Inspirational Jewels

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Hug a Tree. Bless the Waters. Shine Your Light!

Tomorrow is Earth Day, a day to remember the Earth Mother of Divine Compassion that we have been born into for this sacred journey.

Allah gives us everything we need to live the life we are meant to live here, to learn what we’ve come here to learn, to fulfill the purpose we have come here to fulfill.

In our natural perception of disconnection, we forget our nature and Allah’s Divine plan for us, and we get scared. Fear can cause us to grasp for safety – through whatever means we have come to believe will keep us safe. We are hard-wired for survival.

Unfortunately, fear-based grasping can result in taking more than we need and wasting that which we have. Provision for our material existence comes from the earth, and Allah is the Source of all provision, Who knows our needs and provides sufficiently for us.

Would Allah send us here for a purpose and not provide us with what we need to live out that plan?

Let this Earth Day be a reminder to return our trust to Allah and our respect and gratitude for the planet.

Hug a tree. Bless the waters. Shine your light. And have a blessed weekend!

NOTE: If you could use help increasing your trust and awareness of God’s abundance in this creation, check out the upcoming webinar with Amany Shalaby. It’s called Expanding Our Perceptions. The first module is about learning how to raise our sensual awareness of Allah’s created abundance in the physical world around us and becoming conscious of unity between all existents with the goal of cultivating qualities such as trust, gratitude and love.

CLICK HERE for more info…

With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

 

Photo credits: Adobe Stock Photo © soupstock #134541544

How to help someone when they do not want to be helped

We all have people in our lives who seem to struggle a bit harder than we believe necessary. It’s easy to look at someone’s life from a distance and see what they need to do to get their act together. We might offer all kinds of advice, financial support and more, but it seems to be swallowed by a black hole and nothing ever changes.

We pray – “Allah please send your Mercy. Please wake them up so they can see how to fix their lives. What more can I do? I’ve tried everything, but they are just not getting it!”

Sound familiar? Have you been there? But can we fix someone when they are not ready to be fixed? Can we throw them a lifeline when they are not ready to let go of the sinking ship they are clinging to for life?

Here are a few thoughts about this all too common relationship dynamic.
 

  1. Check your judgment/acceptance meter. We tend to judge others, and the world, from our perspectives of what we want for our own lives. Of course, we want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves, right? But they might not want what we have for themselves. They might not believe they can have what we have, or they might see a necessary tradeoff that they would not want to make, and therefore choose to stay where they are.

    Even if they are complaining, or if you can clearly see they are struggling, even suffering, they might be as content as they are ready to be. And if they are not ready to change their situation, any attempts on your part will appear as judgment, disapproval, and even coercion.
  2.  

  3. Check your enabling/empowerment meter. Perhaps you’ve been providing support for a close friend while waiting for them to move through a rough spot, but they are not moving. Perhaps now you fear pulling your support would cause them hardship.

    Or, is continued support causing hardship to you? Even if it is not, setting a clear end point and sticking to it could give them the motivation and empowerment they need to make the changes they need to move beyond their current situation.
  4.  

  5. Check your fear/trust meter. Remember to keep an open heart of love and compassion, and trust in Allah’s plan for you and your friend. No one is outside of Allah’s care. Seek guidance for what Allah asks of you and wants for you. You may want to save someone from living through pains you have endured. However, each of life’s challenges brings with it opportunities for growth and evolution of the soul.

    Each of us is here to learn through our circumstances and come to know ourselves and Allah more completely. Unfortunately, it is the tough times that crack open our shells so we can find what is inside ourselves.

 
If you are struggling with a friend or family member who cannot see the light that you see for them, give yourself love and compassion. Allow your saddened heart to be watered with mercy. Allah knows your heart, and He does answer prayers. The answers don’t always come in the way we want them to, but they do come in Allah’s perfection and timing.

 
If you are celebrating a Holy holiday during this past week or the coming weekend, we wish you a blessed time with your loved ones.

In any case, have a beautiful weekend!

With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

Sometimes we just need to know we’re okay

 

It’s hard to see someone we love in pain. It’s natural to want to rush in to fix the situation, to make everything okay. But when we try to fix too soon, it can send the wrong message.

A person in pain needs to be witnessed where they are. They need to be heard and understood. They need to be affirmed and validated. They need to know that they are loved even in the moments when they feel less than perfect.

If we try to jump to solution before seeing, hearing and understanding the person’s heart, it sends a subtle message that it’s not okay to be where you are. It signals that something is wrong or broken and needs to be fixed.

While that might be true on some level, and the person in pain may feel that way and even be asking for help, it’s important to spend time listening and affirming first.

And what if the person in pain is you? What are the voices present inside yourself? It’s important to take time to listen to your own heart and to be present with yourself. Be careful not to judge or dismiss your own feelings. Sometimes the inner voices tell you exactly what you need.

Hold your inner self in love, compassion and acceptance. Call on Allah to receive the Divine love, mercy and compassion. Know that you are okay. Then ask Allah to send you signs and guidance so you can find what you need.

Whether for a loved one or for yourself, sometimes we just need to know we are okay right where we are.

Wishing you a happy weekend!

With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

 

Photo credits: Adobe Stock Photo © ipopba #83713008

 

Is true happiness attainable?

 
What is happiness? Is it attainable?

Often we think happiness as an exuberant joy that would have us doing somersaults and cartwheels on the sidewalks. That might be attainable from time to time, but it’s certainly not sustainable, nor is it meant to be.

We are human beings with all of the attributes of Allah (swta) breathed into our hearts, and we are here to freely experience the range and depth of all of the emotions available to us.

For much of my life, I had shut down my heart. I was disconnected from my heart, out of touch with my feelings, unable to experience my emotions. A spontaneous spiritual awakening burst open my heart in an instant, and suddenly I could feel again.

I was whisked through a range of highs and lows. My heart was expanded to encompass them all without taking me into a debilitating state. It was actually a joyful experience to be free to feel whatever was moving through me without trying to control it.

Though the experience was not 100% elation and expansion, it brought happiness. It brought joy. It reminded me that I was fully alive and experience all the gifts of this life. And on an average day, when things are on an even keel, I’m not holding anything at bay. There is not constriction, but more like a witnessing. It’s not cartwheels of joy, but contentment.

One of our students had this to say about his experience just last week:

 
Wishing you a happy weekend!

With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

The Real-Life Game of Chutes and Ladders

Did you ever play the game Chutes and Ladders when you were a youngster? When we’re young, it seems like a fun friendly game with a relatively low level of competition. We’re striving to reach the finish line, hoping to land at the ladders and climb ahead, and praying to avoid the chutes that drop us back onto those roads we’ve already traveled, darn it!

Only when we get older do we realize the relevance of the game. You know, when you hit one of those chutes and feel yourself falling into the effects of a memory from your past only to have to walk that road again. At least this time it’s a bit more familiar. Maybe you’ll have a better shot at landing at the ladder and avoiding the chutes.

Thank Allah (swta), there is wisdom in the repetition. We’re not expected to get everything right the first time around. It’s like walking the stations on the path to Allah, The Most High.

The first time through, we’re in the station of Listening to the Orders from the Darkness – the station of having forgotten the truth of who we are and why we’re here. We haven’t figured out yet that we’re traveling on a board game.

Then we land on a chute, and we’re going through a second time, this time we’re questioning, as in the second station of the ego, the Station of Still Questioning. This is familiar, we’re recognizing there’s more to the path than the gravel on the road, or the shiny surface of the board game, but we’re not sure which road is best to strive for.

Shoot! Another chute! But that’s okay. This time it’s getting clearer. We’re beginning to have more Faith and Trust. We’re understanding where to place the faith and trust. We’re feeling better about striving to continue on the way.

Here we go again. Another chute. But this time you feel solid. You have trust. You know this is an opportunity for deeper cleaning, and for knowing yourself more completely as you pass this way again without becoming distracted by the voices of the darkness or the voices of the ego. You are living on the inside, traveling in peace regardless of what this path holds on the outside. You are in the station of Security.

Al-humduli’llah, Praise God! Another chute! What a blessed opportunity! Thank You for bringing me along this way! Now I have tasted Your mercy and love! Thank You for all You give to me! I’m sorry that I wasted the time before and did not see Your Face when I traveled along this path. My eyes weep because I see more clearly now. Thank You! This is the station of Not Obeying Anything from the Nafs (Ego).

A chute. As You wish, my Beloved God. I accept what You give. Please teach me and show me Your Truth in everything, on the inside and the outside, and there is no inside and no outside. I am thirsty for the water of Your Love. I am hungry for the knowledge of You. Change me to be what You want from me in every step. Help me to walk only in Your way.

Chute. Yet, there is no chute and there is no ladder. There is no before and no after. There is no beginning and no end. There is only You in every step of the path, in every rung of the ladder, in every inch of the chute. No higher or lower. No winning or losing. Only Allah, The One. The Perfection. Al-humduli’llah!

We are grateful to be on the path of healing, of learning, of wisdom, of mercy.
Does that mean we’ve won? Chute! Here we go again…

 
Children’s games are full of wisdom. If only we had known, and Allah, swta, knows.

Perhaps this weekend you can play with the children in your life, and look for the wisdom in the games that teach them, and the games they teach us.

Have a beautiful, blessed weekend!
With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

 

Photo credits: © Sergiogen #36091062

 

Preparing to Answer the Call in Your Heart

Just today, I was speaking with a new friend. You might relate to her story.

She has known all her life that there is more to this existence than the mundane physical reality. And with all that is happening in the world today, she can no longer deny her awareness of a greater existence. She feels the spark inside getting more vibrant, and she can no longer stifle her passionate spirit.

She feels the calling to bring peace and healing to the world. Yet, like so many, she has no idea where to go with that sense of purpose, and she is afraid to ask for help for fear that people might think she’s crazy.

It appears more and more people are awakening to an urgency to find and fulfill their purpose. Allah calls whom He wills to his net, and He seems to be using a louder megaphone now than in previous decades.

That is the beauty of the challenging times we are in. The polarization is asking each of us to examine our beliefs and decide what is most important for us. The inner exploration is driving people to seek a higher truth.

And when we are called to serve, Allah asks us to purify ourselves and turn to Him. Sidi Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal writes in Music of the Soul, p. 230, that we must be:

“pure and purified,
poor and true and truthful,
judicious and of high moral character;
…genuine and sincere,”
to have “perfect manners (al-adab, the deepest politeness)
and nothing is more truthful than to truly taste.

If you direct yourself to the house [of worship], then follow the rules of pilgrimage. First, the intent, second, the readiness, third, the response. Then complete the rituals to face Him in your heart, speaking both by tongue and deed as follows:

‘Here I am, my Lord, at Your service!
Here I am, O Lord,
for Whom there is no partner!
Here I am, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee and Blessing and Lordship.’”

 
If you are experiencing a calling to serve and you can no longer sit on the sidelines, if you are being called to step into what has been destined for you, we would be honored to serve you in preparing yourself to be of the highest service for the highest good in this world and the next.

We invite you to connect with one of our enrollment specialists to see if USHS has something that can help you. Click here to schedule your complimentary consultation.

 
Have a beautiful, blessed weekend!
With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

 

Photo credit: Adobe Stock Photo © crazymedia #74234721

 

To What Extent Do We Create Our Own Reality?

 

 

Quick announcement before today’s article:
We’re just 4 weeks away from the start of the Spring Masters of Divinity program. If you are interested in the Masters of Divinity program, please connect with one of our enrollment specialists to begin your application process now.

CLICK HERE to connect with an Enrollment Specialist.


 
Sometimes ideas and inspirations come to us, and we instantly reject them because they seem too far out of reach. There’s no way we could make the time for it, or have the money for it, or it seems too far from our current reality of how life works.

The following is a transcript from a class taught by Dr. Amany Shalaby, one of our faculty members here at USHS. It came from the poetry class, after she shared poetry from Ibn ‘Arabi, who wrote about creating our own reality.

The question was:
“Can you explain the difference between creating our own reality, such as what is held in Law of Attraction, and surrendering to Allah’s will?”

Amany’s response:

There is a hadith where the Prophet (saaws) said to have good expectations of Allah (swta). Have faith that everything beautiful is going to happen. Ask Allah with certainty that He will answer.

We often ask about worldly things when we don’t know if they will make us happy.

You create your own reality by focusing your perception as things come your way, and your connection to Allah. When things come your way, when desiring something, if it doesn’t open, you understand it is Divine will by understanding that He is teaching you something. You do not take the belief that you are not receiving what you want because something is wrong with you.

You take action, yet accept where you are and enjoy the process and outcome because of a deep perception that is not the outer goal that is in pursuit, but the inner.

For example, if you desire to have a beloved or to have a certain job, it is not the end goal you want. The mind makes it appear that way. It is actually the process of the qualities coming to be expressed, such as the qualities of loving. Or you get attracted to people because they are going to teach you the divine qualities, like Patience.

Focus on the inner more, enjoy the process regardless of the external pursuit or outcome, because you are developing the inside which is to be satisfying.

Scientific research shows that people enjoy the process of making things more than the thing that is made through the process. The working for it is the joy. This is why often when we reach a goal, we are still not satisfied and we want something more. Because we are focusing on the external and after we get it, we may desire something else. This is ok because we are developing more qualities through our desires and pursuits.

Without awareness, we are creating a reality that is not Reality, because everything external is perishable or not always attainable. If our pursuit is the internal and spiritual, no matter what happens you are getting what you want – the desire to be the representative of the divine qualities and the awareness that you are with the Divine Presence and the qualities.

There is a subtle difference between creating your inner reality and creating the external reality – there is a subtle difference that is missing.”

 

 
The bottom line is, it’s about the journey, not about the destination. In our hearts, we want the awareness that we are with the Divine Presence. And Allah, swta, brings us opportunities to realize this Presence through the qualities that come to us to be expressed.

Our task is to keep showing up and keep saying yes to what Allah brings for us in our lives. And, of course, to say “Thank you!”

Have a beautiful, blessed weekend!

With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

 
P.S. If your heart desires to join us at USHS, we invite you to show up and say yes. Click here to speak with an Enrollment Specialist today.

 

Song of the Love Dogs

Do you have a song in your heart? Perhaps a love song for your Beloved?

Every human heart experiences some sense of separation, and in the separation brews a yearning that draws us to that for which we yearn. It is the connection that we seek.

Sometimes we sense the absence, and we feel the pain of separation. Or we just feel the pain and we don’t yet realize at the base of the pain we are missing the connection with the Lover.

 
I recently had a series of events, perfectly orchestrated of course, that threw me into a core childhood wound. The voice of the wound said, “Sit down, shut up. You don’t know anything. You have no value. Nobody cares about what you have to say.”

I don’t know that anyone ever said those exact words to me, but that is the voice of what stuck inside.

Landing back in the midst of that voice was painful, as you might guess. I fell into despair, as if I would reach the end of my life and have to tell God that I couldn’t fulfill that intense inner passion to help people because I truly had nothing of value to give. The thought of having that conversation was as painful as the thought of not being of use in the world.

However, by Allah’s blessings and grace, and these Sufi teachings, I have tools to navigate this terrain. I allowed the pain and the voices to be present, sat in the middle of them and called to Allah. Ya Allah, al-Haqq! O Beloved God, the Truth! Within this pain is Your holy daughter who longs to feel Your love, to be held in Your arms, to be in Your Essence.

Ya Allah, please return me to You. You are greater than any voices, any veils that try to come between me and Your Love. Please wash me in Your water of Mercy. Clean me and make me one with You.

 
Sidi said many times, “Do not stop with the outside pictures.” Go behind and behind and behind, until you reach the truth. One truth in every human heart is that we long to live in union with the Love that created us. And this yearning will return us to the Love we seek.

Last night was the final session of the Poetry of the Sufi Mystics webinar series. We spoke about the state of connection the mystics wrote from, and the state of yearning. Laila Brady, a fellow lover of God and dogs, shared this poem from Rumi:

 

LOVE DOGS

One night a man was crying,
Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing
you express is the return message.”

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.”

by Jalaluddin Rumi

 
If you find yourself revisiting a place of pain in your heart, remember the Love Dogs. Inside your heart is a yearning to be in union with the Love of your Beloved. Don’t stop with the pain. Let the yearning carry you home.

Have a beautiful, blessed weekend!
With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

 

Photo credits: © Grigorita Ko #84016419

This post is dedicated to the sweet spirit of the Love Dog, Daisy, may she rest in peace.

 

The Delicate Young Flowers of Today’s World

 

HOW DID THE ROSE EVER OPEN ITS HEART
AND GIVE TO THE WORLD
ALL ITS BEAUTY?
IT FELT THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF LIGHT
AGAINST ITS BEING.
OTHERWISE, WE ARE REMAIN TOO FRIGHTENED.
~ HAFIZ

 


Remembering the delicate young flowers of our world today. The Children.

Do you remember what was in the news when you were in Elementary School or Middle School? I may be mixing up fire drills, tornado drills and nuclear war drills, but I remember practice runs where we rolled out of windows or took cover under our desks.

I remember being afraid of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, and yet, I’m pretty sure hiding under the desks would not have saved us. The Cold War was in the news daily, and it was reinforced in school. It permeated the culture, and left the children of the day coated in fear like suites of armor.

How is the news of current affairs affecting the children in your life? Every day brings news of another scandal, speculation about tough times ahead, divisive rhetoric and threats of controversy and violence. And now there is fake news, shaking trust in even the most trusted sources.

It’s hard enough being a child in today’s world. Our children need a safe space to express what is on their minds – openly and freely, without judgment. They need to be heard and reassured, just like adults.

Perhaps this weekend you can take time to practice your active listening skills. We never know what will come out of the mouth of a young child when we create a safe space and invite them to share what’s on their minds and in their hearts. And when they speak, be careful not to discredit them. Give love and hugs, then reassurance. If we make them feel wrong, they will be less likely to share in the future.

We want to create a safe space for their delicate flowers to open and emit their fragrance into the world. As Hafiz says, we need to give them the encouragement of light, with unconditional love and hugs. Otherwise, we all remain too frightened.

Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders – each a bright star that is ready to shine.

May you and the children in your life have a beautiful, blessed weekend!

With love and gratitude,
Mastura Graugnard on behalf of all your friends and family at USHS

From Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Marvels of Metamorphosis

Transformation can be uncomfortable, be it personal or global transformation.  Yet if the caterpillar doesn’t shed its skin it cannot become a chrysalis.  If it does not spend the full required time in the chrysalis phase, it does not become a butterfly.

When I was at Red Wiggler Community Farm in Maryland, I tended what we called the Monarch Maternity Ward.  We collected the eggs from the wild milkweed plants before the county would come to mow the fields.  We maintained them as they hatched to caterpillars and grew through their stages until they morphed into the chrysalis stage.  Then we patiently waited for the miraculous emergence of the beautiful Monarch butterfly.

 
Once, when moving some of the plants, I accidentally dropped a chrysalis and it cracked open.  What emerged was a green soupy liquid.  It had no resemblance to a caterpillar or a butterfly.

Do you wonder what happens in this transformational stage?  The caterpillar actually digests itself!  It releases enzymes that dissolve its tissues into a soup.  The only things that survive the digestive process are called imaginal discs.  The soup becomes the fuel for the imaginal discs to grow into the adult body parts.  The discs can actually hold knowledge from the previous stages of life that is transferred to the adult.

The developmental process still holds many mysteries, but we know that what emerges is a beauty that fills us with joy and wonder.

For the seekers on the Sufi path, transformation is inevitable.  We can only see a small part of what really happens when Allah brings us healing and personal evolution for our souls.

We know that the memories and pictures from our past form protective barriers around the heart.  When encased in the water of love and compassion, these barriers are dissolved and can guide us through doorways that lead us to know more of Allah’s Reality.

Sidi said that Allah cooks us in the fire of His Love until we are tender and ready to be consumed.  This is a metamorphosis we can feel and witness from an outer perspective, but there are many secrets behind the mysteries of Allah’s Wisdom.

This is where we rely on faith and trust get us through.  We trust that if we protect and care for the chrysalis and wait patiently, a beautiful butterfly will emerge.  Likewise, if we protect and care for our entire beings – the body, mind, heart and soul – our spirits will emerge and soar to the heavens with our Beloved, insha’llah.

 

These are times of rapid change.  No doubt, Allah’s Wisdom is choreographing a mysterious dance in our universe.  If you are feeling effects of these changes on the inner or outer, take time for self-care, be patient with yourself and trust in Allah’s Perfection.

Take time to watch the moths and butterflies and marvel at God’s mysteries.

Have a blessed weekend!

With love and gratitude,

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