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Archive for the ‘Spirit, heart & soul’ Category

Threshold UK Annual Retreat: Aug 30th – Sep 1st

In Meditation, Mevlevi Tradition, Religion, Spirit, heart & soul on August 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

threshold logo

With Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Camille Helminski, & special guests: Celal Celebi & Jeremy Henzell-Thomas.

This year’s theme is Practical Sufism:

Sufism is a spiritual path that awakens and develops our latent human capacities; it is a uniquely subtle, comprehensive, and yet practical teaching. The nuanced poetry of Rumi, for instance, is not just great literature; it is an expression of a state of being that was cultivated through Sufi practice. During this weekend we will explore the practical side of the Sufi Path, including such subjects as: intention, presence, breath, meditation, dhikr, spiritual courtesy, right livelihood, and creative imagination.

Gaunts House, Dorset – set in 1600 acres of beautiful grounds and an 18th century mansion, join us for a weekend full of  spiritual practice, music and friendship.

We hope to see you there! For more information and registration form see here.

Gaunts House, Dorset

Gaunts House, Dorset


Discussion on Doubt, Faith and Certainty

In Qur'an, Spirit, heart & soul on July 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

Questions from Lesley Hazleton TED Talk

  1. Is certainty always rooted in arrogance? It’s interesting to see how certainty is connected to knowledge and our sense of self.
  2. Why aren’t any Muslim scholars on TED talking about these issues?

Charles Upton: Interestingly enough, I heard Seyyed Hossein Nasr address the issue of certainty during the short panel discussion after his talk to the Festival of the Faiths last month in Louisville, Kentucky (linked below. Q&A @ 1:55). His fellow panelist identified certainty with religious fanaticism. Dr. Nasr vociferously disagreed, declaring that man is made for certainty. To say that certainty can only be based on arrogance or ideological indoctrination is to say that the human soul can never encounter Allah, which is one short step from Read the rest of this entry »

In Loving Memory of Imam Mehdi Rizvi by Rabia Malik and Mahmoud Mostafa

In Spirit, heart & soul on June 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm

IMG_2353Dear Friends

I wanted to share some sad news with you, of the passing of my Teacher Imam Mehdi Rizvi. I have alluded to him indirectly and directly at times and shared his baraka with you.  He has had a profound effect on my life.  I went to meet him at a time when my life had crashed, I was lost and broken and was questioning all that I had put my faith in. What I saw in him the moment we met was a profound love and humility.  What struck me most was his deep love and respect for women.  There he was, such a traditional looking man, with his long white beard and yet he spoke of his mother, sister, wife and daughter with such love.  Although he had had many great teachers, he would tell me his first and last teacher was his mother.  He trained a remarkable woman – Halima Krausen – to be his successor in the mosque and laid the way for Muslim women to take up their place alongside men.  It was funny, I learnt more about being a Muslim woman from this man then I did from anyone else.  He was unlike any other man I had met, and made me begin to see the qualities that the Prophet must have had. In any matter he was so balanced, revealing the truth in a way that brought clarity and ease. He would never give me the answer straight away or let me take the easy way out of things – but when Read the rest of this entry »

Presence – Relationship with Divine Love with Kabir Helminski May 20 – June 14, 2013

In Spirit, heart & soul on May 16, 2013 at 12:03 am

Led by Kabir Helminski, Mary Ann Brussat

presencelrgWhen someone says “Be present,” what comes to mind? Be mindful. Be here now. Pay attention. To be present, for many, is a mental act. On the spiritual path, however, presence is something much greater.

Presence enables us to enter a more conscious relationship with Divine Love. It is our passport to spiritual reality. It is an awareness that allows all our human functions — thought, feeling, and action — to be known, developed, and harmonized. Presence shapes our self-image and emotional tone, and it determines the degree of our alertness, openness, and warmth.

Presence is what makes the difference between Read the rest of this entry »

Sufism, Time, & The Mayan Calendar by Kabir Helminski

In Spirit, heart & soul on December 15, 2012 at 7:28 am

June 28, 2011, 6:38 pm


Dear friends,

From time to time, we offer some reflections in the form of
this “Eye of the Heart.” Following the Prophetic dictum, “Lord, do not
make the dunya (world) my primary concern,” we have focused on the
timeless wisdom of our tradition, and yet, especially since early 2007
events in our outer world have impacted everyone’s lives, spiritually,
emotionally, and materially. If I choose to talk about the events and
conditions of our outer life I hope it is always from a perspective that Read the rest of this entry »

“Your Song”: Lessons from an African Tribe

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on June 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm

When a woman of a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, goes to the jungle with other women, and together they pray and meditate until you get to “The song of the child.”
When a child is born, the community gets together and they sing their song. Thus, when the child begins his education, people get together and he sings his song.When you become an adult, they get together again and sing.When it comes to your wedding, the person hears his song.
Finally, when your soul is going from this world, family and friends are approaching and, like his birth, sing their song to accompany it in the “journey”.
Read the rest of this entry »

Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on April 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I’ve come across some amazing blogs and books on parenting. All written by some very talented  parents! None for me have really put my instincts to rest until now! Recently, I came across a book called Everyday Blessings – The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Job Kobat-Zinn. In the first chapter three essential things were identified which resonated within me. Read the rest of this entry »

Revive Your Childhood

In Healing, Spirit, heart & soul on February 29, 2012 at 1:13 am

“Many people live in emotional darkness because they have never fully enjoyed a child spirit in their overly serious lives. The child wanders homeless in the lives of many adults, who are captivated by psychologies of the “inner child” and books and films of childlike fantasy, such as the stories of Harry Potter and the Disney movies. Modern society, so adult and sophisticated, so busy at work and serious about knowing everything, has lost much of its childhood. Instead of playing actively and seriously, we let other people entertain us, and instead of enjoying a strong feeling of community, we are highly dependent on our electronic connections.

Read the rest of this entry »

Love has the power to overcome the dark by Farah Benhalim

In Healing, Relationships, Spirit, heart & soul on February 17, 2012 at 9:18 pm

It seems that as humans we are almost constantly being bombarded with one form of negativity or another, be it from our own children, our spouses, ourselves, the media or complete strangers. Last night, I had an interaction with a complete stranger who was unexpectedly rude to me and I was left bewildered carrying rather small package of negativity and I was left wondering what to do with it. Should I toss the package back in her face and inform her that I didn’t like the way she treated me? But then, I started feeling sorry for the lady, thinking this woman must be carrying so much pain from whatever she has experienced in life that she no longer has the grace to treat people with respect. So, instead I made dua for her, that may Allah swt release her from whatever is burdening her heart and the negativity that had been passed to me was released. This reminded me of a story of a woman who put with years of verbal abuse from her husband and finally was able to transform the relationship with the sheer power of love. She realized that he was functioning from a place of pain and so every time he put her down and belittled her she would completely disregard the comment and say I love you. As you can imagine this was quite difficult to do, but it worked. Love has the power to overcame the dark. But I also realise that at times we have to take different approaches and set boundaries and let people know when their behavior won’t be tolerated and other times when we feel that people are so toxic that you actually have to remove them from your life.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Hidden Dervish from the Kingdom of Heaven

In Religion, Spirit, heart & soul on February 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

I have a secret to disclose; I live with a Dervish. (yes I’ve used a capital D because he is unique). He’s one of those hidden teachers that doesn’t advertise himself. Nobody knows about or even recognizes him. We use very little words to communicate – everything is done through intuition, witnessing, reading the signs and body language. When Rumi says “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” so pure is his heart that in his presence, all barriers dissolve and I feel overwhelmed by love. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s in the invisible bag we carry behind us?

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Some readers may ask what’s spiritual about parenting? I think today’s topic serves as an interesting look into child tantrums and adult ones too. We will look at what creates drama in families, especially dysfunctional ones, and how our state of consciousness has a role to play here.

In “a little book on the human shadow’ Robert Bly suggestions that when we were young we were a whole ball of energy “until our parents didn’t like certain parts of that ball”. To be love and accepted the child then begins to put parts of itself into an invisible bag that is carried behind us (in the unconscious). “we are told not be angry and so anger goes into the bag. If certain feelings are not allowed to be expressed in the family, even feelings of love and tenderness, they find their way into this invisible bag, which slowly grows full of one’s own energy, energy that has no place in the external world.” Read the rest of this entry »

Mother Love of the Sufis

In parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

The first lesson that love teaches us is: “I am not, thou art.” The baby demands constant care and awareness and is indeed the little “king” or “queen” of the household. The mother loses self in serving her child.

Successful care-taking builds and strengthens a mother’s self image and her confidence in her own intuitions. As long as the mother nurses her baby she fills the link of oneness of heart, mind, and body. Weaning, therefore, takes place when the mother is ready emotionally for the separation. She places her child before herself or her own needs, Read the rest of this entry »

The number 40

In Education, metaphysics & cosmology, Spirit, heart & soul on January 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Today, while having lunch outside a cafe, I felt I had an experience of how the universe is set up to educate us. While eating I was reflecting on where I was a year a go. I was working in Jordan, lived in a bungalow, drove a nice care, had membership to a luxury gym, a maid to help with house chores and  enjoyed a break to the dead sea on most weekends.  Materially, I had it all. A year later, I dont have any of that Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming a Creative Minority

In Education, parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

From Teachers to Educators – yes, that is the challenge, as you so rightly say. The role of spiritual community is also so important, for tarbiyah is traditionally understood as the totality of the educational process in family, school and religious or spiritual community. But there is also another dimension, and that is what might be called self-nurture. To move from teaching to educating requires that we foster the ability in our children to learn for themselves through the awakening and activation of their own faculties. I have referred to many of these faculties in previous posts and comments. The modern schooling process does not generally provide the opportunities to do so, partly because few teachers understand what those faculties are, and the curriculum has been progressively stunted, de-humanized and de-souled. The possibility that children may develop them are further diminished by a profoundly destructive popular culture in which they are increasingly saturated.

Given all this, there is a temptation to withdraw from the ‘system’ altogether and that is of course what drives the rise in home-schooling. This is understandable in many ways, and there is good evidence that can be advanced to contest the belief that homeschooled children run the risk of being socially inept, unintegrated in wider society, incapable of forming friendships, and the like. Homeschooled children often develop a strong ‘individual self’ because they are not driven by peer pressure and demands to conform, and that sense of self then serves to protect them from becoming conditioned later in life. I have a good friend whose children went to normal state schools, but she refused to have television in the house. Instead, she provided a library of audio books over the years. They developed sophisticated listening skills, conversational awareness, and emotional intelligence (dimensions of education rarely fostered at school) even if they probably slipped out from time to time to watch TV with their friends! It was always a pleasure to visit them, sit around a table, and engage in wonderful discussions. Immersion in great literature certainly enriches these capacities. In drawing us into their narratives, characterization, and varied modes of expression, great works of literature help us to understand the human condition in all its richness, complexity and diversity. That process of exploration and identification help us to develop imagination and psychological and emotional maturity, and to learn empathy and compassion, as well as internalize a more finely attuned moral compass. The same applies to all the arts, creative and expressive.

As always, there has to be a balance, so that protecting children from corrupted systems and cultures does not become an over-protection which handicaps them. The great historian Arnold Toynbee had some important insights in his 12-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilisations (A Study of History, 1934-1961). Toynbee believed that civilizations arise by the response of creative individuals to challenges presented by situations of special difficulty and that advances in civilization occur when difficulties are responded to in creative ways that are internal and spiritual rather than external and material. There are two essential and separate steps in meeting a challenge facing a civilisation: the generation of ideas by the creative minority and the adoption of those ideas by the majority. If either of those two processes ceases to function then there is a “schism in the body social”, social unity is lost and the civilization breaks down. In such a period of social decay, people resort to Archaism (idealization of the past), Futurism (idealization of the future), Detachment (removal of oneself from the realities of a decaying world), and Transcendence (meeting the challenges of the decaying civilization with new insight, as by a Prophet) which which can create a new collective spiritual bond or social order. Those who can provide such new insights become a ‘creative minority’ capable to transforming society and creating new civilisations.

So one of the challenges for us as teachers (whether as parents, institutional educators, mentors, or whatever) is to provide the means to counter the negative effects of schooling and cultural conditioning without falling into that radical pessimism and disillusionment which leads to what Toynbee calls Detachment (retreating to the forest, setting oneself apart, withdrawing from society).

What gives rise to creative thinking?

In Education, Spirit, heart & soul on January 9, 2012 at 12:25 am

I once read a book on the psychology of creativity. The author mentioned some outstanding creative minds from Virginia Woolf, Bach, Gauss to Einstein. However, there was one individual who was said to defy the whole spectrum of creativity and described by leading theoretical Physicist, Michio Kaku, as ‘the strangest man in all of science’. He was the Indian Mathematician Srinavasa Ramanujan. His outburst was truly unique – producing 4 to 5 new equations everyday. He was a person ahead of his time, born in 1888 in an India he produced equations which are being used in string theory today. He died at the age of 33 of TB and it is said during the last year of his life, the work he did on his death bed, was equivalent to the life-time work of a genius. What made him ‘strange’ was, in my opinion, two things:

a) He was self taught and couldn’t attend university because he failed in every subject accept Mathematics. He spent hours sitting crossed legged with a slate and chalk, playing with equations he learnt through an old text book, rediscovering a century or so of Western Mathematics on his own. As a result he lacked understanding of basic themes which qualified Mathematicians would take for granted such as a constructing and providing a proof. So strange were his equations however, that when presented to leading Mathematicians of his time they were dismissed or not understood. He later was invited to Cambridge by Hardy to complete his formal education.

b) The other thing that would make him strange in the scientific community is his claim as to how he produced the equations: He would say the Hindu goddess Namagiri whispered equations into his ear. He recounts a number of dreams in which streams of equations are being shown to him. He would then wake up and write down what he would remember. Ramanujan was certainly a mystic who was interested in the symbolic meanings of numbers and wound often engage his friends in deep conversation into the early hours of the morning on such topics.

Not every passionate Mathematician turns out to be a Ramanujan or necessarily makes a creative breakthrough in their field. Einstein had problems with Mathematics, which delayed his general relativity, but he did create a paradigm shift in our view of the universe (which was initially rejected by the scientific community as nonsense). So what gives rise to creativity? As Jeremy reminded us creativity at this highest level is a connection ‘with any awareness of the objective significance of universal symbols’ which would gives rise sacred art for example and at its lowest form it is, one may say, devoid of meaning, stillness and in many cases beauty. What I would like to explore is the domain between the highest and lowest modes of creative thinking.

My father was a talented teacher. Through practice and experimenting over the years, he also turned into a good cook. I wish I could say the same about his experiments with plumbing. He didn’t produce works of beauty but I would classify him as a creative thinker. He would for example go to sleep with a problem in his mind and often in the early ours of the morning he would wake up inspired, usually though a dream, with a solution. That was his method of problem solving. Medina, in her comments on ‘Is Imagination more important than knowledge’ raised an important point about silence and the need for it in our children’s lives. A deeper intelligence seems to work its way when the mind is silent either in sleep or through activity such as walking, playing music or mediating for example. This inner silence gives rise to beauty and creativity as Eckhart Tolle explains

Because we live in such a mind-dominated culture, most modern art, architecture, music, and literature are devoid of beauty, of inner essence, with very few exceptions. The reason is that the people who create those things cannot – even for a moment – free themselves from their mind. So they are never in touch with that place within where true creativity and beauty arises. The mind left to itself creates monstrosities, and not only in art galleries. Look at our urban landscapes and industrial wastelands. No civilization has ever produced so much ugliness.” He goes on to say All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.”

Yet, for creative thought to arise, it is necessary to have a vehicle prepared for it or have as Jeremy mentioned a mastery of the subject. Having access to that inner stillness may not necessarily lead to creative breakthrough as Tolle further explains “ You can touch that place also, within, and it may not flow into creativity, because you have not developed a vehicle for it. The very same power that gives rise to creativity can also manifest itself in different ways that we would not call creativity. It could be a healing power that comes into effect the moment you enter into relationships with others. Healing in a wider sense, not just physical healing. You will not suddenly become a great musician if you have never touched an instrument, just because you touch that place within yourself. It’s not going to manifest as a great scientific discovery in my case, because the vehicle is not prepared for that. My mind is not prepared for that. It doesn’t even work that way. So for me to expect to come up with the Unified Field Theory that Einstein didn’t come up with – he tried after the theory of relativity, he tried for the rest of his life to come up with that – I am not going to come up with that. It’s very unlikely. The vehicle has not been prepared. I am not going to be a great pianist, because I don’t know how to play the piano. So no matter how deeply I go within, it’s not going to flow into that. You need to prepare the vehicle for creativity.”

One way of being still may well be through the inner energy field of the body. Some meditation technique involve a body scan using ones attention for example. Some mystics see the ascension of Jesus (and other prophets) being through the body as a pointer to the transcendent realm being accessed through inner body and not through denial of it. Budda was said to have achieved enlightenment when he gave up fasting. Other methods of accessing stillness may involve movement such as tai chi or whirling as Kabir Dede explains.

My own experience has been, as I currently understand it, when the state of consciousness rises in its vibrational frequency, new modes of thinking evolve and old thought patterns fall away. As we become more empty, something higher works it way through us. Sitting in sohbet (spiritual discourse) and opening to the the emptiness in the heart space is a beautiful example of this. What arises can often be spontaneous, inspired and a reflective mirroring of the listener’s unconscious- be they a group. The Quaran reminds us of emptiness

“And when you have been emptied strive onward,

and to your Sustainer turn with longing.

(Surah Ash Sharh, The Opening- Up of the Heart 94:1-8)

Medina, in her comment, also mentioned taking walks and touch (hugging) can encourage a sense of calm and an appreciation of silence. What else can parents do to bring stillness into the lives of children of this (digital) age?

Teaching: the art of mutual investigation

In Education, Mevlevi Tradition, Spirit, heart & soul on January 3, 2012 at 10:22 pm

When Rumi met Shams of Tabriz, they say two oceans met. What took place was a sort of mirroring process in which both helped each other to deeper realms of the soul.  Does this historical meeting hold any significance for us? An interesting quote from J.Krishnamurti may throw some light here

How can the educator help the student to understand the story of himself, which is the story of the past, of which he is the result? That is the problem. If you are the educator and I am the young student, how would you help me to understand the whole nature and structure of myself – myself being the whole of humanity, my brain the result of many million years? it is all in me, the violence, the competition, the aggressiveness, the brutality, the cruelty, the fear, the pleasure and occasional joy and that slight perfume of love.

How will you help me to understand all this? it means that the educator must also understand himself and so help me, the student, to understand myself. So it is a communication between the teacher and myself; and in that process of communication he is understanding himself and helping me to understand myself.

It is not that the teacher or the educator must first understand himself and then teach – that would take the rest of his life, perhaps – but that in the relationship between the educator and the person to be educated, there is a relationship of mutual investigation. Can this be done with the young child, or with the young student? in what manner would you set about it? That is the question.”

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed working in education is I get to learn. I see the education process as much about the teacher learning about him/herself as it is about the student’s development. Children are amazing beings and such clean mirrors. They can push our buttons, make us laugh, make us cry, help us pray, give us hope, remind us of the Divine, fill our hearts with gratitude, help us extend our boundaries and maybe most importantly give us a taste of love.

I have met some extraordinary students over the years. Some very talented others extremely diligent. Some very happy others with many personal problems. All have helped me as a teacher in some way. As a teacher, I feel, its very easy to lose the ‘beginners mind’ in the identity of the one who is more learned. That isn’t to say one doesn’t instruct, direct, guide or facilitate as a teacher. But in the process one is always alert, attentive and receptive to both what arises outwardly and inwardly in the teaching-learning dynamic. If I am not too tiered, one way that helps me to be open and centered is to be present in the present moment. One way to define presence, I was taught, is ‘the awareness of awareness’. Other than my own children, who catch me off center every time, one student who would easily stop the teacher monologue was an autistic student who I will not name. He was very bright and had scored an A* for his GCSE. His writing was all over the place. He would often irritate many of his teachers by repeatedly asking a simple question ‘why?’ He seemed to have little self awareness and wasn’t bothered by what others thought of him. Much like Socrates, he would take those who thought they knew to a point where they didn’t know.

The mirroring process in a spiritual context is a little different. I experienced this with a Dervesh I met in Istanbul. I had been with him on a 11 day journey. On the 10th day, something opened up inwardly. There was a moment in which our eyes touched and our hearts knew that which the tongue could never express. There was only deep silence and knowing. We helped each other see that which is both beyond us and in us, yet could not have known on our own.

Stillness heals

In Healing, parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on December 31, 2011 at 4:12 am
Today, I felt I had glimpse or taste of spiritual parenting, which I would like to share with you. My 1 year old son fell from the sofa, banged his head and started crying. I picked him up and embraced him. We sat as I rubbed his head comforting him with soothing words. I then remembered an amazing clip I had watched by Spiritual Literacy called “the bird who needs to be silent”
As I remembered that stillness within, I didnt feel the need to speak nor let him go on his way too early –
I was just with him, present in the heart space, unconditionally, until he was ready to get going again. To my surprise he fell asleep. It was an amazing experience and maybe one of the greatest gifts we can give to another- to be totally present, unconditionally, with all ones being and love.