Student Thesis Showcase
My Journey To Love: Service Projects from our Masters of Divinity Graduates
Our Sufi University graduates all complete a masters practicum that puts their learning to work in the real world. They invest at least 160 hours in an endeavor of their hearts’ inspiration that brings more love, peace, and wisdom into their corner of the world. Instead of the academic rigor of a thesis from a traditional university, our students have surrendered to a spiritual rigor of continuously cleaning their hearts of the ego-tendencies that inhibit unconditional love.
This allows our students to discover true self-acceptance and self-realization by seeing themselves in light of Divine Love. Ultimately, our students learn to embody the teachings of our beloved prophets from Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad, and in turn, they discover how this has strengthened and expanded their unique contribution to the world.
Our students’ theses come in two forms, Section 1: Inspiring Stories of Service and Section 2: Exciting Plans/Products for Service.
Section 1 : Inspiring Stories of Service
Who you are, with love, can mean everything? …
As I grew closer to Lisa, it became evident that her fluctuation between hope and fear, between life and death were a mirror for me. This either served to drive me into despair or to deepen my surrender – subahana-llah, the latter almost always prevailed. When I felt myself slipping into doubt, out of love for my sister, I would recall these inspiring words from Salima: Keep the faith – keep on keeping the faith even when you are struggling, so that those with little faith are afforded the courage to keep walking; and; Endeavor to keep a high spiritual outlook and truth in your heart so that those who aren’t feeling it can at least glimpse this experience. So, to a degree, I would contain my fear and helplessness, not out of any desire to hide my “shortcomings,” but truly out of a longing to be a clear vessel for my sister.
She was traveling; this was her time, not mine. I was there for her, but curiously (as often happens in healings), she was teaching me to bow. I would contain her feelings for her as she swam through her fear and anger into a state of peace and security. Initially these states of peace were short lived, but as time went on, Lisa dove deeper into the pain and deeper into Allah’s healing light and love. I have never seen anyone move so quickly, I have never witnessed anyone jettison pictures and fear so courageously in such a short amount of time. She inspired me by her desire to both live and surrender to whatever God was making for her (including her passing). Out of a willing necessity, she was purifying and beautifying her being while simultaneously letting go of her attachment to outcomes.
The Journey Home
How can death and dying brings us all new life? …
Over the course of my time volunteering at hospice, each patient I spent time with, whether awake and alert, or unconscious and actively dying, taught me and helped me walk through places of grief in my being. There were days that the experiences were more poignant and rich than others, but nevertheless, I was deeply affected each time. I’ve learned that giving is truly a reciprocal act – that in giving, I receive. I knew this from facilitating healing sessions as a student at UOS, but giving at hospice was another layer of experiencing this. It was giving in the world, giving to others who may or may not be conscious of what they were receiving. At times, I was not conscious of what I had received in the moment. There were several times, though, where I felt overtaken by a shared moment with a patient and the gifts that Allah brought through. The realization would percolate and rise up, my eyes would brim with tears, and unspoken, wordless love and reverence would fill my heart. Reverence for the patient’s life, for mine, for the messages of hope, faith, peace, love, mercy and so on. These were much like my experiences with Sidi and his transmission entering my being, like a wall of truth. It became a practice to leave hospice in gratitude for what was revealed and for the tenderness in my heart. I could walk through my own grief and see my past losses through a clearer lens. Another piece of my heart had been washed with Allah’s loving, merciful light.
Spiritual Growth for Sake of Our Environment
Can Spirit illuminate your Ph.D. with more impact? …
My first major walking step was accepting my guide, Sidi’s, strong instruction to move back to Morocco and build a career in my home country, after 16 years of life and career development in the US. For me, a move to Morocco essentially meant confronting demons I had conveniently ignored for 16 years. When I left the country at the age of 20, it was not just to seek higher education, but most importantly, to leave a context and a living circumstance, which I experienced as toxic and highly inhibiting. So much this was the case that for the following seven years, I only visited my family once. Sidi wanted me to go back to all that! The thought was unbearable for me, and it took me two years to bow my head and say yes. The active ingredient in my surrender included my complete trust in Sidi’s love for me and in his certainty in the guidance he received for me, and the use of practices taught at school, especially the qualities for specific needs, and the wird reflection practice to calm my emotional states. I also received innumerable healings from fellow classmates and at times from faculty members. The saving grace was the promise of seeing my grandmother, the source of love in my life, at will.
The next walking block was building immunity against the negativity, the destructive comments, and the anticipations of failure that my environment, and especially my father, abundantly provided. While I worked in secrecy at all times, I could not ward off my father’s comments such as: nothing good will ever come from you, I should have had a son instead, or you are an infinite disappointment. Eventually, I stopped all communication with him as I had not found a better way to protect myself.
A Journey of Discovering the Holy Gifts of My Life
How can your childhood trauma help heal others? …
“I felt so scared and trapped when I realized that I couldn’t free myself; I thought I was going to die, and I wanted to. That was probably my first experience where I left my body and dissociated because of the abject and numbing terror I was feeling…
…As I have had fears in opening up my heart to freely receive and give love and the sweetness of life, my body has been affected and I now have diabetes. I have also had cancer and other disorders, a constant reminder for me to open my heart even more, not only to the Divine love, but to the Divine truth and Divine mercy that have always been there for me.
Six years ago I was introduced to the Sufi path, a way of being and living in the heart, a window to healing not only the physical body, but also deep and unconscious residual mental and emotional pain in one’s life and heart through ancient healing methods.
I had wanted to heal my heart relative to my mother even though I had never felt truly loved by her most of my life. Just before her passing recently, I saw a circle of angels above her bed with a circle of cherubs singing so very sweetly, and I could see the bottoms of their robes gently swaying as they waited very patiently and very lovingly for my mom.”
Leaning Into Discomfort for the Sake of Healing
Can momentarily dying become a key to healing? …
The morning of Tuesday, July 21, 2015, my last conscious memory was of me, my friend Jennifer, and the nurse laughing; and now there were twelve people in the room with me and the doctor told me I had flat-lined and they had to re-start my heart with the crash cart. I had died and they had brought me back to life. God knows when it is our time and, thankfully, it was not my time, so God breathed life back into me. My experience provided spiritual healing for so many people and I am grateful now to share how it all unfolded.
How can we heal from business burn out? …
In 2000, at the age of 50, I burned out. As a corporate consultant, I travel a lot, which some folks regard as glamorous. But like anything you do daily, the veneer gets scuffed, and you end up resenting the time in airports and hotels, breathing air that has no home.
So, in an effort to soothe a tired body and disengaged soul, I found myself at the University of Sufism in California, where we studied love and compassion.
No, actually, the studying part was minimal because once I located my heart, the love and compassion organically flowed–with no effort!
The Sufis love to talk about hearts—not the physical heart, but nearby. Everyone has this real estate, Sufi or not. It’s the center of the chest, where your mother applied Vicks Vapor Rub. This is referred to as the spiritual heart, and when it’s opened—as I discovered—it offers quite a menu of delicious opportunities. Like love and compassion.
And then my mind tapped me on the shoulder.
Excuse me, Jo Ann, you’re traveling on a dangerous path to unemployment. If you rely on your heart, you will sound too soft for the corporate world. You don’t want to be a wimp, do you, with all this talk about love?
Touching Young Hearts: The Medicine I needed to Put My Life Back Together
Can we discover we are worthy at any age? …
Eight months ago I was floundering without a practicum project for my Masters in Ministry Degree at the University of Sufism. My teacher, Paul Hamid Werder, suggested I use my volunteer job as my project. He helped me to see its value. It’s been an eye opening experience and has helped me realize that I don’t give myself credit for what I do or who I am. I see now that I had bought into the old belief that “I’m not good enough” to such an extent that I didn’t feel the work I was doing was worthy of a practicum. Now I realize that it is.
…Here’s what happened: In 2005 I had a stem cell transplant. The procedure saved my life but left me debilitated. The chemotherapy impaired my memory and my ability to focus, to solve problems, and to communicate clearly. I was unable to keep my job as a college professor. My job had been my identity, and without it I, was bereft. I became very depressed. One day I was talking to a young girl across the street, and I got a very clear image of one of my spiritual teachers urging me to work with children…
Living in Deeper Harmony: My Journey to a more spiritually guided and blessed life
Does spiritual healing enhance acupuncture? …
Here I sit typing, remembering events that brought me to this moment. As I sit on the floor, I gaze out the picture window in my new room, my new space on this earth. breathing in new and familiar. It is time to write, and yet, I am not to the end of the thought. How do I share a transformation as the transformation occurs? One sentence at a time, I imagine. For the past 10 years, I happily practiced acupuncture.
For the past 10 years, I happily practiced acupuncture. Although well-schooled, I sometimes felt my interactions with my clients could go deeper. There was something inside me that kept me partially hidden, slightly disconnected, safe. I felt a disappointment deep inside as I sometimes ignored or simply glossed over aspects of healing with my clients that I believed might help them. Something inside kept this at bay. This something, was my fear of intimacy; intimacy with myself, intimacy with others and intimacy with God. Could I learn to engage with people in a way that allowed me to express completely the divine qualities that weave through my being like water? How do I break down the dam?
Section 2: Exciting Plans/Products for Service
Getting Started: Finding Your Way Along the Path
Can ordinary people truly find God? …
Can ordinary people truly find God?
by Daniel Abdul Latif Howard
Note: the following is an excerpt from Getting Started: Finding Your Way Along the Path, a Sufi manual created by Abdul Latif Howard. The “read more” link leads to a PDF preview of the book, including the cover page and table of contents. To purchase an electronic or hard copy of the book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you praying so that others will think you are pious and holy, or only to please God? Actions are right, corrupt, accepted or rejected, rewarded or unrewarded according to the intention. If you intend good, good will come from it, and if you intend evil, evil will come about from it. If your intention is to do good, but fails, then you still get full credit. If your intention is to do some form of harm, and also fails then you are still held accountable as if it was successful. It is your intention that God sees and judges you on, not the outcome of what you intend. If your intention is to receive praise from people and appear righteous in their eyes with no regard for how God sees you, then this is considered a form of idolatry, and will ultimately lead to your demise. If your intention is only to serve and do what is pleasing to God, and for the sake of God alone then you will be given the ultimate reward.