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

August 27, 2019

A human being is essentially an eye; the rest is merely flesh and skin…[1] Recently I’ve been thinking about how dependent virtue is on vision. I mean the kind of vision that Rumi hints at above – a sight that includes insight. It’s the ability, for instance, to see the repercussions of our actions for ourselves and others, both now and in the future, as well as the ability to re-vision similar experiences in the past to help guide us… Read more

August 2, 2019

Just before sunset, we met in a parking lot adjacent to a marshy field. Two field biologists distributed keychain flashlights and stapled sheets of paper covered in squiggles and dashes that looked like alien Morse code, or some kind of ancient alphabet. The task before us was daunting. In the space of just fifteen minutes, and with the light rapidly fading, we had to learn this new language well enough to both understand what was being said and use the… Read more

July 14, 2019

There are so many manifestations of beauty in life. This has always been for me the supreme evidence of God, an indication that all of existence proceeds from a divine Source. And so, when I first heard the Hadith Qudsi, “God is beautiful and loves the beautiful,” I thought: this makes deep sense.  Could it be that Beauty is a path to God? Then one day my teacher said to me, “Beauty is our point of contact with Love.”  I… Read more

July 3, 2019

  What if Muslims who are in positions of religious authority acted as if Allah is Beautiful and loves Beauty? All too often Muslim religious leaders are actually in opposition to beauty and its expressions in our lives. Recently, an incident caused me to reflect upon our faith and its dominant expression in Islamic institutions, venues, and media. A dear friend of mine was holding a workshop on the Ninety-Nine Names of God for Muslim children. He was telling the… Read more

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