Embracing the Dark: Restoring Our Sense of Wholeness

We have vilified the “dark” for thousands of years, so long associating “darkness” with evil, that we have forgotten the wholesome, nurturing darkness– the seed resting in the soil, the egg in the womb, the moment of insight in the depth of meditation, the Yin herself. One wonders about the disturbingly pervasive presence of racism in America and this Western obsession with “light” that polarizes “light” into “good” and “dark” into “evil”. At a deeply psychological level, we have culturally entrained our awareness to fragment along the transformative edge, “the Kemal line” Sufis call it (where the Yang is constantly becoming the Yin and the Yin is constantly becoming the Yang) and this fragmentation reinforces and sustains the hatred of all things associated with the “Dark”– unknown mysteries, unfamiliar customs, dark-skinned peoples, women, female reproductive organs, and the mysterious and yet-undiscovered or as-yet-unintegrated parts of ourselves. –Murshida VA


i am the one who is at fault here.
i am the one who has refused to surrender.

it is i.  i.
i am the one who has been terrified.

terrified of love,
of being loved, and of loving.  i.

i am the one pushing you away
as hard as i can push. i.

i am the one
stopping your heart from living inside me

over and over and over again
i. i. i.

i am the one saying ‘but you have to earn it’
i. i. i.

but what does that i-game
have to do with love?

what does that i-game
have to do with love?

and who is writing these words?
who is writing these words now?

who’s voice is this?
it cannot be i.

i would never admit these things

i is clever and right
i is brilliant and in control

i has all the answers
so how can this be i writing?

none of this is rational
none of this makes any sense

and yet these feet are buzzing with life
and this heart is soft and full and open

and these tears are real
and this body feels




so alive
so what?

so what is God asking then?
what is God asking?  just to love

and to hell with what i thinks?
just to take all the blame

and accept completely?
it seems God is asking just that, yes.

it seems God is asking just that.
because if i was deep enough


if i was deep enough
with Love,
would i touch you

and disappear

would we touch
and disappear




 would all fear vanish
would all fear vanish

would all fear vanish
would fear vanish

all fear would…

–Murshida VA

On Embracing the Darkness

“The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his [sic] community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche says, “as though the day were here.’ It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal- carries the cross of the redeemer- not in the bright moments of his [sic] tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.”

The concluding paragraph of Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”

September 11, 2010, Gainesville, FL

Voices are rising for peace in the most beautiful ways… and so out of the darkness comes the light.

Here is a more or less complete list of local activities in response to the “Dove who knows not how to Love” Quran burning. Please turn out as able & spread the word.

“O humankind! Surely We have created you from a single (pair of) male and female, and made you into tribes and families so that you may know one another (and so build mutuality and co-operative relationships, not so that you may take pride in your differences of race or social rank, and breed enmities)…”

al-Hujurat – The Private Apartments, The Inner Apartments, The Chambers; verse 13

Qu’ran 49:13
~ translation from Arabic to English by Ali Ünal ~



Dear Gainesville friends,


This will likely be the last e-mail you get from me regarding this ongoing situation.  The week of September 11 is now upon us…  Whether we attend any of the following events (listed below) or not, may we each think, pray/meditate (for those of us who do so), speak, write, live, lead, follow, and organize in ways that foster peace this week.  And may we continue to stand (in our different ways) in solidarity with one another for the causes of justice, peace, unity, respect, learning, tolerance, and dignity.  May we – through our individual small ways as well as our collective big ways – nurture an environment that makes it easier for us to think with open minds, to listen to and learn from one another, and to lead lifestyles that are just and wholesome.


Wa Salaama,





Here are a list of events (related to our Muslim neighbors) happening around the Gainesville community in the upcoming month; everyone is welcome at all events:

Wednesday, September 8

Interfaith Prayer Service
@Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

Friday, September 10

Throughout the day the Gainesville Muslim Initiative will be distributing “Eid goody bags” on UF’s campus; Eid is the biggest holiday of the year for Muslims; it is observed at the end of Ramadan.

A Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope
6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
@Trinity United Methodist Church, 4000 NW 53rd Avenue, on 53rd Avenue next to 43rd St.
Hosted by the Gainesville Interfaith Forum
The Trinity United Methodist Church along with the support of the Gainesville Interfaith Forum will be hosting a Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope. We will have activities for children of our different faiths to play together, arts and educational crafts, cultural displays, foods from various regions of the world, and a time of prayer.

Saturday, September 11

Mayor Craig Lowe has declared this to be Interfaith Solidarity Day

Gainesville Muslim Initiative (GMI) hosts A Day of Peace & Unity
Beginning at 5:00 p.m., GMI will be serving dinner at the downtown Bo Diddley Plaza (as they do every Saturday). Gainesville community members will also have the opportunity to donate blood at the plaza during a blood drive at this time; there will also be a book drive and a food drive.
Around 7:30pm, GMI will host a program on the Bo-Diddley stage. Community and religious leaders from around the community, state, and nation will have the opportunity to speak here but should notify GMI prior to the event to help maximize coordination.

If you belong to an organization that would like to endorse the vigil and/or possibly speak at the vigil, please contact:
Ziad Ghanimi
Around 8:45pm, after the speakers, the evening will culminate in a candlelight vigil and a moment of silence.
We hope to make this an annual event.

Direct Counter-Demonstration @ the Dove not-a-church (Eve MacMaster coined this term)
From 6:00 – 9:00pm, the Dove World Outreach plans to burn Qu’rans; some members (including the not-a-pastor) of the not-a-church will likely be armed.

Various UF and community organizations will coordinate a direct counter-demonstration (and will promote safety, nonviolence, & intelligent/peaceful behavior and will relay a message to the attending international media that the Dove not-a-church does not represent Gainesville’s views); members from the National Lawyers Guild will observe.

Please note:  The Gainesville Muslim Initiative is urging people to ignore Dove rather than directly counter-demonstrate & thus feed the counter-productive media frenzy; the GMI will simultaneously be hosting the above family-friendly events (A Day of Peace and Unity) at the Bo Diddley downtown plaza in hopes of creating (1) a much larger & more news-worthy story and (2) an opportunity for people (Muslim and non-Muslim alike) to positively and constructively demonstrate together what we are rather than retaliate against what we are not.

Monday, September 13


Qu’ran 101
@the Reitz Union’s Grand Ballroom
Join Islam on Campus for a discussion regarding the Holy Qur’an. The lecture and info session will be headed by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, a renowned scholar in North America. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani is a researcher and teacher of the Islamic sciences, specializing in Islamic Law.

Friday, September 17

Open House: “Know Your Muslim, Neighbors”
Hosted by the Gainesville Muslim Initiative
@the Hoda Center (SW 13th Street)

Beginning Saturday, September 18; continuing for 12 sessions on the 2nd & 4th Saturdays of each month (excluding holidays)

Muslims and Christians in Conversation
10:00 – 11:30 am
@the Mennonite Meeting House; 1236 NW 18th Avenue, Gainesville
A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue by Badru Kateregga and David Shenk will be the text for the discussions; for more information or to reserve a copy of the book, contact Eve MacMaster at gnvmenno@bellsouth.net or 352.377.6577
Co-sponsored by the Beltram Peace Center and the Gainesville Interfaith Peace Coalition

Monday, September 27

Fast-a-Thon: A community fast ending in a free evening meal & speaker
@the O’Connell Center
Hosted by Islam on Campus


Date & Time TBA

Documentary: “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think”
@the Hippodrome State Theatre
Hosted by the Gainesville Muslim Initiative


Annihilation and Kisses

Many years ago, I shared a kiss with a man who is one of my soul mates in this life.  A force opened up which moved through us connecting Heaven and Earth.  It poured down from Heaven through his body and rose up from the Earth through mine, sealing us together with electromagnetism so powerful that we both heard the roar of the Nada Brahma, the original, “unstruck sound” upon which Creation rests.

Due to the circumstances of our lives, there was no place to take this, so we let it go.  I wrote poetry.  He took comfort from my writings, and eventually, the balm of time did its magic work of helping the experience to fade from memory…  until a few weeks ago when once again my breath and the breath of a soul mate entwined, and now all those memories are crashing back.



 I find myself asking if Free Will exists.

And I find myself yearning, not for the human being who held me, but for the Infinite force which embraced me through him.  I find myself wondering if it is not the flesh and blood man whom I love, but rather the transcendent power of Love itself.

For the human being who is the vessel for the Beloved this time is often clueless or in denial.  He runs about trying to label the experience.  He says he has never before felt ‘not in control of [his] own body’.  It terrifies him.   He feels almost usurped by forces he cannot explain.   He claims Love is utmost in his life and that he has been in Love more than once, but in truth, he has never before experienced what it is to have Love reside within him so completely that his ideas of who he is are first dwarfed and then annihilated.  So he runs away.  He stands me up, leaving me alone yearning in the dark.  If I am upset, instead of hearing me with a compassionate heart, he becomes defensive, thinking, “What is so wrong with me?”  so he loses his temper and barks like a mindless dog, saying things to hurt me, saying he loves other people more than me.  And on a good day, he simply makes a million excuses to prove he will test my patience, cause harm,  and persistently be unworthy.

And I have seen all this before, so what can I possibly say?  Big Love is terrifying.  It shows us all our darkness, all our pettiness, all our inadequacy, every growing edge we have.  We glorify Love, idealize it, romanticize it, but really most of us prefer the vague empty isolation of safety to the formless void of annihilation and the utter powerlessness of real surrender. To love requires tremendous courage and if one genuinely persists in the practice of loving, one will unfold into fearlessness.  This is the Path to Liberation.  It is.

Most human beings are quite willing to settle for an imitation.

So if I see all this, how can it be that I love this man with all his shortcomings, fears, ego control strategies and pockets of immaturity who runs from what I know is the only Real Reality? I cannot possibly love him, eh?  Why would I?  And yet I do.   With all my heart and soul.   And when he runs away or hides, every edge I have still to polish, every rough, unfinished place inside my soul is brought to light and I, too, am childish, immature, fearful, struggling for control.  I, too, am far less than worthy.

But when we touch,  we melt.  We disappear…  We vanish. And in these incredible moments of magic, gazing back at me through the eyes of this human being are thousands of lifetimes, eons, of recognition… Infinite Love… Eternity.

The why and how of who Love chooses is an eternal mystery.  If it were solved, that solution would most probably deprive life of much of it’s magic.  For, certainly, we Love beyond reason, and that is exactly what stretches us in ways we would never consider stretching if Love were not burning us with its fire, torturing us with its yearning and seducing us with its warm, deep ecstasies.   That is what Love does to us– it drives us toward Life.

We like to believe we choose Love, but that is all the greatest hubris.   Love chooses us.  And ultimately, Love does not choose to make us comfortable, it chooses to destroy our limitations and liberate us from the prisons of the mind, to do whatever it takes to awaken us to its own ineluctable Reality.

Fierce and Tender Love,
Murshida VA

Credits: Image

The Healer’s Walk

It’s been over a month since I’ve written here.  We held a retreat on Mystical Sexuality which absorbed so much of my energy and attention that  I felt I had nothing to write for a while.  Much has percolated and writings are forthcoming, now, about the Mastery of Mystical Sexuality and ethical issues around sex and power in spiritual communities. 

But before even this, my dear friend, Hafizullah Chisti, posted a note on my Facebook profile today which moved something deep within so relevant to the themes of this blog, that I feel compelled to share what has emerged as an entry…

Hafizullah posted:  “Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.” — African saying

He followed this posting with a comment–  “I think God only sees our beauty and wholeness…” which sparked within my heart, a memory…

For many painful years, as I was taking the long walk back from woundedness, the deep and compassionate healers who walked with me along the way would tell me, over and over again, there is a place inside each one of us that can never be broken, can never be wounded.  I would look and look but all I could see within myself was ruin.

Then one day, it happened, something arose like a voice and a presence from deep within and it said, “I am who you would have been if none of this had happened– follow me and learn who you are.”  And I did and, now, here I am.

Shahabuddin once said that on this Path, we strive always to see only the beauty, but that a healer, a healer has to be able to look into the wound. 

I feel that a healer has the ability to see both at once– the wound and the wholeness.  It’s a way of seeing the direction one must go in order to return to Oneself from the exile of despair.

In hindsight, I feel that Life crushed me in order to teach me the Way of Healing because I am so stubbornly joyful and light that I would never have learned any other way.  I had to be forced into the experience of darkness.  Finally, in that place, all of the World’s suffering could open within my own heart and I could see us, what we are, what we have done to ourselves and also what beauty we can become.  It’s all there at once. 

It has been said that the Planet Earth Herself, Gaia, is becoming Illumined and we are all to go along for the ride… so this healing is now inescapable.  I pray we have the courage to look deep within, embracing darkness without fear but with love, knowing it is the marker to our freedom and our Path home.

So much love to you, Hafizullah, and to all of you who share so much of yourselves, on Facebook, in this blog, and most of all in our lives together. 

It is all of you who give my life purpose.  Gratitude. 

in Loving Kindness,
Murshida VA

Image Reference:  Healing Lotus