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Project Conversion

It happened again, on Sunday the 21st, my monthly visit from the universe. Every month about this time I have some odd, transcendent experience that throws me for a loop. What gets me is that they are consistent in timing, usually have little to do with the faith in particular, and increase in potency, clarity, or intensity. Last Sunday’s was the strongest and clearest yet.

And I have no freaking idea what to make of it.

Here’s the backdrop: I went to “the beach” or “the temple” as we call it around the house, a spot by the river where I meditate, and began my Zuhr (early afternoon) prayer. Afterward I settled down on Masjid (my prayer rug) and started meditating. Now, why am I meditating in August? Aren’t I a Muslim this month? Muslims don’t meditate, do they? I think of prayer as a conversation. If you want answers to prayer or to simply chat with the divine, you need to learn how to shut up and listen. Meditation is shutting up and listening.

And so I listened. And listened. And listened. Until everything went still and quiet.

This happens all the time, which is why I love this spot by the river, but then, something new happened. In that moment of clarity, I felt something–experienced something. It was so intense that I forced myself out of it. I didn’t want anymore. There was too much. And I just stared out across the murky, black river moving slowly by. Right there, as I gathered my senses, I understood what felt like everything. It was like a flash of light in a dark room, and I only had a few seconds to gather the details.

I don’t want to go over what I gleaned from those seconds because I cannot fully articulate them myself, but I left that spot at “the temple” knowing full well that nothing would ever be the same. It was a bonified WTF moment and I left terrified because each experience is more intense, more palpable than the last. I still have four months left. What does that mean? It’s like I’m marching closer toward a fire and I have no control of my steps.

As we traverse these last ten days of Ramadan, Muslims seek the Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), the evening that the 96th Sura of the Qur’an says is more powerful than a thousand months. No one knows exactly when this night is, but many Muslims will spend one or more nights in their local masjid reading the Qur’an or praying all through the evening. I feel like my “Night of Power” began Sunday as I haven’t been able to sleep since then. All I can think about is that day at the river and what I gleaned from that intense flash of mental light. Like a last breath, it was one of the most beautiful and dangerous things I’ve every encountered.

Allah be merciful…

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