Thursday, January 11, 2007

Visit To A Sufi Meeting House

We arrived in separate cars but as soon as we entered the opened door we began to feel the shared peace. Hospitality at the Sufi Meeting House in Houston, Texas, met us in remarkable ways: beautiful people, smiling with quiet grace, greeting us as though we were insiders rather than the outsiders we knew we were.

Once inside the building, we were directed to remove our shoes and place them on the rack provided - this added to our sense that we were moving into sacred space. We signed our names and addresses in a book, as one would at a wedding or a reception of some sort, and were given earphones for an immediate translation of the master's talk.

I remembered my first visit to this meeting house - I described it in the book (Magdalene Mystique, pages 23-26) – how the master had spoken of the journey into self-knowledge and the resources of goodness that we can find in the heart.

Tonight was my second visit and this time there were 15 people from our contemporary Magdalene Community. We knew each other well but remained in silence as we entered the space.

In the large room where we would remain for the next two hours, the women were seated on the left side and men on the right. We were given hot tea and tasty bread as a welcoming gesture. This was after we had taken our places on the floor.

After some time of quiet, the master began to speak though a recording - his message was coming to us by audio and video from Germany. As his message came though, we were simultaneously looking at videos of other buildings this international Sufi community had built in recent years and imaging the numbers of people in those buildings who were listening with us, on this Saturday night – in Dallas, Texas, in California and Virginia, Newcastle, UK and elsewhere. [Go to for their website where you will find explanations and definitions as the one below:]

"Sufism is generally accepted to be the mystical dimension of Islam. Although the origin of Sufism has been variously explained and interpreted, I would like to present it the way I have experienced it. Sufism is the reality of religion. By this I mean experiencing God in one's inner self, cognizing the ultimate knowledge, submitting to Him, and loving him with one's mind and heart. This is the reality of religion as I know it."
Nader Angha

Tonight the master was provocative and questioning: "Who wants to know?" he said.
(and the operative word here is know.)
"What is it that doesn't need a teacher?"
(And I answered under my breath: it’s my own experience that doesn’t need to be taught.)

And the master continued: "Who is your God? and then as though answering his own question: "This should be your God: the one who makes you grow - you have to know this God... this has to percolate from comes from inside...That is your God: the connecting point: the connecting point to the unlimited - you have to go through that point to expand."

There was much more of course but much was similar to what we talk about in our Magdalene Community: about the inward path to a peace that surpasses all understanding and the world within (as Anita Kruse sings about on the http://www.themagdalenemystiquecd website)

It is the inward path to peace that we are all about in our community. The path we have found together in our study of the Gospel of Mary --- a path that is healing and transformative leading to self-knowledge and the joy and peace. This was what the master was talking about: finding the peace that makes us grow, finding God within ourselves, coming to know ourselves and God.

There were some places in his message that I wanted to talk about, that I felt we had a difference. And it is true that we were warmly invited to ask questions following the talk I wanted to know more about the rituals, and the lovingly prepared food that we were given after the talk. And the prayers and the chanting, etc. etc.
I wish now we had stayed and talked, but most of us made our way out the door and into the evening light. I suppose it was a lot to take in. Many of our thoughts about the experience had not yet pushed their way up in any articulate way. But outside we expressed how eager we were to talk about our experience. We decided that this would be the topic of our conversation the next morning at the Rothko Chapel Service.

On Sunday afternoon Zari called. (Zari is my friend and connection to this Sufi Meeting House). She mentioned that her community had wanted us to stay and ask questions and talk.
I knew then that we had missed an opportunity. We also had wanted to talk but had moved on outside instead. Perhaps it was something foolish going on in our minds – that it was time to go or that we had already stayed too long – some way of imagining that the Sufi community would need a break (from us). Sometimes we defeat ourselves in foolish ways – for fear of being in the way when in reality it is time to embrace, and talk, and converse.

Now the idea comes to me that we can talk on this website so all can hear. Hopefully someone from the Islamic Sufi community will join our conversation. Then we can begin more fully to fulfill our mission to be in conversation with other spiritualities and religious communities. Until that happens, go to Sufi website and explore the world of Islamic Sufism as it is understood by this particular school. Those of you who were there that evening, please weigh in with your thoughts. Until then.................