Contents Letter from Nuria
Sufism by Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Sufi Order by Hazrat Inayat Khan
The Perfection of Imperfection! by Azad Daly
Reflections on the Element Purification Breaths by Sue Headlam
Summer School Snippets by Rabia Collett
Sufi Movement Sydney Hejirat Retreat 2016 (poster)
Poetry by Zubin & Kafia
Misty Path by Zora
Dear fellow Sufis by Faieza
Autumn Retreat Melbourne 2017 (poster)
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Beloved Sisters and Brothers Spring 2016 It is almost Spring again and we look forward to it after a cold and wet winter down here in Melbourne. We had a fabulous Winter Retreat here around the Winter Solstice, with a good turnout, including two new people, one from Queensland and one from New South Wales, and it was lovely to see ‘old’ friends and members of our community from Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales and of course Victoria again. For me personally the retreat has marked a profound change in my life and I think the beginning of a new cycle for me – hopefully a happy one. The theme of the retreat was ‘The Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty’ and for me this was really about the question of ‘What is Perfection?’ Melanie Klein (the famous psychiatrist who followed Freud) said that the best mother was a ‘good enough mother’. A mother who tries to be too perfect, too protective, and who meets all of her child’s needs even before the need is felt, is in fact a terrible mother. She creates a dependent child who develops no skills in dealing with the world out there and feels entitled to everything it wants. Perfection is a balance which is really an art form. There is a Sufi saying: ‘Trust in God but tie up your camel’ or as Hamida in Holland has put it: ‘Trust in God but tie up your bicycle’. This sort of covers that idea of being self-sufficient and yet trusting in the Divine. We had a lovely Universal Worship and a profound healing service, as well as the best chromatic zikar I have ever encountered. We were asked to listen to the voice within, before actually singing the note. In this way we managed to hit the tone and pitch perfectly, leaving me, at any rate in a wonderful even ecstatic state. Soon after the retreat Azad left for seven weeks to spend with his family in Ireland, and Arif made the journey to Europe for a month, attending the Leaders Retreat at Summer School and finally getting to see Katwijk, the Temple and the sand dunes, and meet some of our sisters and brothers there. Rabia also has been in Europe and attended part of the Summer School there. It was Murshid Hidayat’s ninety ninth birthday on 6th August and this (99) is a most auspicious and significant number. What an amazing man he is. He has achieved so much and guided the International Sufi Movement so very well. After having a huge health scare with Azad recently, I remember a very wise person once saying that we should live with Death on our shoulder, and consult with Death in every decision we make. Everything we say and do could be our last – things can change in an instant, so we really need to live in the moment, consciously and mindfully and to take nothing for granted – in ourselves and others. So on this sombre note, I wish you a very happy and fruitful Spring. With Love and Blessings, Nuria
National Representative Sufi Movement in Australia
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“I follow in Thy footsteps that lead me to the eternal goal” Crayon drawing by Murshid Sharif. Thanks to Zubin for contributing this beautiful work.
An inspiring Winter Retreat made me pause and reflect on this path that we are on. I remember my first zikr experience at an Amberley retreat, lying on my bed wide awake after zikr was over, my heart chakra feeling like it was going to explode, enlivened for hours. A mixture of pain and joy, remembering Safa and feeling the physical pain of grief and blissed-out at the same time. Walking around the streets near my home after the last retreat, energised and exhausted, I felt like I was walking around in a daze, and I felt somewhat disconnected from ordinary life, as if I was under the influence of some hallucinogenic drug. My heart chakra and third eye felt wide open, and trying to integrate into the world again after the retreat made me feel like an alien in a foreign world, living in a dream within a dream, aware that it was all an illusion. It seemed somehow jarring and unreal to be walking down a street and at the same time I felt tired, yet exhilarated and inspired. It all made me grateful to be on a path of love, harmony and beauty. I thought that I would share Hazrat Inayat Khan's words on Sufism and the Sufi Order as it may be of interest to readers who come across our humble publication online and may not know much about the Sufi path. Azad’s entertaining and thoughtful homily written for the Winter Retreat entitled The Perfection of Imperfection! can be found on page 7. Sue has contributed a beautiful piece on the element breaths on page 10. I am very grateful to Azad for providing me with DVDs of Nawab teaching at the 2015 retreat. I have converted one to an audio file so that I can be guided by Nawab's loving voice through the practice of the element purification breaths. I find it very inspiring to listen to Murshid Nawab's inspiring and insightful commentary and I find it a powerful spiritual exercise. Thanks also to Zora, Zubin, Kafia, Faieza and Rabia for contributing some beautiful and inspiring prose and poetry to this edition of Spirit Matters. Loving regards, Yaqin Page 4 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
Sufism By Hazrat Inayat Khan The word Sufi comes from an Arabic word Saf which means a purifying process. All the tragedy of life comes from the absence of purity, and what does purity mean? To be pure means to be natural. To lack purity means to be far from being natural. Pure water with no substance such as sweet, sour or milk or anything else mixed. Sterilized water means water made purer, in other words, natural. Sufism, therefore, is the process, of making life natural. You may call this process a religion, a philosophy, a science or a mysticism, whatever you may. It is true that all the religious teachers who have come to this world from time to time, have brought this process of purification in the form of religion. It is therefore that Christ has said, I have not brought you a new law, I have come to fulfil the law. It is not a new process; it is the same old process that the wise of all ages have given. If there is anything new given in it, it is the form in which it is put to suit a certain period of the world. Now in the present period of the world it is given in its present form. A person may think by spirituality it is meant that one must learn something which one did not know before, or one must become extraordinarily good, or must attain some unusual powers or must have experience of a supernatural kind; but none of these things does Sufism promise, although in the path of a Sufi nothing is too wonderful for him. All that is said above and even more is within his reach. Yet that is not the Sufi's aim. By this process of Sufism one realizes one's own nature. In a few words Sufism means to know one's true being, to know the purpose of one's life and to know how to accomplish that purpose. Many say, out of disappointment, "I shall perhaps never be successful in my life," not knowing the fact that man is born to do what he longs to do and success is natural, failure is unnatural. If man is himself, the whole world is his own, if he is not himself, then even his self does know what he is, where he is, why he is here on the earth; then he is less useful to himself and to others than a rock. It is in self-realization that the mystery of the whole life is centred. It is the remedy of all maladies. It is a secret of success in all walks of life; it is a religion and more than a religion. And at this time when the world is upset this message conveys to the world the divine message. What is wrong with humanity today is that it is not itself and all the misery of the world is caused by this. Therefore nothing can answer the purpose of humanity save this process of sages and of the wise of all ages, which leads souls to self-realization.
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Hazrat Inayat Khan: A Mission from Above Posted on 2nd August 2016 by Murshid Nawab Pasnak on The Inner Call
The Sufi Order Beloved ones of God, I wish to speak a few words this evening on the Sufi Order and its work in the world. In the first place, people often wonder if it is a mission from the East. I answer that neither is it from the East nor from the West, it is from Above. It is for the work of God and the service of humanity, in which people of the East and the West, of the North and the South, have all joined together as their sacred task. The word Sufi is eastern as well as western; it comes from the Greek word Sophia, and in the Persian language is Sufia, so the word should be acceptable both in the East and in the West. It is not the name of a certain sect or religion, but it is the name used for the essence of all religions. No doubt very often people confuse the word wisdom with the word intellect, but in point of fact wisdom is something springing out of the heart of man. The source of wisdom is God Himself, while intellect is knowledge gained in the world, the knowledge of names and forms; worldly cleverness cannot be compared with wisdom. Many are clever, but are they wise? Their wisdom lasts for moments or days and ends in nothingness. All success acquired by worldly cleverness is limited, and when the limited time has passed, it comes to an end. True wisdom is the divine essence hidden deep in the heart of man, and which every man is seeking, some consciously, others unconsciously. Sophia or Sufism is the name for the real wisdom, springing from the heart of man as a divine stream. In all ages those who have realised this divine spring, which is the heritage of every soul, have called it Sophia or Wisdom. It has been known by other names, such as Vedanta, Bible or Scripture, but wisdom in all its forms and at whatever time it has been given to the world is in fact Sufism. No doubt […] the people who belonged to [Sufi groups] were the first, whenever a Divine Messenger came, in whatever country, to sympathise and to understand. Their hearts were broad enough to receive the new Message, and they were the great supports of all the Messengers. If we study the tradition of religious wars, we shall find that everywhere and in every period there has always been opposition to the message which has been given as an inspiration to men, people fighting against one another and saying, “Our God is different to your God; our Church is different; the Messenger whom you esteem is different.” But to the Sufis in all ages differences do not exist; the one thing they fought against and opposed was that which divided humanity into so many sects and creeds, that the nations should fight one another instead of harmonising with and understanding one another by the help of religion. No prophet, no Messenger, has ever brought the message to the world with the idea that his followers should be exclusive, that they should look on the followers and disciples of other faiths with hatred and contempt, or that they should say that theirs was the only true message. How many wars and battles in the history of the world have been caused by religious differences? That was not the will of God, nor the motive of the prophets, nor of religion; it was the abuse of religion, made by the authorities of religion for the sake of their own power and control over the followers of the faith.… An extract from a leaflet issued by the Book Depot for Sufi Literature in England sometime in the early 1920’s. As a historical footnote, a copy of the leaflet was recently found in the collection of the University of Bergen library in Norway, catalogued on November 24th, 1924, approximately two weeks after Inayat Khan gave a pair of lectures in Bergen. As it is intended as a piece of introductory publicity, the tone of the leaflet is more general than in lectures given to mureeds, but the lessons are very relevant to our time. Page 6 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
The Perfection of Imperfection! Homily for Winter Retreat June 2016 by Azad Daly I will greet you as our Murshid: used to greet his mureeds – Beloved Ones of God…..and Dear Sufi friends, it is nice to meet with you again in this winter retreat. As you know the topic for this year’s retreat is: ‘The Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty’ and I thought when I began to write this homily that I would talk on the meaning of perfection and, as usual try to reflect this in the sacred readings from the world’s gospels. Normally I would make reference to these during this homily but today I won’t and I hope this will be self-explanatory as this homily unfolds. Finding references to perfection proved to be quite a difficult task – not because of lack of information - more a question of far too much information. Firstly it was quite difficult to get direct references on the actual word and context of perfection in some of the world’s scriptures and secondly there is an overabundance of references elsewhere to the meaning of the word perfection. These references cover a wide field. A small example; Paradoxes, Math, Science, Philosophy, Physics and Chemistry, Ethics, Aesthetics, Ontology and Theology and so on………. And so I began reading and reading until I finally abandoned this search having come to the conclusion that I would end up more confused rather than enlightened with this surfeit of information. The knock-on effect of this so-called knowledge is that it can actually hinder, rather than enhance, spiritual development. As human beings we are an inquisitive species – perhaps even hard-wired and you could say perhaps this is the reason we are on this path – even why we are here today! But if we look closely at the information that we amass over our lives, a lot of it may be interesting in a superficial way but the majority of it will be little in the way of ‘real’ knowledge - just the flotsam and jetsam of an overfull mind. The tyranny of the thinking mind! The next day was Friday and I was taking group as Nuria had just gone through her 2 nd eye operation for cataracts. By sheer coincidence or synchronicity during this meeting and after I had read a chapter on the Power of the Breath – which was a relatively short reading from In an Eastern Rose Garden - I just happened to open a chapter called The Four Paths which lead to the Goal. This turned out to be quite a blessing with regards to this homily! Here’s some of what it said: The Path of the Way of the Intellectual – Murshid writes in the first paragraph:
“An intellectual person is he who has gathered knowledge by impressions, by studies; and he is the king of the domain of his intellect. What he has learned, what he has studied, what he has experienced, he has kept in the book of his mind; and that is his world. But it makes him captive to a limited horizon of knowledge, and it is the rising above that knowledge which may be called intelligence. Yet it is the intellectual person who is capable of being intelligent; intellect is a cover over intelligence, and when this cover is taken off then a person becomes intelligent. The intelligent one is he who perceives for himself, who learns for himself, who understands for himself, who recognizes things by himself, who is a pupil and who is a teacher within himself at the same time.” Incidentally in the Gatheka Number #49 entitled THE EXPANSION OF CONSCIOUSNESS (this has come up in our sacred readings as well – Shakti has made reference to it a couple of times!) you find in the opening Chapter – these first few sentences, which read as follows:
“The consciousness is the intelligence; the intelligence is the soul; the soul is the spirit; and the spirit is God. Therefore consciousness is the divine element, the consciousness is the God part in us………..” (I will read this again!) So how apt this was, as I had been engaged in trawling through numerous sources in my search for knowledge on Perfection! So there comes a time when we should set aside books and allow the Divine spark of intelligence to guide us! In the same reading Murshid writes on the Second Path to Perfection:
THE PATH of RIGHTEOUSNESS The second path to perfection is the path of righteousness, of duty, of good actions. A person may not be intelligent, but conscientious in what he does and what he should do, always using his goodwill to do a righteous action; and by doing so he is fulfilling that law of harmony which automatically raises his soul to perfection. Very often one wonders about friends or relations who one thinks are goodness itself, their actions being righteous actions, and yet they never seem to show any tendency towards religion or meditation; and then one often thinks what a pity it would be if they did not arrive at spiritual perfection. But it is quite possible that they will arrive at that perfection before the seeker who makes too much fuss about it and does little; before a person who talks too much about spiritual things and knows little; before the one who is clinging to the outer signs of religion and spirituality. Merely by his righteous actions, by his good deeds, such a person will attain the goal. He may not know it, but it will work automatically, because he is taking the path of righteousness, which will surely lead him to perfection. Page 7 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
For those who are interested: The other two paths are those of Discipline and of Devotion. This chapter can be found on page 262 of In an Eastern
And again I had a little help when picking up yesterday’s little meditation card- it read:
“I do not give you my ideas; what I give you is my personal knowledge” (Vadan, Gamakas) So what does all this mean? It seems clear enough! To use a phrase that I, and I suspect all of us have used many times before, Why are we here? Is there more to life than this? Quite some time ago I found the answer to this in Sufism – Our Purpose is “to complete ourselves…… a task left unfinished
by God!” Let me read you a little quatrain by Omar Khayyam;
This circle in which we ebb and we flow, Neither a beginning nor an end does know The Riddle stands as posed long ago: Where do we come from? Where do we go? Would you like to know when this was written? May 18th 1048, Nishapur, Persia. (Iran) So we have been asking this question for quite a long time, millennia perhaps! And so I found that I had to cast away, as it where, my initial thoughts on the subject of Perfection. But I kept the title of The Perfection of Imperfection because this had appealed to me. But I will give you two examples of the debate that has ensued over the centuries and I would presume still gives pause for thought even today. In Philosophy/Paradoxes we have:
“The parallel existence of two concepts of perfection, one strict ("perfection," as such) and the other loose ("excellence"), has given rise, perhaps since antiquity but certainly since the Renaissance to a singular paradox: that the greatest perfection is imperfection.” This was formulated by Lucilio Vanini(1585–1619), who had a precursor in the 16th-century writer Joseph Juste Scaliger, and they in turn referred to the ancient philosopher Empedocles. Their argument, …., was that if the world were perfect, it could not improve and so would lack "true perfection," which depends on progress. “ (Wikipedia) In Technology we have:
“The paradox of perfection—that imperfection is perfect—applies not only to human affairs, but (also) to technology. Thus, irregularity in semiconductor crystals (an imperfection, in the form of contaminants) is requisite for the production of semiconductors. The solution to the apparent paradox lies in a distinction between two concepts of "perfection": that of regularity, and that of utility. Imperfection is perfect in technology, in the sense that irregularity is useful.” So we will leave this all to the philosophers and technicians etc…. Now if we look at our daily practices, or more specifically our prayers and hopefully our aspirations. We begin with the Invocation. We say: Towards the One, the Perfection of Love , Harmony and Beauty….. This suggests that there is a movement towards this ideal or goal of perfection! And when we finish our practices what do we Pray? In the Khatum we say O Thou, who art the Perfection. There is a sense of accomplishment or of completion, which we have effected. Now does this mean that we have reached our goal ? No, but it is an acknowledgement that our ideal - our God Ideal and thus ‘Our God” – has the inherent capacity of perfection. And this is something that is worth striving for! And of course the question is – Could we ever achieve it? Let me repeat this once again:
“The consciousness is the intelligence; the intelligence is the soul; the soul is the spirit; and the spirit is God. Therefore consciousness is the divine element, the consciousness is the God part in us………..”
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Perhaps we should not forget where we originated from. As Wordsworth put it: (Would Wordsworth spring to mind as a Mystical Poet?)
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home And no doubt we will return to our home once we have completed ourselves! If we return to Murshid’s words on the intellect and intelligence, we should try to take or absorb his words into our very being. Sufism at its core is experiential rather than intellectual. We can’t rationalize the irrational! It is what we feel rather than what we think. Now this will offend some people’s sensibilities who think (there’s that word again) that by reading loads of books or exploring the Internet – just as I started out doing on my search for information on perfection – some people think that one day they will find the definitive book, article or piece of the puzzle that will satisfy them. They won’t! It is just an intellectual arrogance to believe this. The answer is already there in front of us. All we have to do is recognize this! I call this, ‘Three A’s’. Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Appreciation. Just remember the old Sufi saying, “A donkey loaded with holy books is still a donkey” Once we accept that we never will be able to understand with our limited intellect the vastness, the inexplicability- the incomprehensible – we will have made a step forward. Our intelligence hopefully will say: “At last you have realised that this is an unsolvable mystery.” The Ego will realise that it has been put in its proper place, but it won’t give up that easily! It’s argument will be ‘but this is a blind belief – why shouldn’t ‘I’ try to find out more so as to deepen my knowledge and appreciation of my spiritual path. This is where – as Murshid says- that your intelligence comes in. I’ll repeat what he writes:
“Yet it is the intellectual person who is capable of being intelligent; intellect is a cover over intelligence, and when this cover is taken off then a person becomes intelligent. The intelligent one is he who perceives for himself, who learns for himself, who understands for himself, who recognizes things by himself, who is a pupil and who is a teacher within himself at the same time.” So to conclude if we recognise that we will never, ever understand or comprehend the incomprehensible. That which is beyond all form and yet is the Essence of all Essence, if we have this recognition then we will have made real progress on our path to completion At the beginning of the second paragraph again in The Path of the Intellectual Murshid writes:
“Once a person has risen above the boundaries of his limited knowledge, then the higher knowledge begins to come to him by itself. He begins to learn more in one moment than an intellectual person would learn after having read all the books in the library during many years..” There you have it! We can read and talk as much as we like but it’s only when we surrender and give up the illusion that at some future day, or date, comprehension or enlightenment will be bestowed on us. It is by saying our prayers and doing our practices, and, by as Murshid says performing righteous actions, that perhaps, one day, we will EXPERIENCE the Divine Presence. Rather than having an academic and could one say, a sterile approach to Sufism, just remember what Shams of Tabriz reportedly did with Rumi’s books when they first met!* Let us all try to make our selves a living embodiment of Sufism instead! Thus we will have then truly completed ourselves! AMEN *Shams reportedly threw Rumi’s books down a well or into a fire (It varies according to what author you read) saying “You have no need for these dry and dusty tomes, just follow me!”
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Reflections on the Element Purification Breaths By Sue Headlam After some years of doing the element breaths, and needing to keep motivation alive, I thought it may be helpful to write down my thoughts about this practice. As we experience life largely through our senses, I thought about this practice through the ways it is experienced by our senses.
The Earth Element Breathing in a beautiful golden / yellow colour of the earth, taking in what you need and sending back to the earth what you do not need. Breathing in and out, spreading outward. Witnessing the golden rays of the early morning sun helps me to experience gratitude. Its brightness illuminates the earth and brings out colours, shapes & textures of the material world - it is humbling to acknowledge a creation which we had no part in playing but can choose to be mindful of and care for. I see the sunshine and the shadows it creates, I smile while I drive, seeing the paddocks of sunflowers and canola, I see the autumn leaves turn yellow and brown as they drop to earth, to conserve the tree’s energy for the coming colder months. I see animals grazing with a right to be on their land. I feel rooted to the earth, grounded by positive values. I hear the solidness of a branch that falls to earth, then is broken / chopped for the woodpile; I hear the heart in my body beat after exercise. I smell the perfumes of the many different flowers as well as the rotting waste of decaying matter, returning the elements to the earth as the life cycle goes on. I smell the perfume of a new born baby, its exquisite smell is better than any perfume. I taste the produce of the vegetable garden and give thanks for its nourishment and the pleasure it gives. At times I can get bogged down by thoughts of daily duties; but remind myself that I can choose to embrace duties and see them as a means to serve - just as I witness aspects of nature: the hidden roots of a slow growing tree, with its strong root system that holds on firmly - to weather storms and ensure that the tree remains strong so that it continues to shelter us, and provide us with resources – for both man and animals to use. And the roots bring nourishment to life hidden under the ground. So too must we stay grounded at all times if we are to be available to serve mankind with attitudes of acceptance, patience, humility. We are responsible to care for ourselves and our planet Earth in which we live. This is reflected so clearly in this age of materialism, with its desire and greed - some of the unwanted aspects that we can give back to earth.
The Water Element Breathing in a beautiful green of the water element – take from it what you need and give back what you do not need. It is a downward movement. Its forms are many as are the seasons – as rain from above, as snow, as steam, as running rivers, lakes and oceans. Our body soon collapses and dies when we are denied water. Water is seen as a giver of life. If we view the Earth from the universe, the extent of water is even vaster than the Earth. The rain comes to nourish the earth, giving an abundance of life. It heals the parched scorched earth and brings relief to all. There are underground water-tables whose role is often not understood / ignored. Without water there is famine; with enough, there can be an abundance of food. But with too much, come floods, mudslides etc In the chaos of our busy, modern life I hear the sighs, the sadness, & feel the disappointment of life. Page 10 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
Where is the love, like water that we need to nurture and sustain us? Reflecting on the prayer of Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Saum: “Pour upon us thy love and thy life” is to me like the rain, as is God’s goodness that continually pours down upon us. With water the small seeds are enabled (with the help of fire and earth elements) to germinate, to grow, to bear fruit – each plant family unique, as we are. It receives the water bestowed upon it and flourishes. I see the raindrops drunk gratefully by the earth and watch the creeks fill to flow and nourish all who come to feed from them – animals, plants and people. I see beauty in a drain drop and the majesty of the ocean. I see a loving mother (animal and human) give her all to care for her young one – sacrificing her needs for the needs of the baby. I feel the release of negative ions when the rain opens up the sky. I feel invigorated by a hot shower as it cleanses me or relax in a bath. There is a world of marine life of which I know little. I feel as a drop in the ocean, yet whole, and at one with a creation so expansive that I will never fully grasp it. I hear the patter of the rain on the tin roof and thank God for it, but hope as I hear the rushing water overflowing the gutters that it does no damage in its wake. I hear the roaring of the ocean and the gentle lapping of the waves. I smell the freshness of the rain and taste the purity of water. Why do we not give more thanks for what is poured upon us? It cleanses our body and nourishes our soul in so many ways. This element helps us to go around obstacles that come in our way – a willingness to surrender. It is an element of the heart representing Divine love continually showered upon us & shown also by people by acts of generosity, sympathy, kindness, forgiveness, and service. But we must guard against ‘giving’ to satisfy our own egos.
The Fire Element Breathing in a beautiful red of the fire element - take from it what you need and give back what you do not need. It is an upward movement. As dawn breaks and the gentle pink lights up the sky, it is a reminder of His presence, a gift of a new day, of renewed hope. At the end of the day we witness the red streaks across the sky, letting us know that the day is ending. It sings its glory to God as the sun slowly sets. The upward movement of fire moves heavenward. It inspires one to be the best one can be. As the fire moves upward, so too do the living plants searching for and growing toward the sun. I see the beauty of the dawn and the sunset as daily reminders of the immanence of the Divine, that has been present for millions of years. I see the suns rays warming the earth and the flowers facing the sun. I also witness fire – its magic flames on a cold night and its unwelcome savagery in a bushfire. I feel the warmth of the fireside and the heat from the oven. I hear the crackling fire, and the tin roof at home expanding in the sun’s warmth. I taste delicious baking, attracted to the food by the smell of cooking that is so inviting. But if my attention wanders from the right amount of cooking, it may be over cooked and burned! In this element, let me feel myself drawn upward, with willpower strengthened, inspired with the power of the fire element, awakening to a higher aspiration and seeking of Divine guidance. Hope and faith are born of this element, as is courage. As the element develops will power, it can be used for positive and constructive purposes, or destructively fuelled by anger, power and self-centredness. Our will can be guided by the heart. Ultimately we are purified when the ego is consumed in the fire of love. Page 11 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
The Air Element Breathing in a beautiful blue of the air element – take from it what you need and give back what you do not need. Its movement is ever changing, a zigzag movement. It may be a calm blue sky or other shades & strengths of blue. It is the colour seen overhead as we look above and beyond into the universe. I am reminded of the Divine presence that is always there, as though hidden behind the clouds just as ignorance hides us from seeing truth, clearing briefly for an understanding or insight to reveal itself. A breeze may be faint or strong, it may come from any direction. It may be ever changing and unpredictable; it may be helpful or unhelpful. It reminds me of freedom of spirit – allowing ourselves to benefit from life’s experiences that come our way. Experiences come and go as does the breeze; we learn to take the good from experiences, thoughts, actions and memories and to hopefully discard those aspects that do not direct our lives in the way we want to go or to live. Negative memories and thoughts can be released if we see no benefit in holding onto them. Do not let these stop you noticing the goodness that is also drawn to you. I see leaves fluttering in the breeze, the butterflies and birds using the currents of the winds to their advantage, and the seeds scattering as they are distributed by the wind. Where the ground is fertile the seeds may grow just as the ideas that float to us can take hold if we respond to them. I feel the cool breeze, the hot north wind, the gusts of wind and the gale. Similarly we are constantly exposed to positive and negative thoughts and ideas that come to us. I feel my breath – breathing in and out – sometimes gentle & rhythmic, shallow or deep, and at other times rapid and uneven. I smell the perfumes that float through the air in the garden - of gardenias, roses and manure. I love the angelic perfume of an infant. That same child later in life, is running happily about with sweaty hands and smelly hair. They are all a part of life. I hear so many sounds – I willingly allow myself to hear the calls of the birds and insects, but react to the sound of the jet and the traffic. It all comes toward us and goes again. We cannot stop it or hold it. Let it come to you and pass over you. The air teaches me to allow life’s experiences to come and go. There are times of joy and sorrow, hope and despair, success and failure. Predictably, life like the air element is ever changing. Perhaps it teaches us the folly of chasing our desires and the benefit of purifying our thoughts. The air teaches me to feed my soul the nourishment it seeks, to hear the music I love, to hear the words of the teachers, to seek out people who are like-minded, to pursue what is important to me. It provides opportunities to choose and respond, and in so doing, to strengthen ourselves against life’s challenges as we go toward our purpose in life. It reminds me of the variety of people, beliefs, cultures, races – we can focus on the differences of mankind or choose to focus on the unity of mankind.
The Ether Element Breathing in all colours, no colour or mother of pearl - take from it what you need, and give back what you do not need. I see the light from a prism or the unexpected shaft of rainbow coloured light reflected through the window onto a wall. I also see the glistening in a dewdrop and the twinkling lights of the night sky especially in the countryside where you are a witness to the grandeur of life. I feel I have risen above the world as I become receptive to this element, feeling a harmony and a beauty around me. There is a sense of peace I hear the profound stillness I taste its joy Is it the element of a higher consciousness? It gives one a sense of ‘being’ and of being a part of that greater ‘Being’. Perhaps it also provides a sense of non attachment to this material world? Each person has his own set of experiences, thoughts and understanding of the practice. And each person’s understanding will also change in the future. But for me, this exercise has helped me to feel and think about the practice more and hopefully to experience the practice with greater concentration and enjoyment. Page 12 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
Summer School Snippets 2016 By Rabia Collett This year, for the first time, I had the privilege of attending Summer School in Holland. The theme was The Living Heart, and the Living Heart was portrayed through our interconnections with and opportunities to serve others. Here are a few highlights/ impressions of the rich and varied program on offer this year.
Over the sand dunes hung giant white clouds, pulling us to a playful world, a gentle, suspended world of peace and imagining.
To start with the topic that is likely foremost on people’s minds I will mention my impressions of Murshids Hidayat and Karimbakhsh. Many of you will already know that Murshid Karimbakhsh has stepped back from personal involvement in the day to day running of the Sufi Movement for health reasons but he did attend many sessions, showing a keen interest in the proceedings.
Murshid Hidayat, now 99, came for the first couple of days before returning to Germany. On the first day he made important announcements ratified at a recent Federation meeting. The main announcements were about dropping the positional title of Sheik throughout the Federation to distance Sufi activities in the minds of the general public from any possible association with Muslim terrorist groups. The second announcement is that in the future the Sufi movement will be jointly led by Murshid Nawab Pasnak and Murshida Nuria Sabato. Hidayat was very excited at prospect of creating a new tradition that includes female leaders and Nuria, who is also strongly supported by Karimbakhsh, brings many valuable skills and attributes to this role.
While I am not the best person to be her biographer, I can share some of my first impressions. Murshida Nuria lives in Minnesota, USA where she conducts online forums and classes for mureeds. She has been dedicated to her spiritual path and the Sufi Movement for many years, gives passionate and engaging lectures and radiates kindness and care to all she encounters. Her biography is available on the Sufi Movement website if you wish to find out more. Now to the Living Heart experience. Every morning began with Nirtan Pasnak “Awakening the Body’ with group stretching exercises. This was an important addition as the program spans many hours of sitting every day. Awakening the Body was no mean feat with the inevitable challenges involved in working with 30-40 people of mixed ability and comfort with such exercises. To compound matters, the exercises were performed in the Universel Murad Hassil between the rows of chairs. Undaunted, Nirtan injected her boundless enthusiasm and physical prowess into each activity, often Page 13 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016
demonstrating while standing on a chair. Each day the stretches became more complex, but the group stayed with the experience, Nirtan managed to stay upright on the chair and we rose to the challenge. Another highlight of this yearâ€™s program were Nirtanâ€™s daily devotional dances. She has been studying Indian dance from some years and believes dance is a universal language for expressing the divine. Nirtan has beautifully choreographed some popular South Indian Hindu tales which Nawab narrated. She danced with grace and purity, agility and expressiveness. Her engaging performances were completed with magnificent Hindu costumes, designed and created for each dance. Her dances were a true gift from the heart.
After lunch Aslan inspired the choir with his rich harmonies and even richer stories gleaned over the many years as a mureed of Jo Miller and Sufi Sam Lewis. Both as a spirited Sufi choir master and a physician who brings the divine to his patients, Aslanâ€™s untiring service is inspirational as he brought love into our hearts and harmony throughout the summer school. Heart Circles were also introduced for the first time this year. Assigned groups of 6 or 7 met for an hour each afternoon to share their impressions and thoughts. People were encouraged to talk freely as the others in the group were asked not to make comments or discuss what was being shared. The times together were a chance for group members to witness and contain personal insights, noticing how these touched each of us and deepening our own reflections. By the last meeting our circle felt very close and supportive. We spoke of feeling grateful for these times of closeness, out of which friendships could develop. The Living Heart Summer School was a rich, sweet and encouraging experience that I will hold deeply in my heart as I try my best to practice what I learnt in my daily life. Rabia Collett
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Comment I believed that I was born into a beautiful world that beauty always was that beauty always is until I learnt that beauty is NOT that I have been beautifying my world as I go
Yarralumla Cove boat silent on still water eternal moment against distant mountains pine trees breathe tall and deep.
Keep the Light on by Kafia Doris Airey 2016 Amberley
full of sensation bulging with thoughts and fears this tiny being stills the plain of the heart for the spirit of guidance. Zubin
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Beauty is not not finite not infinite the Heart knows beauty is not but knows beauty is in the eyes of the beholder Beauty is not until beautification within a radiant loving heart without that Beauty is not so let the eyes of the Heart be filled with the sun and moon of love let the divine presence illuminate the Beloved my love - and in a flash the not is gone everything is beauty for that loving moment beauty is that and that beauty is beautiful light is love keep the light on the eyes of the beholder see nothing in the dark
Misty path on the ridge. It's been a cold, wet winter. So much interior time. I walk about the house touching objects, feeling if they will touch me in return. Wooden things draw me and set me to pondering and spinning wonky, unseasoned thoughts. In my hand an old, oak half pint measure that came from the thatched cottage in England where my father's illegitimate and only sister lived. He didn't know about her until he was 50 but thankfully he found her and visited her before she died. She'd been tucked away before his parents were married and was securely lost from the family story when they emigrated to Australia after WW1. They arrived with Dad's two legitimate brothers Stan & Wally, then 10 years old. My father was born in the new, hot country on Anzac Day. They named him Leonard Anzac. I now don't know the name of his abandoned sister or how he refound her. Like so many mysteries, there's no one left to ask and so the story fades. Will my son remember any of it to tell his daughter? Can this wooden pint measure transmit some connection? Maybe it's not really the facts that matter. I touch a shelf and see the skill of a butterfly join that repairs a split. A bowl with a copper staple closing a crack. So carefully wrought is the plug filling a hole in the dresser. Traces of an unknown hand working with care and respect. I recall the darned patches on the elbows of the cardigan worn by a man before me in the supermarket check-out line last week. How sweetly they said that he is loved. In the street I patted a slow old dog with faded eyes who wore a fine new plaited collar. Bitter sweet is this delicate tenderness of living on together. Soon we will again be picking asparagus and mowing the grass in the sun. After all the rain, I'm told this will be a spectacular Spring. A Spring not to be missed. Zora
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Dear fellow Sufis... By Faieza
Thank you so much for your kindness and friendship.... Was so good to meet you all at the Winter Retreat From Africa I hailed Malaysian, Syrian and Indian roots Muslim born adoring Muhammad I attended Catholic School and learnt to adore Jesus I grew up around Hindus and learnt to adore Shiva Then religiously went to the Baptist church New apostolic Church, Hillsong! Following Yogananda, Sri Mataji and Master Ching Hai Continuing on my journey Unfolding different maps I realised they all led to the same place We were all looking for the same peace A divine connection with the Almighty Stop and Start Searching and Seeking Sufism struck a chord On the winding road, eventually I met Shakti What a blessing she is... so balanced and so caring And she led me to you all You each hold a special place in my heart "I need remove no one to place another in my heart; my heart is large enough to accommodate each and all" Hazrat Inayat Khan My bowl of saki meditation I truly do have enough place I can continue to chant Aum Nama Shivaya in the morning and La illaha illala at night. Knowing that there is no need to choose a specific path That all paths will eventually take me home. Alhamdullilah (Praise be to God) who has led me to exactly where I am meant to be... Page 18 Spirit Matters Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2016