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End of Year Greetings and News from Neil

Dear Friends of Abwoon,

Millennia before humans invented myth and religion, we lived in a state of profound interconnection and inter-being with our environment and with the “great mystery”  that we intuited was behind it.

"First Human" --original artwork by Fatima Lassar for "The Genesis Meditations"

“First Human” –original artwork by Fatima Lassar for “The Genesis Meditations”

Over the course of time, lifespans became longer and more focused externally. Gradually life’s choices became more complex (for instance, with the discovery of the seed and agriculture), so we invented story, prayer, ritual, religion and spiritual practice to remind ourselves and future generations of the important things in life–things we had previously remembered without these tools.

Because it is life’s nature to discover things, by trial and error, we began to focus on the tools rather than the inner remembrance. The tools became ends in themselves, distracting people from the sense of inner fulfilment, purpose and  healthy relationship they were developed to help us recall. The remedies, as it were, often became toxic.

Faced with innumerable ecological and political crises, it may be time to do a “cold start” of our cultural computer, in order to repair some of the mental and emotional viruses that have infected us.

We cannot return to the state of being nomads, wandering through time in a precarious existence before agriculture. We can, however, begin to recall those shards of memory, flickers of healthy consciousness that predated our relentless drive to find the “hidden treasure” outside instead of within us.

For instance, even two thousand years ago, at the time of the Aramaic Jesus, we could not say to a friend, “I’ll meet you there at 3:15.” It was impossible to distinguish minutes or seconds. No one wore a sun dial or hourglass on their wrists. For Yeshua and his Galilean community, even the length of an “hour” changed each day according to the amount of daylight. So one was always aware of the sun, moon and seasons in a more profound way than we are.

We are now near the turning of the seasons (in either northern or southern hemisphere) and what most of us mark as a “year.” During these times of change, we can focus with more respect and love on the turning of our own breath. Can we turn away from unnecessary habits of fear and anxiety? Are we holding on to something we no longer need? Is life’s passion within us drawing us toward something unexpected in the next cycle?

Personally, I am completing another multi-year project of editing the letters, interviews, essays and unpublished poetry of my spiritual teacher Pir Moineddin Jablonski, who passed in 2001. Like my first long book, Sufi Vision and Initiation (1985), which created a type of autobiography for Murshid Samuel

Pir Moineddin Jablonski at Lama Foundation

Pir Moineddin Jablonski at Lama Foundation

Lewis, the founder of the Dances of Universal Peace, this new book has also presented many inner and outer challenges. Whenever one dives deeply into the life of someone like Murshid S.A.M. or Moineddin, one begins to resonate deeply with their challenges and opportunities in life. That vibration creates ripples, waves and storms that need to be navigated before one arrives at safe harbour.

Having designated Moineddin as his spiritual successor, Murshid S.A.M. passed unexpectedly in 1971. At the age of 29 Moineddin then needed to discover what a spiritual successor is, or is meant to do, and to somehow hold together a community of self-defined non-conformists, all at the same time that he continued to discover himself (and battle kidney failure). It makes for an deep, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, continually inspiring, personal story as well as an unique record of how one person helped an inter-spiritual Sufi lineage make the transition into the postmodern world.

Here is a short except from one of the letters Moineddin wrote to a mureed in 1991:

There is nothing but Love, and if we feel the brief crucifixions that improve our fana [effacement and surrender] let us keep Allah foremost in our heart-breath. It is all a process, at once enlightened and eternal, and also a gradual awakening according to our innocence, strength, purity and love. But until these latter become entirely of Allah, instead of “ours,” there will be more need for some little pain.

Also, the world’s condition is being poured through the kidneys of our hearts. Why should it be otherwise? We asked for this before the beginning of time.

Now let us be who we are.

With the help of a number of Moineddin’s mureeds and friends, we hope to have the new book, Illuminating the Shadow, ready to be announced in the early spring.

My own travel schedule is a bit different in 2016, in that I am only coming to the USA once, in the autumn (I will be coming at least twice in 2017, however, including an Easter Retreat in Northern California at Bishops Ranch.) My only public event in 2016 in North America will be in my “home” community of Columbus, OH, October 21-23, entitled Nomad’s Way: The Original Spirituality of the Human Being. Returning to St. Martin DePorres Center, I will explore the themes at the beginning of this letter,  using walking meditation, breathing and body awareness, silent meditation, Dances of Universal Peace and other spiritual practice, drawn from my current and previous work.

With the exception of a return visit to the South Africa Sufi community, the rest of my schedule is in Europe next year. I am hoping to finish a number of other projects that have been cooking for some years, as well as to spend more time in the garden here in Scotland. A short list of events is below. You can see all of them in calendar form online at abwoon.org.

Many thanks to all of you who have purchased my mystery novel set in Yeshua’s times, entitled A Murder at Aramegddon.  The second in the series is in process. For those who have yet to make their acquaintance with it (or who would like a copy for a friend), you can order it at 35% discount if you input this code (TRVSMAKJ)  and purchase it at the following site: www.tinyurl.com/armageddonmurder. In addition, you will find a new Aramaic Jesus seminar download available at abwoon.org, entitled “Resurrection of Life.” Feel free to take a 50% discount off of this or any of the other Abwoon-only audio programs or recordings (not Sounds True!) at the abwoon.org site using this code at check-out: NEWYEAR16. Both codes are good until January 10.

From the whole Abwoon Network, we wish you all  a healthy New Year, full of renewed purpose, free from unnecessary fear, ready for life’s always-unexpected adventures!

Love and blessings,

nsig

 

 

 

Neil Douglas-Klotz

PS.  If you want to be updated whenever I post a new blog, please sign up in the box in the left hand column entitled “Join Our Mailing List.”

 

2016 Schedule as of 31.12.2015:

(All events in English unless otherwise noted.)

 

February 12-14: Flüeli-Ranft, Switzerland (Aramaic Jesus Sesshin, in German)

February 19-21: Crewe, England (Secret Path of the Heart, annual Spring Renewal Retreat w/Murshid Tansen)

March 4-5: The Hague, Holland (Aramaic Jesus and the Sufis)

March 9-16: Cape Town, South Africa (Sufi Interspiritual Conference) http://www.sfhfoundation.com/

30 April – 1 May: Hamburg, Germany (Aramaic Jesus, German language)

May 26-29: Allanton, Scotland (Sufi Way of Blessing with Pir Shabda Kahn)

June 17-19: Anam Cara, nr Inverness, Scotland (Green Sufism)

July 2-9: nr Hamburg, Germany (14th Ruhaniat European Summer School)

October 15: Bridge of Earn, Scotland (Beginner’s Guide to Beginner’s Mind: Interspiritual Meditation)

October 21-23: Columbus, OH (The Nomad’s Way: The Original Spirituality of the Human Being)

October 27-30: Columbus, OH (Path of Healing, Module 3, closed to newcomers)

November 17-20: near Berlin, Germany (Sufi Mureeds Retreat w/ Murshidas Sophia and Baraka, in German)

December 2-6: near Oxford, England (UK Sufi Mureeds Retreat)

 

All details online in “Workshops” above,  and new events are constantly updated at abwoon.org

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

Gibran’s Little Book of Wisdom Released

Government is an agreement 
between you and me.
You and I are often wrong.

Fife, Scotland: 2 September 2019

The last of my four “little books” of Kahlil Gibran is now out, this one full of wisdom for daily life–living in community and living alone, plus Gibran’s often trenchant and humorous sayings, stories and verse on politics, religion, and economics. (My European friends will need to wait another few weeks for the release here.)

The book also contains the source of JFK’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you…” speech, in its entirety. Here’s a short excerpt from Gibran’s article written in 1925:

When the spring sings its hymns, the dead of the winter rise, shed their shrouds, and march forward.

Come and tell me who and what you are. 

Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite. If the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.

Are you a merchant using the need of society for the necessities of life for your own monopoly and exorbitant profit? Or are you a sincere, hard-working and diligent person facilitating the exchange between the weaver and the farmer and charging a reasonable profit as a broker between supply and demand? If you are the first, then you are a criminal, whether you live in a palace or a prison. If you are the second, then you are a charitable person, whether you are thanked or denounced by people.

The book contains many stories, my favorite entitled here “A Voice from the Storm,” in which the narrator (Gibran?) encounters an ex-political leader now living as a hermit in the mountains, who tells him:

No, my brother, the West is not higher than the East, nor is the West lower than the East. And the difference that stands between the two is not greater than the difference between the tiger and the lion.”
“There is a just and perfect law that I have found behind the exterior of society, a law that equalizes misery, prosperity, and ignorance. It does not prefer one nation to another, nor does it oppress one tribe in order to enrich another.”

The book closes with a section entitled “Wisdom Beyond Words,” in which we hear some of Gibran’s deepest and most beautiful insights:

Let him who would have wisdom 
seek it in a buttercup or
in a pinch of red clay. 
 
I am still the singer. 
I shall sing the earth, 
and I shall sing your lost dreaming, 
which walks the day 
between sleep and sleep.

I hope you enjoy this last one. it has been an enjoyable two year’s journey for me to select and re-edit one of the best-known and yet under-valued writers of the 20th century, a refugee to America from what was then called “Syria.” Would he be welcome today?

You can order the book through the Abwoon Network site, via various online sources here.

–Neil

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):

 

 

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