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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…Something That Is Red

Dear Mom,

A couple of days ago, I was walking home near my place. And this cutest little child’s voice caught my attention.  I looked over saw this little girl, with kind of a bowl haircut, walking with her mom. They were holding hands at first.  It always melts and then almost stops my heart when I see mother daughter pairs, especially when they are younger. It makes me wonder what we were like together, when I was just a little kid.  And I wish I could go back to those times to really soak them in and savor every moment of them.

First, I could hear the girl counting things. Trees? Cars? And her counting would go up to ten and then her mother would say, “Are there only ten? Are you sure?” And so the girl would start again, her mother obviously trying to get her to practise counting past ten.

The girl started saying, “eleven, sixteen, seventeen, twenty!” and skipping numbers. It was adorable. I couldn’t stop laughing but they were behind me so they couldn’t see my facial expression

The mother was pointing out some things for the little girl to look at. It was so cute, the way the girl would react.  But I was almost in tears, wishing that I could get those moments back with you.  Wishing that I could just hold my mom’s hand again, whether as a child or adult. It didn’t matter.

When they got to another corner, the girl put out her hands and asked her mom to carry her.  Her mother lifted her up and started saying, “I see something that is…”  And I realized it was the same game you would play with us a lot. You know the one where you would call out a colour or a shape or a word, and say you saw it somewhere, and we would have to point to what it is that you were referring to?  Kind of like a parent-child version of Eye Spy. Yeah, they were playing that game.

I don’t even know if I remember actually playing it with you. All my childhood memories seem like such a fog. Sometimes, I think they are memories, and other times, I am not sure if they come from my own imaginings, or from photos, or from stories that other people tell me.

But this game in particular stands out, because I know that even just a few years ago, you would remind R and I about the game. I think you said that you would play it a lot with us, or especially with him, when you were in car.

So this woman said, “I see something that is red”, while she was holding her daughter in her arms and walking down the street. And her daughter was pointing out things that were’t red at all.  So her mother started laughing. She seemed to be pointing to all the parked cars, but they were black and blue. Until her mom said, “Oh yes, the headlights are red.”  I think it taught both of us something.  We both needed to look a little closer.

And finally, it turned out that a red car and the fire hydrant up ahead were what the mother was actually trying to get her to see. But I guess the daughter made her see some other things she didn’t notice at first too.

Thank you, Mom, for playing games with us, for pointing out new colours and signs to us, and getting us to notice our surroundings more.  I know maybe it was a game to keep us distracted an not bored during car rides or while we were waiting somewhere that was not within reach of other toys.  But those games planted good memories, good feelings, and a closeness between us that lives on in me still to this day.

I could be so sad about seeing other mothers and daughters play such games around me.  Missing you and knowing that that I could never bring that back.  Or, I could pretend that maybe you planted that mother and daughter to play that specific game around me, just because you might not physically be able to do it with me right now.  But you still wanted me to notice the red around me, the beauty, the child like freedom and the never ending love between a mother and daughter.

Love you, Mom.

Can you find more ways to play the game with me again?

Choose another colour or letter, or shape next time. And I will try to see what you are seeing.  It will be like you are right there with me.

Thank you, Mom.

Dragonflies

Dear Mom,

I went to a show the other night with two of my friends.  But instead of watching the actors on stage, I found myself pleasantly distracted by the dragonflies that swarmed above us.

We were at Theater Under the Stars at Stanley Park.  And at first, I thought it was just one dragonfly.  You know, another sign, from ‘you’.  So I had my eye fixated on it.  But it seems that maybe it’s an area where a lot of dragonflies come to? I don’t know. That’s what I thought I heard.  And so, at first, I was a little disappointed. Like it was just a usual occurrence there.

Because you know I’m obsessed with dragonflies, right? And you know why? Because of the necklace you bought me on my la…, I was going to say my last birthday. It wasn’t my last. It was two years ago. But it felt like my last in a sense, because birthdays AFTER the person who gave birth to me is ‘gone’ just don’t feel like birthdays at all.

Anyway, you bought me this pendant and necklace. Do you remember? You were really sick that day. But we were in Capilano Mall. And you kept insisting that we get this pendant. It was beautiful.  A blue butterfly, we thought. At least that’s what I assumed it was. And to my knowledge, you weren’t familiar with what dragonflies were. So I am sure you thought it was a butterfly too.

I think about that moment now, and realize that either you or something in the Universe knew it was going to be the last present. Maybe you didn’t know. But you obviously felt very adamant that you were going to get me something.  Gosh, Mom, how that something became the thing that represented ‘everything’ to me.  Because wasn’t it only a couple of weeks later, not even, that you were in the hospital? I am so lost with time.

One day, many months or I don’t know how long after that, I went to get a massage in lower Lonsdale.  The girl who usually gives me massages said, “I love your necklace. Dragonflies are really meaningful to me.”

Dragonflies? I thought. But this is a butterfly, isn’t it?

Then, she told me that she could tell it was a dragonfly because of the tail.  And we started discussing the significance of these magical creatures. Their blue wings, their light and airy presence, their unique look and especially how they are supposed to be good luck. When you see them.  And I’ve been learning more about them ever since.

  • I’ve learned that the Dragonfly is the world’s fastest flying insect
  • That seeing them more often can represent being more receptive to messages from the Universe.
  • People who have absorbed and retain the energy of the Spirit of the Dragonfly are often good healers
  • A dragonfly paperweight will help to bring harmony to the environment.
  • You can call upon the energy of the Dragonfly Spirit to your mind- for healing of emotional wounds and grief.
  • “The Dragonfly has a 360 degree field of vision, the eyes have 30,000 facets, each of which is a separate light sensing organ. The Dragonfly has a particular optical illusion called motion camouflage, moving in such a way to project itself as a stationary object, whilst moving at great speed, as a method of self protection against all that would cause them harm.”
  • The oldest known species of Dragonfly are 320million years old, and appear in fossils.
  • When a dragonfly shows up in your life, it may be a reminder to bring more joy and lightness in your life. It can also be a message that it’s time for change.

I can’t find any specific writings on it now, so I don’t know if I made this next part up, but I thought that dragonflies were a symbol from heaven. So I’d like to think that they are telling me that you are okay, that YOU are telling me that you are okay. And that you are bringing me this beautiful flying insect, out of nowhere, especially when I am feeling really down and worried about you, to tell me there is nothing to worry about.

Because it wasn’t just in Stanley Park that I saw dragonflies. What about the one I saw a couple of weeks ago, when I was really sad after an appointment? I was thinking about you and all the medical things you had to go through. Some of which I don’t know about exactly. And I felt so heavy hearted and teary eyed. And I’m walking back to your car. Yes, I still call it your car as that’s what it was. And right there, on a side road in Kitsilano, I catch something out of the corner of my eye. And sure enough, it was a beautiful dragonfly. I followed it, and imagined that it was also following me. We did this little dance between the two of us for some time. And then it kind of just disappeared into the bushes or trees, and it was gone, just like that.

But the feeling it brought me- the lightness, and weight it lifted off of me, stayed with me for some time after.

And when I think about it, I have seen quite a few dragonflies since you passed away. Even at the skytrain station, when I realized I took the wrong train and wondered why I was even there. Why I made that mistake. I end up being accompanied on my wait by a dragonfly, just whisking above my head. Around and down and up and in circles, just flitting about.  I didn’t care anymore about the ‘wrong’ train I took. I felt almost like I had gotten a little taste of heaven in that moment. And I hope that heavenly message was from you.

So many people now know about my obsession with dragonflies. One of my friends from a grief therapy group I went to just months after you passed away sends me messages whenever she encounters dragonflies. She says she thinks of me and you at those times.

And even A. and K. and R. chose a dragonfly charm for my Pandora Bracelet (yes, the bracelet you bought me), as a Christmas present a couple of years ago, because they know how much I love dragonflies.  Because of you.

Thank you for that beautiful gift, Mom. I get so many compliments on the necklace whenever I wear it. I haven’t been wearing it as much lately only because one day, I realized the chain had undone, and I was so relieved that I didn’t lose it or the pendant. So I am just being more careful with it now.

But thank you for bringing my dragonflies, the spirit and magic of dragonflies. I hold them dear to me, as a sign that you are surrounding me always. And that you are surrounded by those and even more beautiful creatures and energies every moment of every day.   That you just send down a little taste of all the beauty that is around you now in heaven.

I love you.

Tas

India Calling

Mom! We won a book last week! Yes, I said “we” because I refuse to believe that this was anything but a collaboration between you, me, and spirit.

See, the book giveaway was being offered through Sacred Earth Journeys. I guess they put on these tours to different parts of the world.  And their contest asked people to describe which of the three tours they are offering would be the place they’d want to go, and why.

The choices were:

Search for Wisdom in Sacred India- with the leader Andrew Harvey

Discover the Wild West of Ireland- with Phil Cousineau

or Connect to the Power Places in Ancient Peru- with Freddy Silva.

They all sound amazing, but of course, I chose the one to India.  First of all, because, well, it’s India. Those are my roots and I’ve always wanted to see India. I know it would be one of the most special and profound, if not the most, trips I could ever go on.  Plus, I know YOU really wanted to see India. And I am so sorry that I didn’t stand up for you and your rights and your dreams when anyone told you you couldn’t go to India because of your age, or your situation or your health, or whatever other fears they might have had within themselves, or for you. It was not right to cut down your dreams and hopes like that.

And I am so sorry I couldn’t find a way to take you to India, to make that and other dreams of yours come true. I couldn’t even figure out how to get myself there. I still don’t know how that would work. My crazy immune system reacts badly when I am in western countries.  I am not sure how it would handle the food, heat, change of atmosphere, or any vaccinations I might have to take before going out there.  So that, on top of making sure you were safe and properly cared for,… it felt like too much of a risk to take all by myself. I didn’t want to put you in any harm if I were not well there.

And the way I travel- it’s kind of not conducive to nice, sweet, take your time and know exactly where you are going mothers like you. I wouldn’t want to do that to you. It wouldn’t have worked. But it’s the best way I know how to travel for myself- to have some kind of loose plan, but then go with the flow and even get lost in places that led me to the best adventures I never would have found otherwise.

That is not something I could have put you through. Of course not. But I didn’t know how to plan a trip with you where I wouldn’t know the place, or how my body would handle it. So… I chickened out and made no plans for us at all. I am sorry, Mom. It will always be another big regret of mine.

It’s probably the biggest reason I was compelled to choose India in this “contest”.  And the word ‘sacred’- well, you must know by now how that can draw me in. Especially now. I am looking for something sacred, spiritual. Especially a connection to you.

So.. this is what I wrote:

I would definitely choose the Search for Wisdom in India. I am of Indian heritage but was born and brought up in Canada. I have never been to India but have always wanted to see it. I always knew it would be a very special trip for me, but more so now than before. My mom passed away two and a half years ago. I feel lost without her. She really wanted to see India but didn’t get to go. I wasn’t able to figure out how to take her. I feel I need to take this trip now for me AND for her. I usually travel by myself and love traveling. But I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to travel on my own to India. So the thought of going on a trip with Andrew- to be able to meet him in person and be inspired by his obvious passion for cultures and history, would be amazing. I especially am intrigued by the emphasis on the sacred and search for wisdom, mentioned in the title of the trip. Just the thought of it brings me goosebumps. Maybe it would connect me and my mom and bring me some peace in that regard. Going to India is something I feel compelled to do but have not found the right opportunity to ensure it would be a safe, organised but also inspiring trip. Maybe that is about to change.

Because of this, I ended up winning the 3rd prize, which is a book called Radical Passion- written by Andrew Harvey himself.  We ended up winning it, together. Our story of an endless mother- daughter connection.

I need to tell you more about this man and what he does and what he stands for in another blog entry. But for now, I will say thank you, Mom, for still connecting me to things that matter, to still being able to both ground me and inspire me despite us not being physically together. You’re right- that is the power of a mother.  There is nothing like it. A mother is absolutely irreplaceable.

I will let you know when the book arrives. Maybe you will already know before me. I like to imagine you have a hand in delivering it right at the right moment.

India, Mom. It’s coming, and it’s calling me. I think it always has been. I can just feel it more strongly now.  I will find a way to make it happen for us.

A trip of a lifetime, or more than a lifetime, you could say. Because we are definitely doing this together.

Love you, Mom.

Happy Sunday.  No day goes by without you on my mind and heart.

 

Matching Pyjamas

Dear Mom,

I rarely go shopping anymore. It’s not the same without you.

But the other day, I took a little peak into La Vie En Rose. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I just hadn’t been in there for awhile. And guess what I found? Pyjamas with a tea theme!!! Not kidding you.

Of course, I fell in love with them right away. And you know the best part? The main colour they came in was yellow. That baby, spring yellow.  The print I liked the most had a pile of tea cups – one on top of the other- and under them was written “You’re my cup of tea.”  You are mine, Mom. My cup of tea.  Like all the things you loved about tea- the soothing, warm, relaxing, love it so much, you can’t live with it out it for too long- you got from each sip, that’s what I felt and still feel about you.

But I don’t have a choice in living without you physically. That was taken away. So I find ways to keep you with me in another sense- like writing these entries to you.

So I bought the tea cup pyjama top for you, for us.  -That particular one I described came in tank top style.  But as always, I imagined which kind would be good for you.  I know you wouldn’t have liked the tank top.  So just for fun, I tried on the short sleeve one as well. That one was also in yellow, but had a different message on it.  It says, “There’s always time for tea”. I didn’t buy it. It didn’t fit that well on me. But it would have been perfect for you, I think.

Remember how you hated trying clothes on in shops? And how I would get so frustrated with it because then we would go home and it wouldn’t fit and then guess who had to take the clothing item back?

But now, I would do anything to go into a shop for you and you buy as many clothes as you want, without trying even one on. And I would not say a word about it. Maybe just laugh. And I would just think of the trip back that would have to be made to return the ones that didn’t fit as an excuse to spend another day with you at the mall, or anywhere for that matter.

I wish I could have bought you the short sleeve pyjama shirt and some matching pyjama bottoms for both of us. And I would take them and my new yellow tea cup tank top with me to your place, ask you to put your new outfit on, and I would propose a mother-daughter sleepover, in matching pj’s.   I would also buy you slippers. Remember how much I loved buying you slippers? I loved seeing your feet look so cosy and comfortable.

We could have taken pictures of ourselves drinking tea in our tea cup pyjamas, and used the pictures and the memories of our sleepover for some good laughs at the next family gathering.  Or just keep it to ourselves. Either way, I wish I could have spent more fun, relaxing days with you like that. I wish I had made a better effort to make them happen.

All I can do now is think of you everytime I wear my pyjama top. And hope that you know that the words on it are for you, always.

And maybe next lifetime, if I am given another one with you, I will be sure to not miss an opportunity to wear matching pyjamas, shop together for as long as you want, and sip tea and laugh without worrying about what else there is ‘needed’ to be done or to go to. Because nothing was more important than you.

Everything Come Back to You

Every word, every book,

Every step, every trip,

Every page, every story,

Every Sunday morning.

Every bite, every taste,

Every flower, every gaze,

Every giggle, every tear.

Everything comes back to you, Mom.

                                                                                               ~ Tasleem

Every song makes me think of you- especially the ones about love or loss.

This one in particular, these days:

“Over and over, the only truth,

Everything comes back to you,

Everything comes back to you.”

                                                                                             ~ Niall Horan

 

 

Always Be Your Baby

Dear Mom,

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream about you and me.  I was sitting on your lap, not as a child, but as an adult. And you were rocking me or comforting me, and still being the mother who babies me. But the thing is that I liked it. Not just because you were holding me- though that was really nice.  But more so because you seemed strong enough to do so, comfortable and healthy and as if you wanted me to know you could still make things better.

Mother's lap2

I was waiting for a class. It was some kind of class that I was nervous about- like an acting class or maybe some kind of dance or performance class.  And, without words, you wanted me to know everything was going to be okay.  I think that while I was sitting on you and you had your arms around me, I realized the door to the class had opened and I was going to be late.  I worried a little about that for a moment, but then I didn’t seem to care, because nothing seemed better or more important than to be exactly where I was, in my mother’s arms.

It was so different than most of the other dreams that I have had about you since you’ve been gone.  The other dreams are disturbing, painful, scary and don’t make me feel l like you are at peace. In the other dreams, sometimes, you didn’t know you had passed away. Other times, you were bleeding, or there was some part of your body that was not together with the rest of you.  Or you were tired or upset or I continued to make the mistake of not dropping everything and just concentrating on you.  In some of the dreams, I tried to help you, but I couldn’t for some reason. And then I would wake up in tears, or feeling guilty, or feeling as if my heart literally hurt.

And I didn’t know what to make of those dreams. Sometimes, I hear about people who have dreams of their loved ones who have passed away. That the person who has passed, sends down messages- usually of comfort or something more positive.

I started worrying that if I was only dreaming of disheartening things that felt full of anguish, that maybe that meant that you were not well, or at peace. And that is so hard to live with, or to not know the true answer to. And of course, the hardest part is to feel helpless in not knowing what I can do to make sure of your peace.

But then there was this one dream- the one about you holding me. And even if it means nothing, or even if I don’t know what to make of it, it is the one I really have to hold on to.  It just felt right- to be an adult and still be able to be comforted by my mother’s arms and her lap.  It doesn’t matter how old I get, or how much time passes, I will always be your little girl, your baby.

I am just sorry I didn’t let you baby me as much as you wanted sometimes, while you were here. I would do anything to have you put your hand on my forehead like you used to, to sooth my head. Or to lay on your lap. That was one of my favorite feelings.  Or even just to hold your hand or have you feed me a piece of cake, or to just sit near you or watch you sleep.

If you can hear me or read these words that I am typing, and you can findmothers lap a way to let me know how you are, through my sleep, I would love it if you could show up in my dreams sometimes.  Well, if I had my way, it would be all the time.  I just want to know that you are okay, and truthfully, not just because you know I want to hear it.

Send me any messages that you need to- whether they are positive or not.  I just need to hear from you. And of course, I do hope that you are at peace and being comforted and loved and pampered and showered with happiness yourself.

Oh, the comfort of a mother’s lap.  There’s nothing else like it. I hope you are enjoying the soothing of your mother as well.

Always your baby,

Love Tas