THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ DEC 2019
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Tazeen.TV in conversation with Kabir Helminski
Shaikh Kabir Helminski shares an intimate conversation with Tazeen Dhunna on what Rumi is guiding our hearts towards, and how we can begin to awaken to a more authentic and real form of existence.
Costa Rica Writer’s Retreat
Feb 1-8, 2020
We are extending our early registration discount for subscribers to this newsletter until December 7.
7 nights from: February 1st to February 8th, 2020
Why is it that a spiritual breakthrough often leads to the awakening of creativity?
Think of Rumi after meeting Shams. Or the woman who joined us on a pilgrimage to Turkey after which she began painting colorful whirling dervishes every day. Or how hundreds of poems began to flow from Camille after a week in Damascus with the great poet and saint, Asad Ali. Or as one of our friends said after last year’s Costa Rica writer’s retreat, “It was as if a portal of imagination opened and we all walked joyfully through it.”
Spiritual imagination can set us free from self-defeating habits of mind. The soul is happy with this connection to creative energy. The cultivation of the creative imagination deepens our spiritual life.
A video about the 2019 Costa Rica Writer’s Retreat:
Mary, Beloved of God
Offered by Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski
Forthcoming from Sweet Lady Press, Spring 2020, Inshallah
Truly, those who have faith and do the deeds of wholeness and reconciliation
the Infinitely Compassionate will endow with love.
[Quran, Surah Maryam 19:96]
Bow in worship and draw near!
[Quran, Surah al ‘Alaq 96:19]
The being of Beloved Mary weaves together all three of the Abrahamic traditions in a Sea of Divine Love, surging from within her being. The name “Mary” of Latin and Greek origin, “Maria,” carries the meaning of “Mistress of the Sea,” and has come to be honored, also, as carrying the meaning of “Star of the Sea (stella maris)”, the shining Light of guidance. “Mary,” as she is known in the Western Christian tradition, is also a variation of the Hebrew “Miriam”, in honor of the first Hebrew prophetess, elder sister of Moses and Aaron, of the Virgin Mary’s ancestral lineage. Remembrance of dear Miriam brings to heart the resonance of beloved Jewish traditions of devoted engagement in “listening” to God. As a young Jewish woman, Mary, who was devoted to the Temple at such an early age, would have been continually immersed in such practice, in bowing before God. She is recognized, also, in the Quran, similarly to the verse that mirrors the closing of Surah Maryam above, as of those who draw near (Surah al Alaq 96:19). Within the Islamic tradition, Beloved Mary is much revered, as “Bibi Maryam”, “Hazrati Maryam,” “Maryam,” mother of Jesus. Jesus is known by his Arabic name in the Quran, Isa; within the Quran he is, also, as he is in the Christian tradition, spoken of as the “Word of God.”
And the virgin’s name was Mary.
(The Bible, New Testament, Gospel of Luke 1:27)
Another possible meaning of “Mary,” derived from the Hebrew “Miriam,” is both “strong” and “wished-for child.” “Miriam” may, also, originally have been an Egyptian name, derived in part from mry, “beloved,” or mr, “love”. Some say the name “Mary” could be derived from the Egyptian mar (to love) combined with the Hebrew Ya (YHWH), and so conveying the meaning “one loving the Lord” or “one loved by the Lord.” Mary, Mother of Jesus, is such an example for all of us of one intensively devoted to her Lord, immersed in Love.
Reflection on November theme: Wash your hands of the cheap metals of existence like those who matured, so that you may find the philosophers’ stone of love and be gold yourself… ~ Shaikh Kabir Helminski
~ Elif Gokcigdem [Arlington, USA]
Washing. Finding. Being. A life’s work of transformation of the heart for those who are on the path of Love. The universe, with its complex vastness and awe-inspiring beauty, offers us a generous and unique invitation to embark on a journey to explore our origins, to find our purpose, and manifest our true essence. This work takes place within the heart: a private, sacred, inner space through which we can perceive the Oneness of all that there is in the Universe, and a portal through which the Universe perceives itself through the variety in existence. The heart is not only a safe space for this explorative journey, but also a most trusted guide, the origin, the engine, the vehicle, the path, and the destination. The most important role of the passenger is to keep this guiding light healthy and happy by allowing it to stay true to its essence: ever luminescent, immune from the distorted perceptions of our ego, and ever sincere; devoid of a spec of riya.
Since the moment the original creative energy brought variety into existence out of our primordial essence of Oneness, or Nothingness, humans have been longing to be whole again. Only the heart has the capacity to perceive the universe as the One that it is, and can therefore hold undivided, infinite love and compassion for the Whole. When we see ourselves as an integral part of the One, as the heart clearly knows, we tend to calibrate and harmonize our interactions with All, as if there is no other.
At the same time, a human heart can feel overcrowded, constricted, and distressed when it is overwhelmed with thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise from our distorted and fragmented perception of the universe. Even through the distorted perceptions that we employ due to our physical limitations and inability to observe Truth as is, we long to find the meaning and the purpose of our existence, and seek ways to fulfill our human potential by following our hearts. While the heart knows our inherent unity, the limitations of our bodiliness can only offer a fragmented, dualistic view of existence. When not guided by the heart, the ego, the intellect, and the will might have their own ideas, competing for our attention, causing confusion, and further blurring our vision. When the heart is muted in this way, we have a fragmented view of the universe, which causes all kinds of disturbances within and around us. Despite this ongoing commotion between the ego, the will and the intellect to grasp our attention at any given moment, the heart is aware as she quietly observes, as the specs of dust cover her luminescent essence, slowly obscuring her light, and blurring our vision of the Oneness, and our understanding of our uniqueness and essentiality within. The heart patiently waits to be found, uncovered, and cleansed, ever and ever again. This work never stops. Although nothing can ever tarnish her luminescent truth, all the heart asks for is that her burdens be washed away in a bath of sincerity once in a while.
If a wealthy person brings a hundred sacks of gold,
God will only say,
“Bring the Heart, you who are bent double.
If the heart is pleased with you, I am pleased;
and if the Heart is opposed to you, I am opposed.
I don’t pay attention to ‘you’; I look to the heart:
bring it, poor soul, as a gift to My door!
Its relation to you is also to mine.”
[Mathnawi V: 881-84, The Pocket Rumi]
Everything in this infinite devran that we call the Universe, came to existence for the sake of the light of a perfect, luminescent human heart. Each human being is gifted with this personal space, perhaps a dergah of his/her own within the vastness of the universe. A human heart is not only a portal through which we can see the universe as the interconnected One that it is, but is also a private space which we can invite others into, to explore our truths together through coherence, contemplation, dialogue, empathy, compassion, and love. Just as the Universe can contain all the hearts; including those who have manifested already and those who are yet to manifest themselves, a single heart can also contain the entire Universe within the safety, privacy, and the Love that she offers, simply by opening up and inviting another heart to explore his/her truth within, even over a cup of tea and a sincere smile.
Through the infinite expressions a human heart is capable of, including the arts, sciences, creativity, and imagination, the Universe not only wants to be known, but also constantly gets to know itself. In return, through our existence and by making itself available to us, the Universe expects for us to find our Truth within. Any distortion to this truth causes the heart to suffer and ache as she patiently waits to be found and uncovered so she can manifest her true essence once again.
Each human heart serves as a dergah within this devran. This is where the alchemy, or the transformative work of finding, realizing, and attaining Oneness takes place. It is up to us who occupies this inner space, what grabs our attention, and to whose voice we listen.
We live it as we see it. Yet, only through the eye of the heart one can truly see the essence of the Universe and its Oneness. We each are the holders of this space. What an honorable dergah we each are gifted with, and what a responsibility we each have to keep our dergahs clean, sincere, and welcoming. What a unique privilege amongst all creation, for the human to be able to imagine, take part, contemplate, comprehend, or witness this transformation of the heart(s). May we be wise enough to keep our hearts clean, sincere, open, and welcoming so that we may glimpse its eternal luminescence and truth, by washing, finding, and being — often, always with sincerity, and in no particular linear order.
~ Elif Gokcigdem is a historian of Islamic art, a museum specialist, and the founder of the Empathy-Building Through Museums Initiative. More information about her ongoing work can be found at: elifgokcigdem.com
PODCAST: The Universal Prophet
On the occasion of Milad al Nabi (Birth of the Prophet): reading from Mathnawi IV: 985-1032.
Imagine: Visioning Intentions
~ Aliya Kocamis
The eye of the heart that contemplates the firmament
perceives the continual alchemy that is here.
From the day when you came into existence,
you were fire or air or earth.
If you had remained in that condition,
how would you have reached such heights?
The Transmuter did not leave you in your first state:
He established a better state in the place of the former…
[Mathnawi V: 787-791, The Rumi Daybook]
As 2019 draws to a close many may take the opportunity to reflect on the last year and notice how much has changed, or how much hasn’t. Perhaps this year held a moment of truth, or a heart has been quietly convinced that something needs attention, or some aspect of life needs to change. From the mundane “eat more vegetables” to life-altering “get a new job,” to a transformative decision like “do more zhikr,” each one of us has at least one change in the making. Thanks and praise to the Divine Presence for moments of clarity and truth. How, after receiving clear, heart-based evidence of needed change, does one go about manifesting it?
Patterns become established as one chooses the same thing repeatedly. How does one break a pattern that no longer aligns with one’s highest aim, and start a new one? The motivation for change must be sufficiently strong to counter old habit, and sufficiently sustained for a time period long enough to form a new neural pathway in the brain. It takes a lot of energy to form a new path, and focus. Kabir Dede says, “What we choose to give our attention to we energize” (Living Presence p. 50).
With so many desires and needs vying for a person’s limited attention, it is easy to get distracted from the goal. One tool that may help focus on a goal is called a vision board. A vision board is a visual representation of living life after the goal has been achieved. The board itself can be cork, bulletin, poster or electronic. Then one may fill it with pictures, quotes, and/or meaningful materials according to the goal envisioned. This now unique reminder can be referred to at regular times to help maintain focus. And because a vision board is a very targeted visualization tool for a specific goal, it is temporary in nature. For example, a vision board for the intention “do more zhikr” might look like this:
The photos are personal pictures or taken from the internet and arranged in a meaningful way, so the creator of this collection feels inspired and focused. For example, the picture of the ayah of the Qur’an reminds us of surahs Rad and al-Ma’idah:
…those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God – for truly, in the remembrance of God hearts do find their rest – they who attain to faith and do righteous deeds are destined for happiness [in this world] and the most beautiful of all goals [in the life to come].
O you who have attained to faith, remain conscious of God, and strive to come closer to Him, and strive hard in His cause, so that you might attain felicity.
Suleyman Dede’s picture is a reminder of his words that remembrance is the most essential practice. The images of the whirling dervishes, and grounding through meditation and salat, remind that remembrance of God is a multi-dimensional experience affecting the whole human being.
Once the vision board is set, the next action is to plan specific steps to achieve the goal. If for zhikr, one might dedicate a time of day and choose an act of remembrance for a specific number of days. For example, one might intend to practice the Mevlevi zhikr along with the recording on sufism.org or the HeartSpace app every day at 5am for 40 days. And perhaps one might even include a statement about why one is doing it. I do this because…
Refer to the vision board as often as is helpful to encourage the new practice or movement toward the goal. The effort and striving are essential for change because it is in striving that we come to know ourselves and our Lord. During the intentional practice period, one’s perspective might start to shift, and openings may arrive to support the manifestation of the goal.
The above vision board of whirling dervishes reflects this one’s 2019 intention to become committed to the practice of turning – the moving zhikr. This vision board was created last December, and the first 40 days of intentional practice began on January 1. In February, this one learned of the whirling workshop offered by UK friends in Kendal, and an invitation arrived to turn later in the year. In March, at the whirling workshop, visions of turning deepened and expanded, and another invitation arrived to turn in June for a Ruminations gathering in Madison. Also in June, the UK retreat theme was announced: music and movement. In August, we turned at the UK retreat. In the September Turkey retreat, we practiced turning in a space intended specifically for turning and saw three full semas including one that was, for this one, a dream come true. In November, the full sema flowered for peace in Asheville, NC. And now we have arrived in this blessed month when our hearts turn and turn to the Divine Presence in thanks and gratitude for our beloved Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi.
The Infinite assures us:
“Whoever struggles for Our sake,
Heaven will put its back under her feet.”
Your form is wailing because of the darkness,
while your spirit is like roses within roses.
[Mathnawi IV: 1023-1024, The Rumi Daybook]
The Truly Wise reminds us …you cannot will it unless God, the Sustainer of all the worlds, wills it (81:29). Whatever change you imagine for 2020 and beyond, may it be aligned with your highest aim and full of blessed help, insight, and Love.
~ We invite you to share your own 2020 vision boards or intentions for the January newsletter.
The Threshold Society
The Threshold Society, rooted within the traditions of Sufism and inspired by the life and work of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, is a non-profit educational foundation with the purpose of facilitating the experience of Divine Unity, Love, and Truth in the world. Sufism is a living tradition of human transformation through love and higher consciousness. Our fundamental framework is classical Sufism and the Qur’an as it has been understood over the centuries by the great Sufis. The Society is affiliated with the Mevlevi Order, and offers training programs, seminars and retreats around the world.
Each month we intend to highlight an article about our lineage and its principles. This month we offer: Basics of Practice in the Threshold Society.
Saturday 14th Dec 2019, 7:30pm (doors open at 7pm)
First Unitarian Church, 809 S Fourth St, Louisville, KY 40203
Celebrate Mevlana Rumi’s union with the Beloved, the anniversary of his passing away into the Unseen. Join Shaikh Kabir and Camille Helminski for an evening of remembrance with zhikr, poetry, music, and whirling. With Bosnian Sufi singers, Hasan and Emil.
Let us know you are coming on Facebook.
Bradford & London
Rumi’s Circle with Mevlevi dervishes from The Threshold Society invite you to celebrate Mevlana Rumi’s Urs, the anniversary of his union with the Beloved.
Join us for an evening of remembrance with zhikr, poetry, music, and whirling.
We will be sharing poetry on the theme of “Light upon Light”.
Saturday 14th Dec: Delius Centre, 29 Great Horton Rd, Bradford BD7 1AA
Friday 20th Dec: St John’s Waterloo, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY
Doors open at 6.30pm, we begin promptly at 7pm.
Tickets: £5 ~ limited capacity
Rumi’s Circle invites you to celebrate Mevlana Rumi’s Urs, the anniversary of his union with the Beloved.
Join us for an evening of remembrance with zhikr, poetry, and music.
We will be sharing poetry on the theme of “Light upon Light”.
Saturday 14th Dec: Unity Church, 601 Tompkins Dr, Madison, WI 53716, USA
Doors open at 6.30pm, we begin promptly at 7pm.
Tickets: $10 ~ on the door
Special Double-Book Offer
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.
We encourage you to leave reviews on Amazon.
And remember you can donate to Threshold Society through Amazon Smile.
We appreciate your support.
Dec 14: Louisville, USA. Urs celebration, more details. (KC)
Dec 14: Madison, Wisconsin. Urs celebration, more details.
Dec 14: Bradford, UK. Urs celebration, more details.
Dec 20: London, UK. Urs celebration, more details.
Dec 26-30: Nassau, Bahamas. Sinananda Yoga Retreat, Unity in Diversity. More details. (K)
Feb 1-8: Costa Rica Writer’s Retreat. More details. (KC)
Mar 21: New York, Open Center. Journey of the Seeker in Sufism. More details. (K)
Apr 3-5: San Francisco, USA. Annual Retreat. (KC)
Jul 10-13: Dorset, UK. Annual Retreat. (KC)
Events with Kabir (K) & Camille (C)
San Diego gathering
Asheville Interfaith Conference
We’d love to hear from you – get in touch at email@example.com
Receive this newsletter by email: sign-up here.