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Planet Earth’s Chakras

October 15, 2014

mommymystic:

I’ve decided to occasionally rerun some older posts, and this one has long been one of the most popular posts here. As I head out for some time in nature myself, it felt like a wonderful time to revisit this. I hope you agree, and feel free to share your own thoughts on the earth’s energy hotposts…

Originally posted on Mommy Mystic:

I wanted to connect with something fun this week, so decided to connect two of my favorite themes – chakras and nature – and do a post on the earth’s chakras, and specifically, potential locations.

For those that resist the idea of chakras, in the human body or the earth, think of it this way: Chakras are simply energy vortexes or intersection points, which we know exist in some form in virtually every structural and energetic system. Think joints in the skeletel system, or glands in the endocrine/hormonal system. Chakras are the energetic version of these intersections, and each one conducts a different type of energy. Electromagnetic research is starting to be able to detect these intersections – in both humans and the planet.

Another model I like for thinking about chakras is as a doorway for awareness. Whether you are meditating on your own chakras, or traveling…

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It’s About Freedom…

September 25, 2014

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead of two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we just are, we can all be freer…It’s about freedom. – Emma Watson, speech at the U.N. introducing the HeForShe campaign

I loved Emma Watson’s speech to the U.N. on gender equality (you can watch the entire thing here or read the transcript here.) Of course she was mostly focused on gender equality within a social and cultural context, but I wanted to springboard off of what she said in relation to energetics and spirituality – because that’s what this blog is about!

Over the years I have sometimes received emails, or had comments posted here, from individuals disgruntled that I focus on women’s spirituality and women’s energetics. The general jist of these is that it’s divisive to discuss women’s spirituality or energy healing as separate from men’s. Healing, spirit, and awakening are about wholeness beyond gender, and by focusing on gender I am reinforcing energies that separate people from each other and enlightenment, rather than dissolving them.

I couldn’t agree more that healing, spirit, and awakening are about wholeness. And for me, healing the feminine within women is about enabling the healing of the feminine in everyone, and the planet itself. It’s also about healing the masculine within us too! It is ultimately about enabling each of us to tap into the full spectrum of energies available to us as human beings, regardless of whether these energies have come to be labelled ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, ‘yang’ or ‘yin.’ Cultural conditioning – and the energetic structures that perpetuate it – have cut both men and women off from owning their whole selves. Dissolving that conditioning and those structures is liberating. As Emma put it, it’s about freedom.

The current energetic imbalance – as it comes through individuals, cultures, and the world – is at the heart of so much of the suffering we see around us. And I don’t believe this imbalance is hardwired into our bodies, or our energy bodies. Yes, men have more testosterone and women have more estrogen, and each of those hormones (and all the other related physical attributes) are linked to different emotional expressions, as well as many other qualities. But we are not simply our bodies, our bodies are our vehicle – our vehicle for human life. Who or what is driving the vehicle? Call it spirit, call it god or goddess, call it awareness, call it the universe – call it whatever you like, but it is all-encompassing. It is not limited by gender – we have done the limiting.

That may sound funny coming from someone who focuses on the energy body differences between men and women. But acknowledging difference doesn’t have to mean we are defined by that difference. ‘Equal’ does not have to mean ‘the same.’ We can say men and women have equal rights to feeling sensitive or strong, assertive or receptive, protective or nurturing without saying that they are exactly the same in the way they experience and manifest these. ‘Masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are just ways of talking about these energies – maybe some day they will have no ties to gender at all, and we will all be full expressions of whatever we want.

For me, studying the differences between women’s and men’s energy bodies is akin to studying gynecology vs. urology – it is just technical. There are different ways we need to care for ourselves, and different phases and patterns we should be aware of, and ideally, relish. It’s not about division, and it’s not about hierarchy. To the extent that we experience our spiritual journey through our bodies and energy bodies, we can talk in terms of women’s spirituality and men’s spirituality. But that has nothing to do with limiting potential.

And to the extent that we are all one continuous energy spectrum, sharing in one collective human awareness, every woman (or man) who pulls forth more ‘feminine’ energy within herself/himself is contributing to a rebalancing that is long overdue. We have all been channeling the imbalance between masculine/yang, feminine/yin energies for far too long. It isn’t simply about men being in power, and I’m not one that believes that if women were in power there would ‘be no war.’ Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much evidence that that is true. It’s not simply the gender of those in power that needs to change, it is the mindset, and the energetic structures fueling that mindset.

This is the work we are all engaged in together right now. Here I focus on women, but it’s as much about men as women. Most of all it’s about heart – about opening and expanding. And yes, it’s about freedom!

Namaste. I always love to hear your thoughts~

Working Through Anger as Self-Protection

August 26, 2014

Boxed InWhen we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.
– Madeleine L’Engle

We live in an angry world, and there’s plenty to be angry about. Anger is the ultimate pushing away – when we feel angry we have divided the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’ or ‘me’ and ‘you’. There’s no common ground when we’re acting from anger, no acknowledgement of interdependence, or of a shared world. Anger is the root of violence, towards ourselves and others. We can look around the world, and perhaps even in our own lives, and easily see the paths of destruction anger has wrought.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for setting boundaries, and for standing up for ourselves or others, and sometimes anger is a necessary part of that. But for many of us, anger is a habit, an emotional pattern, that creates isolating barriers in our lives. Anger is a way of not feeling vulnerable, or of avoiding some other feeling that we are uncomfortable with, often fear or hopelessness. It is easier to lash out than to sit with these feelings. But our anger creates walls, and we end up feeling alone and unsupported, even when we are surrounded by people.

I’ve had to work with anger a lot in my own path, and I work with a lot of women for whom anger – and its subtler expressions, defensiveness, judgment and self-judgment – are an issue. Many childhood abuse survivors develop patterns of anger as a form of self-protection, but find in adulthood that it’s so ingrained they can’t allow anyone in. They may have worked through a lot of the more overt wounds from their abuse in therapy or through healing modalities, but find they are still left with the habit of pushing people away, or of being easily triggered into anger (whether this anger is expressed outwardly or turned inward.)

On the upside, I’ve come to feel anger in abuse survivors is a good sign. Anger is at least a strong emotion, a strong energy, and it can be transmuted into great strength when it’s worked through. Patterns of passivity, depression, or addiction – all terribly over-represented among abuse survivors – are often much harder to come back from. Anger is at least based on a strong sense of self-protection, which predisposes there IS some sense of self to begin with.

In the two modalities I work with, it is very interesting to contemplate how anger is usually represented in each. From a chakra perspective, the third chakra (navel or solar plexus, depending on the tradition) – our center of personal power, will, and boundaries – is often very strong, but the energy is rigid, and forms a protective barrier around the sacral/second and/or heart/fourth chakras on either side of it. Instead of a natural flow between these chakras, energy is pooled in the third chakra, and forms a gate or wall around the sacral and heart. There is little sense of support from a strong root /first chakra, and so the wall is easily triggered – anything that is emotionally uncomfortable causes a clamping down, and a pushing outward. Sometimes this remains internal, and is expressed as judgmental or angry discursive thought, or sometimes it becomes aggressive speech or action.

The third chakra plays a central role in our ability to establish strong boundaries, but ideally our ability to do so is supported by our entire energy being. Boundaries are essential, but part of the irony of this kind of third chakra hyper-strength is that we put so much attention into building emotional walls that we have no energy or attention left for energetic boundaries, and we suck in everything around us – including other people’s anger and anxiety – which only compounds our edginess.

It’s also interesting to look at anger through the lens of the the other main modality I use (with myself and others), Feeding Your Demons. There is a moment in this process in which we become our ‘demon’ of anger, and look back at ourselves through the demon’s eyes. So often the anger demon sees us as naïve, weak, or gullible – as needing protection. That’s why we fear letting go of our anger, even when we know it is causing problems in our life – what will happen to us without our armor? But often what our anger demon really needs, when it’s allowed to express itself through this process, is to relax. Self-protection is exhausting.The part of us from which our anger springs just wants to feel safe enough to relax, without constantly being on guard.

Some inquiry work you can do if you are working with anger in yourself is to ask yourself the following questions whenever you are feeling angry, or afterwards, when contemplating the triggering situation:

  •  Am I/was I in pain? Just as a small child’s first instinct is often to hit back whenever he is hit by another child, so too we often lash out when in energetic or emotional pain. The key is recognizing when we are in pain, and becoming comfortable with the pain itself, instead of jumping to the ‘next step’ of an angry, defensive, or irritable response. Practice recognizing when your feelings are hurt, or when you are overwhelmed by abrasive energy. For example, being in a crowd is often a triggering situation for me, because of the overwhelming influx of energy , which my energy body experiences as painful.
  •  What am I/was I responding to as threatening or dangerous in the situation? Sometimes anger is an expression of the ‘fight’ response, in terms of the ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ survival instinct. See if you can identify what is making you feel unsafe. Is criticism at work triggering fear for your livelihood? Does the person you are angry with remind you of someone abusive from your past? Our feelings don’t need to make sense, so just inquire openly.
  •  What are/were the layers of emotions present? Try to drop down into the protected emotion. What emotion are you uncomfortable feeling, and using anger to cover up? Can you just sit in this emotion instead and let it be, without any need to move away from it through anger?
  •  Focus on reminding yourself that you are safe (assuming you objectively are.) Take some deep belly breaths, and focus on relaxing in your navel/solar plexus chakra. Focus on the ground beneath you, and visualize a column of vital red light flowing upward through your feet and into your whole body. This light is protecting and fueling you, so that you do not need to work so hard to do so yourself.

Longer term, the key to working with your anger is to focus on what you are protecting – that part of you that feels unsafe and vulnerable. Help this part of you gradually feel more comfortable with uncertainty and painful emotions. Send this part of you love and healing – visualize it as a vulnerable little girl or boy if you like, and send her or him heart energy. Don’t attack your anger through self-judgment (a common tendency in spiritual circles, where anger is often considered persona non grata.) Your anger is just a protective habit – it’s well-intentioned in its own way, and you don’t need to go to war with it. As you allow yourself to feel more supported in your life, and as you become more comfortable with feeling vulnerable (or anxious, or sad, or whatever emotion you have been uncomfortable facing), your need to jump to anger as a defense will gradually subside.

Of course none of this is a substitute for therapy or other healing work, and you need to gauge what you can work with on your own, and when you need help. Accepting help of any type is often another key component of starting to drop self-protective barriers. Often these barriers are also expressed in terms of hyper self-sufficiency, and we fear dependence on others so much that we will not allow ourselves to accept help. In many ways, recognizing our interdependence is the opposite of anger, and accepting help is a wonderful way to begin moving towards this insight.

Peace! As always, I welcome your own insights and sharings in the comments. Please also note that I am offering my Energy Work for Sexual Abuse and Trauma 4-week teleseminar again starting September 21. Prior participants may take the course again for half-price to reinforce the work (and it is always slightly different each time.) Please share with anyone who might be interested.

Solstice Contemplations – Maps for the Spiritual Journey

June 20, 2014

“Your spiritual path isn’t always just something you find, you started it the moment you took your first breath…” - Martin R. Lemieux

Solstices are powerful times for spiritual practice and reflection. Their energy peaks provide doorways, an opportunity to stop and shift into new levels of awareness. Their cyclical nature reminds us of the passage of time, offering us a chance to take stock, gain perspective, reset, and reprioritize. Often it’s best to just travel our path without analyzing it too much – we are on it all of the time anyway – but I think Solstices are a great time to contemplate where we are in our journey.

Mystics across the traditions have come up with many different ways of depicting the spiritual journey, and many different metaphors for representing its phases. For this Solstice, I offer up some of these symbols, in the hopes that it may help you pull back, take the ‘big view’, and think about where you are at, and where you are going.

JacobsLadder

Jacob’s Dream by William Blake – Jacob’s ladder is the staircase to heaven that Jacob sees in a dream, as described in Genesis.

Ascending is one of the most common representations of the spiritual path. Ascending from earth to heaven, matter to spirit, ego to soul, separation to unity. In the book of Genesis, Jacob has a dream of a staircase to heaven upon which angels travel up and down. This dream has been interpreted many different ways by different traditions, and is an important part of Kabbalah’s teachings on the Tree of Life. When you look back over the last year (or more), do you have a sense of both ascension and descension at points along your way?

On depiction of the kundalini rising through the nadis, opening the chakras.

One depiction of the kundalini rising through the nadis, opening the chakras.

Jacob’s ladder is often seen by Eastern mystics as a metaphor for the kundalini rising. Once we initiate our conscious spiritual journey, the kundalini rises through the nadis – or spiritual channels – into our chakras in cycles, releasing blocks and activating lessons at each level. Each chakra represents a different type of subtle body energy, a different part of our psyche, and a different aspect of the awakening process. Sometimes we can feel as if we are working on the same lesson or energy for months or even years at a time, stuck in one chakra, and yet concurrent to this, on another level, we are shifting energy through them all. What chakra(s) do you think you have been moving through this year? What shifts have you experienced?

Cover for indie release Interior Castle in C major by John Chaffee, an album inspired by Teresa of Avila's book of the same name (clickthrough to sample)

Cover for indie release Interior Castle in C major by John Chaffee, an album inspired by Teresa of Avila’s book of the same name (clickthrough to sample)

Teresa of Avila had her own dream about the spiritual process, envisioning the soul “like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places” (Interior Castle 1.1.1). She described the spiritual journey as the soul’s movement through a series of 7 rooms, beginning in the first room with prayer. Through gradually more esoteric practices and service, the soul moves through each of the other rooms, until full union with God is reached. A key part of Teresa’s model of ascension is that it is fueled by grace and thus not entirely within our control – although we can devote ourselves to practice, there is a mystery to the process and the call that can’t be fully understood. Perhaps you have felt yourself touched by this grace this year?

Ascension has the quality of being pulled to the light

Ascension has the quality of being pulled to the light

The spiritual journey as a process of ascending has bloomed fully into the modern New Age concept of Ascension – a mass movement of souls through the spiritual process at a fast pace. There are varying ideas on the number of people affected by this, and how it can be triggered and processed, but the main feeling is one of being pulled into the light, towards a new level of being, not entirely beyond one’s control, but also not entirely within it (and thus somewhat similar to Teresa’s feeling of grace.) Many believe this process is quickening at this time in history. Have you felt this quickening?

Titian's painting of Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill

Titian’s painting of Sisyphus pushing his boulder uphill

Of course sometimes our journey feels less like ascension and more like Sisyphus’s efforts to push a boulder uphill – each time he neared the top, the boulder rolled back down again. We may feel like we have been trying so hard, and nothing has gone our way, or that one challenge after another has arisen in our life. Or perhaps we just feel stagnant or stuck. Have you felt this way this year? What is the key to moving through these dark nights?

Longmen grottos, also called Dragon's Gate grottos, in Henan province China. Photo by Robert Jacobson

Longmen grottos, also called Dragon’s Gate grottos – retreat caves in Henan province China. Photo by Robert Jacobson

Often retreat is key, in whatever way we can. In true retreat – whether for a day or years – we are liberated from the weight of our usual responsibilities and, more importantly, our self-perceptions, and thus are able to see in a new way. Sometimes we can only access the insight, and gather the personal power, needed to make a shift after a period of retreat. Is this what you are in need of now?

doorwaytolight

Doorway to Light – Breakthrough

Then we have those wonderful periods of breakthrough. After a period of struggle, after a bout of confusion or despair, something happens to part the clouds, and we see the light once again. Have you experienced breakthrough? Do you feel on the verge?

Crossroads

Crossroads

Or perhaps you feel you are at a crossroads. You can see clearly the paths before you, but are not yet sure which way to go. There’s no better expression of this than Robert Frost’s The Road Less Taken – here’s the final stanza:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Personally I think there has never been a better representation of a spiritual crossroads than the one portrayed in The Matrix, in the famous ‘Red Pill, Blue Pill’ scene. It’s definitely worth another watch if you haven’t seen it in awhile. Is there a part of you hankering to go back to a simpler, less aware state? Are you worn out from the suffering of the world that you see, or the complexity of your insights, and wish you could simply be blind once again? We all feel that way sometimes. Becoming aware of this wish is the first step to moving through it.

Emerging from Cocoon

Emerging from Cocoon

Another great metaphor for some phases of our path, and one I used at the last Winter Solstice, is that of a butterfly emerging from its chrysallis. Transformation is a struggle, it often takes time and patience. Are you preparing to cocoon? Ready to emerge? Somewhere in between?

SpiralTransit

Spiral Transit by Remedios Varos

In contrast to the linear representations of ascension, we also have the spiral model of spirituality. Sometimes this is considered the feminine path, although I don’t really think it has anything to do with gender. In truth, the ascending model is not so linear, as we move up and down all of the time. What the spiral metaphor captures so well though is the sense that we return over and over to the same place, but it is never exactly the same. We circle the same themes, the same experiences in our life, over and over, but each time is different, because we are different. Have you returned somewhere this year?

Labyrinth

Labyrinth

Related to the spiral is the labyrinth. With a labyrinth though, there is a definite center, and we move in and out of this center through the same physical path, though it can feel dramatically different each way. The challenge is taking each step knowing we are moving towards the center without being so fixated on that destination that we miss the step we are on. Are you enjoying the journey, are you present for it, or are you trapped in the future, anticipating the center yet to come?

Sunrise at Stone Henge

Sunrise at Stone Henge – Thousands gather to see the sun rise above the famous heel stone on this day each year

 Wherever you are this Solstice, I wish you much light and joy! Feel free to share where you are in your own journey, or any other metaphors or symbols of the spiritual journey that resonate for you.

P.S. Please note that I’m doing a free teleseminar through The Breathe Network on June 27th about Trauma-Sensitive Meditation, and that I’ve continued my 12 Chakra meditation series at Meditate Like a Girl with the Eighth Chakra. Namaste-

 

 

To All Mothers…And All Beings

May 8, 2014

I didn’t quite get to a new post this mother’s day, but did want to take a moment to wish you all a wonderful day of celebrating motherhood, your mother, or the beauty of nurturing in general (for we are all mothers to something.) Here also are some past posts – perhaps one will contain a nugget you could use right now:

The Spiritual Journey of Motherhood

The Spirituality of Motherhood: Lessons from the REAL Masters

Women’s Energetics Series: The Mother-Child Energy Line

All Beings Have Been Our Mother (at BellaOnline)

I also wanted to offer this poem excerpt from Mary Oliver, who understands loving and letting go (the core of motherhood) – so well:

“to live in this world

you must be able
to do three things
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”

- Mary Oliver, from the poem “In Blackwater Woods”

In closing, a blessing for the 275+ kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls (and countless other children suffering from brutality less publicized on any given day):

May you be back in the arms of your mother soon.

Til then may you feel the strength and love of the eternal mother in your bones.

May it carry you through your travails, through your pain, to peace and love some day again.

#BringBackOurGirls

Breaking Silence and Upcoming Events

April 16, 2014

Breaking Silence

“To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.” – Andrei Lankov

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness month, and for me this month is really about breaking silence and facing that which we usually push aside. So much of the suffering that sexual abuse and assault survivors experience is due to the discomfort of those around them, and from our culture at large. Often the prevailing message is to keep quiet, not make waves, and move on. The underlying pain, betrayal, shame, rage, and fear is left untended.

In what remains of April, I urge you to help redress this balance in some small way. Perhaps consider a donation to a charity that works to combat sexual violence or aid survivors (VDay and The Breathe Network are two of my favorites.) Perhaps let an assault or abuse survivor in your life know that you care. Or perhaps you can show your solidarity in another way – by vowing to face something in yourself that you have pushed aside, left untended, or unhealed. We all have such parts of ourselves, and when we surface and speak them they begin to lose their power. We begin to heal, and as we heal ourselves, we heal the world.

In the spirit of this, I found a poem to share called ‘Breaking Silence’, that I feel speaks powerfully to this theme. But first, a few offerings this month, several of which are related to National Sexual Assault Awareness month:

  • I will be offering Meditate Like a Girl’s FREE monthly guided meditation next Tuesday the 22nd. The theme is ‘Spring is Here’, and we will tap into the energies of spring in nature, and our chakras, to connect with the energy of rebirth available now. Click here to register (you can listen live or by recording after the fact.)

Note that also at Meditate Like a Girl I am continuing my Chakra Meditation series by introducing a 12-Chakra meditation, based on the 12-chakra system from Cyndi Dale. The article includes a free guided meditation, as the other articles in this series have. Enjoy!

  • Related to National Sexual Assault Awareness month, tune into Diantha Harris’ Life Potentials Radio Show next Thursday night, April 24th (or listen to the recording afterwards) to hear Diantha interview both myself and Molly Harris (founder of The Breathe Network) in a show entitled “Identity and Empowerment After Sexual Trauma.” We will be discussing many powerful topics including the pros and cons of words like ‘victim’ and ‘survivor’, the role of body-based modalities in healing trauma, and the very complicated, often fraught topic of forgiveness.
  • Also offered free this month by The Breathe Network is Understanding Trauma and the Body by Lara Veon on Friday April 25th. This is the first of a series of offerings by The Breathe Network to educate healing practitioners and trauma survivors about holistic ways of working with trauma.

In honor of this month I have also created new, better-quality, versions of the audio files that accompany my free Ebook Healing the Subtle Body Wounds of Sexual Trauma. I’ll be updating the book itself soon too, but for now, at least the recordings are more usable. (And if you have utilized this Ebook and found it beneficial, please consider reviewing it on Amazon, Ibooks, Smashwords, Goodreads or anywhere else it appears. Thank you!)

I hope you find these offerings useful, and that you consider ways to break through your own silence this spring.

Breaking Silence

Had I; reached so far
Can’t sense pain anymore
With my heart ajar
Dragging my sinking ship to shore

A warrior; I’ve been
Battled with words through thick and thin
With my existence being my only sin
I forged a war within.

Hatred imbued minds
Deeper than depression, longer than loneliness
With me and my dark side
My mind; a voice in utter mess

A voyage; self discovery
Out of this cold paralysed dark
Leaving behind a trail of memories
So sore, so stark

There’s a voice within
Unheard and unknown
My only saviour, my kin
Saying I’m not forlorn

This place, this silence
Had scared me for long
However this violence
Nurtured a heart so strong

This voice shall break silence
The silence of my sorrow
Let it roar, let it show
The years of being hollow

This voice shall rise above
From the shackles of cruelty
To preach the bosses; meaning of love
To give strength to plurality

- Karan Tripathi

Women Mystic Series – Umm ‘Abdallah, Sufi Dreamer

March 27, 2014
Sufis Whirling by Iranian artist Mitra Banejad. Whirling is not from the same tradition as Umm 'Abdallah, but I felt the spirit of it matched (and the artist is a woman as well!)  Clickthrough for source.

Sufis Whirling by Iranian artist Mitra Banejad. Whirling is not from the same tradition as Umm ‘Abdallah, but I felt the spirit of it matched (and the artist is a woman as well!)

In honor of Women’s History month, I wanted to add to my occasional series on historical Women Mystics. Since most major spiritual traditions were dominated by men teachers and leaders until recently (and many still are), I think it’s important for us as modern women seekers to connect with models from the past – women with rich spiritual lives. It affirms the universality of the spiritual quest, and weaves together a structure for feminine awakening reaching across time and distance.

The woman I chose to feature this time is quite different from the women I have featured in the past. Most have been mystic rebels – in order to honor their mystic yearnings, they defied religious conventions of their time. Most have also been from celibate traditions, and thus have not had husbands or families. They have also largely been literate, and therefore we know of them, and their mystic experiences, through their own personal writings or poetry.

Umm ‘Abdallah is a very different choice, as none of this is true for her. She was the wife of Ali al-Hakim at-Tirmidhi, a 9th century Sufi scholar and mystic. We only know of her and her mystic experiences through at-Tirmidhi’s own memoir of his spiritual journey, The Beginning of the Matter, one of the first known preserved Sufi autobiographies. He never gives her name, so she is referred to by historians as Umm ‘Abdallah, which means ‘the mother of ‘Abdallah.’

As much as it  bothers me that we know her only through her husband – that she has no voice or even name of her own recorded in history – her husband’s descriptions of her mystic experiences and dreams captured me. I decided that in fact it was very appropriate to feature her, because like many women throughout history she sought deeper spiritual teachings in the only way she could at the time – through her husband. In so doing, she played a very special role in his path and teachings (which became of some reknown), and as a couple they formed a unique spiritual partnership, one based on equality and mutual support for each others’ search.

Umm ‘Abdallah was a very specific kind of spiritual mystic – a dreamer. Deep mystic knowledge came to her in her dreams, through symbols and visitations, on a regular basis. While we all dream, and occasionally have particularly meaningful dreams, the spiritual journeys of mystic dreamers revolve around their dreams. In every spiritual tradition I can think of, there is a special place for dreamers, and Sufism gives them particular significance. Dreams are considered symbolic representations of spiritual dimensions, belonging to the ‘alam al-mithal’, or ‘World of Imagination.’ Far from considered useless fantasy, this kind of imagination in Sufism is honored as the intermediary between the seen and unseen world.

Umm ‘Abdullah’s dreams were also teaching dreams – they brought new knowledge and teachings to her husband. While much of mystic Sufism is based on a teacher-student dynamic, seekers may also receive teachings directly from the Divine through dreams. At-Tirmidhi did not have a formal teacher for much of his path – he studied and meditated on his own. At a certain point, his wife Umm ‘Abdallah began having dreams that answered his questions when they arose. Many of her dreams included an old man, white-haired and clad in white, representative in Sufism of a Khidr, or teacher of Divine Knowledge who comes to teach those in dreams who do not have a living teacher.

Through a Khidr in Umm ‘Abdallah’s dreams, her husband receives guidance on how to proceed to the next level of his path, and also encouragement to become a guide to others himself. As these dreams continue, at-Tirmidhi writes:

“Now my wife kept dreaming about me, dream after dream, always at dawn. It was as if she, or the dreams, were messengers for me. There was no need for interpretation, because their meaning was clear.”

In further dreams, he is given signs that he has progressed from the level of external worshiper to one who truly communes with the Divine. In addition, Umm ‘Abdallah receives a message that she is his spiritual equal, and they proceed along their path as such, in a united spiritual quest. The level of mutual reverence and spiritual partnership that he describes in his memoir is truly unparalleled in historic spiritual writings, as far as I know. However, this is all in private – in public at-Tirmidhi is the spiritual leader and teacher, while Umm ‘Abdallah devotes herself to protecting and helping to spread his teachings behind the scenes.

What really captured me in the tale of this mystic couple was a 10-day spiritual transformation that Umm ‘Abdallah underwent after many years in her quest, while awake, although including many dream-like visions. She experienced wave after wave of mystic visions, along with ecstasy and light pouring into and through her, unsought and unstoppable. Here ‘s how she described the first two days to her husband:

“I felt as if something penetrated my chest, circled my heart, and enveloped it. It filled my chest up to the throat; I almost choked from its fullness. Heat spread through the cavity of my body, my heart was aflame, and all the Sacred Names appeared to me in their glory. Anything upon which my eyes fell, on the earth or in the sky; anyone whom I looked at, I saw as I have never seen before, because of the beauty and joy and sweetness [which filled me]. Then a verse in Persian descended upon my heart: ‘We have given you one thing!’

“Again I was filled with joy, elation, and great energy.”

“The next day,” she said, “another verse descended on my heart: ‘We have given you three things: Our Glory, Our Might, and Our Beauty.’

“Then,” she said, “I saw this glow behind me, and it stayed above my head as if in a dream, and in this glowing light these three things were revealed to me: the knowledge of the Divine Glory, the knowledge of the Divine Might, and the knowledge of the Divine Beauty…”

From the third day onward, “knowledge of the names of God were revealed to  her”, one after the other. At-Tirmidhi writes,

“She remained in this state for some time, and then the knowledge of God was revealed to her. Each day new names were opened up to her, and the glowing light was upon her heart, and the inward meaning of the names was revealed to her…On the tenth day she came to me and said the name “The Gracious” was revealed to her.”

Beautiful, no?

This translation was taken from The Taste of Hidden Things, by Sara Sviri. If you’d like to learn more about Umm ‘Abdullah as well as many other Sufi women, check out the excellent Women of Sufism: A Hidden Treasure, by Camille Adams Helsinki.

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