front of me, I’ve found myself clustering mind with two related words: awareness and attention. What do we give our awareness, our attention, to? Our awareness can become tight and constricted—locked into ego-identification, thought, and emotion—or it can become spacious, non-identified, and connected to Source.  As Shaikh Kabir often says, are we the contents or the context of our awareness, our mind?

On the Sufi path, we work to bring the mind into the heart, with the repetition of La ilaha illallah, Allah, or some other Divine Attribute, perhaps coupled with the breath. As mind moves out of the limiting confines of our mental faculty (where we so often stake our center of selfhood) and into the heart, it also moves into spaciousness, and becomes receptive to the promptings of Infinite, Compassionate Intelligence, our Source and Sustainer.

From this perspective, mind is not a faculty located in the head (where Westerners tend to point on hearing the word), but is all pervasive, capable of encompassing our entire being. Nevertheless, when mind is anchored in the heart, a quality of warmth and tenderness emerges. The awakened heart is sensitized to the entire web of life in which we live, and to its proper place in that web. The more the heart is awakened through practice, the more sensitive our being becomes.

And so to come to the Imam’s final word: behavior. If our experience of mind can move from contracted to expansive states, our awareness from head to heart, and life from the meaningless to meaningful, how is this transformation measured? Imam Ali is utterly practical: our behavior (significantly, he does not say our beliefs) is finally the measure of our mind, the measure of our relationship to the world of meaning, value, and beauty. The way we act reveals who we are. Are our actions loving or spiteful, selfish or self-giving?

Perhaps clustered with behavior we might add a final word: adab. The degree of courtesy, etiquette, and sensitivity in our actions and behavior reveals the degree to which transformation is taking root in our being. And what are we being transformed into? Simply put, La ilaha illallah—there is no god but God. Our work, through daily practice, is to become all La ilaha illallah—to become hearts awakened and sensitized to the Oneness of Being.

La ilaha illallah—there is nothing worthy of worship but the One. When we live in sensitive alignment with this truth, our behavior becomes naturally beautiful; we act as parts in spontaneous relationship to the Whole.

La ilaha illallah—there are no isolated parts, only the Whole. When we worship the part (ourselves, our ego), our behavior moves out of alignment with the world of meaning, leaving damage and devastation in our wake.

Our culture teaches us to value the part, the individual, above all. Our path teaches us to submit ourselves to the Wholeness of things, and to find our balanced place in that Wholeness. Living from the heart, we live in conscious relationship to the Oneness of Being—not as an abstraction, but as a refusal to buy products that pollute our environment, as a piece of trash picked up from the roadside, as a loud voice for justice, as a compassionate and tender embrace.

One’s behavior is the measure of one’s mind. Put the mind in the heart. La ilaha illallah.


Matthew Wright is a Mevlevi dervish living in West Park, New York. He serves as an Episcopal priest and retreat leader and blogs at


September Theme

When you offer Him your existence, He gives you his Life.

We welcome your reflections on this theme.


Balancing the Divine Feminine & Divine Masculine
within ourselves, within our world

Nov 10-12th  ~  Kendal, UK
With Beth Hin, Shaikh Kabir, and friends

image by Lateefa Spiker

It seems evident that deep respect and harmony between the masculine and feminine principles of existence is necessary for the well-being of individuals and society as a whole. We recognise that our spiritual heritages offer much guidance as to how we might authentically manifest these principles, yet we recognise that cultural and socially mandated “norms” concerning gender can often hinder genuine self-discovery and expression. We trust that human beings can be free to discover and determine for themselves how to manifest and express the Divine Feminine and Masculine, and that what might generally be described as masculine can be within the realm of the feminine and vice versa.

Rumi’s Circle began this conversation in 2016 by honouring the feminine aspect of the Divine. We were driven by a concern both for the degradation of the Divine Feminine and the imbalance we perceive between the masculine and the feminine in the wider world. We are now continuing the conversation by exploring the Divine arrangement of the patterns in nature and in ourselves that show the integration of the feminine and masculine principles.

Join us to experience diverse spiritual practices that bring us to balance and wholeness, including work with prayer, meditation, sound, breath, and movement.

The weekend begins on Friday at 7:30pm until Sunday 5pm. Registrations will open on September 11th, please check


One by Birdtalker

A beautiful song about oneness and meeting beyond ideas of right and wrong…

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Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams of Tabriz
New Edition

Translated by Refik Algan & Camille Adams Helminski

“Rumi’s Sun offers something unique in classical Sufi literature: an eyewitness record, by Rumi’s own disciples, of the actual personal teachings and conversations of Shams-i Tabriz.  In this beautifully readable version, we are given a fascinating insight into a unique and unforgettable personality: a boldly iconoclastic figure whose teachings are marked by an intensity of purpose, and whose own spiritual experience is expressed in an unusually open way. The translators have also done a useful service highlighting the many places where Shams’ teachings were subsequently adapted and creatively transmuted throughout Rumi’s epic Masnavi and other poems.”

~James Winston Morris, Internationally respected scholar of Sufism
Professor, Boston College

A new edition of Rumi’s Sun: The Teachings of Shams’ of Tabriz is being published by Threshold Books. The new edition will contain a surah index, allowing the reader to reference Shams’ interpretations of particular passages from the Quran.

Pre-order at Pre-order at

Read Daniel Thomas Dyer’s Ramadan reflections on this book: Ramadan with Shams: The Ambush of Love.


Living Presence – 25th Anniversary Edition

Kabir Helminski

A revised 25th anniversary edition of the classic work on Sufism that Jack Kornfield called, “A heartfelt modern illumination of the Sufi path, filled with the fragrance of the ancients.”

Available on Amazon, etc.

In Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, presence is the quality that describes a heart-filled state of mindfulness, an experience of being conscious in the present moment. It is only in this present moment, Sufi teachings reveal, that we can connect with the Divine, and the Divine can live through us.


Holistic Islam. Sufism, Transformation, and The Challenge of Our Time

Kabir Helminski

Publishing September, available on Amazon, etc.

Sufism has long been the kernel of Islamic truth and the embodiment of its wisdom. Kabir Helminski’s Holistic Islam is a sagacious and indeed perspicacious walk through the heart and soul of Islam. It is an essential source for anyone who is interested in Sufism or in the moral impulse that motivated great sages like Rumi and Hafiz. Perhaps, more importantly, I think this book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the real Islamic faith.

~ Dr. Khalid Abou El Fadl, Distinguished Professor of Islamic Law at the UCLA Law School, UCLA. and author of The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists


Threshold’s collaborative blog channel The Living Tradition on 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 and “follow” The Living Tradition.

Recent articles:

Bold and Extraordinary Living by Mahmoud Mostafa

Sacred Space: Making Prayer Beautiful by Saimma Dyer



Oct 19-23: San Jose, US. Science & Non-Duality Conference. Kabir will deliver a plenary talk on “Sacred Space And Conscious Community.”

Nov 10-12: Kendal, UK. Sacred Pattern in the Feminine & Masculine, with Beth Hin. More details soon.

Feb 23-25: California, US. Mercy Centre retreat.  (KC)

Events with Sh. Kabir and Sh. Camille marked (KC)


Eid Mubarak!

Wishing you a blessed time with your loved ones.


UK travels

Meeting friends Ovidio Salazar, Reza Shah-Kazemi, Jane & Leonard Lewisohn


Ya Haqq, Ya Batin, Az Zahir

~ from Ninety-Nine Names of the Beloved
by Camille Adams Hamilton Helminski
publishing October 2017

Newly awakened,
we witness Truth,
resplendent in the sunrise
and every color of the rainbow—
It fits itself into any shape
and walks around
to manifest relationship.
Interwoven, Truth to Truth
we realign our strands
of DNA, magnetized
in strength of You;
we know the Truth
when we see it,
when we hear it,
when we taste it
by heart,
and our soul’s thirst
is allayed
in that moment,
as we drink
and again open for another long sip,
and another . . . .
“The Prophet’s thirst
was never quenched.”
He kept calling to the Truth,
within each human being,
to emerge into the Light;
You keep nourishing us
through each other,
and every thing that is—
brilliant upon the horizon
and within our hearts—
nestled close beside You,
within You,
through You,
breath by Breath
poured out into this universe.
Ya Haqq, Ya Batin, az Zahir.

Ya Haqq, O You Who Are Truth,
Ya Batin, O You Who Are Intimately Hidden,
Az Zahir, The One Who Is Most Clearly Manifest,
Ya Batin az Zahir, O You Who Are the Hidden of the Manifest

“We will show them our signs on the farthest horizons
and within themselves until they know the Truth.” ~ Hadith Qudsi

And He/She it is who has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with an inner Truth.


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