If there ever was someone who knew how to transmit love into the food she cooks, it is Maryam Mel McGrath, the head chef at the Shadhiliyya Sufi Center. For several years before entering the Sufi University, Mel had been cooking meals and observing the students whom she was serving. What inspired her to enroll in the University was simple. She desired to have within herself the qualities of healing and peace that she witnessed in student after student.
Preparing food with divine seasonings
She laughs delightfully as she looks back on all the transformations she has experienced. In situations where once she would have been angry and would have readily chewed someone out, she now watches herself in awe in those moments when a natural gentleness and compassion flows from within her. At times, even moved to tears, her heart is filled with gratefulness to Allah for the changes He has made within her.
As Maryam Mel moves through her day, she now uses many of the tools she learned at the University to help her stay connected to Allah. “These tools you can use,” she says, “no matter what religion you identify with.” No matter what she Is doing on the outside in her regular life, her inner intention is to be surrendered to Allah and His love as much as possible throughout the day.
Whether ordering the food, preparing the meal, serving her feasts, or cleaning up after mealtimes, her primary practice is to stay in remembrance.
Mel acknowledges that it isn’t always possible for her to put her experience into words. She just knows in her heart that she has changed in a deep way. She has come to the knowledge that in each and every moment Allah is giving her exactly what she needs.
Helping children know who they are and what they carry in their hearts
On another note, Maryam perceives an important difference between children raised with the benefits of the Sufi practices and other children who haven’t received those benefits. “The Sufi children embody the love in stronger and gentler ways as they get older. The other children seem more likely to close their hearts and are no longer are aware of their inner beauty.” It is clear that her heart very much wants to help all these children.
We can only imagine how much divine love, healing and caring come through her cooking into the food served at the Sufi Center!
The quotable Maryam Mel
“The Sufi University should create a program for adolescents. The University teachings have just what is needed for our youth who are struggling so much these days.”
“Yes, ‘love is the answer’ but not the love we were taught as kids. Allah’s love is the answer. Love without conditions, not doormat love. When we can love ourselves we can love Allah. We just need to learn how Allah loves us. The way to do that is to learn who we really are. That’s what the University teaches us.”