January 28, 2020

Memories of Murshid Suleyman Dede: My first encounter with a Sufi Murshid forever changed my idea of what a spiritual master could be. Until that time I had met a number of highly developed human beings from Western and Eastern traditions. I imagined that enlightenment was a state of super awareness, desirelessness,  a continual “high”. Not that anyone I met actually embodied that state; but there was the assumption that with enough spiritual practice, which meant sitting still and quiet… Read more

January 7, 2020

The movement into a new year naturally makes us reflect on the passage of time. For me, it all began over Christmas as I watched the 2016 adaption of Tolstoy’s War and Peace on Netflix. I confess that long ago I once started reading the novel but never got round to finishing it – I wish I had now. The adaptation is one of the best things I have seen on the big or small screen in a long time…. Read more

December 23, 2019

This year I finally bought a Christmas jumper. I don’t know why it took me so long – as a young adult I would look enviously at others who were bold enough to wear them into work, or listen to colleagues complain about their Christmas gift being another terrible jumper, secretly wishing they would give it to me. Although I was brought up with a fondness for the Christmas season, I still never thought I could go as far as… Read more

December 12, 2019

A man came to the Prophet Muhammad (PUH) and asked him who was the person most worthy of his love and care. The Prophet replied, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” The Prophet repeated, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “And then who?” The Prophet again said to him, “Your mother!” I never quite understood the meaning of this Hadith until recent years as my relationship with my mother turned in an unanticipated way. Now I understand how my… Read more

November 24, 2019

On a recent trip to Berlin, I visited the Bode Museum with a friend. We went through rooms and rooms of medieval art, admiring the paintings of star-haloed madonnas and watchful saints, until we came to a hall of reliquaries. And there I stopped short.  Seeing a sculpture of Jesus riding a donkey, I heard Mevlana’s verses in my mind: Have pity on Jesus, but not on the donkey: don’t allow your animal nature to rule your reason. Let it… Read more

November 12, 2019

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, Creedence Clearwater Revival were one of the biggest bands around, offering a rootsy mix of rock’n’roll, blues, country, and folk that was quintessentially American. The lead singer and songwriter, John Fogerty, had a gift for crafting punchy songs that captured both the spirit of the times and that ‘old, weird America’ of the frontier, his gravelly holler sounding like he just stepped out of the Goldrush. You’re probably familiar with some of… Read more

October 21, 2019

I have been fortunate during my spiritual training to have been inspired by some extraordinary teachers, people who came into my life as if by chance, but whose presence and effect on my soul could not have been prayed for, much less imagined. One of these teachers was for a period of time the owner of a café in Vancouver where I sometimes enjoyed being served a cup of frothy Turkish coffee. Murray, as he was sometimes called, was the… Read more

October 9, 2019

I recently attended a retreat where a fellow seeker described the sweetness of the companionship that unfolds on the Sufi path. He likened the sensation to “being in Love together.” It was a beautiful way of putting it. Each of us is seeking the Cosmic Love at our core, side by side. Each of us is facing our unique inner battles to tear away the veils that have separated us from this Love as we were growing up. And the… Read more

September 27, 2019

Early in my time on the Sufi path, I went to visit some friends I had known through a meditation group. One took me aside at the end of our evening and said, “There is one story by Rumi that has touched me more than any other. Do you know ‘Muhammad and the Big Eater’?” The story, which takes place in the fifth book of the Masnavi, goes like this: Once a group of people came to see the Prophet… Read more

September 15, 2019

I find myself drawn to places of silence. I attend my local Quaker meeting when I can, finding the resonance of the meeting room particularly appealing to sit, do my zhikr, and deepen in meditation. Knowing that others are also sitting in intentional silence – whether searching for the inner light (as Quakers call it) or just taking a moment from their busy lives – seems to strengthen my own practice. It wasn’t always like this of course, and it… Read more

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