The Sufi Way

Dear Mom,

I haven’t made it to Khane much at all like I thought I would. I find it hard to get through even one Du’a (prayer) without just being in a bucket of tears. There are smells and words and sounds and textures- even holding a tasbih in my hand- that are so you. They remind me of you. And this should be a good thing. But they also remind me that you are not here to be the barer of them. And that weighs too heavy on my heart. So instead of solace, sometime being in our place of prayer makes me so overly emotional.

Don’t get me wrong. I think I have written this before, but what our faith and the culture you brought us in has taught me is invaluable. I feel so grateful to know that I could go to any country in the world, and if I walk into a Khane, I will be welcomed and be made a part of a community because of this commonality – a belief system- that we share or at least grew up in.

The problem is that I have so many questions. I have so many misunderstandings or “un-understandings” about the words and rituals and protocols we just follow. But I feel like I am following them blindly because I don’t have a good sense of what they mean or stand for. I do want to learn better. I want to learn not just for myself, but to teach others, especially my nieces, your granddaughters. I know they have questions too, and I want to help them find the answers, but also encourage them to find their own answers, and make their own choices. Faith should not be forced on anyone. It’s very meaning- belief- is about what we feel inside. And I want to feel a closer tie to this faith you so lovingly made a part of our lives. I want to do this also to feel a closer connection to you.

And sure, I haven’t been practising our usual Ismaili ways for years, in terms of customs or going to khane. But I think in my heart and the way I live and the way I treat people shows that I have those values in me.

And I found another way to delve deeper into Islam, through something that resonates more with me- Sufism.  Remember when I came back from that Sufism school that one day? I went to it somewhere on Lonsdale. And I told you about it that night or the next day. And you were so excited. I was excited too. But it was a little overwhelming for. But that and of course all those poems by Rumi, and my fascination with mysticism has just planted this seed in me that I think is my “ticket” into an Islam that connects with me.

Thank you for being so excited for me, Mom. I remember the way your face lit up when I told you about it. You didn’t know much about Sufism, as far as I could tell. But you were pretty charged up about finding me books or helping me learn more about it.

Well, guess what? I am now, Mom. I’ve been taking this online course called The Sufi Way of the Beloved.  It’s by Andrew Harvey, the author whose book I got sent in the mail. I think I have written to you about that recently. Well, he is a passionate speaker. And I was so drawn to his passion and the way he spoke about literature and spirituality and passion and … He had this one line in his description of the course. He said something about Sufism being transfused into your veins, and that just had me.

I have to admit, I have found a lot of the information quite overwhelming. It is a lot to take in and some of it, I don’t quite understand. Or maybe I have just never been a great listener to one voice speaking continuously for long periods of time. I need visuals. I need to read the words. I need to stop and think about them or discuss them. Otherwise, they all become a blur.

But each week, I took another line or another concept, or another piece of history or something that intrigued me with me. And it added up until last week where I just had goosebumps for the whole hour as Andrew spoke about Rumi. I think he is right. The other lessons and talks were leading me to Rumi. Rumi is my in to spirituality, to Islam, to getting back to my connection with my faith. And I am hoping it will help me find a connection to you.

I actually called in to the talk afterwards, and spoke to Andrew live over the internet. I told him about you. I told him about what I was struggling with, what my intentions with the course were. And he reminded me of something it sounds like Rumi taught him, or at least consolidated in him- that there is no death, really. That we are connected still. And that I can find that connection through honoring my name- Tasleem, which I know means surrender. And this is the reason I was so fascinated with Sufism in the first place, Mom. I never got a chance to tell you how after I learned what my name meant, I also found out that the Sufis believed that surrender was the highest attainment that someone to achieve.

And that has been my goal ever since- to live up to my name. To surrender to life, to love, to God.  I just never knew that I’d be doing this without you physically here. Or at least not this soon. But Andrew gave me some wise words of wisdom. He listened with so much compassion and gave me so much hope.

Thank you, Mom, for honouring our faith and being so full of faith. Thank you for being such a beautiful role model of spirituality. Thank you for bringing me up with this as my grounding. I am sorry that I may have never really showed much appreciation for it. But I was feeling lost in it. Not quite understanding it. But I am wanting to learn. It may be through a different route that most, or than you went through or that I expected. But I think this is more me- poetry, mysticism, dance, surrender, passion, and love. When I think of these qualities as being so embedded in Islam, that gets me excited.

And I am going to use this to get more in touch with you. I will try to update you with what I learn along the way.  The Sufi Way.  It is kind of intriguing, and magical, and gives me hope that something truly beautiful will come out of this not just for me, but also for you and me together.

Love you, Mom.

 

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Awakening

Dear Mom,

It’s happening more. You know, the license plates and the 11:11’s and the serendipitous moments. Do you have a hand in this?

I know I used to believe in all of this before you passed away. I hate using those words, by the way.  But the shock of you falling and weakening and scared and in pain, and then just being gone, made me so angry at the world, at the Universe, and at God. I just felt like this is NOT the way it was supposed to happen. None of it made sense. Everything was going wrong in that month in terms of me being there for you. I felt like I was losing time with you, even then. But I had no idea there would not be any time left. It just kills my heart and soul to think about that. Most of the time, I don’t have to think about it though. It just kind of sits heavy in me constantly.

But this is the thing. There are some days, some moments, some magical kinds of happenings that have been taking place more and more  lately that make me think there has to be someone really taking care of you up there. Because something is taking care of me, in the most odd, but also unexpected and exciting ways. Is it you?  Are you making that Tas and Tea and now the Awaken license plates appear???

It’s not that I am even looking for them. I mean, that car yesterday- the second one in a few months where the license plate actually said Tea, it was parked, along a road I wasn’t evening walking. I was just driving, and turning a corner. And IT caught the corner of my eye. I thought I must have imagined it. So I kept driving. But then I thought, no no. I need to know. So I went all the way through some alleys to get back to that same spot. And there it was, sure enough, Tea. And not just TEA, but double 07 TEA. It’s like it was the James Bond of Tea- 007.  Mom, are you heightening your sense of humour up there? Because seriously, that was pretty clever.  Haha!

I don’t know if you even liked James Bond. I think you did, though, didn’t you?

And the funny thing is that tea license plate and car were in a completely different area of Vancouver than the other one I saw a few months ago. I’m not sure if they were the same car…

Oh my God. I just checked the other license plate that I took a picture of previously, that said TEA on it. And they are not even the same cars, or the same license plates.  Mom, this is so fascinating, spooky, and kind of freeing all at the same time.

But the clincher was AWAKEN. Yeah, you heard me, AWAKEN, on a friggin license plate. But here’s the thing. I was driving along Pacific Street later at night. So it was dark. You know there aren’t a lot of lights there. Maybe the roads are lit up a bit with the traffic lights if there are any. But not the parked areas near the sidewalks. And so I should really not have been able to see this license plate. It was not even from here. It was an Alberta plate, I think. So it was written in red, against the white background, rather than black. So it looked even darker than a normal license plate- less contrast.

I was driving, not even turning anywhere near the corner where that AWAKEN car was parked. But again, it was like my subconscious caught it, not my ‘waking’ mind. Haha! Oh, the irony.

But something IN me caught it. And I could have just kept driving on home. Not knowing for sure whether I imagined it. But once again, I went back. This time, I had to wind through those closed off and one way streets, typical of the west end, to get back to that car. But I did, and yup, AWAKEN it did say. I had to take a picture to prove it, more to myself than anyone else.

Does it mean I am going through an awakening? Or is it telling me I need to awaken to something I’m not seeing or understanding?

Because I have been feeling so many shifts more recently. Spiritually, emotionally, and ‘serendipitously’.  I still think I imagine them sometimes. But they are growing so much, sometimes a few happening in one day, or a matter of just a few hours, rather than a few in a couple of weeks or in a couple of months.

It’s stronger now, Mom. It all feels more powerful.  I almost am getting to the point where I expect them to happen, or maybe I am less surprised that they happen. It’s just becoming a part of my ‘norm’.

I’d like to think it’s not an angry force telling me I am on the wrong path. That I need to awaken, and get my head out of the thoughts or path I am currently on.  That instead, the license plate couldn’t have fit the word  AWAKENING on it. That’s too many letters. So it just fit in it what it could, hoping that I would get the message. That I am going through an opening, of heart and soul, and that I am being taken cared of, that YOU are being taken cared of most importantly. And that you and the Universe are just reminding me to continue with the path I am on. That mistakes have not been made. That there is a bigger purpose to this that will be revealed to me at a later date.

I don’t know. It’s hard to know what is reality, and what is make believe anymore.

Someone that came into my life recently shared a story with me yesterday. He said the Buddha was asked what is reality? And the Buddha, in response, just smiled.

It’s like that, isn’t it, Mom? It’s just like a not knowing. A creating of what we believe is real or not.  Well, I have to say that at first, thought I might be in shock when I see these very unexpected signs, I do smile after. Something in my heart smiles, hoping, wishing, that it is you. That they are messages from my mom.

Love you.
Tas