I am driving a Los Angeles freeway one afternoon when suddenly it seems as if the sky literally opens up in front of me and pulls me into a vortex of energy. A voice that comes from nowhere and everywhere says clearly 3 times: This is for you!
The reference is to the Parliament of the World Religions which is to take place in Cape Town, South Africa, in December 1999.
Until a moment ago, I had no plans nor intentions to go. In fact, I cannot.
It is June. I have just started a new job after months of searching and I am finencialy in debt after a year of volunteer work.
However, I already know that when a vision pulls me so strong that it lights everything inside of me, a whole cascade of circumstances begins to arise in my favor simply because I intent to realize it.
So quietly, I begin my preparations.
During periods of contemplative meditation, I have several insights regarding the purpose of my participation in the Parliament but in the end, it all boils down to this one image: I stand before a most distinguished and royal looking black man dressed in traditional green and gold African garment. We look deeply into each other’s eyes. He has his hand on my heart, I have my hand on his. All surrounding activity and sounds fade into the background and there is a silence filled with deep peace. It is such a compelling vision!
For me, it is a poetic metaphor of deeper meaning and experience. Or so I thought. . .
A Divine Appointment
Many events follow which may seem astounding to one who is unfamiliar with the principle of thought in action but here I am in South Africa as a presenter in one of the largest and most exciting gatherings of our time with more than 7000 people in attendance representing all the world religions, colors, sounds and prayerful worships.
On the morning of Dec. 6, I offer my last scheduled seminar and plan to support a friend in her’s that afternoon. However, I never make it there. When I finally arrive at the correct building quite late, feeling out of sync, I find out that it takes place on the 4th floor. It is hot, there is no elevator and my knee hurts. I decide to let go.
Immediately as I begin to walk away, I regain a sense of a natural flow.
Little do I know that I am showing up for a pre-ordained divine appointment which lured me here from the very beginning.
As I approach the campus amphitheater, I catch a distant glimpse of an African man who is sitting on the grass, enjoying a performance. He seems instantly familiar. The stage is hidden from my sight and my whole attention is drawn to his image. There is something about it. . . I want to access what it is but I cannot not think. It seems as if my mind turns into gel and I am simply compelled to move in his direction.
I feel as if I am moving in a slow motion fully aware yet unable to think…
There is a faint thought at the back screen of my mind. What will I do when I reach him?
Just as I am about to reach him, he gets up, unaware of my proximity, and walks over to the stage where he joins a group of men and women chanting in Arabic devotional hymns.
I sit near the edge of the stage, spell-bound. My mind at a still point.
It is not a matter of mundane attraction, but rather an over powering sensation of a deep resonance in my heart; a feeling which transcends the senses; an informing power which makes direct contact with my soul.
When the chanting is over, I approach one of the women who just walks off the stage and ask her who this man is. . . She seems to know who I refer to despite the fact that several other men are present. He is a Sufi Master from Senegal, she says.
Then, without warning, I hear myself respond: I had a vision of him before I came here. . .
I gasp. My mind starts racing.
He is wearing a white, gold and green traditional attire…
But there is no time to analyze. She grabs me by the hand and says in her French-Creole accent: You must meet him.
He is already approaching us.
Glowing with natural grace and beauty, he holds my hands and gazes deeply into my eyes while Rita (this is her name) tells him in French what I have just said. I trust him implicitly. In fact, I feel as if I have known him my entire life. We enter a oneness of silence, one heart conversing with another, leaping with the joy of remembrance and recognition.
Surrendering to Love…
A beaming face of dark skin tone, stunningly contoured by his royal gold and green garment, Sheikh is a striking power of presence exquisitely blended with innate humility, boundless love and tenderness. He says I must come to their hotel that night.
I have several duties that evening but at 11pm I am heading there.
I have no idea how I am going to return to my room which is on the other side of town but it doesn’t matter.
From that night on and for the next three days, I abandon myself completely and without holding back to his overflowing, unconditioned love and nurturing. I give myself total permission to become drunk on this intoxicating elixir. I yield to his timeless truth, to his grace. . .
It is a deeply fulfilling experience. He feeds a visceral yearning within me, touch a deep longing that for years tinted my inward landscape and held a promise which gave me the strength to keep on going when everything felt dreary. During years of tireless work and unwavered commitment, through sweat and through tears, through pain and through laughter, I patiently gathered the necessary elements for my spiritual transformation and now, with a magical touch of a true alchemist , Sheikh initiates a yet deeper phase of refinement, bringing me closer than I have ever been to the Cosmic Beloved.
I feel finally, truly home.
Peace in the Middle East will not come from the West, he later tells me. It must come from Africa.
But I have already caught a glimpse of who he is.
I know he is the one to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and I am to take him there.
P.S. Unfortunately Sheikh never made it to the Middle East. In 2002 he was badly injured in a car accident in Senegal and his soul left us 3 days later.