Posts Tagged With: Pir Shabda Kahn

Review: Companion Books for Sufi Meditation

In May-June of this year I walked the Camino Francés to Santiago de Compostela. During my journey I undertook a daily spiritual practice from the Sufi tradition as a walking meditation. In a post entitled Momentum from my Camino blog The Essential Way, I wrote a bit about wazifa chanting practice, invoking any of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah, as a spiritual take-along due to its deepening effect on me. I can’t begin to tell you how important the practice turned out to be during this time. I chose specific wazifas that guided me and shaped focus and experience. When my body was having difficulty, they eased my pain and got me up mountains. When the day on the trail became long and my mind grew bored, they brought my awareness to presence and the beauty surrounding me. When I wrestled with uncertainty or issues, they helped usher in clarity.

Prior to embarking I told two Sufi friends about my intent for wazifa practice. Each mentioned a different book as a potential guide: Physicians of the Heart: A Sufi View of the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah and The Sufi Book of Life: 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish. I didn’t know either existed and was happy to learn there were e-book versions. When you’re carrying a backpack with your bare necessities, every ounce counts. Since they added no additional weight, I downloaded both. They proved to be valuable by providing different lenses, sorting perspectives on the same spiritual tenets based on the authors’ backgrounds and interests. All are well-known living Sufi mystics and leaders.

 Physicians of the Heart

Pir Shabda Kahn has been the spiritual lineage holder of the Sufi Ruhaniat International since 2001. In the introduction to Physicians of the Heart he writes about receiving inner direction, shortly after accepting the appointment, to bring forth an English language guidebook on the Beautiful Names to accompany study and practice. He invited three other Sufi teachers to join him in this spiritual work. Faisal Muqaddam is a founder of the Diamond Approach, merging psychology of the human spirit with Sufism. Imam Bilal Hyde is an Arabic and Qur’anic scholar. Murshid Wali Ali Meyer is the head of the esoteric school of the Ruhaniat. Aside from his work as lineage holder, Shabda is a recognized master of raga—Indian classical vocal music—and accomplished musician. This esteemed circle gathered for ten years to undertake deep wazifa study with intent toward producing a spiritual guidebook offering elements to take present-day practitioners to progressive levels of immersion.

For several years beginning in the late ‘90s I attended Sufi retreats featuring Shabda as teacher where he also led wazifa practice and Dances of Universal Peace. In ’98 I went to India with him to study introductory raga. I was already predisposed to embrace Physicians of the Heart without yet laying eyes on the first page.

There are many things I appreciate about its contents. It is easy to see the influence of each contributor’s knowledge, which brings a holistic approach and depth that had been lacking in my own awareness in wazifa practice, even though an effect was still there. I am particularly drawn to their distinction of select wazifas working together along a common theme. For instance, already knowing I was going to work with Ya Fattah I was shown to work with two additional wazifas, encompassing a natural, believable progression: Ya Wahhab (O, Giver of Gifts) to Ya Razzaq (O, Provider) to Ya Fattah (O, Opener). This metaphor is given to frame how they evolve one to the other. It resonated with me.

 …al-Wahhab is the free rain that is given to all, ar-Razzaq is the water that flows in irrigation ditches, and al-Fattah is all the fruit harvested from all the trees that have been irrigated. In other words, al-Fattah is the continuing action of all that will ever be accomplished…

First, a belief in abundance is necessary: There is enough for all. Second, the opportunity accepted, evidenced through work done to lay the foundation. Finally, there’s fruition of all the groundwork, consistently accomplished, so it stretches ahead to be met with each footfall. Should a practitioner encounter inner difficulties working with a wazifa, direction is given toward other wazifas that serve to help transmute limiting beliefs and patterns.

The content of the book covers a lot of ground: Arabic linguistic roots, pronunciation—even connecting to an audio version online—psychological components, Sufi teachings, overview and in-depth explanation of each wazifa. It is a reference for Sufi practitioners.

However, you don’t have to be one to glean value and guidance. I especially appreciate the way the book is organized. I may not be interested in the sound code on which there’s a detailed, technical chapter, but I can quickly find a wazifa, that draws me by the brief description of each one. Then go to the page where that one is discussed in depth and allow the knowledge to permeate my practice in ways I hadn’t foreseen.

Here’s a video treat: the authors speaking about their meetings and practice over ten years that culminated in this book.

Available via the book’s website or Amazon.

The-Sufi-Book-of-Life

I know Saadi Shakur Chishti—Neil Douglas-Klotz—through his books. He is perhaps best known for his translation of words attributed to Jesus from his native Aramaic language. In The Hidden Gospel Saadi compares the King James Version to the translated Aramaic of Jesus’ time. Dry, punitive language is transformed to lyrical prose that holds beauty and hope. In this latter version I can not only engage—but also immerse my soul. I pulled an example to give you an idea.

John 4:24

KJV: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Translated Aramaic: Those who surrender to Unity, bowing to it in utmost adoration, must do so in breath and harmony, like the sense of right direction that drives the universal winds.

Given that his approach and translations in The Hidden Gospel transformed Jesus—to me—into a believable, approachable, forgiving teacher I was also predisposed to embrace The Sufi Book of Life.

In the introduction Saadi encourages the reader to meander through the book and notice which wazifas draw you…and work with those. This is easy to do because the chapter titles are in English illustrating a sense of what is sought or produced. Below the title is the wazifa in Arabic and guidance as to what is likely drawing you to that specific one. In the following paragraphs he lays the foundation in poetic language. Then draws upon Sufi teaching stories and poetry to embellish our understanding. When I read such writing I automatically find myself riding the Breath of Life to that inner place I’m being directed. It goes in a different way. The practice has already begun.

To return to my chosen wazifa Ya Fattah, the descriptive chapter title says Opening to Unity’s Breath. Guidance indicates I chose that one to: …take the opportunity to experience the Sacred Unity opening you to your destiny.

He proceeds to draw from Sufi teachings and the sayings of Muhammad to bring more depth: If they remember me in their heart, I remember them within my heart. If they come toward me walking, I come toward them running.

At the core we all want such a thing and there’s often fear accompanying the heart’s desire. Saadi names such limiting emotions and elaborates with Rumi’s words: Don’t be afraid of nonbeing. If you want to be afraid, fear the existence you have now…

There’s a section entitled Roots and Branches that offers the traditional translations and variations of the word and sound roots. Each chapter ends with a suggested meditation offering a physical centering point, progression using the breath, ending with a question to consider through the process. Since I use breath and energy in my daily meditations, this is naturally appealing to me.

Available on Amazon.

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I found each of these guidebooks to be beautifully powerful in their own way. They can be used separately. But I found them particularly useful as companion books for practice.

Categories: Book Review, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Lifepath Dialogues Gathering: The Ways of Inclusion (Audio)

The Lifepath Dialogues Gathering is held on the fourth Wednesdays, 6:30-8 PM, at Creekside Center in Prescott, Arizona. The intent is to build like-hearted community and dialogue about what truly matters. I choose monthly topics from my blog and host the evening with special invited guest(s) whose philosophies and work are relevant to the topic. The format involves my presentation of material to create a framework and interview of the special guests. This portion is recorded to share with the world community—wherever you are. Then we turn off the recorder and turn to intimate sharing.

The November 28 Lifepath Dialogues Gathering:

The Ways of Inclusion

The complete unedited audio is about 40 minutes long. Click below to listen. Please be patient as it may take a few minutes to download! I hope you enjoy.

This discussion was based on the post: The Gift of Mother India

By CARLA WOODY
Author of Calling Our Spirits Home and Standing Stark
Founder, Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers

Yaqin Lance Sandleben PhotoNovember’s special guest was Yaqin Lance Sandleben. Yaqin is a Cherag, an ordained minister of American Sufism following the Chisti Sufi lineage of India. He leads the Dances of Universal Peace, Universal Worship Service and offers guidance on the path of spiritual awakening. Yaqin lives in Prescott, Arizona, where he has practiced pharmacy for 35 years, raised a family, and served the community in different ways—mostly through volunteering.  His interests in religion, spiritual development, and the awakening process began at the age of 12 in the Christian Church.   For many years he studied well known and obscure paths of awakening.  He began meditating 40 years ago and embraced American Sufism 33 years ago.   He has also studied and practiced Buddhism with many teachers, including HH the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan teachers.  His Sufi connection has led him to India, to the shrines of saints, and to the study of Raga, Indian Classical music.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healing, Healthy Living, Meditation, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Gift of Mother India

Last night I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with a circle of friends. It’s a film about travelers all seeking something—even if they didn’t know it—against the backdrop of very foreign land, in this case Jaipur, India. As we sat around a restaurant table afterwards, my friends and I had plenty of fodder for discussion—and for me, waves of beautifully intense memories flooded back.

In February of 1998 I was in Delhi and Jaipur studying raga, Indian classical vocal music, with Pir Shabda Kahn, who is now spiritual leader of the Sufi Ruhaniat International and Director of the Chisti Sabri School of Music. I was truly ripe for my experience in Mother India and what unfolded back then. Through the daily hours-long practice the veil became quite thin. I remember having a challenge staying grounded in “normal” reality at all. The drone of the tamboura going straight in through my crown set up the ensuing Initiation quite nicely. I relayed part of my experience in my first book: Calling Our Spirits Home.

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Temple photo

Burial temple in Delhi of Hazrat Inayat Khan, who brought Sufism to the west.

I was drawn to go to India.  I was inexplicably drawn from the depths of my soul.  I had no words of explanation for my friends and family.  I had no expectations toward the outcome.  Yet, I knew that India had something to teach me, and that I would learn.  I found myself in a state of not knowing, but trusting.

We landed in Delhi in the early morning hours.  As our taxi conveyed us to our hotel, I was immediately transported back to 1978.  Magically, my time travel took me to the six months I spent in Iran.  There was a palpable aura of dejá vu as I noted the walls at streets’ edges barring glimpses into homes beyond and battered shutters rolled down over crumbling shop fronts.  The same coating of dust blanketed everything.  I saw the faces of the Iranian people I knew back then in the dark skin and beautiful brown eyes of our taxi driver.  I said to myself: This is nothing new.

In the days that followed, I made entries into my mental databank:  beautiful architecture, beggars on the street, tent dwellings, exquisite handicrafts, waves of people, gracious smiles, noxious fumes and traffic without rules.  Each time effectively dissociated, I said: I’ve seen this before.  Then we left Delhi and went to Jaipur.

While still in Delhi, I wrote about my feelings that, as I looked back on them later, seemed prophetic to me.  From my journal: “I feel as though I am waiting to leave Delhi and go to Jaipur where something awaits me.  I have the sense of going into myself and knowing that Self in all its manifestations—past, present and future…”

Choutu Singh

Choutu Singh

I spent the first days in Jaipur in meditative practices sequestered in the compound of Diggi Palace where we were staying.  Diggi Palace was so named from its history as the hunting lodge of a long-gone maharaja.  Its modest rooms and grounds provided an oasis in the heart of Jaipur.  On the third day, my companion and I left the grounds and encountered Choutu Singh, the young Indian man who would become our constant guide.  He offered us the services of his rickshaw and there I began my Initiation.

It seemed that Choutu drove us through every aspect of Jaipur and suddenly I experienced all as new—and connected directly to me.  From my enduring meditations, or perhaps from just being in Mother India, I was in a heightened state of awareness.  As we drove through byways and alleyways, the material destitution of the people I saw entered me.  The filth I saw entered me.  The barrage of noise and toxic air entered me.  The open sides of the rickshaw found no barrier, physical or psychic, that divided any experience from me.  There were no boundaries.  All was seamless and I said out loud, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Jaipur photo

Street scene Jaipur.

Carla Woody photo

Author Carla Woody in a Jain Temple in Jaipur.

We had stopped in a gem shop when I experienced waves of illness—immediate, sudden.  Although quite healthy prior to our venture out that afternoon, by the time we returned to Diggi Palace less than an hour later, I was desperately ill.  Fever, chills, insomnia and acute body aches were my companion through the night.

Inexplicably, waves of intense sadness arose from unaccountable depths.  It was mine and it was not mine.   Tears streamed down my face off and on through the night and during meditation the next morning.  Then, I put hands on myself with the intent toward healing and began to feel better throughout the day.  That night I had a normal night’s sleep and awoke feeling energetic and light as though I had been through a deep cleanse.

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It took me two years to integrate this gift. Through that process I learned that dissociating from what brings fear only enlarges upon fear. Solely by fully associating, inviting the demon to tea as Shabda was fond of saying, allowing the aversion or angst to wash through consciousness may it be transformed. I remain indebted to Pir Shabda Kahn for creating the safe haven for this particular Initiation of mine.

Categories: Arts, Healing, Meditation, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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