Continued from Previous Posts…In response to my asking for help after the seminar, Jose said that he could offer two things: Before the seminar finished, he would teach everyone a simple Zikr practice that you could do alone, in about 3-5 minutes. That would help anyone who wished to stay connected to Zikr. Secondly, they had recorded the Zikr sessions the seminar. He would leave a copy with John, one of the Camp Caravan locals. If the group wanted to meet and practice Zikr using the recordings, it was possible to do that. He explained that prior to being given permission to lead Zikr by his Sufi master, he and his group had been able to use recordings from their sessions to practice and it had worked well.
Okay, two golden bread crumbs! I had the private 3-5 minute Zikr practice I could do at home when I wanted. And the Camp Caravan group could include Zikr on their schedule, and I would do my best to attend when I could. Then I told Jose, (this is not a thing I would EVER have guessed I would ever say to anyone again in my life!!), “You have something. Whatever it is – the way you explain things, the way you are, the practices you offer, it doesn’t matter why – it works for me. Everything you say makes sense to me, and I learn something. I have to ask: Can you be my Teacher? I feel obligated – from somewhere higher – to ask.”
He didn’t answer. He kind of smiled. I know it sounds – kind of weird, right?! It’s questionable these days to ask someone to be your spiritual Teacher. It seems a bit creepy, unnecessary, not trusting your own self, semi-guru-cultish…lots of groany kinds of things. But I’m just telling you the facts, folks. That’s what I experienced: I felt a deep sense of responsibility to ask Jose this question.
So we just kind of sat there together in silence for a bit. But I sat tall, and unwavering, because I had received a call that, for the sake of my Soul, I needed to respond to. So I just sat with him and waited.
“Well,” he finally said. “Come to the Dominican!”
“Okay,” I said, without hesitating. “So…when?” (like tomorrow?, next week?..)
“Come to our next seminar in January, bring your family and join us,” he answered.
“Okay…sounds good, we will.”
And of course, you know we did:)
Jose has never answered my question, if he would be my Teacher. Just for you to know. Also, I doubt that I’ll feel the need to ask again, because he just is.
I went home and kept the tiny thread to the light alive. When I could, I did the Zikr exercise on my own, sometimes in the living room, with the girls climbing on me and in my lap. Sometimes I could slip away in the early morning and run down to the beach we were lucky to live near, and sit on a rock by the ocean, alone, and do Zikr. It was enough to keep a spark of me alive and a certain momentum going.
I traveled up to Camp Caravan for the next meeting, which was usually a half day on a Saturday. One very interesting “Mission Statement,” that CC shares, is that they are a “Leaderless Group” in a Fourth Way tradition. This is very appealing to some who have had overbearing or f’d up Spiritual Teachers in their lives, to not have an actual “Leader” of the group making all of the ultimate decisions. There are very cool aspects to this, and for some of you readers who long for spiritual community but can’t stand the idea of a leader, you really might want to check them out. They host seminars, welcome visitors to their weekly groups, etc. You can find out more about them at www.campcaravan.org Many of the core group members participated in what sounds like life-changing, amazing 6-12 month long seminars with JG Bennett (a student of Gurdjieff) back in the early 1970’s. They came back to America after the experience with the aim of spreading the Work, and some of these folks created Camp Caravan.
Anyway, at the next meeting at Camp Caravan, there was morning exercise, breakfast, light talk, and then some practical discussions. After everyone had talked about their topics, I realized that no one had brought up Zikr. So I brought it up – “We have the Zikr recording from Jose, and he said we can use it to practice in the group. Is there a way we can make space to include Zikr? I’d do my best to come once a month to participate.”
One of the challenges of being a “Leaderless Group,” is just that – well, it’s hard to come to a decision about something new, or complicated, or sometimes even simple – like, when are we going to plan our next pot luck? So there are times in a meeting when a topic is brought up, but because there is no final say, the topic gets lost in the list of things to talk about again someday. I could feel that happening with Zikr…people needed to talk to other people, some people weren’t sure about using a recording, etc…it was drifting away. So I offered to organize it once a month. If I could just be given permission to use one of the buildings on the property, and invite anyone to join in who wished, it could be that simple. And so it was. Once a month until Jose’s seminar in January, I drove up with the recording, and maybe seven or eight of us from the group would practice Zikr together. I stayed in touch with Jose via email, let him know how it was going, and asked him for guidance if anything uncertain came up. And you know what? Sitting with the group, following a certain form, using the recordings: Zikr – the remembrance of God – is transmitted.
There are lots of methods, practices, and Ways to commune with God and reach our highest Selves. Sometimes we find that one practice works really well for a while, and then at other times another practice seems to become more immediate in finding the Sacred space we long for. Whatever works, as long as it doesn’t hurt you OR anyone else, makes sense to me, especially after my own journey through both light and dark times. Jose’s teaching in general, and his gift of Zikr really works for me. I am dipped into eternity and grace when I enter the circle, and a little piece of grace stays with me when I gently move away. I’m as human as ever, and still have a flow of crappy, moody days come over me, yet aliveness remains in a way that I thought had been lost forever. It’s also refreshing to “not know.” There is so much to Jose’s teaching and the group’s practices that I have yet to discover. I’m a beginner.
Hard to explain, even in many posts: Whew! There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to write about all of this. But a different part in me – a part that I trust – feels the sense of sacred obligation, to share my story with you. More to come! As ever, may everyone be given peace, love, happiness, health, safety and goodness. Everyone. Xoxo