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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It Made A Difference

Dear Mom,

Yesterday, I was at a ballet class in the morning.  It was tough, even though it was a beginner class. My body is just not used to those kind of movements and I definitely don’t have the strength and flexibility to gracefully glide or fly or kick across the floor the way some of the other students do.  But I try to remember that I am there to strengthen my legs and just improve myself, not compare myself to everyone else.

I would have found it so easy if I had continued with ballet as a kid.  Remember Miss G? Oh my God, she was horrible.  ‘Jaduree’, you probably called her. She was, but on top of that, she was just so mean! How were we supposed to know how to do the moves if she never showed us? I just remember her banging her cane on the dance floor yelling at everyone.

It is understandable why I left those classes.  I never thought about how I got there though, each week. How the classes were paid for. How you would have to wait for me or drop me off or how much of your own time and money and energy it took to give me the opportunity to learn to dance.

It is the same with music. The piano lessons I took every Sunday with that other tyrant of a teacher- Miss R.  Now she was not fun at all.  But you put up with all of it just for me.  I never got to thank you for that, Mom. I never got to thank you for giving me these lessons that you never had the opportunity to learn yourself.  And though I didn’t continue with piano or flute or ballet into my adult years, I wanted you to know it all  made a huge difference.  It really did.

I have a keyboard now that I try to create my own songs on or practise other piano technique on.  And I know how to read music because of those lessons from childhood. And this has helped me so much with singing, guitar dabbling, and even just made me more appreciative of listening to music.

And dance is still a huge part of my life. Maybe I didn’t continue with ballet a long time ago, but I was given that spark to make me love movement and music and expression through the body. And here I am going back to ballet class, as an adult, after so many years. This time with more positive, active instructors that I can be inspired by. But still, I see how expensive the lessons are, how much time it takes to get to class, and what kind of sacrifices other family members make for the younger students to get the chance to learn dance, or any other arts.

Thank you so much, Mom. Every lesson opened my mind up to something new.  Every lesson was more testament to your desire to give me the best and make sure I knew that  could have and do just as much as anyone else.

It made a difference, Mom. It is still making a difference.

Thank you for investing in me and my passion to create and explore and learn to express myself.

I wish I had shared it with you more.  I wish you had been given the opportunity to explore all this yourself. The healing and stress relief and fun that comes from it would have been so beneficial to you.  Now, I can only use the lessons and my appreciation of it all to honour you and create art and music and dance to tell people about you and how lucky I am to have you as a mom.

 

Journey Ring

Dear Mom,

20161011_173351Remember this ring you bought me?  You bought it from that jewelry shop that used to be at Park Royal- the North side of the mall.  Boy, that mall has totally changed since you’ve been gone. Sometimes, I really hate the changes.  Too much changes and then I feel I’ve lost places I could go to to conjure up more memories or feelings from when we use to just hang out at malls or restaurants. I know the memories should just stay with me, but I feel like the changes just remind me more that you’re gone.  And that is not something I need more reminders of.

At least I have this ring. So… you actually bought me a gold ring with an amethyst jewel in the center.  You knew that amethyst was my birthstone? Or was that just coincidence?  Well, I have such slender fingers. So do you, so DID you. 😦  But maybe not as small as mine. So I think what happened was that you brought the ring home for me and it was too big?  That’s when we went out to the shop to resize the ring.  And while we were telling the sales guy what we wanted, you must have put on the ring, on your own hand.  And I really liked it on you. So did you decide you should keep it then, or did I tell you that you should?

I always had to convince you to keep anything for yourself. You were always giving and thinking of others first.  But it looked beautiful on you- that amethyst ring. And you still wanted to give me a ring. I must have mentioned somewhere in the conversation that I really liked silver. The sales guy was on it, and he pulled out this little ring, a silver one, and it had these five little gem stones in it.  It was pretty, but I wasn’t totally sure about it.  Until, he told us the story behind it and its name.

“It’s called a Journey Ring,” he said to both of us. And as he pointed to each little gem, he said that they represent different journeys in our lives. And that the pattern of going from a small gem to a bigger and bigger one was supposed to represent going from one journey to deeper and deeper ones.

travelling-alone

You smirked and said something like, “It’s perfect for my daughter because she is ALWAYS on some journey.”  Haha! Oh my God, Mom, that was a good one.  And then the equally funny sales guy put his hand over yours and said, “Mom, we are ALL on a journey.”

I found it hilarious that he called you “Mom”- this tall, Asian Jewelry salesman in a crisp, classy suit.  I wanted to say, “Wait, she’s MY mom,” but of course I didn’t.  I know he was trying to be flattering and connect with us to make the sale. And actually, he did a good job of it, because I was sold by the story behind the ring and I loved its name. And I think you just liked that I liked it.

Did we get it resized there? I think we must have needed to. It seems strange that it would have fit perfectly.  That rarely happens with rings on my hands.

I never knew how significant that moment would be, how it suddenly arose as one so deeply etched in my mind and heart.  I was excited about having a ring from you and one that represented this travel bug I always seemed to have, and this search for something deeper.  Excited about all the future journeys I would be going on or that were waiting for me.  What I didn’t want to face was having to continue without you.  That is not something I was consciously thinking about at that time.  Because I know that whenever the idea did creep into my mind, I couldn’t stay with it.  It frightened me so much. I had to always try to run away from it or just brush it aside.

Since then, I have come to learn that there are many types of journey rings. It is not that unique of a name.  But my ring is unique because it came from you and holds the story of that day for me.

I’ve been going on a few more journeys than normal since you’ve been gone.  This time, they were all either in search of a connection to you, or in search of answers and maybe to escape the reality of your not being here.

traveler.jpg

I have learned over and over that it is not something I can escape.

I have tried to imagine inviting you on the journeys, to accompany me and see all these new lands and people and sites and sounds.  But no matter where I go, no matter how far, or who I meet, I cannot fill the space that is left inside of me that only you and your voice and touch and your peace can fill. I am still looking for proof of your peace.

I don’t know how to find it. And when I am away, I feel guilty for not having made more time to go on and experience these trips with you. To experience new foods, cultures, clothing, and music that exist around the world with you.  Traveling has given me new insights, taught me so much, made me come back home with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated heart.  THIS is what you needed.  And I feel awful for not having helped you have those experiences. I shared this feeling of guilt with an acquaintance I met while I was away recently.

He told me that I no longer need to feel guilty because “Your mother is going with you now to all of these places.  She is probably thanking you for going on these journeys. Because all that you experience and see and feel through them now, she is able to share with you.”

I would like to believe that he is right. I really would. I just don’t know anymore. And I still am always looking for proof. I am sorry, Mom, for not taking more journeys with you, for not seeing more of the world with you.

spiritual-journey

Places are changing around me, even people and areas around home are transforming into newer buildings and businesses.  But I will hold on to the little things, like my journey ring from you, to remind me of the journey that I was blessed to have with you.  Even if it didn’t involve flying to another continent, or enough shopping trips in other countries, I know that my best and most meaningful journey was the one spent with you.  All the moments, all the conversations, all the silences, all the laughs and even the tears.  The best journey of my life was you. Thank you, Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Day- a piece of cake…

Dear Mom,

Canada Day just officially ended.  And I had it in the back of my head all day and probably even last night, that I should make sure I get out to Save On Foods to get a piece of that cake you loved.  It was the infamous Canada Day cake they served to all their customers at the North Vancouver location.

canada-day-fireworksI did go out there last year, and make sure to get a piece for you.  It was “for” you, or at least the gesture was, but even then, it was kind of anticlimactic.  I mean, it was the excitement and pleasure you showed on your face and in your voice that made those cake eating moments the most fun. But now, I don’t have you to share it with. So… maybe, deep down inside, I wasn’t making a huge effort to go and get a piece.  At the same time that it seemed like a ritual type thing I could stick to, it also felt really sad.  And I just didn’t know how much more sadness I could take today.

So, I didn’t make it.  What I did was once I was up and had gotten some energy to head out and face A Save On Foods alone, I decided to go to the nearest one I knew- which was near Cambie.  When I got there, I was happy to hear that they also serve the same kind of cake. However, I got there too late. And the woman at the customer service desk was kind enough to call the North Vancouver location for me.  They also said that they were just packing up the last of the cake, so I wouldn’t have made it.

How can such a small thing, something that almost seems ‘meaningless’ like a piece of cake, now have so much significance to me?  I think the thing is that you never asked for much from anyone. But if you ever did hint at wanting something, it was always a simple, little thing.  Something I could so easily do.  Like taking you to get a piece of

canada day cake

Canada Day Cake at Save On, but, what really weighs heavy on me is that I didn’t always do it. I didn’t realize how big of a thing it was for you. How it would have just made your day.  And how now, my NOT having done it for you, especially the last Canada Day that you had, really just makes me feel so stupid.  You loved to see the parades and to have the cake.  You mentioned that you wanted to have some that day.  And I don’t remember what happened, or what I said. But I know I didn’t take you that year.  And I don’t ever remember taking you to the parade.

So now, Canada Day is tinged with a lot of regret for me.  On the one hand, I think of your most adorable face, smiling with cake in your mouth, so obviously enjoying each bite.  But on the otherhand, I think of how many years I could have helped to put that smile on your face over and over again. But sometimes, I chose not to take you.  And I am really sorry.  So so sorry.  You have no idea.

But I do want you to know that all those years I didn’t take you to the parade, it’s not like I was taking myself to the parade and leaving you out or not wanting to spend that time with you.  I just wasn’t out or up at that time. I wasn’t in the parade area and I didn’t make an effort for myself either.  I never got a chance to explain that to you.  But really, it’s not a good excuse. I should have been celebrating our lives in Vancouver, in Canada with you.

I should have been thank you every Canada Day, at least, if not every day, for coming out to Canada, and making a life for us here. You had to do so much to come here. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been. What a change in lifestyle. And how traumatic and sad it must have been to have been kicked out of the country you grew up in, in Uganda. To be kicked out of your home.

canada day2

You were so courageous to come here and have to leave everything behind. And just start over.  I know you did it for us.  I know it was so much harder and scarier and exhausting than you made it seem.  And I am so regretful that I never got a chance to tell you how grateful I am for what you did.  Mostly, I am regretful that I didn’t make more of an effort to SHOW you how grateful I am and how much you deserved to be treated with the most respect and generosity and caring.  I know it wasn’t easy what you went through. I know there are things that I will never have to go through- hardships that you went through- only because you made a better life for us coming here.  I am so grateful for my Indian background, for my mom’s East African roots, but also for her giving birth to me in Canada. I am grateful for being Canadian. I am grateful that you were able to come to Canada and have a safer, freer life here.  I am grateful forever grateful for you, Mom, the most extraordinary woman I will ever know.

Thanks for teaching me to enjoy and savor the little things, like a piece of Canada Day Celebration Cake.  It is hard to want to have it without you.  Sorry I missed it today.  Just as well, because it’s you I miss the most. And I’m not ready to enjoy the cake without the person that made it so meaningful.  Maybe next time.

Love you Mom. Happy Canada Day! Thank you for making me Canadian born and giving me so many opportunities to learn and grow and be safe and free as a citizen of this beautiful country. I wish you had had those same freedoms growing up.

My friend posted this article and video today.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-day-syrian-refugees-1.3661635

It made me cry along with the girl who was expressing her appreciation for being in Canada now.  She is a refugee and her and her family fled Syria during a time of war. How can I be so sensitive to a stranger’s  story of enduring very harsh conditions that I’m sure were devastating while she was back in her own home country, but not have realized that my mom and her family also fled really dangerous situation in their hometown.

It made me wonder what kinds of things you saw or heard or witnessed or feared while you were in East Africa. And that is a painful thought. You made it so easy for us to forget all that you went through back there. But that doesn’t mean you forgot.  And now I realize that just made you an even more loving Mom.  You tried not to burden us with any of what you went through. Maybe you blocked it out of your memory somewhat as well. But you still went through it.  And you deserved to be taken cared of especially after that.  I just wanted you to get all the love that you gave out back.  That’s my biggest regret. I could have given more, but I didn’t. I should have given more, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

All I can do now is show you how grateful I am now by living this life in Canada- of freedom and opportunities- in a way that will make you proud.  In a way that will make all you did for us worth it. And I promise I will keep remembering how lucky I am to be born and brought up here.  How lucky I am to be born from you.

justin trudeau canada day

And guess what else Canada has to celebrate? Probably the finest Prime Minister we’ve had. And how fitting that he is warming hearts and celebrating Canada and helping more people like that Syrian family in the video being welcomed into our country.  Because if my understanding is correct, it was his father who helped you guys and other Ismailis come into Canada so smoothly.  Another reason I like Justin Trudeau. I know you would have REALLY liked him.

It’s still  shocks me that you’re not here to witness all of this.  I still can’t believe you’re gone.  But I’m trying to make you proud, Mom. It’s just hard without you by my side.  But I’m just going to keep believing that you are somewhere around me, …just in a different form now.

And I hope you’re allowed to have all the cake and chai you want, where you are, so that the Save On Cake is nothing compared to what you get to indulge in :-).

 

Thank you for being my Mom

Happy New Year, Mom.
I am sorry that I didn’t spend New Year’s with you last year. I didn’t know it would be my last one with you. That is something I will always regret. But I’m here with you now. And I’ve created this extra path of communication for us, exactly on New Year’s Eve, just after 12am, so I can continue to share my life with you.

Just one lifetime really wasn’t enough for us. There are so many things I still wanted to say to you and do with you. I hope you can feel them through this blog I’ve dedicated to you.

The first thing I want you to know is that I am very grateful that you are my mom. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thank you for choosing me as your daughter, and for bringing me into this world. I love you. I still need you. Don’t ever think I don’t. I’d like you to still be a part of my life, and know that you are always on my mind and heart.

I wasn’t excited about moving into a new year. All I want to do is to go back to one year, any year, in which you were here. There are so many things I would change, and so many moments in which I would have been more present with you, if I had the chance again.

I hope this blog gives us a different kind of chance, to continue that relationship. The theme of it is called “Ever After”. I think it was originally supposed to be for weddings – haha- but oh well. The name suits the theme of what I’m trying to get across here.

This love, our connection, cannot end. I just won’t let it. My mother made me strong and gave me enough love to transcend time and space. I intend to use it on her, on you, my Mom.

Say Happy Birthday to Mama for me with a big hug and kiss attached. I hope she is taking good care of you up there.