Some memories of Murshid Samuel Lewis by Chalice Maize
It was in the early part of 1970 that I went to my first Wednesday night Sufi meeting at Scotts Hall in San Anselmo. Murshid was there with perhaps 20-25 people leading dances. I didn't go to participate. I was there with an "observing" attitude. To even be there was a big step for me at this time. So I proceeded to sit down at one of the little desks that outlined the room. I thought by watching I would be able to understand what was happening. Of course, this was impossible without direct experience. Murshid was aware of my attitude, and he wasn't going to encourage it. So he came over and stood right in front of where I was sitting, blocking my view of any activity going on in the room. After looking at his back for half an hour, I eventually got up and joined in. I couldn't focus in on what was going on with the dances or people there. Everyone seemed extremely happy, very joyous. In my state of nervous suspicion (I was being careful) I really couldn't respond to their warmth. It didn't seem real. But Murshid was very real to me. He seemed a powerful and magnetic man. That was my first impression. I sensed that he was a true teacher. This attracted me and so I returned the following Wednesday.
This time I boldly attempted to make the first step which was participating in the dances and walks. As I did this, I found it a lot harder than it looked. It was difficult for me to look at others in the eye. I felt paranoid. All the beauty, simplicity and love was hard to relate to as my mind was full of heaviness. I wanted to be there but didn't know how to be there.
It was during the third meeting I attended that I had a vivid experience. We were doing a circle dance with someone in the center. Murshid was behind us outside of the circle. Murshid broke through the circle right where I was standing. He did this very roughly. He held up my hand and the other persons and then just broke the connection. It was like he was snapping a stick. This felt similar to an electric shock. Murshid stood near the center watching the couple doing Allah Hu. We again held hands closing the circle. I began watching Murshid. Whenever I could I watched Murshid. I guess I was waiting for something. And something happened. All of a sudden Murshid seemed to be vibrating and changing size. He got smaller and smaller. Soon he was a tiny 6 inch Murshid in his green robe. Then he zipped back to normal size. Rapidly his size reduced and returned to normal. There were crashing sounds and flashes of light while he seemed to zip tiny and zoom large. Zoom-zip, zoom, zip. This probably all occurred in a space of about 15 seconds. Then he came right back to where he'd entered the circle and again lifted our hands and broke them apart as he went out of the circle. I could hardly get my equilibrium. It seemed unbelievable. I had never had an experience like this before. Something had occurred that I couldn't begin to understand or explain away. Murshid became a person of great interest to me and I returned to the meetings to see him and to experience the dances and listen to his talks.
After attending meetings for a couple of months something really awakening happened. Murshid was talking and we were all sitting around him listening when suddenly my heart broke open and was filled with a capacity to love that I didn't know was possible. This love was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and I thought I knew how to love deeply. It was a glorious realization..to begin the path of the ever widening heart. And I am forever grateful to him for this opening of the heart.
The Sunday afternoon dance class in the city had just formed and I began attending this regularly. We danced in the park with Murshid and then went into the basement to continue with walks and meditations. After-wards if we wanted we could stay for dinner and the Sunday night class. Sometimes we'd go upstairs with him and watch Perry Mason on TV. I always felt shy in Murshids presence. I loved to be included in his bear hugs when he would grab a couple of us together and give us a big squeeze. But alone with him I felt like a very little child and none of my burning questions could formulate. Once I arrived very early and went upstairs. He greeted me warmly and then asked me if I came to meet with him, did I want to ask him anything? I didn't know what to say so I said I'd just came upstairs to use the restroom. He said "everything in its time and place," but I knew he knew I didn't have to go. I went in anyways. He was waiting in the living room so I joined him. No one else was there and I was shy and nervous. I didn't know what to say. I was learning how to trust and love all over again and I was really like a child in that sense. He became my grandfather and together we chatted about the things we could see from the window. We watched the dogs in the park and the children playing and discussed it all very simply. He acted like he was elderly and I acted like I was a child. I loved him and knew he loved me. He loved us all so well and in so many different ways.
For one of the Sunday classes, he asked us to bring our astrological charts. He studied each person's chart and then gave as astrological walks based on his findings. When it was my turn, after a look at my chart, he said he'd have to have a little talk with me first. He took me by the arm and walked me away from everyone. He said, "You like the boys a lot?" This question really startled me. Before answering, my mind seemed to unfold memories and I watched pictures of myself with boys I knew and loved; my brothers, my brothers friends, and boyfriends. Before I could answer Murshid, he said, "I see. The boys liked you.
Did this cause trouble with the girls?" Again, pictures formed and I watched scenes of my personal history where friendships with boys had caused difficulties with girls disliking me. Then I saw Sufi women who are now my friends and through whom I’ve experienced true spiritual sister-hood. Before I could reply that in the past that had been true but that now things were different, Murshid said, "Okay, enough of this talking. I've got a great earth walk for you, and he taught me the moon-mars walk. I'd never said a single word in our conversation.
The last time I saw Murshid in his body was at the Sufi Bazaar. He led us in some dances. One of them was the six Ram Nam. I was in a group with some Shasta Abbey monks and Murshid was beside me. When we reached the part in the dance where the movement is for alternate hands, the monks crossed their arms in front of themselves instead of reaching their alternate partners hands. With a picture of alternate hands blazing in my mind, a loud voice, not unlike Murshid's, came out of me yelling "alternate hands!" The monks quickly snapped to and in great surprise and embarrassment I looked up at Murshid. His eyes were twinkling and he was smiling. I returned his smile as joy burst into transmission and we both started laughing.