The parable of the stream and the desert

desert creek“ There was once a stream that flowed through many lands until it came to a desert. It could go no further. There was no way for it to cross the desert. Its waters just disappeared into the sand. Yet the stream felt in the depths of its being that it was to cross the desert. Faced with what seemed an impossible situation the stream was on the point of despair, when a still, small voice whispered in its ear: ‘in your present form you will never cross the desert. But although to you it seems an impassable barrier, the wind crosses the desert, and so can you. If you surrender into the arms of the wind, and lose yourself within it, you will be lifted over the sands. Then you will fall as rain, and become a stream again.’

 But the stream did not like this idea. It had never lost its own identity before. And once this was lost, could it ever be found again? Would the stream not simply disappear forever? Again the voice spoke to the stream: ‘I know that you have doubts, but do you have any alternative? If you remain in your present form you can go no further. You may think of yourself as a stream, but that is not your true essence. If you surrender to the wind your essence will not be lost’.

 These words echoed within the stream, and awoke distant memories that long, long ago, some essential part of itself had been borne in the arms of the wind. With this memory came the realization that surrender to the wind was the only thing to do. Its true self would not be lost. It could never be lost.

 And so the stream surrendered into the welcoming arms of the wind, which lovingly absorbed it, and carried it over the desert and far away, until it reached some distant mountains, where it fell as rain. And because it had had its doubts, the stream was able to remember this whole experience, and in doing so it realized its true identity.”

Interview with a student at the 2016 London retreat

What were your first impressions of a sufi retreat?

I’m lost for words… very blessed, serene, almost like returning to my family.

When was your first retreat?

Two and a half years ago.

How many have you been to since then?

I’ve been to one, two, three, four… about seven.

Were they all in London?

I’ve been to Scotland, Wales, Turkey, and again the London ones.

Do you find the retreats vary a lot depending on location?

Yeah I think so, London is more that you can dip in and out, it’s a bit more social, but also you have to prioritise your work, and also come here at the same time, whereas other retreats you know you are at a retreat and so you can focus more on the practises… it’s trying to find the time to come to London, but if anything that makes it even better.

London is nice to come to because it’s almost an escape from work. I’ve come from Birmingham.

How has your perspective of Sufism changed since coming to the retreats?

I’ve seen the authentic side of Sufism. There is cultural Sufism which a lot of people practise, but to actually practise regularly in the presence of the Shaykh, and really see the difference between what it’s like to meditate in a big group with the Shaykh and on your own.

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