Norton, Smith lead from Sufi tradition in Week Seven Mystic Heart meditation sessions

Editors’ Note: Jake Zuckerman is the 2015 Interfaith Lecture coverage reporter for the Daily. Part of his beat, including attending and writing about each 2 p.m. lecture, is the Mystic Heart Community Meditation Program. Zuckerman will attend Mystic Heart meditation every Monday and share his experiences in the Daily.

While Sufi meditation may not trace back to any dogmatic religion, its lineage follows all the way back to Adam, circa Genesis.

Leading the class Monday, Sharifa Felicia Norton and Muinuddin Charles Smith introduced the participants to Sufi practice — which will continue every weekday at 7:15 a.m. at the Main Gate Welcome Center conference room — via a host of breathing techniques and guided meditations. The class is part of the Mystic Heart Community Meditation Program’s Week Seven events. While Sufism has ties with Islam, Sufism picks up wisdom from other religions à la carte, Norton said.

“The Sufi tradition honors the mystical essence from all the world’s traditions,” Norton said.

As opposed to other weeks of meditation, the Sufi practice put emphasis on connection with the four natural powers of earth, wind, fire and water.

For each power, Norton guided the group through a corresponding breathing pattern.

“Sufism is a religion of the heart, rather than a formal dogmatic religion,” she said.

To date, the first meditation of the morning was a personal favorite of mine. Sometimes, being told to think about nothing is like being told not to procrastinate — sure, it’s good advice, but who ever sticks it out? But when Norton told us to imagine waterfalls, rivers, earth’s geomagnetic forces, the rushing wind or a burning blaze, I finally found meditation to be a breeze.

The second meditation, however, struck me as a bit more arduous. It involved twirling around in our seats, while chanting different Aramaic words and phrases. Something about group chants and synchronized movements is a bit too Lord of the Flies-like for me, so I decided to sit still and call it an exercise in listening.

Everybody has a line in the sand somewhere. Regardless of how actively I participated, the experience was calming nonetheless.

To Smith, the group setting adds a great atmosphere to the class, especially for the newer members. While the movement was too much for me, he said that newcomers tend to find comfort in numbers.

“The benefits of a smaller session like this is that, when other people are meditating together, you get a stronger experience than you usually get,” Smith said. “If you’re new to meditation, you pick up the atmosphere a bit.”

In addition to leading the meditation sessions every morning this week, Norton and Smith host two seminars at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday in the Hall of Missions. Lastly, Norton will host a special event on Thursday titled, “Noor,” a dance depicting European Sufi and World War II heroine Noor Inayat Khan. The event will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Christ.