|A Heartfelt Journey
2004 by Saundra Sage
Turkey had never been on my list of “must see” countries, Yet, this specific trip to this particular country not only exposed its lands before me, it also revealed the earth of my soul to me.
I now perceive the recent “Sacred Days in Turkey” pilgrimage I made with sixteen other seekers for personal and universal truth to be the spark that re-ignited my inner light. Sometimes, coming out of a dark-clouded passage of our life requires us to journey a distance away to manifest that which is needed in order to ignite one’s inner light again. The artist, Georgia O’Keefe, wisely reflected, “I have no yen to go anywhere. But I go around the world anyway to see what’s there – and to see if I’m in the right place.”
The trip took me to Istanbul, whereby a ferry ride down the Bosphorus River exposed the only city in the world that is built on two continents – Europe and Asia – with its two major bridges providing the connection. I visited Ephesus, Kusadasi, Antalya, Perge, and other key cities on the Black, Aegean, and Mediterranean Seas. I had an opportunity to see Whirling Dervish meditation dancing, take a Turkish bath, crouch walk my way through Kaymalkli (an underground city carved out as refugees fled from persecutors during the early Christian era), and so many other special moments never before presented to me in other travels I have made. Rev. Dr. Marcia Sutton of Reno, NV led this journey. As I write this article, I’m still in wonder as to how I was called to follow words from the Twelfth-Century Persian mystical poet, Mavlana Rumi.
Come, come whoever you are,
Wanderer, Worshipper, lover of learning,
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
I read those words in a feature article in Positive Living Magazine, a citywide bi-monthly magazine created through the spiritual center I attend. The article was called, “Journey to the Eye of the Heart,” by Rev. Sutton. Her words tugged at my heart as my hands moved along underlining in red ink long sentences that spoke to me. The references regarding Sufism were heard by my inner ear as I thought of many Sunday talks given by our Rev. David Owen Ritz. He had often made references to the Sufi monks, whose Theological School of Karatay had been founded by Rumi. The article’s last paragraph was a small biography with an 800 number if one was interested in learning more about joining the trip. I circled that number, ripped the article out, and set it on my kitchen counter.
The article had been written for the July/August issue, but I had not opened it ‘till late September. During that period, our church organization was experiencing its second major transition of ministerial leadership within a year, and I had allowed the confusion to close my eyes. By doing so, I pulled myself deeper into spiritual isolation. I no longer looked forward to attending Sunday service in order to hear enlightened messages that confirmed the Truths I believed and practiced. I no longer enjoyed the community of members that smiled, hugged, and shared with me every Sunday. I no longer held in my heart the “specialness” of sensing great light all around. Without the light, my spirit felt lost.
One sentence within the article gave me the flicker of light that would guide my way. It stated that according to the Holy Koran’s teachings, “each person must look for the many symbols pointing the way back to God.” I read further that Sufis, although a monastic order, did not isolate themselves. Instead they encouraged finding one’s fullest inward union with God must be sought while actively participating outwardly with the world. I began to sense that this article was a “symbol” calling me to “participate outwardly.
Because I was already scheduled for a trip to England and France in October, the reality of “journeying” in Turkey did not seem probable. Yet the article on my countertop continued to whisper to me daily. Without detailing the semantics of crossroads and roadblocks, I can only say Divine Providence made its appearance and my scheduled trip was canceled. The whisper from the countertop became a shout. With just three weeks before its departure and in the absolute final hour of eligible registration, I made the phone call that committed me to “see from the eye of my heart.” That decision offered another realization that all previous darkness, isolation, and confusion, had only been prompters for the manifestation of this “now” moment.
There are so many details I could share with you that would be filled with ancient landmarks and cities visited, exquisite statutes and frescos seen, holy mosques and churches entered, magnificent excavated ruins explored, and all the culturally interesting people met. However, there is not enough space for that many specifics in this essay.
Yet, what I can share are pieces from several journal entries. Within the words I wrote, many times in the midst of the experience, I became acutely aware of a brighter outlook capable of lifting away the veil of human sluggishness I had been holding and replacing it with spiritual joyfulness.
Nov. 13/Noon USA -- The odyssey has begun as I leave Sarasota. I am aware of a shift inside. As soon as I enter an airport heading for a destination I consider exotic, adventurous, or educational, my inner spirit dances wildly. Comically, I observe my stride, my head held higher, feeling young again. Within my logical personality, I want to understand it, but intuitively, my child-side just wants to play in it. Enjoy and be happy!!!
Nov. 14/10:30 a.m. -- We have just landed in Istanbul!! I feel so humbled in gratefulness that I really did it – this is really me in Turkey. WOW!!!! I feel comfortable, relaxed, and truly connected that I was called here by a stronger energy than my own will.
Nov. 14/11:50 p.m. -- Today I played in the playgrounds of spirits that lived their energy-source sharing and manifesting light for others. I walked into palaces of leaders who guided followers to freedom. I tiptoed through mosques where I could sense ageless sisters and brothers worshipping Allah. . I strolled onto streets to be among so many bodies moving within the bustle of a simulated ants’ nest. I broke bread with my fellow journeyers while touching, bonding, and loving from our God’s spirit.
Nov. 16/8:30 a.m. – Flying to Kayseri – Incredible views of mountain ranges and clustered cities bring images of all those living below. I feel akin to those awakening for their individual paths today knowing they, too, are given the opportunity to be students of universal truth. Peeking out my small plane window and looking down from above, I have a profound sense of how minute our solitary vessel, holding so many encapsulated souls, is in relation to the expanse of space the universe offers for humankind to explore. I am inspired and frustrated simultaneously.
Nov. 19/12:03 p.m. -- I have just heard the midday call to prayer. I am learning about this commitment to ritual, hence the Islamic five-times-per-day call to prayer. The chanting has become a “whistle” for me to stop and listen. The listening is a call to journey inwardly and hear insightfully.
As artist O’Keefe expressed, one goes away, if for nothing more than to see if they are in the right place. In some respects that is precisely what I did. I am not suggesting that one country is more right than another is, but my framework now has a bigger picture to view. By going outside of my own circle, I now have a perception about the history and people of Turkey. I have more knowledge about the major roles it played in contributing to the world’s religious, spiritual, historical, and cultural development. I am more educated about its diplomatic relationship with America and why we preserve this country’s friendship. I even understand so much more about their volatile geographical position between so many potentially explosive countries, and how they have worked to remain as neutral as possible in order to contribute to world peace.
Since I have been back in Sarasota, life has quickly fallen into its routine, so full of the very good and the not-so-good events of normal living. During the “not-so-very-good times,” I stop and reflect as to how my life has changed from this experience to Turkey. By doing so it has almost become a meditation to go back to those moments and places just experienced and remember the joy of feeling so aligned with the Universe. It is in these moments that I fully understand Rumi’s poetic line, “Wanderer, Worshipper, lover of learning.” It is the doing, participating, and enlightenment of greater understanding that changes one’s being, so one can never go back to the point where they started. The places I saw, people I met, the new concepts of culture I experienced with others, the rituals we practiced, meals we ate, laughter we shared, all enter into my mind’s eyes. And it is this vision from the “eye of my heart” that brings lighter spirit within and about me from now on.
I have been writing poetry and long journal entries of all my travels since my teens, all of which are still sentimentally saved and frustratingly tucked in notebooks and boxes. I sought and won the Writing Excellence Award of Eckerd College in 1997, and have had a couple of other essays printed in local publications. Consequently, I have hardly considered myself a writer, but I can tell you for sure, I have always been a “wanna be.” This is my very first contest and I enter it with excitement and enthusiasm.
My “other” life consists of substitute teaching and operating as an independent travel consultant. My wildest wish would be to travel to all those places I have not yet seen, and be paid for all the magazine articles I could write.
Finally, my personal life includes three wonderful
children, 2 and ½ grandchildren, all of whom still live in New England.
I left a lifetime of living in Rhode Island in order to enter the PEL Program
of Eckerd College in 1995, where I finished my degree. As a lover of water,
sun, and endless beautiful days, Florida definitely caught my attention,
and I now reside here.
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