Inspirational Jewels

Spiritual Tips and Guidance


The Deeper Realities of Love, and One Another

Like me, you may be familiar with the old adage: “You only hurt the ones you love.” I have been presented with this many times, in many different ways. Unknown to me, I had been living by this model for most of my life. My love for other people came largely in the way of judgement and fear.

I could not understand why relationships were so difficult, or why I felt so often isolated and lonely within them. I thought all I needed was to have love for someone, and the rest would sort itself out. I had intellectual knowledge, but no knowledge of the heart about my own wounds, or the ego that so fiercely protected them. Now, as I am in my moments of new clarity, I began to really see how it was warping the beauty of the other person, and of myself.

The difficulty is that we’re not yet paying enough attention to see in everyone that we meet…[the] gifts in everyone that Allah puts in front of us. This is the key to finding the beauty in others: we start to find, and live, the beauty in [ourselves].” -John Abd-al Qadir Davies, USHS Senior Faculty Member

I turned away from their gifts, and consistently chose judgement. I am at the beginning of understanding the nature of these decisions, and through self-protection and self-justification how I could lay a trap and never realize it. I built cages around the things I loved, because I did not understand or have a relationship with my own heart. Even after feeling a notion as to why, it took me years to be able to begin to take the the steps to heal.

Thankfully, I feel I am now, with great fear and trembling, taking steps to find understanding and healing. I am deeply, deeply grateful to be with the beautiful community and resources of USHS as I begin, however imperfectly, this process.

Not looking away from reality, but looking at the deeper reality in everyone…so that we can know them in a much more complete way.” -JAQ Davies

I look forward to learning the ways in which I can look at the deeper reality in everyone. This life truly is about us loving each other, and I am grateful to be able to see that now.

If you are feeling in a similar place of recovering from fear, blame, and judgement please know that we are here. You can reach out to any time for support. We offer one-on-one sessions, and other home study lectures and courses.

Growing in the Dark

Plants have inherent knowledge of how to move, and where to grow based on the light of the sun. The presence of light is often associated with outward growth: the sunnier seasons of Spring and Summer and their leafy green fecundity. But what of the darker hours of Winter?

As the darker hours grow, so too do the plants – but in ways we do not see immediately. They spend this time rooting down into the soil, slowly stretching into new earth. In the darkness, their energy is devoted to a kind of unraveling, rather than the beautiful display we see in their foliage and flowering of the warmer seasons.

Much like the plants, darkness can too bring us blessings of calm and connection. Our spiritual guide Sidi often spoke of the holiness of night: those times of stillness during the last third of the night where the veils are thinnest and the time for healing and revelation may be more accessible.

I invite you to find prayer in the dark hours; to root yourself in the nourishment of Remembrance. If we all stretch the roots of our Spirit, we can create a network of exchange and transmission which will alllow our hearts to flower together like never before when the light returns.

If you would like community support for your practice, we have a weekly guided Remembrance session on Wednesdays at 9:00am PT, open to all levels of experience, and free to join. Click here to receive a weekly email reminder.



Turning Adversity into Diversity

In film studies, I have heard that there are three basic stories to tell: man vs. man, man vs. God, and man vs. himself. To say nothing of how misguided these competitive perspectives may be, it is important to note our persistent affinity with these types of stories: stories of adversity.

But what is adversity? The etymology of the word suggests it is from the latin ‘advertere’ or ‘to turn toward’. The real question is, what are we turning toward?

Sufism suggests that adversities are an opportunity to turn toward God; that our obstacles are a stop along the path, there to allow us to pause, and endow us with a greater understanding of ourselves and others.

There is an additional option in this path, though: the notion of diversity, or to ‘turn aside’, ie to work alongside an obstacle. Through Sufism, the University helps our students develop their the vision to see the path of God, and embrace the diverse terrain which we encounter in our lives.

In the moments that trip us up, we can pause, and turn toward the path to find our footing again. We do not dig our way out, but simply step aside and keep walking.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with our co-president Kamila Shenmen talk about her walking within Shadhiliyya Sufism, and how it changed her life: click here to listen.

Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

The Helpers

There is a famous quote by Fred Rogers that describes what his mother would tell him when he was a child and saw scary news:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

He was right: there are so many caring people in this world. So many people that crave peace, and healing. What do these helpers look like?

Many think of them traditionally as doctors, nurses, firefighters – those who swoop in an emergency and help to save, and mend a body. What we are realizing more and more each day, though, is the need for other kinds of assistance as well, the kind that can help mend the spirit.

The pain inside of one heart can expand as that person moves through, and into the world. What if there were helpers that could introduce healing to that heart? What world could we have if every heart could find peace the wing of Love?

We know it is not as easy as wishing it, but rather a path that is there for us to walk whenever we want. The helpers are there: they are us. As we heal, that mending moves out and grows into the world. Like a forest connected by the root, we truly are a network of hearts, feeling and moving together.

May we be the helpers, and walk together toward peace.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Bless the Deadline

Are you someone that works well under pressure? Does a looming deadline help you to finally dive in?

We are all familiar with this phenomenon: people from diverse walks of life feel the day-in-and-day-out has it’s own momentum that doesn’t naturally create space to start, or finish projects. There are so many practical things that can legitimately prevent us from doing what we need. However, there are also many things that dissolve like vapor with the right set of pressures. So what is it about the midnight hours before a project is due that perhaps get things moving a little more easily?

It could be that the choice to put that task off is no longer available, and that can bring clarity to our path. The pressure of a deadline is maybe just the ticket to understand what we want, and reset our priorities.

When more time is no longer an option, it can open a line to pure inspiration that can breathe life into our effort. The ticking clock is what can gift us with the resolve to commit to the task, and allow the magic of hidden resourcefulness to come to our aid.

Sometimes it takes an outside force to help reshuffle the pieces of our life that can feel to overwhelming. The deadline for applications for our Low-Residency Masters of Divinity Program are due October 13th. You can make an appointment with a member of our team, or click here to fill out our application.

May the urgency of ‘now’ clear the way, and propel you into your own path of healing.



Photo 1 by moren hsu

Photo 2 by Stefan Cosma

The Warrior vs. the Worrier

What is that voice of fear that stops us from experiencing our lives?

In the evolution of humans, fear has served a very important purpose-for example, ‘there is a lion behind you!’ or ‘this is a slippery ledge, I should be careful’. However, we have all had moments of fear and worry that seem to swell past their reasonable boundaries, and take over.

We all know this voice. It is the voice outside of a dangerous situation that stops us in our tracks that says things like: “What if I don’t have enough money? Did I embarrass myself? Am I talking too much? My friend is 5 minutes late, what if something happened?” In this moment where worry takes the stage in our minds and becomes the amplified voice, it squelches other opportunities for kindness, grace, generosity-and especially service.

How do we quiet this voice?

Last week I had the opportunity to ask our co-president Salima about How to Free Ourselves from Worry and this is what she told me:

“How our brain reacts to worry…it really has to be something that we become very conscious of in our lives….if we are not conscious of it, worry can take over and run our lives.

What worry actually does is it takes us away from the beauty of our lives. In Sufism, we say… ‘We have the voice of God within us’ or the voice of wisdom, and we have the voice of ourselves…we also have the outside voices, or the negativity, that create havoc in our life. Worry is one of the things that create havoc in our lives. Part of it is, if you will, taming that tiger inside.

Through the different tools we have in Sufism, and the way that our heart can turn toward God, rather than turn toward the worry, is what eventually will make the worry disappear. The more that we feed the worry, the more that it grows.

The more we can turn away and look to gratitude, look to beauty, look to ‘What is it that God is asking of me in this?’ the more we will find our happiness, and the more we will become a warrior rather than a worrier. That warrior is what is going to slay the tiger of worry.”

To hear the full audio of our question and answer session, click here.

If you would like to hear more about how Sufism can heal your worries, we have experienced members of our community available. To schedule an appointment for a free healing session, or to learn more about the University click here.

photo credit Nik Shuliahin

Learning to Heal from….Cats?


Do you know why a cat purrs? The common assumption is they purr when they are content, which is true. However, there is much more to it:

Purring is also believed to be used by the cat for healing. Purrs vibrate at 25-150HZ which is also the frequency that assists in physical healing and bone mending. It may also be that purring during resting is a form of physical therapy to keep the cat’s bones strong since the frequency range of 25-150HZ increases bone density. So even as a cat is napping or resting, he might be keeping his bones strong and healthy.” (from Cat Behavior Associates)

Humans have a similar relationship with sound and comfort and healing. Our preference for harmonies, for example, is shown to correspond with stimulation of certain nerve fibers and “perceiving both parts of the harmonious whole.”

Many traditions have known this instinctively, and have integrated sound healing into their practice for centuries. In Sufism, the Fatiha (the Opening), is one of numerous examples from the Qur’an where sound vibrations work alongside the words themselves to bring healing. As Sidi said in Gift of Healing:

As we know, sound is vibration which arrives at the ear, transfers to signals in the brain, and affects the cells vibration. When a patient listens to the Qur’an, its vibration positively affects the vibration of his cells which adjust them to their normal rate with which Allah created them. This is because the Qur’an is distinguished with a unique harmonious rhythm that does not exist in any other speech.”


When we recite from the Qur’an, we are literally preparing our bodies for healing. The beauty of the words, and their power to carry in love and reverence, can actually change our physical experience of the world.

In learning to read and recite the Qur’an, you are learning to open a channel of greater healing for yourself, and thus a channel for greater healing in the world-one beautiful word at a time.

If you are desiring to learn to read and recite from the Qur’an, you can learn more about our Qur’anic Arabic course beginning September 26th. Click here for more info.

Going ’round again…

The Sufi poet, Jalal id-Din Rumi said,

“Don’t grieve.
Anything you lose comes round again in another form.”


The grief today is mine. This is my final week writing to you as host of the newsletter and blog. It has been an honor and pleasure serving the USHS community over the past two years as University Relations Coordinator.

Though no longer directly employed by USHS, this community will always be family, as it has been without fail for the past twenty years.

Beginning August 1st, Rahma Sandra Collinger will be taking over, with the title of Director of Marketing and Admissions.

Rahma is a current student of USHS, about to begin her fourth year. Rahma comes to us with an MBA and a background in marketing. God willing, her gifts, talents and love for the University will guide her to bring the messages of USHS to a broader range of people whose hearts are yearning for the deep love and truths and gifts that can be reached through this doorway.

Please join me in welcoming her and sending prayers for Allah to bless her work and service for Him.

Before I go, I want to share a lesson learned in the past two years:

As the poem above states, “Anything you lose comes round again in another form.” This was my second round of employment with this organization. The first was a 9-year term as Operations Director, from beginning of 2000 through 2008.

Though my tendency is to think, “out of sight, out of mind,” whether alternatively or simultaneously, “absence really does make the heart grow fonder.”

This Round 2 has been even more delightful than the first. With hearts more open and deepened, the love flows ever more powerfully, as does the commitment to live and serve aligned with the highest expression of Allah’s light we can access from human form.

The experience has been the same over the years with my biological family. Initially, following the spiritual path distanced me from my parents and siblings. This felt necessary for the first part of the healing journey, as I carried so many hurts and wounds, along with judgments and blame.

After traveling the path of healing the wounds and cleansing the heart, each time I returned to visit family, the love was deepened. Before long, every family member had transformed as well. We are now closer than ever before, relating authentically and deeply as I had never imagined possible. Al-humduli’llah! Praise be to The One!

On the other hand, as I followed the calling toward spirituality, I left behind an old boyfriend with whom I have not reconnected. At the time as I stepped foot on the path, he felt me moving away. His Texas love song to me was, “She’s going to heaven, but she’s putting me through hell.”

That one has not come round again, and I trust Allah’s wisdom.

When Spirit calls, we are often faced with difficult choices. As we say yes to the call, our attachments are released and trust deepens. Dependencies are turned away from the material world and toward Allah. The true gifts of love Allah gives for our hearts remain or return in a more purified and fulfilling form.

If your journey brings distance between you and your loved ones, may it all come round again with more clarity, openness, depth and love, if Allah wills. And Allah knows best.

May Allah bless us all and keep us safe and bowed in service to His Light.

As-salaamu alaykum – May God’s peace and blessings be upon you.

Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS


Photo credits: Adobe Stock Photo © Romolo Tavani #108197785


The Only Way Out Is In

The following article is from a beloved community member from the UK, Dr. Majid Kahn.


The only way out is in.

The attempts to configure an identity grounded simultaneously in (only apparently) irreconcilable world views lies at the heart of the modern Muslim dilemma.

Religious dogma, so often confused with cultural norms, provides a model of living which is grounded in confusion at its inception and crystallizes as anxiety in its manifestation.

The incoherence of “me” is ironically disguised as a coherent sense of self, which provides comfort without providing substance and the illusion of permanence built, rather bizarrely, on completely impermanent foundations.

Such a construct presents a mystery to the consciousness which purports to contain it, principally because the said consciousness has difficulty in recognizing the existence of a mystery at all. It is only when this consciousness becomes a question for itself that the speaking animal takes its first tentative steps to accepting the absurdity of being alive, having limbs, senses, hair, teeth, breath, and mysteriously walking on a giant ball of rock, moving inexorably towards permanently inhabiting the very land on which its feet now tread.

Anathema to the modern secular mind-set is even the very suggestion that this collection of flesh, bones and blood, should have any predetermined meaning. Anathema to the Muslim mind-set is that it shouldn’t.

Meaning and its absence are arguably most authentically realized through that peculiarly human phenomenon: self-awareness.

And the bridge of this (apparent) gap between authentic self-awareness and authentic God consciousness is precisely what I had not expected to discover in the hills of Pope Valley on that warm October sunny day in 2016.

The existential space between that which “I possess” and that which “I want to possess” is the playground of imagination. But where there is a playground there must also be a play thing. Becoming the play-thing of my own imagination, I find myself emotionally pulled one way and pushed the other. Such confusion becomes the recipe for a suffering which I do not have, but which rather has me.

My attempts to relieve myself of this suffering end where they began, and I soon realize that I am rapidly running on the spot, going nowhere. I feel as though I am trying to fill a pail of water, only to find that the faster I fill it the more rapidly it empties. So absorbed am I in trying to correct the problem by filling faster that I fail to spot the hole in the bottom. For if I were to notice this hole, even glimpse it, it would change everything.

Propelled by my own suffering, I begin on a journey whose destination I cannot know. The Buddha’s apophatic path to enlightenment seems a reasonable starting point, and so I begin meditating. I dim the lights, pay attention to my posture, rest my hands in my lap, or occasionally on my knees; I am told to pay attention to my breath, my feelings, my thoughts and any bodily sensations I may experience. ..

And so I begin to feel my feelings. I explore their location, weight, texture, even colour. I might even ask them a question: “What do you want from me?”

The conceptual leap from “I am feeling sad” to “I am feeling my sadness,” I soon discover, is neither conceptual nor particularly leap-like; more an intuitive shift. Thence my entry into the world that is beyond words.

It is precisely in the generation of this space that I begin to relax, and to experience a relative stillness that gives me respite from anxiety, dread, fear and despair. I feel as though I can breathe. I feel as though I may even have some control. For to understand sadness for what it is: a transient state of mind, is to liberate it.

To understand my feelings is to understand myself. Trying to understand myself, I seek answers in books, courses, retreats, other people, family.

My feelings of isolation and loneliness are temporarily assuaged when I think I have “found the one,” though no sooner do I begin to feel at ease, then my old anxieties resurface, or are indeed replaced by new ones.

I cry as I realize that, yet again, my journey is at a new beginning, and yet again, I am back where I started, asking the same questions.

And I experience the thoughts which are the mantra of every seeker:
“Why me?”
“When will this end?”

And so in my hopes of finding the final answer, I join yet another group, and seek yet another teacher.

But the troubled heart does not listen very often to its cognitive counterpart, as I pack my things and start again, finding myself at the beginning of yet another long, hard road….

The path through these hills is winding, and the trees are beautiful. The air is clear, and the lakes give a serene comfort that only nature in its pure form can provide.

I sit back and enjoy the drive in silence, relishing the bizarre phenomenon of a brilliant warm sunny October day (something which presumably could only happen in California).

Arriving at the centre, I get changed and enjoy a rather delicious meal with other guests. I am too tired to make much meaningful conversation, and so enjoy my food in relative quiet.

I later get changed and then we all sit around and introduce ourselves to one another.

I meet a middle aged Chinese chap who used to attend 100 day silent Buddhist retreats before coming to Sufism, and I hear of another lady who was a lecturer in Buddhist studies before finding Sufism.

And then I learn of the teacher:

“If you want to go beyond all that you have been,
then I am your brother to take your hand and
to guide you from the darkness to the light,
to the garden of truth.”

` Sidi Muhammad al-Jamal al-Rifa’i

I think they call this “home.”

It is said that a butterfly flapping its wings can be the cause of a hurricane on the other side of the world. And if the truth of this infinite nexus of connections holds good, then my feelings of sweet certainty on this warm sunny day cannot but be directly dependent upon the events of that terrifying night on Tuesday the 13th of May 1997.

But that, as they say, is another story…….


Majid Kahn is a doctor (family practitioner) living in Birmingham, UK. Majid teaches mindfulness to medical students, and he is an intern in mindful medical practice at the Rochester school of medicine in New York. Majid was born Muslim, but on his spiritual walking has gone through Buddhism and Atheism, before finally reaching Sufism and becoming a student of our guide, Sidi Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifa’i.

We thank you, Dr. Kahn, for sharing your heart with us.


Photo Credits: Adobe Stock Photo © Dmytro Tolokonov #67761278


The Way to Love

The following poem was submitted by Susan Fatima Abbassi, a writing specialist and current USHS student:


The Way to Love


I am on my way to love,
Alertly, with the wholesome consciousness
And friending pure conviction
In this journey, I proceed
Only with a potent will.
You who have sealed your doubts,
And have defeated your fears,
Hurry to come with me.

To see love,
I have left myself behind
And have buried my thoughts alive.
Steadily but assuredly
I have abandoned my desiring.
You who are willing to die,
And eliminate your ego,
Hurry to come with me.

On my way to love,
I see roses and bluebells singing the song of harmony.
I can hear,
Plainly, with the soul of my being
The word of wisdom being preached by the flowers.
You who are tired of the mundane
And long to see the mystery,
Hurry to come with me.

In His sacred realm of light,
Where reality is palpable
And cosmos is at hand
The beloved gives away His love
Amiably, with assurance of serenity.
You who have an empty cup,
And are thirsty for truth,
Hurry to come with me.

Susan Fatima Abbassi is a writing specialist who holds a master degree in English literature and a double Bachelor Degrees in Religious Study and English from California State University, Bakersfield. Susan is the faculty adviser for Muslim Student Association (MSA). Her true passion for spiritual healing and the Divine brought her to the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism, where she seeks to be an instrument of divine love and healing for herself and others.


Photo credits: Adobe Stock Photo © Pellinni #75664169