Personal statement from a student who lives in India

hamdlaI first started meditating in 2010 with a therapist in India who introduced me to mindfulness. I read many books about Buddhist meditation and deepened my practice considerably over the next three years. In 2013, I moved to Lancaster in the UK to embark on a PhD programme. I found a Zen Buddhist group there and started attending meetings, as well as going on a retreat. The practice gave me much stability and insight.

My flatmate in Lancaster was a Pakistani Muslim with whom I became close friends. During Ramzan in 2014, he used to recite the Quran in the room adjacent to mine. Around this time, I started to experience an intense pain in my heart that persisted over the following months. I eventually went to see a doctor, but she dismissed it as nothing serious. My mum had cancer then and I was seeing the same doctor about a genetic test for myself, about which I was very anxious. I remember feeling very alone at the time, and seeing a man in the waiting room at the doctor’s clinic who wore a Sufi cap. I saw the same man there on my next visit.

In 2015, I returned to India to look after my mother, whose cancer had progressed. At this time my Zen practice left me. I desperately tried to meditate, but simply couldn’t. In October 2015, I came across the website of the Sufi School. They were having a retreat in Ahmedabad in India and I wrote asking if I could attend. I was surprised by the answer I received – rather than trying to sell the retreat to me, I was told it was only for experienced students. The person from the school asked if I wanted her to send me the practice, but wanted to know more about me before she could do so.

I was relieved to discover that I was able to do the Sufi practice, in spite of all the stress I was under and the fact that I did not have a group with which to practise. Although I vacillated between the Sufi practice and various Buddhist techniques I had learnt over the years through my reading as well as the Zen group, I stayed in touch with the person from the Sufi School over email. The pain in my heart got more intense as I started doing the Sufi meditation, but then after some months, it started to subside.

My mother passed away in June 2016. When my family and I took her ashes to immerse them in the Ganga, I saw another man in a Sufi cap at the parking lot of a restaurant on the Delhi-Haridwar highway where we had stopped for a snack. At the parking lot of our hotel in Rishikesh, I saw the same man again.

I visited the shrine of Hazrat Ahmad Faruqi Sirhindi in March 2016 and experienced something profound there. In July-August 2016, I found myself at the tombs of Hazrat Rumi and Hazrat Shams. I was given recitations to do in February 2017, and in September I attended my first Sufi retreat (in London) where I met the shaykh for the first time. I was touched by his sweetness and humility.

I would encourage anyone feeling drawn to this path to follow the feeling through. I feel blessed to have come upon an authentic Sufi order and feel like I have found my spiritual home. I hope this path does the same for you.