Spiritual Journeys at the Tea House

dhikrI’ve already touched on my experience at dhikr in this post but to recap; a group of local Sufi Muslims run dhikr as an interfaith community space for prayer and meditation at my local teahouse every month. I’ve been attending for over a year now, and I wanted to write a bit more about it and how important it is to me. I can site going to dhikr as the turning point in my life in terms of my improving mental health and my increase in spirituality. It has honestly changed me.

As I mentioned in my post on Solitary witchcraft, as a member of a minority religion I don’t have much opportunity for community prayer. I’m profoundly grateful that I have found a space that welcomes me despite being a completely different belief system; not only that but celebrates the differences of the people who attend. There was a moment at dhikr months ago when it really hit home what a special community we have; afterwards we all share a meal together, and I turned my head to see a row of four men sat talking and laughing. One was a Jewish Rabbi, one a Wiccan, one a Sikh and one a Muslim Shayk. Different religions, different backgrounds, different races – I’m fairly sure the Wiccan man had never met the others before that night – just relaxing with each other. I’ve learned about so many religions and cultures from the dhikrs, especially as I usually help set up beforehand so I have plenty of time for nattering. I’ve also taught people a bit more about my own faith.

In terms of its spiritual impact on me, I always come away from the tea house feeling such a deep sense of peace. Without fail, there is a moment during dhikr when I almost cry; my spirits feel so lifted, and I feel closer not only to the God and Goddess but the world around me. It doesn’t seem so bleak anymore. What I’m going say next is very idealistic and probably very naive, but the community of people who consistently come to dhikr are a microcosm for what the world should be like; accepting, inclusive, always wanting to learn. I’ve seen groups (notably Gays Against Sharia) claim that you can either support gay rights or Muslim rights – that the two are mutually exclusive. And honestly, I wonder if any of those people have ever spoken to a Muslim before. Because I am as out and proud when I attend dhikr as I am in any other situation. No one has ever raised an issue with it. If anyone there has a problem with it, they have never made me feel uncomfortable or tried to push me out. If seen hate groups like the EDL claim that Muslims want to annihilate anyone who doesn’t follow their religion. Again, still very proudly Pagan, still very much part of this community. Oh, and of course Muslims are all out to radicalize you… seriously, need I go on?

I’ve got to the point when I need to come to dhikr. I feel myself slump spiritually when I have to miss one. It’s such a release from all the spiritual debris that can attach itself to you in such a negative world. It gives me so much strength. It’s probably the thing I will miss the most about my hometown when I go downside to uni, and all the people there that have become such good friends. That’s the only downside!

Blessed Be )O(

Dance, dervish dance

zhikr

I’ve only been to the Zhikrs hosted at the Tea House twice, but it has quickly become something I look forward to all week. I honestly feel so lucky to have found this amazing group of people who are so dedicated to creating a space of love and unity, and who are so welcoming of people of all faiths and backgrounds.

I honestly couldn’t think of a better place for Zhikr than the Mystery Tea House; I’ve always loved it there, and Natalia (who runs it) is such a beautiful soul. It’s pretty rare to find someone who throws themselves into an experience as much as she does, and as Shaykh Safdar pointed out, she is a truly great teacher in how to be loving and open. Seriously, if you live anywhere near the Preston area, you HAVE to visit the Tea House.

For a bit of context, I’ll try to remember as much as I can of the talk given by the wonderful Rafiqa of the meaning of Zhikr; it is basically a form of worship from the Sufi tradition of Islam, using chanting, drumming and movement to cleanse your spirit and become more connected to God. And ‘God’ doesn’t necessarily mean Allah – you can dedicate it to whichever God you believe in, or just the universe itself. As Rafiqa said, the world is in need of a bit of peace right now. Even if it’s found in a tiny corner of Preston in a gathering of vastly different people coming together to celebrate the power of love.

I like to go in something loose-fitting and comfortable, and I always wear my clear quartz necklace for the Goddess and my red and gold beads for the God. Being a Solitary Wiccan, it’s really amazing to have a community in which to worship – even if everyone is worshiping something different. I’ve actually gotten chills during the chants. It’s a strange experience, and difficult to describe. It’s almost like being somehow separate from your body, or like the boundary of your physical body has disappeared and you’re just part of the world. I realise I sound like a total drippy hippy right now, but it’s the truth (and I can’t deny it; I totally am a drippy hippy).

god beads

But my favourite part is the Hadra, which is when it becomes really energetic and you will be exhausted. We stand in a circle and dance and chant to celebrate being in the presence of God – but it is far more than dancing. It is the most holy part of the Zhikr, and it leaves you feeling so full of joy. Rafiqa said she could never sleep after Zhikr because she felt so renewed and full of energy, and I completely understand why; both times I’ve taken part, I’ve come back home and talked none stop! For me though, it’s a feeling of being refreshed and motivated, full of energy but peaceful in your heart. When I am happy, it’s is either in a state of manic excitement, or a state of peaceful contentment. Somehow after Zhikr, I am both. It’s the best feeling. Especially now, going through tough times in terms of mental health, being stressed with working two jobsĀ andĀ trying to find something to do with the rest of my life, it is such a blessing.

So, if you are ever in Preston on a Sunday, Zhikrs are hosted every fortnight at the Tea House – and I can say from the heart that everyone is welcome.

Blessed be )O(