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Welcome. If you are new to the Sufi practice of chilla, you may find this introduction helpful: A Short Guide to Chilla,
The Sessions
January -- Listening -- Isha Francis Sounds Do Not Interrupt The Silence You will see that this chilla has three parts. The first two parts actually include two experiences or chillas. Before each chilla, please sit quietly and while breathing naturally and normally, listen to your breath. No fancy breathing exercises, no counting…just listen. Your breath will slow down, will become very quiet, but still you listen. At some point you will know you are ready to begin. What I want to emphasize is that you listen. At first you will very naturally be hearing. The vibration will stimulate identification; thoughts and feelings, of course, will arise. Just stay with it and ever so slowly but surely, you will begin to listen. After that, you are absolutely on your own. Stay with them as long as you can. Or shorten the time and come back to any of them. Play with it all. First (1) Select a type of music that you never listen to and feel like you don’t really relate to. Doesn’t have to be something you actively dislike; just something you don’t listen to. The selection should probably be at least 20-30 minutes but can be shorter or longer. In a calm and quiet setting, isolate yourself so that you can avoid interruptions and listen to this music. Feel free to listen to it more than once…moving beyond hearing, then listen. When you have completed that phase, and when you are able: (2) Find a place full of sound (a mall, a street corner, a busy café…) where you can be comfortable and safe for at least an hour, Listen to all the sound coming in. The challenges will be the same. Just hang in there, hear then listen. If an hour is too much, so be it. It’s your chilla. Second (1) Select a type of music that you listen to all the time and feel very comfortable with. Again, 20-30 minutes or longer. Again in a calm and quiet setting isolate yourself so that you can avoid interruption and listen to this music. And again, feel free to listen to it more than once…hear and listen. It’s your chilla. When you have completed that phase, and when you are able: (2) Go to a place with which you are very familiar and where you go to be quiet. Again hopefully you can avoid interruptions for at least an hour. Listen to whatever sound may come in. Again, if an hour doesn’t work, find the time that does. It’s still your chilla. Hear then listen. Third For this final step, you are invited to create your own listening chilla. It certainly does not at all have to emulate those I have presented. You can take it anywhere you would like. I only suggest you use the breathing exercise I have given for the others. For the rest, it is entirely up to you. After you have completed this chilla, and if the spirit moves you to express something of the experience in words or some other form, please do. If there is something you can share with others, whether at our next call or with others at another time, please feel free.

A transcript of
Isha's' talk on Listening
is available here

 

References:

 

The Mysticism of Sound

Volume II of the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan

 

The Open Path

Elias Amidon

 

I Am That

Nisagardatta Maharaj

 

 

The recording of this session
can be found here.

A transcript of
Umtul Valeton-Kieken's
talk on Purification
is available here

 NOVEMBER: Purification Chilla: Purification ceremony chilla 1. Create a ceremony of Purification using the five elements to support your intent. It is not essential that you use all the five elements. It is your choice whether you do so or not. 2. I make some suggestions for possible activities with each element ( see below ) but in the end it is up to you to create the right ceremony for you and your circumstances. Be creative but purposeful. The chilla is not about doing many interesting activities but about doing what is right for you in order to be purified. 3. Remember that the power of this chilla will depend on the energy and commitment and attitude that you bring to it. 4. The ceremony can be done at any time during the day or night. It is recommended that you set aside about five hours for it, but in the end it is up to you how much time you devote to this. The day before the ceremony 1. Consider deeply what you want to be purified from. Be specific in this. 2. Create your ceremony and write down the structure and any creative inspirations that accompany it. 3. Prepare everything that you will need for the ceremony, including poems, prayers and music. 4. Support your experience by eating lightly or even fasting. Drink plenty of water. Refrain from unnecessary talking. The day or night of the ceremony 1. Begin by doing purification breaths.* 2. Do your ceremony. 3. Come back slowly to your normal daily life. 4. Contemplate about your experience and write about it or express it in any other way suitable to you. Suggestions for activities You are free to choose from the following or make up your own similar activities, based on the elements Earth Take a mud bath or a mudpack for the whole body.** Stay in the bath or keep the pack for as long as twenty minutes, but no longer and focus on how the power of the earth is purifying you. Water Take a very long shower or bath, rinsing of the earth and consciously experiencing the flow of water on your body. Focus on how the power of water is purifying you. Fire Make a fire or light one or more candles. Watch the flame(s). Burn something personal and precious to you. Focus on how releasing this personal possession is a purification for you. Air Go outside and breathe deep, take a walk if you can. Do your breathing exercises. Focus on how the power of air is purifying you. Ether Pray and/or meditate on being purified and end the ceremony with a blessing or prayer. * The five purification breaths of Sufi Inayat Khan Do each section five times. 1. Element earth: breathe in through the nose and out through the nose, while being aware of the element earth and the colour yellow. 2. Element Water: breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, being aware of the element water and the colour green. 3. Element fire: breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose, being aware of the element fire and the colour red. 4. Element air: breathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth, being aware of the element air and the colour blue. 5. Element ether: breathe as it comes naturally, being aware of the element ether and the colour mauve, greyish purple. * Thich Nhat Hanh, breathing exercise: 
Breathing in, I calm my body and mind, Breathing out, I smile, Dwelling in the present moment. This is the only moment. **About the mud bath or mudpack: Unfortunately it is mid winter, so most of us will have to create a mud bath or mudpack for the whole body inside. You could go to a Spa, or Wellness Centre if you wish, but you can also buy all kinds of mud/clay (for instance mud from the Death Sea) for your bath or pack in health food stores or on the internet. It is advised to buy mud/clay, especially meant for this purpose, it will be clean and not block your drains. You can find recipes for mixing your mud with for instance some ground oat flakes, natural oil and for a nice scent some essential oil. For the mudpack you may need assistance to spread it all over your body, wrap yourself in a towel, sheet and/or blanket and lie down comfortably and warm. It is advised to do the bath or pack for no longer than 20 minutes. Sources: Purification, Sufi Inayat khan, Volume IV The Fruitful Darkness, Joan Halifax Free Medicine, Pir Elias Amidon

 

Sources:

Purification, Sufi Inayat khan, Volume IV

The Fruitful Darkness, Joan Halifax

Free Medicine, Pir Elias Amidon

 

The recording of this session
will be posted soon.

The recording of this session
can be found here.

 OCTOBER: Pathfinding Chilla: This is a Pathfinding chilla; designed to help you look at your life path today and think deeply how you want it to be. In preparation, think about the path you are on, and reflect on whether you would like either to clarify the path you are on or to find a new path for yourself. Notice if you are open to fresh possibilities. As the next step in your chilla, choose and visit an art museum. Once inside allow yourself to wander intuitively rather than targeting certain exhibits or collections, especially if you are familiar with the museum. One of the artworks holds a secret for you about your way forward. You are to find this piece of art, which you will recognise because it compels you, grabs your attention, says: ‘look at me’. Sit with the artwork for at least an hour or more, until it reveals to you the secret about your path. You may make notes about what comes up, but allow at least 30 minutes to silently and fully receive your vision. After that, and as soon as possible, make a record of your experience. This can include writing, drawing or whatever media allows you to express what you have experienced. Over the next three days begin to take steps in your life to follow the instructions embedded in what was revealed by the artwor

 

References:

 

Pathfinder (Ofelas) Movie, director Nils Gaup, 1987 – released 1989

 

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (Knopf, 2005)

 

Excerpts from the TS Eliot, ‘Four Quartets (East Coker and Little Gidding)’

 

Antonio Machado poem, Caminante No Hay Camino (Wayfarer, There Is No Path)

 

Anni Albers, Textile Artist

Currently retrospective at Tate Modern, London, 11 October 2018 to 27 January 2019

 

David Whyte, ‘Heartbreak’ in Consolations (Many Rivers Press, 2014)

 

The recording of this session
will be posted soon.

The recording of this session
can be found here.

A transcript of
Binah Taylor's
talk on Pathfinding
is available here

Click here to read about how some participants experienced this chilla.

 DECEMBER: Asking for Help So: there’s needing help, and wanting help, and an area of self-reflection in-between. In this month’s chillas I ask you to find your way into all three territories, and a fourth one of knowing what help is. To start, think of people you know who ask for help /who refuse help. Do this to learn to recognize other people’s ways of asking for and avoiding help. You may want to do this as a prelude to the chilla: think of people close to you or whom you know well. Do they need help, do they ask well or badly, do they ask at all, how could they (you) ask better? For example, a person has started needing help, is resisting asking, or may be learning to ask. How do they ask, how do they create the boundaries they need? A person who is competent and bright but becomes unbearable when they are anxious. Could you suggest to them that they need to ask for help? Who could they ask? You feel a spiritual urge for unburdening yourself, making a new start, reaching furtheIf Do you ask for help or do you wait for it to show up? How will you know if it is the right help for you? Now, on to some chillas. I am going to offer four chillas. Choose one of the first two, do number 3, and I encourage to try #4. If your time is limited, see which one – or ones – appeal to you more and do those. 1. One: possibility of need Imagine and write a scenario of disaster, scarcity, danger. Vision this impersonally, a happening you do not create or influence. Now put yourself in the picture. How do you want to go on in this changed world, what would you need, how can you get it? Where would you get the help you needed? Can you find a way to experience asking for this help, in reality or in your imagination. See if at least one of the people you ask can be a complete stranger. Suggested time: one week 2. Two: disagreeable asking Ask for help from someone you don’t like or disagree with about significant things. You decide all the details and framework, persevere till you get the help you wanted. Suggested time: one week 3. Three: Chilla begins at home For me, the common saying “charity begins at home” points to one of the greatest opportunity we have to grow as caring humans: caring for those nearest us, who we interact with every day, often expect care and help from. It is well expressed in this Hafiz poem, It Happens all the time in Heaven... It happens all the time in heaven, and some day It will begin to happen again on earth That men and women who are married, and men and men who are lovers And women and women who give each other Light Often will get down on their knees And while so tenderly holding their lover’s hand With tears in their eyes, will sincerely speak, saying “My dear, how can I be more loving to you; how can I be more kind?” You can do this to be of service to others. Or you can do it to be of service to yourself, because you recognize that this is what you need. If possible, try both. Suggested time: two weeks. Lifelong. 4. Offering invisible help In the last week, get people to ask you for help in an invisible way, that is, without inviting them to, without talking to them about it, just by hanging around and looking helpful and interested in something they are doing Practical issues Well, that’s it. My approach has been a little heady, strategic. I’m counting on you to make the chillas real for yourself: make them about doing not thinking, about caring not hoping. Imbue them with physical and spiritual and experiential learning. Buddy, reporting A couple suggestions: Ask a buddy to check in with you about your attitude as you approach these chillas. Also, write a report, then use it. For example, you could read it once a month for a year, add reflections or additional notes any time. Share it, play with it, make it living.

The recording of this session
can be found here.

References:

 

Pathfinder (Ofelas) Movie, director Nils Gaup, 1987 – released 1989

 

Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (Knopf, 2005)

 

Excerpts from the TS Eliot, ‘Four Quartets (East Coker and Little Gidding)’

 

Antonio Machado poem, Caminante No Hay Camino (Wayfarer, There Is No Path)

 

Anni Albers, Textile Artist

Currently retrospective at Tate Modern, London, 11 October 2018 to 27 January 2019

 

David Whyte, ‘Heartbreak’ in Consolations (Many Rivers Press, 2014)