When Life Knocks You Out Of Balance

This week I had a day full of technical glitches while trying to do some work on my business. I simply could not figure out why things were not responding the way they were supposed to on my computer, so I had no clue how to fix it. I felt overwhelmed, stressed and very frustrated. I have a huge desire for the technical things in my life to ‘just work!’

I had an evening commitment, so I got in my car feeling worn down by the day. I was grousing along, silently nursing my complaints and rehashing the day, which certainly was not making me feel any better.

balanceiStock_000017411212XSmallThen it occurred to me to simply ask for a remedy. ”What is the medicine my heart needs?” I prayed. Just like a snap of the fingers, the word ‘peace’ dropped in. As I drove down the road, I began chanting the Quality of Peace, which is Salam in Arabic. “Ya Allah Ya Salam.”

In a few minutes, the tension and pain in my shoulders began to soften. I found myself taking a deep breath. Suddenly I began to notice what a beautiful evening it was – the purpling of the sky near sunset, the beauty of the clouds and the blooming cherry trees – and I felt God’s Peace deepening into my heart. It reminded me that Peace is found in Source, not in my computer.

I had a sweet evening, got some sleep and the next day I was able to unravel and fix my technical challenges and move forward with my work. Life happens and sometimes we lose our balance with stress, struggle and frustration. At times like this, the ‘cure’ is as close as simply asking for and receiving what your inner being most needs.

Playing Violin As A Path To Love

by Hasan Roy Martin

A Prayer Request – Debut Violin Performance at Church Talent Show

Friday night: I am asking for your prayers. About a year and a half ago, I heard this man play the fiddle. The music was so beautiful, afterwards I had to go up to him and tell him how moved I was. As we were talking, I could feel his heart open by how inspired I was. I approached with absolutely no intention of learning to play but, as we spoke, it was right there to ask if he would teach me. I did and he said yes. He then lent me a thousand dollar violin without even getting my phone number. The whole thing was totally unplanned and unexpected and miraculous. It’s the kind of thing that would not have happened but for this path and the way it’s taught me to pay attention to what’s moving in my heart.

Alas, now, at 50 years of age, I’ll be performing in front of an audience for the first time tonight. I’ve never learned to play an instrument before.

So my prayer request is simply for whatever’s in the highest. If tonight is supposed to be an exercise in humility, Glory to God. If I’m supposed to rise to the occasion, stay focused and play flawlessly, Glory to God. Just please pray with me for Allah to help all the students and bring through whatever’s best and highest. Thank you; blessings to all.

Lessons and Gifts

Well, it was an amazing night. But not for the reasons I had expected. I played poorly. Really really poorly. I couldn’t get through a single piece. I was great until I began playing. Talking to the audience was wonderful. But when it came time to play, I was off. Then I was nervous and the harder I tried, the more nervous I got.

But despite that, or maybe because of it, there were all these unexpected gifts. First, the more I screwed up, the more love I received from the audience. It was a great lesson in the truth that we’re not loved for our perfection but for our imperfection. It’s like my being human made me . . . well . . . human (and, thus, loveable).

Second, it was a night of ego annihilation and that’s always a good thing. We know this as Sufis (and there’s nothing like learning the violin to annihilate ego.) :0)

Lastly, despite my poor play, after it was over, several people independently reflected that my love for this instrument and the music came through loud and clear. That was a beautiful reflection to receive. It’s my walking on this path that has opened my heart to the violin. It’s not something I would have taken on from ego and it’s not leading me toward ego, but rather toward love. I’m very grateful.

Though it didn’t look the way I expected it to look (at all), at least not if I was going to feel good about it, I’m really happy. And grateful. Ya Allah ar-kareem. Thank you for all the prayers. They must have worked wonders because the unexpected gifts were far better than any gift I could have received from playing well.

And we’ll see what Allah creates next year, when I try it again. It’s an annual talent show. This is not the end, insha’llah. If Allah gives me any say in it, this is only the beginning. Much love to everyone and thank you all.

God At The Laundromat

Last Thursday my son and his girlfriend flew into Seattle from the east coast. They borrowed the car and immediately left for a weekend trip to Portland. On Saturday afternoon, I am eagerly awaiting their return. I’m stripping sheets from the bed, doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms. A couple of times I go to get the sheets from the dryer only to discover that they are still damp. Finally, I realize that the dryer is not heating. I look at the mound of clothes and towels that need to be washed in the next couple of hours and know that we are in for a trip to the laundromat.

 We assumed in this modern age that we would be able to use a debit card for the machines. When we arrived, we were surprised to find that we would need a roll of quarters to feed the machines the old-fashioned way. My husband loads the machines and I dash next door to the grocery store to buy a roll of quarters.

I hand the cashier my paper bill and with a smile ask for a roll of quarters. Apparently this is a frequent request at the store and she replied that she had only enough quarters for the store. She could not give me any.

In the moment, I connected with her as one human being with a problem to another human being who had the opportunity to help. I explained to her that I had company coming from out of town and my dryer broke down. I asked politely if she could please sell me one roll of quarters. Love (God) touched her heart and she slips a roll from her till as I hand her my money. She says, “Just don’t tell my boss.” I breath a prayer, asking God to bless her for her kindness.

As I return to the laundromat, my husband has wandered off some place. I’m putting the quarters in the machines and we are under way. An elderly lady who can barely speak English comes up to me to ask how to make the dryers work. I explain to her how many quarters she needs and where to put the money in. She smiles her “thank you.”

One of our goals in walking the Sufi way is to be able to perceive and experience the Qualities of God as they manifest in our lives. It was easy in this situation to see the Qualities of compassion, kindness, generosity, helpfulness and gratitude. I gave the grocery store clerk the opportunity for a random act of kindness and was grateful she took it. And then I had an opportunity to be kind and help another.

It was such a blessing, in the midst of my stress and busyness getting ready for company, to have such a touching experience of of the beautiful Qualities of God showing up in my afternoon. Amin! 

Al-Jam’i Study Circle

Are you someone who

longs to experience God in a personal and intimate way?

yearns to be able to “let go” of your problems and “let God” be at work in your life?

desires to live a meaningful, fulfilled life, making a positive impact on your world?

Find out how you can do this by gathering together with your Sufi brothers and sisters to study the teachings of our beloved guide, Sidi. 
 
Al-Jam’i is the One Who gathers together. ”O Gatherer of humanity for the day about which their is no doubt, bring what I have lost together with me!”
 
In our human existence, we get caught up in our lower nature, pulled on by the world, influenced by dark forces. We lose our way in confusion and struggle. Yet, it is our innate nature to love and worship God, to seek to find our way to Love and Truth. 
 
We are blessed in our Shadhiliyya Community, to have the guidance of our beloved teacher, Sidi, to show us the way of Love, Peace, Mercy, Freedom, Justice and Beauty. Sidi has written books of his teachings which help us to understand and live according to Qur’an, and the ways of the Prophet (saws). 
 
Sidi has given us a special opening in our state community to form a study circle. This is an opportunity for all of Sidi’s students and interested new people to gather together, to connect our hearts and spirits in prayer and to study Sidi’s teachings from his book, “He Who Knows Himself Knows His Lord.” 
 
The beauty of this book is that it is straightforward and specific about how to let go of our lower nature and open up to the reality of our potential as the beloved creation of the Beloved Creator. The potential of what we carry as a human being is truly amazing. It is a life time’s journey to explore and discover this jewel – to know our true reality and grow in love and knowledge of God. All sincere seekers are welcome to join the Al-Jam’i Study Circle. See calendar or newsletter for dates and details.

Ramadan Gifts – Love Is All That Matters

Today is the last day of Ramadan. Al humdu li’llah, All Praise to God, for all the blessings of this holy month! 

SufiHeartMy experience of Ramadan was nothing like I intended or expected it to be. Instead, each day was like a gift-wrapped present, waiting to be opened, examined, explored to find the treasure it contained. At first, it seemed like I was facing a long month. Before I knew it, we were down to the last week. I felt like I was on a speeding train and I wanted to yell, “Slow down, stop at every station, savor the journey, don’t be in a rush to get there!” Last night, as we finished our last night prayers at the mosque, I was in tears, overwhelmed with love and beauty and feeling how much I was going to miss the late night praying in community.

In the middle of Ramadan, I was blessed to be in beloved community in Portland with our Sufi teacher, Sidi. Sidi has been reminding us very clearly that the only thing that matters is Love. We are one human family, without separation. As Ramadan comes to an end, in many ways it feels to me like the beginning of the new year. It is a new beginning to move forward in love, peace and unity.

In the next couple of days, my son and his girlfriend are coming in from the east coast and my parents are coming into town. Ramadan has brought me the gift of deep healing of family lineage issues. My mother is dealing with serious deterioration of her health. This situation is a centering point in our family to remind us of Sidi’s lesson – Love is all that matters. It does not matter “who did what back when.” What matters is that we walk forward in love while we still have the opportunity to be together, in the fullness of abundant summer days, with the chance to look one another in the eye, to say “I love you,” and to be grateful for the special people – family, friends, brothers and sisters in spirit -  in our lives.

The Love Song of La ilaha ill’llah

IMG_1528“La ilaha ill’llah” is a love song between lover and Beloved. 

I have understood this phrase to mean “There is nothing but Allah.”  Recently I was listening to a teaching from Sa’id Bin Yunus at our retreat center in California where he clarified that it actually means, “There is nothing worthy of worship but Allah.” Another piece of learning came in understanding that in our original Divine nature, we were created in goodness, purity and worshipfulness. Putting these two new learnings together, I have a whole new experience of la ilaha ill’llah.

When I say “La ilaha ill’llah” I am connecting with my natural worshipful nature and with The One worthy of worship. It’s a love song between my heart and my Creator. It brings me into the truth of who I am and who God is to me. Everything else falls away. There is nothing of the created world that can live within this place of worshipping and Worshipped.

As I experience this profound state of worshipping The One worthy of worship, I gain strength in my spirit and in my being.  It is the strength of knowing and living in Truth and Certainty. As I feel this strength rise up in me from the depth of worshipping The One worthy of worship, I am filled with profound awe and humbleness that takes me into bowing, into prostration before The One Who Is. I know that Allah is Everything and I am nothing but that which Allah bestows upon me. My very life, every breath, every heart beat, every scrap of material resource, every bite of food I eat – it all comes to me as a blessing from Allah. The greatest blessing is to be given awareness of this magnificent process, and from this awareness to bow in deep gratitude for the opportunity to experience this life.

 

 

A Poem: Zero – 0

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy friend, Hafiz, says

“Zero

Is where the Real Fun starts.

There’s too much counting

Everywhere else!”

 

Have I been so busy about the business of counting

that life is passing me by?

If I stopped counting

to experience zero

what would I find?

 

0 is a circle

the embrace of Love

no beginning

no ending

always present

no matter which way I look

 

I can stop counting all the ways

I need to be good enough

I can stop counting all the ways

I need to be thankful enough

I can stop counting all the ways

I disbelieve God’s bountiful, merciful Love for me

In the zero – 0

I am held in the embrace of Divine Love

 

In the zero is where

poetry is born

dancing happens

heart sings

sun is born anew every dawn

stars blanket my sleep

my Beloved kisses my heart

 

Zero is the circle, the sphere, the ball, the world

where there is nothing but Love

 

Zero is where the

Real Fun

begins

 

playing spirits

dance poetry,

finger paint rainbow colors

of mountain meadow wild flowers,

gobble up sun drenched berries

juice splashing on tongue

dribbling down chin,

color outside the lines and

off the page

with Nature’s vibrant palette,

run through the sprinkler

splashed with cascading droplets of

cool, refreshing love,

and at sunset

gather around the campfire of Love

to melt into the mystery of

night, soft shadows, dreams

 

Zero is breathing with awe

into

the

Mystery

 

Zero is expressing deepest gratitude by

Being

all that I was created to Be

 

(c) 2006 Amina Melody Pryor

Poem: One Drop of Love

sunrise-treeGood Morning, Beloved

I awake and pray and

Your Love is a golden elixir

that sooths my breath and excites my heart

Oh Beloved

Put one drop of Your Love in my eyes

that I might see Your Light in every

blade of grass, tender rose petal, human eye

Oh Beloved

Put one drop of Your Love in my ears

that I might hear nothing but angles singing

the beauty of Your Name

Oh Beloved

Put one drop of Your Love in my nostrils

that I might inhale the

 intoxicating sweetness of Your Fragrance

Oh Beloved

Put one drop of Your Love upon my tongue

that my lips might be forever moistened with

the pleasure of Your Name

Oh Beloved

Put one drop of Your Love in my heart

that I might forever be Your

adoring slave

praying

loving

serving

rejoicing

crying

laughing

dancing

singing

forever prostrate in the unending universe contained in

One drop of Your Love

Good Morning Beloved

on the breath of dawn

the flower in my heart

is watered with Your Love

(c) 2008 Amina Melody Pryor

The Springing Forth of Spiritual Growth!

“When night settles and darkness intensifies and every lover is finally alone with their beloved, stand on your toes ready for your Beloved Allah. Talk intimately with Him, thanking Him for His gifts and favors.” – Sidi al-Jamal from “He Who Knows Himself Knows His Lord”

single tulip.JPGAround my neighborhood, I’ve been giving thanks for the beauty of spring flowers. All of the various colors and textures, sizes and fragrances of these beautiful signs of the Creator are truly a gift and a favor. 

As I enjoy Allah’s Beauty, I reflect on what it takes for a flower to come into being. It begins the journey as a seed or a bulb buried in the dark ground. Deep down inside of it’s essence, it knows the beauty of what it is and puts its energy into becoming that. 

A tulip does not wish to be a cherry tree and a cherry tree does not wish to be a rhododendron. Each simply “is” what it is. Buried in darkness, it is not veiled to the truth of its reality. It let’s its essence be called into being by the process of life. Roots push down and stems push up, it breaks the surface of the darkness, comes into the light and becomes Beauty. 

I reflect on what a beautiful metaphor this is for our own spiritual growth. Sidi teaches us that Allah hides our spirit in the dark psychological layers of the individualized self. Then Allah lights the lamp of His domain within us so our spirit can realize its original perfect nature. Deep down inside we know the beauty and reality of our holy essence. What an amazing experience it is to undergo this adventure of becoming and being who we were created to be! 

Let us give thanks for the process!

The Blessing of Community

Last weekend we had a beautiful blessed time of being in retreat with our beloved teacher, Nura Laird. One of the highlights of the retreat was the opportunity it afforded us to gather from near and far and be in community – learning, growing, eating, working and sharing together. This beautiful experience caused me to reflect on what “community” is about.

Sidi writes in “He Who Knows Himself Knows HIs Lord”, “Know that the levels of this way are well known to its family. The traveler on the path (as-salik) must walk through these levels, one after the other, until he arrives at the end. . . . The state of the salik is like that of the traveler who passes by stations on his way to Allah. Just as the traveler needs a guide who knows the way, provision for the way, a vehicle in which to travel, and a companion, the traveler on the path needs the guide who know the way – its goodness and danger. His provision is consciousness of Allah and guarding his self from evil (taqwa); the vehicle in which he travels is ardent effort (al-himmmah), and he needs companions that become his brethren who pursue the same way.”

“Community” is a very important part of the Sufi way. Being in community and community-building activities have always been a part of my life. But this is not the “norm” in our culture of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps individualism.

As I’ve been reflecting on why people hold back from community, it feels to me like we have learned to be afraid of one another. There has been so much breakdown of relationships in our society, even within our own families, and it has broken our hearts. Even if you have not experienced this directly, it permeates the consciousness of our culture. In the broken place, we have learned to fear being hurt, we have learned distrust and to guard and protect ourselves.

To be in community means having a level of vulnerability to risk the ways you’ll bump up against others. This friction is an essential and necessary part of growth. A seed does not lie passively in the ground until all of a sudden there is a plant. It takes a great force, a destructive effort to break through the shell and allow the roots and stem to emerge.

To experience spiritual and personal growth, we need community – that is, we need to be in relationship with others, especially the ones who will challenge our status quo. But we are afraid because conflict and discomfort and the aches and pains of growth are inherent in real, true, intimate relationships with those we care about most. We are afraid of the pain because we don’t have the skill to know how to be in relationship without either being a door mat and getting hurt, or being aggressive and hurting others. We don’t know how to love one another. We expect another person to be the source of our need for love, and when we don’t get love the way we want it, when we want it, we feel like the relationship is broken, and all too often we leave.

We need to be in relationship with one another because the way we bump up against each other is what teaches us love. It helps us see our humanity and our weakness – and that need, that vulnerability is what turns us to God. God IS the Source of Love. We are so needy for love. The Source magnetizes our need and turns our heart to where the love is – God. We simply cannot experience this level and depth of spiritual growth without one another.

In relationship – in community – we see where our inner work lies, we see the beauty of our holy creation, we uplift and support one another to keep going when the walking is challenging, we are there to celebrate, love and care for one other though all of life experiences. In our homes, and in the world, we need one another to know ourselves and to know God.

If you are one who has been holding back from joining community, I encourage you to be brave, reach out, go to dhikr, make a coffee date with someone you would like to know better, stretch your comfort zone and experience the growth of your spirit! Look at the beauty of spring unfolding around you and know that it is a blessing to grow – even when it is hard work.