Monday, December 04, 2006
By David Ian Miller - San Francisco Chronicle - CA, USA
Monday, October 2, 2006
Anne Scott, a follower of Sufism, teaches feminine spirituality.
Sufism is typically thought of as a mystical branch of Islam whose practices developed in the Middle East during the eighth century and whose adherents can now be found around the world. But whereas some Sufis continue to identify themselves as part of Islam, others do not. Anne Scott has worked with the Naqshbandi Sufi path, a non-Islamic tradition, for 16 years.
Scott was attracted to the basic Sufi idea that love is the essence of God and that only through love can we humans draw closer to God. Followers also seek to resolve the dualities and apparent contradictions of life, believing that unconditional love helps us understand that everything -- the good and even what we might consider the bad and the ugly -- is a manifestation of the divine.
Scott, 56, through her DreamWeather Foundation, lectures and leads workshops and retreats for women on spirituality in everyday life. She is the author of "Serving Fire: Food for Thought, Body and Soul" (Celestial Arts, 1994) and "The Laughing Baby" (Celestial Arts, 2001). She spoke with me last week by phone from her home in Sebastopol.
You have followed the Naqshbandi Sufi path for 16 years. Can you tell me a bit about the basic beliefs of this tradition?
Like all Sufi paths, it's a path of love. In Sufism, there is an understanding that this love is in the heart of every human being, only it's covered over by our conditioning and by the ego and many other aspects that we accumulate during life that might give us a different impression of who we really are. And so the Sufi path helps you to uncover the truth of your own being and this love that's in the center of your heart. The practices are very simple: meditation and awareness of the presence of the divine.
It's also described a mystical path. What makes it mystical?
I would describe "mysticism" as a way of making a direct connection to the divine or to what Sufis call the "beloved." There is no intermediary between you and God.
Many of us find it difficult to make that connection. The Sufi path helps you find it within yourself, often through a deep inner journey and through tremendous longing. I think longing is the stamp of Sufism -- the longing in the heart.
What led you to Sufism in the first place?
It started with a book I read during one of the darkest times in my life. I had just taken my husband to the emergency room with a severe asthma attack in 1987, and I didn't know if he was going to live.
The name of the book was "The Last Barrier: A Journey Into the Essence of Sufi Teachings," by Reshad Field. It was about a man's journey to find his spiritual path, which turned out to be Sufism. I had never heard of Sufism before, but I finished the book in about three hours. Afterward, I realized that everything that happened in my life, every seeming failure or sorrow, every difficulty, was not really a mistake. It had all been pointing towards this deeper journey, which I didn't even know I had. And that was the journey to find the truth in myself -- the journey to God.
I had been raised to think that if you weren't really happy in life, then you were a failure. The Sufi path shows you that life is much bigger than that, and I realized that inside, what I thought was just sorrow, was really the longing for God. Suddenly, my whole life was given context. It's like walking around with only one leg, and then you are given another leg, and you can stand there with full dignity because you understand yourself better. And you understand there is a purpose to your life that is much deeper than you ever knew.
The Naqshbandi Sufi tradition teaches that dreams are very important. How are they significant?
Dreams have always been valued on this path as a way to listen to your soul. And there is a particular way of listening to one's dreams and working with them that opens up a channel of communication between your deeper self and your conscious mind.
How do you interpret the images in dreams, which sometimes can be very abstract and odd?
My understanding of dreams is that if you took them literally you would be in trouble, but if you learn how to work with the symbols, how to hold them, how to allow the energy of the symbols to speak to you, then it opens a new door to understanding how to work with dreams.
People often interpret dreams within a psychological framework. How is that different than viewing them from a spiritual perspective?
I was taught to understand dreams in a spiritual way as well as a psychological way. Sometimes we'll have a dream that might be very disturbing to look at it purely psychologically, but if you looked at it spiritually, then you might say: "Oh! This quality of dying or death actually may mean transformation. And there is a deeper understanding." I feel that the psychological [approach] only takes you so far, and then you step into the next level, which is the spiritual perspective. And then sometimes things are completely upside down.
I read on your Web site that you had a dream that led you to start your foundation, DreamWeather. Can you tell me about that dream?
There was a time when I knew that I had a purpose in my life, but I didn't quite know what it was. So I prayed one night for an answer. I was camping, and I began asking, "What am I here for?" I expected this kind of grand answer and nothing happened, and I went back into my tent and went to bed. That night I had a dream in which I was shown the Earth from distance far above it. The Earth was a big, beautiful, blue jewel in space, but at a closer look I saw areas where there was violence and war. And then I was shown the moon, which was shining a light down onto the Earth in waves, almost like sunlight, and this light came down directly on the areas of the Earth where there was conflict and war. And a voice in my dream said, "Wherever the feminine touches, there is healing." And I woke up, and I knew that was my work.
So your work focuses on feminine spirituality, but not a spirituality that is specifically for women. It's more of a spirituality with an emphasis on qualities we typically think of as feminine.
That's right, although most of my work is with women, because I feel that they have a deep understanding that's been covered over after centuries of what I would call a rejection of the feminine principle.
There has been a lot of suffering over centuries, and we women carry this even today. I think there is a real need among us to understand who we are and how we can contribute to the world right now.