Category Archives: News from Abwoon Network

Desert Flowers Special Meeting on Zoom This Sunday: March 22, 5 pm UK time

Dear Friends,

Our thrice-yearly Desert Flowers online group will meet online via Zoom this Sunday, 22 March at 5 pm UK time ( for reference: 10 am North America West Coast time).

I will be sharing a few prayers and practices from the Aramaic Jesus tradition suited for these “virus times.” The group continues to meet, meditate and share over the following two weeks. The one-hour meeting will be recorded, video and audio, and links then posted to the Desert Flowers group.

If you would like to join the Desert Flowers group, please read about it and sign up via the link below:

Desert Flowers

There is no charge; donations are gratefully accepted.

Yours in peace,

Neil

Free webinar on Saturday, 25 January

I am pleased to be sharing an hour webinar online tomorrow with my esteemed mentor Shaykh Fadhalla Haeri, who has been working on a new translation of and commentary on the Qur’an, as well as new friend Issa Baba. The theme is “What does it mean to be a Sufi in the 21st century?” Sponsored by the Beyond Initiative, a project that I very much support.

Register for this webinar at this link for the Virtual event on January 25th, 2020 at 6pm GMT (remember to convert this time to your location).

This webinar will take place on Zoom, so you will need to download this free software on your computer or mobile device. The meeting code is in the poster above. I have been told that the audio at least will be recorded for accessing later.

Yours in peace,

Neil

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/vpQvceGhrT8qSkVSz_oj8uaDvmVO-ZL-nA?fbclid=IwAR1oyWsNP7BCgAWYuOhMfgjWbirAlSINGs766uhfgXkt-63tuxaMEvL7V-0

End of Year Greetings and News for 2019

31 December 2018

Dear Friends of Abwoon,

Greetings and blessings of Hogmanay, our end-of-the year celebration here in Scotland. While we are experiencing an unusual run of warm-ish weather (10 C, near 50F to you Americans), the early-fading winter light still draws one inside to consider the year past as well as the one ahead.

Below, I have shared a video body prayer based on the first Beatitude in Aramaic. Clearing the heart at the end of the year is a wonderful practice whether one is in the northern hemisphere or, like our Australian friends, baking in the southern heat.

Publishing News: The first two “little books” extracted, edited and, in some cases, re-translated from the works of Kahlil Gibran were released in the USA last year to a very reception, with translations in several other countries. Re-approaching Gibran as an native Middle Eastern (or West Asian) person seems to have struck a chord with many. You can find links to the “Life” (i.e., nature-based) and “Love” (relationships) books at https://abwoon.org/online-store/books/.

The third volume (Kahlil Gibran’s Little Book of Secrets)will appear in April, featuring the author’s focus on life’s puzzles and riddles—those questions that cause us to stop and ask “why?” Good and evil, life and death, justice and innocence, success and failure, as well as the inner way that attempts to bridge paradox and unite opposites. Case in point:

Knocking on the Door

It would be fruitless for the visitor

to knock on the door of the house

if there were no one inside

to hear the knocks

and open the door. 

What is a human

but a being

standing between

the infinitude of his interior

and the infinitude

of his surroundings? 

Were it not for what we have inside,

we would have nothing outside.

We can see the influence of Gibran’s early life story on his fascination with such questions. He was uprooted from his native Lebanon at the age of twelve by his mother, who brought his siblings and him to the USA in 1895. Like many migrants and refugees today, she was escaping a hopeless situation: poverty, a failed marriage, and a husband in prison for embezzling from the government. Gibran experienced a radical dislocation from his relatives and friends in the move to late 19thcentury urban Boston, a very different culture from that of his childhood. We can imagine that from an early age Gibran began to see things from two points of view—that of the native of rural Lebanon and that of the American city dweller. Seeing from two points of view at the same time, a split awareness, could only be integrated by either taking a higher view, or going crazy.

Other publishing news: The fourth Gibran book (“Wisdom”) will be released in autumn 2019 and will focus on his writings on practical wisdom for daily life, both in community and in solitude. Following up on the success of The Little Book of Sufi Stories, I am also working on a new little book of ecological wisdom due to be published in 2020.

Travels and Seminars in 2019: I will be in the USA once next year, in April for consecutive weekends in Cincinnati, Ohio (5-7 April) and Boulder, Colorado (12-14 April ). These will share some of my recent work with the ancient nomadic roots of spiritual practice and are entitled “The Beautiful Names of Life.” Following these two I will again lead an Easter Aramaic Jesus retreat at Bishop’s Ranch in Sonoma County, California (18-21 April).

Weekend retreats in Europe will continue throughout the year. A number of them (Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and England) will be in the form of Aramaic Jesus “sesshins”—alternating chant, movement and silence. As appropriate to the group, I will also be offering guidance on how people in chanting or contemplative prayer groups can add this element to their ongoing work. In Scotland(16-19 May), southern France(19-22 September) and southern Germany(17-20 October), I will be sharing versions of the “Beautiful Names of Life” retreat. Next summer, I will again be sharing the all-school class at the Ruhaniat European Summer School (29-June -6 July) in north Germany, focusing on the “beautiful names of life” as well as the Sufi and Zen flavors of the lineage I experienced with my teachers.

Looking forward to seeing many of you in the New Year…

You can find details of all these retreats at https://abwoon.org/workshops/ the website of the Abwoon Network, where you can also find links to books, audio downloads, podcasts and videos.

As our beginning of the year thank-you, Abwoon Resource Center offers you a 25% discount on all our own (i.e., self-produced)audio downloads until January 15if you use the following offer code: NEWYEAR19 (must be all CAPS).

Body Prayer: Here is the practice I promised, based on the first Beatitude in Aramaic (from the book of Matthew): Tubwayhunl’meskenaee b’rukh dilhounhie malkutha d’ashmaya.(“Tuned to the Source are those who live by breathing Unity, their ‘I can!’ is included in the universe’s own sound”).Counter-melody:Alaha Ruhau(Sacred Unity Breathes!)

I invite you to join me in my office and take a few minutes to chant and enter the silence, as we find our home in the one breath together, preparing for the new year. Even in dark times, we can breathe, find our center and then feel what is really ours to do in life.

Love and blessings to you all for a healthy and balanced New Year!

Neil

Announcing: The Little Book of Sufi Stories…pre-order now!

 

Dear Friends of the Abwoon Network,

I am happy to announce a new book published by Hampton Roads, due in June of 2018. The Little Book of Sufi Stories retells some of my favorite stories, and a few you haven’t heard before. I am just finishing proofreading the final galleys and find that the publisher has done a beautiful job. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Although the release is a little ways off, I would encourage you to pre-order it now using the links below. It will help create some early interest (that’s the way things work in our world) and you won’t find a better price later!

Yours in peace,

Neil

 

The Little Book of Sufi Stories

Hampton Roads Publishing Company

240 pages, 5 x 7 paperback

ISBN-10: 1571748296

ISBN-13: 978-1571748294

Due: 1 June 2018

 

From the Foreword:

“If you want to hear a good story but prefer to read it instead, then read Douglas-Klotz! He writes as if he’s sitting in your living room, invited over for afternoon tea to entertain you with some heart-pleasing, often humorous, yet soul-searching Sufi stories. His modernization of these old texts is gentle and mindful, yet unapologetic.”

–Maryam Mafi, author of Rumi Day by Day

The stories in this book are drawn from the dozens that Douglas-Klotz has enjoyed telling in his seminars over the past 20 years. Most of them appear in works of the classical Sufis, such as Rumi, Attar, or S’adi. To preserve some of the in-person feeling and bring the language up to date, he has given them his own improvised turns.

From the Introduction:

As the German novelist and storyteller Hermann Hesse once wrote, the great stories of humanity—like fairy tales, Hasidic stories, Celtic stories, Zen stories and Sufi stories—provide us with incomparable examples of the “genetic history of the soul.” We share this depth of soul with all human beings. So, hearing a story live and unrehearsed brings us closer together, creating and re-creating our all-too-fragile sense of human community.

I have drawn the stories in this book from the dozens that I have enjoyed telling in my teaching seminars over the past 30-plus years. Most of them first appear in works of classical Sufis like Rumi, Attar or Sa’adi. Others simply come to us without a name, passed down from person to person with variations for hundreds of years.

Telling an oral story in print is challenging. One can strip the story back to its bare bones, thereby losing much of its flavor and aroma. Or one can treat the story like a prehistoric insect caught in amber: one leaves all sorts of cultural detail in, but the story doesn’t breathe. I am a great fan of live storytellers, but some so-called professional storytellers err on the latter side, because they don’t understand the transmission of the story—its life as an inner experience that everyone can share. The “wow” factor may be there—the special effects—but not the wisdom.

Likewise, some authors overly embellish or interpret Sufi stories with an agenda in mind (often psychological or theological). They map out the whole story as an allegory that supports a principle they want to convey. In my view, this is (as one Zen master commented) like going to a restaurant and ordering a vitamin pill. Where is the art of life, the joy of discovery?

Hopefully, I have woven my way between the extremes. I have modernized the dialogue, and so there will be deliberately anachronistic references. Hint: this is one technique for using stories as spiritual teaching. Another technique: there will be plot elements that seem to end nowhere. A third: No ‘trigger warnings’ are given. Fourth: sometimes the good are not rewarded and the evil not punished (but that’s more like life anyway). I could go on, but why spoil the fun?

Without doubt, there is nothing like hearing a Sufi story live. To tell one of these stories, I need to first live in it for a while, much as one might walk into an unknown forest and gradually get to know the plants and animals there. Yet when telling the story live, I can still meet something unexpected at any moment.

As I mentioned in The Sufi Book of Life, I encourage readers to go beyond the book (or screen) to meet real Sufis. With a sincere heart, this is not so hard (which is not to say it’s simple, given that Sufis all over the world are under threat from Islamic fundamentalists).

I hope these stories convey an aliveness that awakens a spark in your soul. If they do, you may become—as I am—a story collector.

Hear and read more of them, retell them in your own way, and you may find yourself becoming a different, wilder, more completely human you.

–Neil Douglas-Klotz

Pre-order here:

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

 

Amazon(s):

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Registration now open: “Light of Success” in Columbus, Ohio

The Light of Success:

Achievement in the World

and the Spiritual Life

How to attain our earthly goals and still be happy

 

A workshop with

Neil Douglas-Klotz and Natalia Lapteva

October 26-29, 2017

 

Place: Martin dePorres Center, Columbus, Ohio

Time: Thursday evening 7pm until Sunday 12 noon, Friday and Saturday evenings included.

 

When we embark on the spiritual journey, we often put aside our more ‘mundane’ and ‘common’ desires and purposes, or begin to consider them as being on a ‘lower plane’ altogether. However, it is important for us, as beings of flesh and emotion, to develop, tend and bring to fruition all facets of our lives.

On the path of the inner life, how can we find a way to live harmoniously in the ‘real world’?  If we over-focus on success, we risk being sucked into an endless round of activity—there is always more to achieve—and we can become trapped by what we have manifested. If we suppress our desire to create and achieve, the self usually reacts negatively. Down either path can lie depression and ill-health. How do we find the balance and the joy that can arise from it?

We will use as tools: Dances of Universal Peace, walking and sitting meditation, Sufi wasifa and zikr, practices from world spirituality and modern psychology. Inspired by the teachings of Murshid Samuel Lewis and Hazrat Inayat Khan on “Sadhana—the Path of Attaintment.”

“The love of power, wealth, status and influence are inherent in us. Our conditioned consciousness drives us towards acquiring these assets. As these ideas have no definable end, their quest will inevitably produce some discord, violence and brutality towards oneself and others. Conditioned consciousness and curbing the lower self or ego leads to potential resistance and even depression, unless it connects with the higher self and soul.” –Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

Registration and Information here.

New Beatitudes Chant CD released from world music group ‘Sofia’

2 February 2017

A few years ago, Gospel singer Timothy Frantzich, whom I met at a Robert Bly conference, asked if he could arrange my Beatitude chant melodies for a small choral ensemble. That new creation is now here–a world music collaboration by the group ‘Sofia’ in Minnesota, USA: Timothy Frantzich, Carin Vagle and Dean Magraw.  Beautiful voices, splendid guitar, flutes, percussion and a rhythmic, meditative experience to carry you through the “Beatitude Way.”

Here is a short extract from the third Beatitude, “Tubwayhun l’makikhe d’hennon nertun ar’ah”–ripe are those finding their natural inheritance of strength and healing from nature–and their original nature. This is the one usually translated “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

You can find out more about the recording as well as links to purchase it in either CD or iTunes format here:

www.sofiasings.net

Later today, I am doing a live interview with Janet Conner on Unity Radio on the Beatitude Way, applying it to life today as we find it. The Beatitudes are an eyes-open prayer, calling us to awaken to what is important in life right now–“what is really ours to do?”

You an listen live here:

http://www.unity.fm/program/TheSoulDirectedLife

The archive of the recording will be online here, probably by tomorrow (Friday 3 February):

http://www.unity.fm/episode/TheSoulDirectedLife_020217

Happy Candlemas and Imbolc to all!

Neil

 

 

 

 

Nancy: A Personal Goodbye to a Dances of Universal Peace Pioneer

By Sharon Abercrombie

 

Just days before her death from pancreatic cancer on June 23,  a very fragile Nancy Norris was determined to get to her regular Santa Cruz, California  dance meeting—somehow. And she did.  With the help of her  son Davie and daughter Carolyn Roberts.

She arrived  in a wheelchair –  a brave gesture to say the least, given her weakened condition.

Nancy was about important work that night. “She had spent the day building up the energy,” to make it happen, recalls Carolyn.

Nancy, 81,  wanted to let the circle know she was hanging up her dancing shoes after 30 years of  leading and mentoring. She wanted to let them know she was turning over her Garden Sanctuary meeting to “the younger 60- and 70-year-olds.” said Carolyn.  She wanted to certify her last mentee. Terry Karima Forman, an area kindergarten teacher. She accomplished all three.

nancyDuring the meeting, Karima lead her beloved teacher’s work-in-progress dance, a call and response chant “Infinite Waters that Flow Through It All.”

Jilani Esterly,  a member of the Santa Cruz dance team, described Nancy’s demeanor  that night as “as soft spoken, yet completely present, peaceful and good humored.”

Karima said she will remember her beloved friend and teacher as “the unconditionally loving mother, someone who greeted everyone as family.”

And this writer, a 1997 mentee certified in Oakland, CA, has similar memories. I recall the hugs Nancy gave to everyone who came to our Isis Oasis California Quarterly weekends—newcomers and veteran dancers alike.  From Friday night until Sunday noon,  she functioned as a quiet, non-stop energetic presence, leading dances, teaching open tuned guitar, participating in feedback sessions for new dancers, and meeting with her mentees. She was always giving to us. Saturday afternoon nap times were a rarity.

Andrew Joselson, a veteran dance musician, from Santa Cruz, views her as the archetypal nurturer., as well. “Nancy, he wrote, “conjures up the image of Johannes Vermeer’s painting, ‘The Milkmaid.’”  But Joselson’s take on the portrait shows a guitar strap supporting the huge milk jug.

Nancy Norris’ vicious illness first invaded her life in January 2016. She had spent the previous year in seemingly good health, immersed in dance and family activities. At one point, she and Carolyn had embarked upon a major road trip  to the Southwest, for the latter’s Masonic  work. The two made an overnight stop in Silver City, Mexico, to visit with long-time dance friend Darvesha MacDonald and her partner, Ishan. The couple lives  near the Southwest Sufi Community’s retreat land there.  “Nancy said it had always been her dream to visit us, and she did it,” noted Darvesha.

Up until two weeks before her death, “she was still picking up the guitar,” said Karima.  When the Hospice caregivers asked if she wanted any music, Nancy declined, replying “I have my own orchestra.”–the guitarists, drummers, keyboardists and harmonium players who accompanied  her dance meeting through the years.

There were two goodbye ceremonies held in Nancy’s honor. The first, a vigil, took place in the family home. Richard McMurtry, editor of the Desert Flowers email list serve, and one of Nancy’s mentees was there. He recalls the visit with heartbreaking poignancy.

“She was lying in her room draped in purple and turquoise –decked with rose petals. Her body had the look of someone who has passed and gone beyond.  On a bedside table sat her “Nancy Norris 2017 calendar” with photos of both her and her beloved family members. On a bedside table was the wall hanging version of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic from the 1980s.”

Then on the afternoon of July 24, over 100 friends and family gathered at Henry Cowell State Park, in nearby Felton, California, to share memories and dance among the redwoods. The circle participated in some of her favorite Dances of Universal Peace including “Ubi Caritas,” “ Kuake, Leno Leno”  “May the Long time Sun shine upon you,” and “The Aramaic Lord’s Prayer.”

Before the celebration of life event, Nancy’s mentor and long time friend, Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz , sent a tribute from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since the mid-1980s,  Nancy had been a supportive ground-floor presence for him, encouraging the founding co-director of the  Dances of Universal Peace Network, as he brought through the beginnings of his Aramaic Jesus work –The Lord’s Prayer and The Beatitudes. Said Neil: “Nancy was a loving soul with a huge heart and a beautiful musician and dance leader.  She worked with me as a mureed and was a mainstay a the early Lama Dance Camp, as well as the California Quarterly Retreats, which at one point, replaced the Saturday Advanced Class started by Murshid Samuel Lewis.”

After Neil left the Bay Area in 1993, Nancy, along with Darvesha McDonald of San Francisco continued the quarterlies, seeing them through the transition to their current less frequent gatherings. Violetta Reiser has remained the registrar, to this day.

For many years during the Christmas and Easter seasons,  Nancy opened her home to special “Aramaic Lord’s Prayer” celebrations and potlucks in her spacious living room. Violetta and I were privileged to guitar for many of these holiday events

In Vio’s words, “I am going to miss her terribly and cannot fathom never see her again.”Vio first met Nancy in June of 1984, when she was fresh off the boat from her native Croatia. Awarded a scholarship to the Mendocino Sufi Camp, Vio immersed herself in everything. After a 20-minute open-tuned guitar lesson with another musician, “I was hooked.” She became friends with Nancy at that camp, too  and recalls  the two of them sitting on the steps of the main hall, “me with her guitar,  trying to play notes while  she was patiently saying, zero two,four zero, five. She was teaching me the Kalama Dance.”

Nancy Norris did not discover the Dances of Universal Peace until she was in her late 40s, but she made up for lost time. Richard McMurtry writes that she had been taking a Course in Miracles when she was moved to ask “How can I deepen in the experience of what we’ve been talking about?”  Someone suggested Sufi dancing. This individual “also saw her clearly enough to suggest that she became a dance leader.  Nancy replied that she was too shy to imagine becoming a leader. But this friend believed in her in such a way as to teach her open tuning on the guitar.”  Four years later, she had become a Dance leader. Her confidence in playing guitar soared during those times.

During the past decade or so, Nancy’s confidence grew in other ways as well. On Saturday nights, at the quarterlies, she began what I can only describe as extemporaneous zikrs.  Confessing that she had no idea what would happen, she would simply begin with a note, then a melody she would pull from the ethers, accompanied by a sacred phrase. Within 30 minutes, our circle would be singing in four-part harmony and doing the zikr movements she taught us.

krem89

Dances of Universal Peace in the Kremlin 1989

On a final note: Supplying a bit of biographical information about her mom, Carolyn adds that Nancy loved the Peace Through the Arts Camp in the UK, the Lama Dance camp in New Mexico, The California Quarterly and the South Bay Sufi Camp, to mention a few.  A 1989 trip to the Soviet Union “was one of the most moving experiences of her life.”

Nancy Norris was born in San Francisco in 1935 and lived most of her early years in Sacramento and Oroville.  She loved swimming in the Feather River and was a regular at Gold Lake Y-camp during the summer. It was where she learned numerous campfire songs. As a teen she studied piano and was active in Job’s Daughters and was Honored Queen for Bethel 50. She studied music and French in  college. Midway through her studies  she married John Norris, and when he was drafted, the couple moved to Maryland.  While there, without a degree or credential, she was asked to teach fourth and fifth grade. After returning to California she completed her studies in education from Mills College in Oakland.

She is survived by sons Davie and Ben, daughter Carolyn, grandchildren Leila, Jasmine, Anisa, Christie and Eddie.