Iran: The land of Persian mystics and Sufi poets (2)

Upon entering Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, I found myself in the city of my own heart. The hustling bazaar swiftly faded away behind me. Lit by the desert sun and contained by 4 colossal gates, the inner courtyard is a place for rest, refuge, recess, and reflection. My heart greeted me warmly, “Welcome, friend! What took you so long?”



The sun belongs to the universe,

But you, dear moon, you are my own!

You appear amidst darkness
Only visible to night seekers
Revealing the secret doctrine
Validating the truth of the day
Till the end of cycles of time…

4Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran



Iran: The land of Persian mystics and Sufi poets

Returning home with lots of pictures to share from an incredibly blessed trip to Iran, rich with history, culture, and friendship! Here’s a picture I took at the Pink Mosque in Shiraz.

The colorful rose brings the sweet scent of He. – Hafez of Shiraz


“Why Iran?” Because I wanted to be completely surrounded by beautiful Islamic architecture. I find it to be meditative…

My eyes are mesmerized by the intricate patterns. It’s a mirror for my own soul and the Soul of the Universe, both of which seem to be lost in each other as I gaze at this dome above Hafez’s tomb. And at last, I relinquish the desire to distinguish the real from its reflection.

What a gift you have been, Hafez! You passed on over 600 years ago, and yet, men, women, and children still recite your words among His lovers. What an everliving celebration you have left behind…!


Authenticity Circle: The Seed of a Conscious Community

Made in the Image of God

The Universal Command is pure vision, unlimited possibilities, and entirely boundless. It ignites the Universal Intellect, through which thought is bound, defined, and then projected onto the Universal Soul. The Universal Soul receives the perfect inspiration and begins to create the perfect cosmic reality.

Because we are made in the image of God, we work in exactly the same way.

It is our divine responsibility to create and perfect.

But what did our Creator intend for us to create and perfect?

Surely, we are meant to rise above the challenges of the human condition…

The Vision

When I close my eyes and envision the perfect collective reality, I see a world that gives birth to a new consciousness.

When I close my eyes and envision the perfect collective reality, I see a group of women sitting in a circle, birthing authentic, heartfelt connection. When I look more closely to observe the interaction between any two of them, I see a woman’s heart light up as she speaks her truth.

This is mirrored by the woman sitting next to her, closely listening and whose heart is also visibly lit. One by one, all of their hearts light up, illuminating the entire circle through an abundance of deep, meaningful, authentic interactions.

I see myself in that circle and hear myself saying, “This is me. I’m not proud of all the parts that exist. And in fact, I’m a little embarrassed by some of them – but this is who I am.”

My Deepest Desire

I want to reclaim and honor all the parts of me that have been rejected by me or someone else in my life. Those imperfections make me who I am and they are just as important as my achievements.

I don’t want to hide my flaws, my pain, my mistakes, and my deepest desires any more. I want to stop apologizing for who I am and what I want. I want to release the shame and guilt I’ve accumulated over the years and replace it with gratitude.

I want to love myself as I would love my own child.

I want to give myself the gift of unconditional acceptance. And I want to connect with others along the same path who are also yearning for genuine openness, vulnerability, and love. Together, I want to create a new consciousness.

It is our divine destiny to overcome the illusion of separateness.

The Spiral Dynamics “map” below illustrates our journey as one human family. It shows where we have been, starting at the bottom with the basic BEIGE Instinctive / Survivalist Meme and moving into the tribal culture of the PURPLE Magical / Animistic Meme. Then came the aggressive RED Impulsive / Egocentric Meme – often described as mankind’s “teenage years.”

Spiral Dynamics for Sojourn

It’s time for us to bridge from the ORANGE to the GREEN by leaving behind our patterns rooted in self-interest in exchange for inner peace and a conscious community.

Because I envision a world in which deep, meaningful conversations are abundant, I’m inviting women to come plant the seeds and help create the Authenticity Circle.

Together we will:

  • Seek peace within our inner selves
  • Explore the caring dimensions of a conscious community
  • Free ourselves from shame, guilt, and judgement
  • Honor self-awareness, compassion, and our inherent connectedness

If this resonates with you and calls out to your heart, please get in touch with me via email:

Registration and detailed information is available for each of the cities below:

Authenticity Circle Real Talk Real Women

Birthing a New Consciousness

Part I

My training to be a “good wife” started at the age of 8.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you to take out the garbage. If you see that it’s full, you should know that it needs to be taken out. What will you do when you get married?”

Marriage was not even on my mind, but I silently took out the trash and then resumed my math homework while seated at the kitchen table. My back was turned towards the kitchen stove where my mother was preparing dinner.

Only a few moments later, the silence was interrupted again by the sound of my mother opening the garbage can. “Don’t you know that you need to replace the garbage bag when you take out the trash? What’s the point of doing half the task? When will you learn these basic things? What will your future in-laws say if you don’t even know this much?”

What she was really worried about is what my future in-laws would think about the way my mother had trained me around the house.

I hesitantly turned my head over my shoulder to silently communicate that I had indeed heard her and was ashamed of my negligence.

“Now what are you looking at me for? Get up and go make yourself useful.”

This was my mother’s tough love for me. I always wondered if there was another way she could have taught me all of these things.

“Can’t you just ask me nicely?” I screamed through my tears one time.

“What are you – a guest – in this house?” My mom yelled back.

You are incomplete until you get married.

The more tough love my mother applied, the weaker I became. I now see that my mother was trying to make me strong in her own way, so that I can survive in this cold, patriarchal world. And instead of appreciating that, I yearned for soft, gentle, kind words of validation from her – or rather – from anyone. I was waiting for someone to come along and validate my feelings, confusion, hardships, and perseverance.

I learned to think that I am worthless unless someone else finds me worthy of love. Single at the age of 26, I felt ashamed. I had failed to secure a relationship and validate my mother’s lifework of child-rearing, that of her mother, and her mother’s mother and so on.

Girls can’t carry on the family’s name, but they can surely damage it. In the South Asian culture, it is the mother’s responsibility to guard the family name from her daughter’s “wrong” actions. Daughters are seen as pariahs, entrusted upon their birth family, but officially belonging to their future in-laws.

A daughter’s wedding is often a grander celebration than her birth. The birth family dutifully hands the daughter over to her in-laws (as if she was cattle) along with the power to approve or disapprove of the way she has been raised. The bride’s family also showers the groom’s family with gifts in hopes that they will kindly look after the bride (or go easy on her).

In essence, this is how the Mother Wound is inflicted from one generation on to the next, particularly in South Asian families. These traditions continue to imprison South Asian women with feelings of shame, inferiority, and inadequacy.

I felt dishonored by the traditions my family adhered to. I demanded to know why the gifts were necessary, why there were no rules for the groom’s family, and why my family was so eager to give me away. I didn’t need my in-laws to look after me and I wanted my parents to acknowledge that. My parents insisted that they were following traditions because everyone expected them to and they wanted to do all they could to ensure that my marriage started off well.

I asked the painful questions: Am I a burden on you? Do you regret having me as your child? Do you wish I didn’t exist? In return, I received more painful messages: A man doesn’t need a woman; a woman needs a man. You need your husband because you’re a woman and he’s a man. Remember what we’ve taught you. Be a good wife. Don’t let us down. Love your in-laws more than you love your parents. Now they are your family and you belong to them.

By giving into these cultural traditions, my family reinforced the cultural belief that the bride’s family is inferior to the groom’s family, a bride is inferior to the groom, and most importantly, a woman is less than a man.

Part II

Voicing my truth.

We, as individuals and as a society, are all operating within a broken system on every level.

We raise our sons to be ultra-independent, self-centered, and assertive. Boys learn to suppress their feelings, hold back their tears, avoid emotional intimacy, and lash out against being controlled, manipulated, or rejected. Boys learn to fiercely believe in themselves.

Girls learn to be the exact opposite: approval-seeking, sensitive, self-sacrificing, and apologetic. As a child, I learned to be agreeable rather than confident. I learned how to give endlessly, support, and celebrate others in order to make a place for myself. This was the first sign of a broken system on an individual level.

Instead of focusing on being a good daughter, sister, or wife, the focus should have been on being a good, complete, balanced human being. But since I only learned to exhibit the feminine qualities of a fully balanced individual, I arrived into adulthood as a terribly insecure-anxious female. I didn’t know how to be a complete human being without these gender-specific roles.

Let’s take a look at attachment theory to put this all into perspective:

Attachment Styles.png

  1. The secure population is able to exhibit both masculine and feminine traits as needed. They can successfully manage their own needs and those of a partner.
  2. There are two types of insecure populations: insecure-anxious and insecure-avoidant.
  3. The insecure-avoidant population is mostly men who were raised to be ultra-independent, self-centered, and assertive.
  4. The insecure-anxious population is most women who learned to seek approval and sacrifice their own needs and wants for others.
  5. The insecure-anxious most often attracts an insecure-avoidant partner. The relationship causes extreme distress and exacerbates their individual insecurities. This creates a broken marriage.

Transgenerational insecurity.  

When an insecure couple has a child, the avoidant husband becomes an absent father and the anxious wife becomes an overly involved mother. Resentment between the couple deepens and most often, the mother turns to her children for emotional intimacy.

The mother turns the child into a surrogate spouse and arrests the child’s emotional development. The child inherits the parents’ insecure patterns and also becomes an insecure-avoidant adult. This is the essence of Men’s Mother Complex – Rape of the Heart. Over the course of his lifetime, the child struggles with emotional boundaries, intimacy, self-esteem, anger, rage, and even depression. This is a broken system on the family level.

The insecure-avoidant male then attracts and marries an insecure-anxious female, and the cycle repeats again. This couple will also have an emotionally turbulent marriage and raise insecure children who fair no better than their own parents. This is a broken system on the community level.

Part III

My healing and awakening.

My search for self-knowledge started over a decade ago. I wanted to know why I felt the way I did and why I made the choices I did. My family and friends told me I think too much. Some even told me I feel too much. But I kept wondering why am I like this and not like that?

I wanted to know who I really was. Something inside me knew that if I dig deep enough, underneath all the layers of my personality, I would find God. And I did.

I was searching for a mirror, something that rings true on every level of my being. Something that I could point to and say this, this is what I hold to be true deep within my heart.

Last year, I traveled to the Alps of Northern Italy, near the ancient city of Turin, beneath a modest house built on a hillside, 100 feet down and hidden from public view, to an underground palace called the Temples of Humankind.

We were ushered in through an entrance that looked like a mineshaft, which led us to a winding maze carved inside the mountain. As soon as I stepped through the gate into the first temple, my mind and heart saw the most beautiful visual depiction of the Universal Command, Universal Intellect, and Universal Soul I had ever encountered.

Temples of Humankind

Tears of joy and a sheer sense of profound humility overtook me as I listened to our tour guide explain that this is the story of creation that they teach their children. The figure in the middle is neither male nor female – it’s androgynous. The figure on the right is male and the one on the left is female. The recognition from my eyes to my soul was confirmation that I had found what I was looking for.

I knew this is what I had been missing as a child. These are my parents. This is where I come from. This depicts the potential that exists inside of me, waiting to be activated and actualized. Recognition of this truth continually nudges me from the land of insecure-anxiousness towards greater security. I have both the masculine and feminine energy dancing inside of me. This strikingly beautiful representation of the Universal Command, Universal Intellect, and Universal Soul was also a mirror reflection of the attachment theory I had been studying.

Attachment Styles

As I gazed up wondering how these colossal images were painted by hand inside this mountain, I suddenly remembered Sri Yukteswar’s words from Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi: “The personal responsibility of every human being is to restore his ‘parents’ or dual nature to a unified harmony or Eden.”

Now it all makes sense. We, as a society, have elevated the male’s position because we mistakenly believe he represents Universal Intellect, which is perfect in potential and actuality. We have debased the female’s position as less than the male’s because we mistakenly believe she represents the Universal Soul, which is imperfect in actuality.

The truth is that all men and women are children of the Universal Intellect and Universal Soul, and thus the masculine and feminine energies exist in every individual. Each individual is perfect and imperfect at the same time.

That evening, I went to bed with only one thought: if a group of non-architects can build these colossal temples inside a mountain, then there must be so much more that humans can accomplish by working together.

I realized I have been dreaming too small and that I must first build the courage to dream bigger, to think of the impossible, to fiercely believe in myself, and to commit to something greater in life. Now, I can choose to follow the limited patterns I inherited from my own physical life or the universal patterns that exist in all things.

The unwritten journey.   

Fast-forward to today. I spend my time wondering how can we encourage an avoidant husband to adopt a team-mentality, engage in emotional intimacy, and value his spouse as an equal life partner? How can we encourage an anxious wife to value herself above all others, tend to her own needs first, and then tend to her spouse’s needs?

These issues cannot be solved with behavioral therapy alone. The act of seeing a therapist behind closed doors tells our subconscious minds that we need to hide our issues from everyone else. This further compounds the shame and guilt we already feel from having the issues in the first place.

It’s time to seek out other solutions.

What if we opted for collective healing by establishing a conscious community that was open to discussing the issues faced by so many of us? Wouldn’t that help us realize that we are not alone in this struggle against our core wounds of attachment and that there is nothing to be ashamed of? Wouldn’t it also benefit the entire community to have a holistic view of our current issues as we move forward together towards a better future?

The greatest push towards our collective healing will come through well-educated women. Generally speaking, a woman’s heart is already open due to the cultural conditioning she undergoes as a child. A great education opens her mind towards self-inquiry and prompts her to outgrow old cultural patterns that no longer serve humanity. Her education links her mind and heart, which ultimately raises the level of consciousness for her individually, in her relationships, and within the community.

Perhaps this is why Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah stressed the importance of educating young women. You see, it wasn’t just for the sake of equality. It was to birth a new consciousness for the coming times.

The Inspiration Behind the IG Retreat: The Desire for a Conscious Community

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to belong to a conscious community that is united by a common worldview and connected by the desire to self-actualize.

A conscious community is the vehicle for spiritual evolution. There is only so much each of us can do on our own to raise our level of consciousness, to purify our souls, and to better reflect the light of the Absolute. We can meditate for hours and focus on our breath, but ultimately, spiritual evolution cannot occur in isolation.

Our interactions are the best representation of our stage in the journey. How do we see each other? How do we speak to one another? How can we respect each other’s paths, though they may be different from our own? How can we appreciate the diversity among people, cultures, and perspectives?

The ability to see others as oneself marks the transition from our current state to the perfected state of mankind’s destiny. And the journey from mind to heart is the first step towards that perfected state.

It is a journey that I intentionally struggle with every day. I struggle with likes and dislikes, between right and wrong, and from mind to heart. But it is only when I allow the two to co-exist that I can transcend the world of opposites, of duality, and momentarily find my way back to the One Creator.

The inspiration behind the IG Retreat was to create a place for the mind and heart to meet and plant the seeds for the creation of a conscious community.

Here is the picture of all of our inaugural attendees:

IG Retreat 2015

IG Retreat 2015 Attendees

I invite you to watch the video IG Retreat 2015: The Meeting of the Mind and Heart linked below:



Part II: The Launch of the Aga Khan Museum – A Personal Interpretation by Sabrina Lakhani

Click Here to Read Part I: The Launch of the Aga Khan Museum – A Personal Interpretation by Sabrina Lakhani

A special thanks to our new friends Azim Lila and Natasha Walji for so warmly inviting us into their home to take this picture.

A special thanks to our new friends Azim Lila and Natasha Walji for so warmly inviting us into their home to take this picture.

We arrived at the Aga Khan Museum fully equipped with our DSLR cameras to capture every angle and detail possible.

After driving for ten hours and sleeping for only three, he wasn’t the one asking for us to reschedule our viewing time for later in the day. Instead, upon entering the Museum, he turned to me and asked, “What should we focus our pictures on? What should we be sure to capture?”

I looked at him and felt his love encircle my body, urging me to spread my wings and fly. I smiled and replied, “Numbers and patterns,” and we set to work. It is to him that I would like to dedicate this post, for if it wasn’t for his undying love and encouragement, this post would have never reached completion. Sprinkled throughout this post is a sampling of the beauty our eyes, souls, and cameras captured. I’d also like to acknowledge the Light that lights my curiosity and fuels my personal search for truth.

The entrance corridor served as our passageway into the enlightened being. We moved slowly, pulled by a magical serenity. Our curiosity immediately led us to the courtyard, where the sun’s rays play with darkness, and cast transient geometric shadows in all directions from the heart of this enlightened being.

We individually journeyed around the galleries, leaving space in our togetherness, letting the winds of heaven dance between us, staying close enough to sense each other’s presence, filling up our own cups with light, music, art, meaning, and love.

IMG_3781 IMG_3779

IMG_3939 IMG_3760

Every time he looked my way, I was counting: the sides of an artifact, light fixtures on the ceiling, or figures in a painting. I was truly in my element as the energies of my body, heart, and mind blended together to find the hidden meanings of the architecture, layout, and details in and around the enlightened being.


I recalled Mawlana Hazar Imam’s words and asked my soul to decode his words:

“The new Toronto Museum will take as its theme the concept of light — suffusing the building from a central courtyard, through patterned glass screens. From the outside, it will glow by day and by night, lit by the sun and the moon. This use of light speaks to us of the Divine Light of the Creator, reflected in the glow of individual human inspiration and vibrant, transparent community.”

My soul urged me to sketch the two triads he referred to:


My soul illuminated a pattern: I am an individual child of the universe, created from the ‘single Soul and its Mate’, but I am also part of the universal community. My task is to cultivate the spark of the Divine Light inside of me, so that like the sun, I too, exist to spread light all around me.

Just as I had this thought, my eyes encountered a crystalline sapphire-blue dome jutting out into the sky. I wondered why I had not seen it earlier. The dome’s serene hue, strength, and beauty gripped my heart, gradually awakening a latent force inside of me.


It must be the crowning glory of the enlightened being, the khatam of all the artifacts here, I thought. Why else would there be a window perfectly showcasing it?

I noticed how each glass piece was given its unique and rightful place to receive the sun’s rays and create a gradient of shades and shadows. How remarkable it is, I thought, that the sun’s light travels over 90 million miles and establishes an ethereal, and yet, powerful presence here on earth. If the sun’s light can do that, then imagine what the Light of the Absolute can do…

I stood there mesmerized, earnestly asking my soul to tell me more about this glittering star…

What is it saying to me? Why isn’t it perfectly symmetrical? What does it represent?

Several weeks of searching ensued. And my soul finally lifted the veil:

The opulent glass dome symbolizes Monoreality, the One Life of the Universe – kindled by the Light of the Absolute, it hosts the rise and fall of all civilizations and the birth and death of all shining stars, and weaves the essential triadic pattern through it all:

  1. All 920 pieces of the dome are made of the same glass. This represents the truth of unity: We are all created from a single Soul by a single Creator, and thus, we are undeniably connected.
  2. Every one of the glass planes is unique; there are no two that are the same. This represents the truth of diversity found on earth, among the multitude of men and women, in artistic expression, and in the entire cosmos. There is strength in diversity, but diversity itself must be protected, cultivated, and honored for the strength to be realized.
  3. Each piece has a place in the formation of this strikingly perfect structure. This represents the truth of pluralism: mankind, united in purpose and diverse in form, has the duty to create a just world in which everything has its place and perfectly reflects the Oneness of the single Soul and our single Creator.


 Pluralism is to Diversity as the Moon is to the Sun, as Eve is to Adam, as our logic is to emotion. It is the next step in our evolution and our inherent link back to our single Creator.


Part I: The Launch of the Aga Khan Museum – A Personal Interpretation by Sabrina Lakhani

Based on my previous research of the Aga Khan Development Network, I shared my personal interpretation of the purpose and relevance of the Aga Khan Academies almost two years ago (see earlier post: From AKDN to AKA – A Systematic Vision). Since then, my curiosity has taken me into varying directions – discovering the deep significance of Abe-shifa, Chanta, and even Chandraat.

However, nothing has moved me to write again as much as Hussein Janhmohamed and Fez Meghani’s visit to Chicago for the Enlightened Encounters Program. This program introduced the purpose of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada to the Jamat and neighboring communities. During an informal discussion, as Hussein shared his personal story, I heard the melody of an awakened soul… His story embodies fear and love, confusion and clarity, tradition and innovation – an endless number of dichotomies and yet, a beautiful reflection of the essential dance between the Universal Intellect and the Universal Soul.

Hussein’s energy rekindled my curiosity and so, on the same night, I began my personal research on the Aga Khan Museum. Below, I have showcased my learnings through a series of “maps”, as a result of studying with Elijah Ignatieff. Elijah is a contemporary master of systematics, the understanding that the universe has an underlying geometric plan and that certain numbers are symbols for deeper, esoteric meanings. Elijah uses his knowledge of naturally occurring, recognizable patterns as a basis to identify and/or rectify the interactions within a whole – whether it is an organization, a business, or even a particular individual. While systematics is not necessarily a new body of knowledge, applying this knowledge as a way of holistic problem solving (also called systems thinking) is most certainly a new area of human endeavor.

Elijah’s teachings brilliantly integrate the work of thinkers from every era beginning with Pythagoras and Aristotle leading up to George Gurdjieff, John G. Bennett, and most recently, Ken Wilber.

Of particular interest, however, is that Elijah’s work even builds upon the work of the Ikhwan al-Safa’ (Brethren of Purity), a secret group of Ismaili intellectuals based in tenth-century Basra and Baghdad responsible for the production and distribution of a monumental encyclopedia, Rasaʾil Ikhwan al-Safaʾ (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity), based on the universal language of systematics.

Nader El-Bizri, the General Editor of the publication titled On Arithmetic and Geometry: An Arabic Critical Edition and English Translation of Epistles 1 & 2, writes:

“This volume [consisting of Epistle 1 and 2] offers technical and epistemic analyses of mathematical concepts… with a distinctly Pythagorean interpretation of mathematics within the symbolic order of mysticism, and also inspired by Islamic faith, the Ikhwān view arithmetic and geometry through a monotheistic spiritual lens.”

The Pythagorean interpretation of mathematics (essential triad) referenced above is quoted below from the Rasaʾil Ikhwan al-Safaʾ:

Twofold in the Creation

(1) Al-Bari’ (Creator, or God) is the First and only Eternal Being, no anthropomorphic attribute is to be ascribed to Him. Only the will to originate pertains to Him.

(2) Al-’Aql (Universal Intellect) is the first being to originate from God. It is one in number as God Himself is One. God created all the forms of subsequent beings in the Intellect, from which emanated the Universal Soul and the first matter.

(3) Al-Nafs al-Kulliyya (The Universal Soul) is the Soul of the whole universe, a simple essence which emanates from the Intellect. It receives its energy from the Intellect. (rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’, vol. 1 p. 54; cf. rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’, vol. 3 pp. 184, 196-7; 235).

Elijah taught me how to systematically summarize and “map” the essential triad in several different ways. First, the summary in my own words:

From the Will of God came the first cause – the Universal Intellect, represented by the number 1, and subsequently came the second cause, represented by the number 2, the Universal Soul. The Universal Intellect’s perfect light illuminated the imperfect Universal Soul and activated the creation of the cosmos – a process through which the Universal Soul achieves perfection and thus, perfectly reflects the light of the Universal Intellect. Together, the Universal Intellect and the Universal Soul fulfill the Will of God. 

Second, the maps:

And here we see the Pythagorean essential triad depicted in the Holy Quran, included in the Golden Jubilee Emblem, and frequently quoted by Mawlana Hazar Imam:


Here is the visual map for the essential triad using the same terminology quoted above:

As a systematics student, it was critical for me to learn how to recognize the essential triad in everyday life. Here are several examples that I’ve gathered from my own reflections:


Elijah has most significantly contributed to my integrated worldview (combining din and duniya – “life and spirit”), which enables me to make real sense of both worlds, particularly when I visit sites such as the Aga Khan Museum…

Click Here to Read Part II: The Launch of the Aga Khan Museum – A Personal Interpretation by Sabrina Lakhani