DHO retreat at Lama Foundation, Taos, New Mexico, June 2006

The Dervish Healing Order serves as that aspect of the Sufi Ruhaniat which maintains and promotes the vision of health and Divine Healing as presented by Pir-O-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan. It holds the concentration for the health of the Sufi Ruhaniat on all levels. One of the tools given by Inayat Khan is the Healing Ritual. In addition, we are guided by breathing practices, healing meditations, visualizations, and a body of esoteric papers on healing from Inayat Khan, with commentaries by Murshid SAM.

The DHO is an international initiatic order. All members have demonstrated deep commitment in some aspect of healing, either toward self, or others, or both.

Membership is open to all who meet the requirements of dedication to service on the healing path, whether or not they are mureeds of the Sufi Ruhaniat.

Initiates and prospective DHO members are encouraged to attend yearly Healing Order gatherings organized with input from regional initiators and Shafayats. The Shafayats serve under the leadership of the DHO director, the Khafayat, Murshid Sauluddin, in a similar capacity to Sufi Ruhaniat Sheiks and Khalifs.

This year the meeting is at Lama Foundation, near Taos, New Mexico. See the Lama website for more information on the history and purpose of this center for retreat and for mindful living: http://www.lamafoundation.org/

Getting to Taos proved to be quite an adventure with Southwest Airlines. The first indication that something unusual was going on is that arriving at the gate at La Guardia Airport, I found out that the previous flight had been cancelled. All these poor people were now on standby for our flight to Chicago that was already very full. We finally left one hour late. In Chicago, the mayhem was even worse with the advent of a major rainstorm. This flight left after more than two hours delay. I arrived in Albuquerque, NM and went to my rental car company. I got finally on the way at 8:30PM to arrive in Taos three hours later. After a futile attempt to find something open in Taos for food since I did not have anything to eat since the toast and tea of the morning breakfast, I decided to call it a day for fasting and just drank some water. I had some dry fruit on the plane and could not bring myself to eat anything else they call snacks.

I found my way in the dark up a dirt road leading to Lama Foundation, height thousand feet above sea level, in those mountains of New Mexico, it was difficult to breathe and I felt the oxygen ramification right away. This was a moonless dark night, since I had made a printout from Lama’s website, I was able to find the entrance of the dirt road at mile 15 from Taos. When I finally arrived, it was past midnight and the whole complex was quiet and dark. I resolved to pull my sleeping bag and accommodate myself in the car until morning. When I opened my suitcase, I found all the content soaking wet. The airlines had left the entire luggage on the airport tarmac during the major storm that delayed us. Luckily the inside of the sleeping bag stayed dry. I made myself a bed in the back of the car and slept until five thirty in the morning when the sunlight started illuminating the sky.

At 6 AM, I decided to put on my winter mountain jacket and boots and complete my pilgrimage to the feet of our beloved Murshid SAM. I made up the trip up the hill from Lama, crossing the village still deeply asleep made up of houses and tents.

When I reached the Maqbara, where Murshid SAM is resting under a tomb made of simple stones, I came down to my knees and touched the ground with my forehead in gratefulness and thanks.

I spoke to Sam:

“You see I came to you again to thank you. I wish to ask nothing more for myself. I have received so many blessings. The cry of my childhood heart has been answered, that deep longing to know the truth that has driven me for so many years has been quenched. Allah and this wonderful lineage have led me all along to reach this point in my life, to come to you, so here I am again. I am throwing myself at your feet. Not to worship you, but as a companion praying with you to the Divine Grace of Allah that we all be One in the presence of the Beloved. At times, I believed that I was acting from my own free will, what an illusion, you have driven me and I could only learn to surrender to the process. Thank you for my dear friend Sauluddin who I have known for thirty years. He told me once that he did not like puritans and wanted to make sure that I knew that true liberation comes when saint and sinner come together around the circle of unity in all my selves. You know that I had realized that already and this is why I love him so much as he is, accepting him in his totality as a being led by the highest ideal combined with all his humanness. Thank you for all the godfather and godmother in our lineage such as my friends Hidayat Inayat Khan and Aziza, Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett, Nyogen Senzaki, Mother Mary, Suleyman Dede, Joe & Guin Miller. Thank you for Moineddin Jablonski, for Pir Shabda Kahn and for Murshida Khadija Julia Goforth. Thank you for allowing me to be with the companions, to walk in the footsteps of such friends, of the Silsila, of all the prophets, to allow the Sifats to exemplify their wondrous qualities in my heart that is really the heart of the one. You remember my longing in the cliffs of Mendocino, immersed in the One, helped by the magic of the peyote, looking for the guide who could help unlock the doors to come back in the fold of the beloved at will. I am so grateful to all of you who have by your compassion so generously bestowed your blessings on my longing heart. Shakur Allah. In this caravan of life, I am not only grateful for all those who have shown the way before but also for all those who are entrusted friends and who feel the same longing to be in the presence of the Beloved. I bring with me not only my dear wife Monick and all the children and grandchildren, the family, the friends but specially the mureed. I pray that I can be true to the spirit of my beloved Majid, an instrument of the divine grace in service to all. I bring you my beloved Sophia, Salima, Nadia and Noufissa in Morocco, Cigdem in Turkey, Cora & Lisbeth in France, Umbreen in Pakistan, Noor, Bitak, Chakameh, Deirdre, Fareen, Juanita, Lisa-Renee, Sanaa, Shahid, Shihana and Sophia Nazli in the US. Please help me and pray with me for all those named and for those friends close to our heart like Imrana, Nipa, Sakeenah and Trish. Let’s say the Fatiha together for all of them known and unknown who you are placing on my path so that I can be of service to them, to help them find the light in the niche of their heart, light upon light.”

I started the Fatiha. On the first words Bismillah er-rahman, er-rahim, I could not go any further, shocking with tears. I felt my heart exploding in compassion and gratitude. I could only think of Hafiz’s poem shared by Saadi under Ar-Rahim, the moon of love in his beautiful book “The Sufi Book of Life, 99 Pathways of the Heart.”

The sun is the wine, the moon is the cup.
Pour the sun into the moon if you want to be filled.
Drinking such wine could be good or bad.
Why not drink anyway!

I tried again to restart the Fatiha and now could not go beyond the first word “Bismillah.” I had to let the tears flow freely, my whole body was shaking uncontrollably. This could have been embarrassing. I was not crying for want, for pain, for longing, just for gratefulness for all the miracle of having the blessing to be in presence of the scent of the beloved. I just remembered all the blessings, the miracles, the inspirations and the sweetness of all those friendships. Sophia came first to my heart and I cried sweetly again. Then I thought each one, they were all there with me. I did not have anything to dry my face and used my sleeves. Those gestures made me laugh, seeing my dear wife scolding me for my lack of good manners.

Finally I was able to sing a Fatiha with a trembling voice and then another and another again. I started doing my daily practices. To be there, praying with my Murshid, being so thankful of all the blessings of the beautiful transmission that he left for us and also all the abundance of blessings of all that has happened in my life since the last visit and since I came to this blessed spiritual path, was overwhelming. I could not stop the tears.

I did the Muslim call for prayer, the Fatiha, the Suratul Ikhlass and Suratul `Asr, the full Zikr of Hazrat Inayat Khan, the recital of the 99 names of Allah, the prayers Saum and Salat and finally the heart sutra. By that time it was past 7 AM and I was feeling the pain of hunger in my stomach. I made my way back after offering once more my thanks for Murshid blessings.

Breakfast was wonderful and most welcome. Of course meeting all the old friends is part of the wonder of such retreat. Michael, Aslan, Saul, Ananda, Aarifa of the true north, Eddie, Murad, Sarfaraz, Mansur, Deborah Sabura and so many more, it was a reunion full of the joy of kisses and hugs.

Mansur Johnson was with us again to introduce his book Murshid, a personal memoir of life with American Sufi Samuel L. Lewis. He was taking orders for delivery in September 2006. This book will go fast and only 2000 copies have been printed. Otis B. Johnson was a young college professor of English in the 1960’s when he joined the exodus of hippies to California to meet someone his friend said could take them where they wanted to go the fastest. Where did they want to go? They wanted to meet the divinity, obtain God-consciousness, get enlightened, find love, experience Samadhi, in short didn’t know for sure. What happened? Otis B. Johnson became Mansur Johnson during a three year encounter with the world’s first Guru-Roshi-Murshid, Samuel L. Lewis. Murshid shows in intimate detail how Murshid, the first Western born Sufi teacher, Zen master, and practitioner of Indian cosmic metaphysics, accomplished his life’s purpose.

“Everytime I remember Sam, I end up laughing at myself. That’s pretty good work for a dead rascal-saint.”  Wrote Ram Dass, author of Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying.

We had our first meeting in the great dome at 10 AM. First we did the prayers Saum and Salat and then did an old practice from Murshid Sam “Ya Allah, in love, reverence and humility, I surrender to thee, to thee alone and Thou thus raise me spiritually.” Saul mentioned the importance of keeping up the old practices from Sam that got us where we are today. Since his passing we tend to adopt so many new practices and sometimes do not put enough concentration on Sam’s original practices.

We did the healing ritual with a beautiful Zikr lead by Ananda singing “Bismillah, er Rahman, er Rahim.” I do not know if it was the melody, the remembrance, the feeling of Shakur, but the tears flowed again down my checks and I did not try to hide them, I was among friends. They knew, most of them felt the same way anyway.

At lunch we have the custom to hold hands with the residents of Lama Foundation and sing the blessing “O Thou, the Sustainer of our body, heart and soul, bless all that we receive in thankfulness.” Before the blessing another custom is to wish well those who leave Lama. We sang from the Native American tradition “While you are away from your people, we do pray, that in your searching, you will find balance in your heart and mind.”

In the afternoon, people can choose from many activities such as learning the art of the Tea ceremony, the singing choir lead by Aslan, and many other options. At 3:30 we all meet for the spiritual walks taught by Murshid Sauluddin. In the evening after dinner we shared Zikr.

The evening Zikr was magical with such a group of elders, holding hands in a circle and singing Allah or La illaha ilallahu, Mohamedah Rassul Allah in so many forms, tones and rhythms, thanks to Aslan for his great leadership. Not only Aslan makes it deep but fun as well.

The first night in the yurt was much better than sleeping in the car, however temperature that can be in the 80’s in the daytime dropped to 40 degrees at night. I was happy to have brought my sleeping bag.

In the morning after a 6 AM wakeup call, we ascended the mountain as a group to the Maqbara of Murshid Sam and did Zikr and Fatiha after spreading a cloth on his tomb that came from the tomb of Moineddin Chisti in India. We ended up with some original dances of Murshid Sam led again by Aslan. The sun finally warmed us around 7 AM and I shared Hafiz’s poem with everyone: “the sun is the wine, the moon is the cup….” So Asha suggested doing Murshid dance “fill your cup, drink it up, ya Allah Allah…”

After a breakfast prepared by Lama’s staff, we met in the main dome meditation room. Asha suggested to go to the small pueblo meditation room on the side, it is a most extraordinary architecture, first the door is very low, forcing the person to enter in humility by lowering one’s head, the inside altar is in the center of a circle built on two levels. Asha led some meditative practices and we went back to the main dome for the healing ritual led by Michael.

As we formed a circle, Saul called me in the middle of it. I hesitated and he called me again forcefully. I walked to him not knowing what he was going to do. Saul asked me to stand and took my hands. He initiated me as a Shafayat in the Dervish Healing Order. I had no clue that he was going to do that, he simply said that since I was functioning already as such it was just time to recognize it formally.

After lunch with Deirdre and her son Able, I found a couple of Lama residents willing to play GO with me, the meditative Japanese game with white and black stones.

The afternoon was busy with singing in the choir led by Aslan, with the spiritual walks by Sauluddin and since today was Friday, with the traditional practice of the Jewish Sabbath in the evening. Nasrudin was volunteered to tell us some stories in his stand up comedian act.

We talked about having our next year meeting at the Mentorgarten in San Francisco.

We did the walks of the elements led by Murshid Sauluddin and the walks of the sifats, the first one for Suhban Allah (God is pure), the second one for Alhamdullillah (All praise be to Allah) and the third for Allaho Akbar (Peace is Power as given by Murshid Sam).

Sabbath was officiated by Elaine, after the Jewish prayers, we shared the wine and the bread in communion. Not only all the people from the retreat were present but also all the Lama residents and staff members. Aslan led us in the dances including the Zikr with the outer circle singing Echad Yahid Umi Yuhad, the One, every single one, each one joined and united in the One and the inner circle singing La Illaha el ilallahu (nothing exist except Allah). This was quite a statement uniting two traditions in a single dance and witnessing both communities praying for the same thing that nothing exist except the One in Hebrew and Arabic.

Nasrudin was remarkable and performed an outstanding and hilarious stand alone act poking fun at various people and entities including the Sufis. He told us a poem from Kabir that to find out if you have a real teacher, you should hang him or her over a cliff for an hour or two and if you find out that they did not wet their pants, may be you found your real teacher. Someone in the group asked where the nearer cliff was suggesting that we should hang out our beloved Murshid Sauluddin. That brought some good laughter.

Murshid Sauluddin bed time story concluded the night. His story about the man who sold his tooth with the moral to the story that if you want to get rid of a mouse, you should not hire a tiger, was very entertaining in his well proven style of the old time story teller. During his bedtime story, everyone was to lie down on the floor with their pillow and blanket and the light was turned off.

Again the night was cold and at 40 degrees in the yurt in the morning from the high of 94 in the afternoon, it was difficult to get out of the sleeping bag at 6 AM. The sun was most welcome around 7 AM when he appeared behind the mountain ridge.

Our homework for the night came from one of the 10 Sufi thoughts about finding the teacher and spirit of guidance ever present in each and everyone of our heart. I had done my homework the first morning at the Maqbara.

Saturday morning after breakfast at 8 AM and some smoothing with friends we started the meeting with a report from Mumin about Murshida Vera Corda Maqbara next to Murshid Sam. In addition to Mumin presentation on Murshida Vera’s life, many made comments and remembrances. Work will start soon to beautify the area around her tomb to make it more practical for people to sit and pray with her.

Noel sang for us a song that Murshida Vera Corda enjoyed hearing from him while he was taking care of her in her later years. Now Noel is like me, musically impaired, so we were moved by his effort and his heart more than his style.

I was invited to conduct the healing ritual which I started with the call for prayer, the Fatiha and practices on five of the 99 beautiful names that are pathways of healing the heart for Bar, Tawwab, Muntaqim, Afuw and Ra’uf. Then after doing the Ya Shaffee, Ya Kaffee breathing practices with a visualization of the elements of earth, water, fire and air, we did the prayer Nayaz : Beloved lord, almighty god, through the rays of the sun, through the waves of the air, through the all pervading life in space, purify and revivify us and we pray, heal our body, heart and soul. After the healing ritual, with Aslan as the balance and `Aarifa of the true north’ as the reader of the names, we closed the morning session and went for lunch prepared by the Lama staff, a vegetarian meal with pasta salad, tofu and a choice of dressings.

The company over the meal and the conversation were priceless. We bathed in the pleasure of each other company, exchanging high spirited jokes and laughter.

Monday was our last day together at Lama. In the morning we got up again in the cold at 6 AM to climb the mountain in pilgrimage to Murad Ahmed Chisti Maqbara. There Ananda led us in a meditation form dating back 18,000 years in the Bon Bon Tibetan tradition. We closed with a dance of thankfulness around Murshid Sam’s tomb and left the mountain after having created in our mind eye a connection from there to our home thanks to a meditation led by Murad, who was just back from an extensive trip in China where he studied another form of the Shi Gong tradition.

We sat again in the main dome to share our experiences of the night after having done our homework as assigned by Murshid Sauluddin. Many felt confident enough in this environment to open their heart and share their thoughts and dreams with the family.

Many people complimented the evening practice, after having led a Zikr separately for the men and for the women and then for the beauty of the moment when we all came together, the men making a circle around the women’s circle. Many felt the harmony in the energetic exchange between Jelal and Jamal. In the ruin of the old building, we had stand as a group of men, doing Zikr after recognizing each other as man among men. Mansur told us that Murshid Sam had initiated him as Naqib or representative of the spiritual hierarchy, even that he did not know what it meant at the time.

In the afternoon, Sauluddin led the saints and prophets attunement walks starting in the prayer Saum with Rama and also Sita, Krishna, Parvati, Hanuman, Shiva, Buddha, Abraham, Solomon, Zarathustra, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and then Quan Yin who he kept for last as the mother of compassion and love.

After dinner, we started the evening practices with the Japanese Tea ceremony presented by Asha and accompanied by Siddiq and some of Lama’s resident. Asha led us in a Zikr of La illaha ilallahu most uplifting.

In the morning, I got up at 6 and left following Sauluddin’s car. Saul, Ananda, Murad and I had breakfast in Taos and lunch at the airport in Albuquerque before saying goodbye until next time.

On the flight back home, reflecting on the week retreat, feeling the separation from the beloved friends, drinking once more of the wine of elation that we shared, feeling the gratefulness for the company of such Madzubs, revisiting the site of Murshid Sam tomb on the mountain, as if I was still there physically, tears filled up my eyes once more. The blessings of the healing of the heart felt like the greatest purpose of the DHO, now it is time to go back in service to bestow the light and share the Baraka with all the beloved, family and friends.

In service,