Remembrance by Shapiro, Selima

Selima Shapiro—1/27/77

WALI ALI: Do you have any order in which you’d like to take up things? Chronologically or some other order?

SELIMA: I can’t, I don’t know, I can’t think chronologically. It just sort of—

WALI ALI: It just all comes. I thought that that might be the case, which is fine with me because. You must have met Murshid in the early part of ‘68 or later part of ‘67?

SELIMA: Yeah, sometime in there—I probably have it written down somewhere—

WALI ALI: Do you recall what the first meeting was like or how it happened?

SELIMA: Vasistha met him; I think Amin met him through a friend who said, “You should see this man,” and Amin had seen him and then he said, “Hey, Vasistha, you should see this man,” so Vasistha saw him.

WALI ALI: You were living on the Boardwalk?

SELIMA: We were living on the Boardwalk, yeah, and then Vasistha went to see him and he said, "Wow, you’ve got to go see this man,” and so we all went over, and it was all really strange. I remember sitting there, there weren’t that many—

WALI ALI: Was that Clementina St. or here?

SELIMA: It was here, and I remember that there weren’t that many people—there were Moineddin and Fatima, Mansur and Jemila, and Akbar—there weren’t many more than that, just a few people, and Murshid and it was just really weird; this was the strangest little man I had ever seen, like a little gnome. And then we started coming, I guess it was Sunday we started coming every week, and then after a month or so Vasistha decided that he wanted to be initiated, and we were sitting there and he  asked Murshid if he could be initiated, and he said “Yeah, at the next initiation,” whenever that was going to be, and then Fatima just leans over like this to me and she goes, “What about you,” real up front like that, and I go, “Oh yeah, me too." And it was like I hadn’t even been thinking about it or anything, it was just, “Yeah, me too.” And then maybe a month later we were initiated; there were about 8 or 9 of us, and that was real weird too because the whole initiation thing was like real mysterious and everything, with Murshid scuttling around and everything, and he comes out with these cups, and he goes, “Okay, repeat after me and drink this,” and I kept thinking, “What’s in here,” because I know in the Catholic church they give you this little wafer that sticks to your mouth and it’s not supposed to, and in the Greek brunch they give you bread and wine and it is real wine and if you aren’t prepared—and I wasn’t prepared this cup—and I schlep it down and it is lemonade, and I went, “Oh, too much,” I thought it was going to be wine or sake or something and it was lemonade, It was crazy. So that was the beginning—

WALI ALI: Do any sort of incidents sort of stand out from the beginning, things he did or something that happened, stories or something that made an impression on you?

SELIMA: No, nothing specific, he made an impression, it was just like an overall impression, but now it was real strange, because I would never be able to sit there and ask him or anything, or say, “Look, I’ve got this problem,” I could never do that, but throughout the meeting, he would give his little talks and stuff, he always seemed to get to the point, whatever was bothering me—for other people too, I’m sure. I know that for myself I was just never secure enough to say, “Hey, Murshid, this and this and this is happening and help or something like that,” but he always seemed to know .

WALI ALI: Were you afraid of him?

SELIMA: No, I wasn’t afraid of him, it was more like—I can’t explain it—I have it with other people, it wasn’t just Murshid—it is mostly me with other people, and he always managed to know what was on everybody’s mind. He used to pick on Shirin a lot when she’d sit there with her hair down over her face and he’d say, “Come out, come out,” and he just always seemed to know when somebody was really troubled and everything, and reach out to them—probably somebody else would not even suspect that he was helping out because it would be like saying something real sort of off the cuff. I can’t I really think anything specific.

WALI ALI: That’s alright, it may come back later. Did you feel that he noticed you particularly—as an individual from the beginning or did he assiduously ignore you?

SELIMA: No he noticed me—he noticed everybody different. I don’t know how; he didn’t notice me like he noticed Jemila or like he noticed people that he were around a lot. I wasn’t around him a lot, but he did notice me .

WALI ALI: Did he come over to your place?

SELIMA: Sure, yeah, he used to come over for dinner, and when we moved to Novato, he used to have breakfast over there and he always remembered my birthday, and he—yeah, he noticed me; I never felt left out.

WALI ALI: Sometimes you may have felt at odds with him?

SELIMA: Oh yes, I felt at odds with him at least especially when we moved to Novato, but not a whole bunch or anything serious. One time I went to him and I said, “I think that I shouldn’t be your disciple anymore, I think I should be released, and you do whatever has to be done.” It was really hard to do anyway, and he just said, “I can’t release you," or "go and think about it," or something. And I went and thought about it, "Yeah, that’s right,” and I know it’s real funny because like I said before, it was really, really hard to go to him with a problem and—

WALI ALI: Why was that do you think?

SELIMA: I don’t know, it is just something in me.

WALI ALI: Some people went to him with problems all the time—other people respected his own work or his concerns, and they didn’t want to bother him.

SELIMA: Yeah, that was probably part of it, but it’s mostly something in me that keeps me from being really close like that with people, but maybe the 4 or 5 times that I did go to him or I really was freaking out or something and I would go to him, I’d say “This and this is happening, and what should I do?" And he goes, “What do you think you should do?” And I'd say, “Do this practice and this practice and this practice.” And he goes, “Right! What are you coming to me for, you don’t have to ask me  what you have to do,” and that would be it, and like the 4 or 5 times that I did go to him that was always the answer.

WALI ALI: Did he ever say anything more to you about that—after you’d come to him and told him that and he just kind of—?

SELIMA: He would never mention it—

WALI ALI: Is that before or after you went to Lama?

SELIMA: It was both; it was before and after and—

WALI ALI: I’m sure you have some stories to tell about that trip—

SELIMA: Oh yeah, what a trip! that was a great trip!

WALI ALI: That would be something that we could use.

SELIMA: That was an incredible trip. It was Mansur and Murshid and Shirin and Nathan, all in one little VW bus.

WALI ALI: I remember just when you were leaving, Murshid had all these enormous suitcases that he had inherited from somewhere down in his family—

SELIMA: Mansur and I got in this horrible fight because we had so much stuff to take and so much space to put it in, and then we had this big mattress and stuff in the back so the kids could sleep and Murshid could take a nap, and so it all had to go on top, and I insisted on taking Shirin's crib so we got in this huge enormous fight because he kept packing it and it just didn’t fit—

WALI ALI: Right, I remember because Murshid had these enormous suitcases that he packed, and I know there already was some real tension between him and Mansur—I don’t recall exactly how far it had gone along, but it was to build up more beyond that, and Mansur had it all arranged, so as not to strain his car. And Murshid came down with all these enormous suitcases to take his stuff to Lama—and Mansur said—

SELIMA: I don’t know what went on between Mansur and Murshid because Mansur would never say anything—

WALI ALI: I was there at that moment in which Mansur said, “You can’t take all that stuff,” or something and he blew up—and finally he took it—

SELIMA: I’m sure he took it all with him, and I took my crib, and we—

WALI ALI: But the car did break down?

SELIMA: The car did break down, it threw a rod about 12 miles outside Gallup N.M, and Mansur left Murshid and the kids and me in the car and he hitch hiked into Gallup, and got a tow truck to come out.

WALI ALI: What was Murshid like during this period, when the car broke down?

SELIMA: Oh he was just crazy—he was really nervous at first, and then the kids wanted to get out and I kept saying “No there are snakes out there,” and it was really hot, it was the middle of the afternoon and everything, and then right in the middle of being really nervous and worried and upset about this whole thing and his time-table, because he said that he was going to be at Lama at this time, he wanted to be there and everything Murshid fell asleep, he just took a nap until Mansur came back, he was just completely calmed out and then the two of them rode in the tow truck and towed the car and us into Gallup, and then they were going to tow it—I guess they towed it to Albuquerque, I think, to get a new engine. And we were going to take a bus from Gallup to Albuquerque and then we ran into some really strange looking people in this Greyhound bus stop and Murshid starts talking to them—they were just freaks—with hair—and just really strange people, and they had a little sedan, a front and back sedan, and Murshid talked them into taking the whole crew to Albuquerque and I can’t remember if it was something like 2 or 3 hours drive, it was a long way from Gallup, and so we piled into this car and Murshid and I and all the kids were in the back seat and everything and he was singing his entire Gilbert and Sullivan routine—the people were sitting in the front and they kept looking in the rear-view mirror looking back at the children, and he is going, “You’re doing great, you’re doing great, just keep going and—

WALI ALI: That put him in good mood I think.

SELIMA: Oh yeah, because we didn’t have to take a bus, he wasn’t looking forward to going on the bus with the kids.

SABIRA: Did they take all the suitcases too?

SELIMA: No, they stayed on the van which was towed to Albuquerque, and at one point we were stopped by a policeman because we were speeding through a town. We went up the hill and then down the hill and sometime in between was a town, and it was in Arizona, and it was a black policeman, and he came over and was talking with the driver, and the driver had hair that stuck out about a foot on each side, and Murshid is throwing his little comments from the back seat, and the guy is talking with the policeman and everything, and then the policeman says, “Okay, but just don’t go so fast,” and then he comes back and he looks at the guy and he looks at all of us in the car and says, “That’s really a fine Afro you’ve got there!” And Murshid starts singing, “Alhamdulillah and we were off again, and we safely landed in Albuquerque—

WALI ALI: This was the first trip he made to Lama or this was the second trip?

SELIMA: I don’t know if he had been there before or not.

WALI ALI: Did somebody from Lama meet you in Albuquerque, is that what you did?

SELIMA: We met somebody there, we went to somebody’s house, I can’t remember whose house it was, and they took us to Lama in a panel truck that had no window in the back at all it was just a complete box, but it was separate from the driver’s section, and the driver said, “There are seats in the back with boxes,” and we went from there to Santa Fe and then up to Lama and Murshid and Mansur rode in the front, and me and all of the kids rode in the back, and Shirin was really sick, she had about 105 fever—

WALI ALI: It sounds like you must have been in great shape!

SELIMA: Oh, it was horrible, just horrible, I was so angry, I was so mad, and Mansur is going, “You have to sacrifice for God,” but my baby has 105 and like I never would go to Murshid and say, “Murshid, my baby is sick,“ which is dumb of me, so I took it all out on Mansur, and he’d go, “Murshid has a time-table, he has to be there,” and he was really sticking to it; this kind of set him back ; so I’m going, “But my baby has 105 fever, and it is a million degrees and this is ridiculous,” and he is going, “Even if she dies, you have to sacrifice for God,” and I am going, “Oh God, how can he do this?” And I think that we fought the whole time—

WALI ALI: You and Mansur?

SELIMA: Me and Mansur.

WALI ALI: How did he take the fact that his truck brake down? Did he figure that that was Murshid’s fault?

SELIMA: He didn’t, not at all. In fact I was driving it when it happened. I was driving slow and all of a sudden it just didn’t go anymore, and he just figured that that was just the way it is, that’s how he was though, he never—in all the times when he was working for Murshid that I knew, and they got in these fights, which they did all the time, just constantly—he would never say that Murshid was wrong or anything, I never heard him say that anyway. It was always just the way it was going to be, and Murshid was being stubborn and he either would or he wouldn't come around, that it would be God’s will no matter what and that was his whole philosophy, which was good, but we finally arrived at Lama and it was really beautiful, we were there a month and—

WALI ALI: Yeah, I’m sure that was the second visit, and other people came that time too.

SELIMA: Yeah, he was going there specifically to do work with me there and children, and this is how it started out. We got there later and found out that Lama had a very rigid schedule and plan and everything, no it didn’t work out exactly that way, but it was pretty much.

WALI ALI: He had said that he was going to do work with mothers and children?

SELIMA: That’s what he had said, originally, but I don’t know how long—

WALI ALI: I know Leslie Van Gelder went that summer—

SELIMA: Yeah, and Asa—

WALI ALI: And Asa—Allaudin was there—and Saul—

SELIMA: Allaudin and Zamyat—

WALI ALI: Were their kids there too?

SELIMA: Their kids were there. There were a lot of kids there, that was the thing—

WALI ALI: That wasn’t the summer when the film crew came, was that then?

SELIMA: Yes, that was then—

WALI ALI: That was it—what you remember of what happened at Lama during that period.

SELIMA: We were supposed to be doing the concentration on mothers and children, and when we got there Lama had this adobe thing going—they were building adobe and everybody had to work on adobe from eight until noon, and then after that we had to do the chores. And after that was evening, so there was little time and Murshid really had to squeeze his time in, and he had the afternoon or the evening meetings. It wasn’t really devoted to the mothers and children that much because it was mostly dominated by Steve/Nur and the—

WALI ALI: What do you remember about those encounters?

SELIMA: Oh God, those were horrible, they were…

WALI ALI: I just came back from one of those … some things never change.

SELIMA: They were just awful; it was like a war of the wills or something where it just seemed like Steve, I guess his name was then, was out to discredit Murshid for no apparent reason—I don’t know if he had even met him before that—I had never met the man before. But every meeting Murshid would be about half way into his talk about something and Steve would be just contradicting and arguing and it was horrible.

WALI ALI: And then they just got into it and argued?

SELIMA: Oh yeah, they just argued all the time, it just got really heavy—

WALI ALI: Do you remember anything specific?

SELIMA: They argued about everything, there wasn’t anything specific, he didn’t recognize Murshid, I don’t think, as a teacher, first of all, and they had just had a retreat or something with Ram Dass or somebody just before that that he had kind of gotten swept off his feet by, or something, I’m not sure—the Zen people or somebody, I don’t know who exactly was up there before we got there, but he argued about every little thing.

WALI ALI: Now did the other people take these sessions between Murshid and Steve?

SELIMA: It was sort of split—all of the people that had come with Murshid were just shocked that anybody would talk to him that way, and Mansur was out there trying to get into the battle with him, and the Lama people were sort of split, they were the people that really wanted to hear Murshid, and they would say, “Knock it off, I came here to hear this man, or this man came here to talk to us and you are being really disruptive,” and I remember the other people that were on his side, wanted to see what was going to happen—

WALI ALI: So he would have one or two classes a day? Where they very well attended?

SELIMA: He didn’t have any during the day, it was usually the one in the evening and most of the time during the adobe building we were both down there and up to our ears in mud, like he would sit on a big pile of dirt on the edge the this big pit and play this little drum,singing Gilbert and Sullivan songs to us while we were playing or working, but most of the time he was in the little house with Mansur typing—

WALI ALI: So he had Mansur exempted from work in a certain sense—

SELIMA: Yeah, right, and they had a really nice little teacher’s hut, it was way in the back and it had water running behind it. I have some photograph in fact from that trip of—there is one in there that is real strange of Murshid. You can see Murshid in the hut and he is sleeping—it is just a little house in the woods, it is real quaint with Murshid in there sleeping.

WALI ALI: How did the kids respond?

SELIMA: The kids? The kids did well actually, considering the type of system that Lama had set up. They had what you call a nursery or something like that—it was in one of the little rooms off of the main building, and all of the kids went there in the morning, and then part #1 of the chores was that women would take turns babysitting to free the other women for working. This was the thing that was really too bad, because it was too bad that Murshid didn’t get to do what he had planned to do about women and children because the attitude of the women at Lama was that they would rather be out hoeing and making mud piles and stuff in the in the adobe pits than staying with the children. This was the bottom of the list of things to do, and I think probably that this was something that he saw the first time, and that’s why he wanted to do that, I’m not sure. But it was definitely that I felt it was something that they needed, because the kids were definitely at the bottom of the priority list at Lama at that time.

WALI ALI: What else did he do there that trip; did he give Darshan?

SELIMA: He did give Darshan, and on Sundays, which were the days that were open to the public, in the main dome we would have dances, even some of the families from the pueblo would come up and join in the dances and stuff. And he had dance classes, I think on Saturday, where anybody who wanted to come could come to the dance classes. Surya was there at that time playing drums and stuff, and they would be dancing around and chanting. And I think on the whole that the people at Lama really just had a hard time with Murshid. That aspect of it, the dancing and everything was, they just get really high, you could just see it, you could just feel it—it was a strange experience anyway at 9,000 feet, spinning around up there—

WALI ALI: They were in a pretty sober space at that time—

SELIMA: They were very rigid, and they were very closed—even the people that were there like us—not counting Murshid—but I Allaudin and Zamyat and Saul and everything—on one level they were really warm, but on another level it was really closed, and there wasn’t any way to get through—you can get through all this other stuff, and then you would reach a point where you couldn’t get through anymore—it was really their thing, and even though you made friends and you really loved some of the people there, there was a part in there where it was just a real exclusive type thing from all the outsiders. And I guess that is something that maybe was a protection or something because they were having all those changes at that time—

WALI ALI: They had a lot of rules at that point—no drugs—

SABIRA: No coffee was another one—

SELIMA: All of which were broken, by everybody, well not everybody, but—

WALI ALI: By Lama or by everybody that Murshid brought?

SELIMA: Most of us, I know by the people that Murshid brought, but some of the people at Lama too, and that’s why I was not of surprised because Kevin still after that would go back, because he and Kalin just really clicked, and it just got looser and looser after that. He hasn’t been there now for a couple of years, I don’t know what’s happening.

WALI ALI: Kalin, killed a….

SELIMA: He did? That was a big initiation.

WALI ALI: It must be manhood initiation or something.

WALI ALI: What do you remember about when Amertat and Ralph and them showed up—the film crew, what happened?

SELIMA: It started off being real tense, like we heard they were coming and they turned up and it was really tense, and Murshid was in his cabin and Mansur walked down to talk to them because Murshid said, “No way, you are not going to do it,” I’m not sure exactly what all was involved in it; it had something to do with the Zen Center trip and one of the founders of Lama was also a Zen Center person, and it was real sticky, and Murshid just said, “No way, I’m not having any part of that, that whole Zen Center trip whatever  it is and if they are going to do that, then I’m going to—they are not going to do me, I’m just not going to have any part of it,” and Mansur went to talk to them, and Mansur and Amertat got in a fight—

WALI ALI: Mansur had worked for them—

SELIMA: He had, yeah, he had done editing and he had done all kinds of things, I don’t know—

WALI ALI: He wasn’t at that time, I don’t think—

SELIMA: No, he was later, but—I don’t really know what happened, we just sort of stayed out of the way, we didn’t get involved in it at all, nobody did. Everybody just sort of stayed in their huts that day—

WALI ALI: Did Lama have a rule at that time a person would have to spend three days without talking or something like that? I seem to recall that.

SELIMA: They had a silence day, one day—every Tuesday, I believe, was silence day where you couldn’t talk, and it was real strange because everybody walked around with papers and pencils and wrote millions and millions of notes to each other.

WALI ALI: What did Murshid do?

SELIMA: He talked; he didn’t talk—he was just Murshid! It didn’t last the whole month that we were there—the silence. It got to a point that those who wanted to be in silence were in silence, and those who didn’t want to be in silence didn’t have to be, and they did something to let you know that they were in silence—they wore tasbihs or they did something.

WALI ALI: Did he work, do you recall, on the Lama project?

SELIMA: He worked in the garden—I wasn’t with him in the garden, I was working with the bees at that time, and all the other projects were when I wasn’t in the garden.

WALI ALI: So that lasted for a month—that was in the middle of the summer—I guess the first part of that Pir Vilayat’s camp was going on in Arizona at the same time, and that was where the film crew had been. Because I came up in the middle of that film crew controversy. I was in Arizona at that camp, and Murshid didn’t want a lot of people to come to Lama with him. He really wanted the number of people to be restricted and I think you reminded me of this thing about the women and children that he was going to take up—

SELIMA: That was the thing, at the beginning the people who went to Lama with him were specific—Basira was there, and Zamyat and Allaudin—Allaudin for music and Zamyat to take care of all those kids, and me and all my kids, and Mansur, and Nathan and Leslie—it was all mothers and children—

WALI ALI: But he never took up anything on that subject?

SELIMA: Not that I know of—it just wasn’t set up that way, and it’s really too bad, I think, but—

WALI ALI: So it goes—did Mansur’s car get fixed and did you drive back in his car?

SELIMA: Mansur’s car got fixed, and I can’t remember what happened—I think that he must have gone back to Albuquerque to get it, and then Murshid went into Santa Fe a couple of times to see Diane Kearney—and we stopped there on the way down, and want to this shop and their home, I think we stayed there maybe overnight—

WALI ALI: She’s still around Santa Fe, but she wasn’t there when I was there.

SELIMA: Does she still have her shop?

WALI ALI: She’s still making clothes—

SELIMA: We had dinner there and—

WALI ALI: Josh Sager—was he in Albuquerque? Did you go to Albuquerque with Murshid?

SELIMA: Just on the way in—I don’t think we went there on the way back—

WALI ALI: But he did go around to a few places to lead dances in some of the different communes?

SELIMA: Yeah, we stopped at a couple of places—we stopped at the University of Albuquerque and we had dances there.

WALI ALI: I think that that is where Khadija met up with Murshid.

SELIMA: Right. I don’t remember going back at all. All I remember is Stuckeys! We stopped at every Stuckeys on the way back.

WALI ALI: What was he like to travel with?

SELIMA: He traveled just like I assume he was to live with. He would be either sort of grumpy and that kind of thing, or he would be really happy and singing, but once he had something going—like time table in his mind, then that was it, you were going to get there on time, or earlier if possible.

SABIRA: Did you have any mealtime adventures on this trip?

SELIMA: Oh he was horrible in the restaurants with the kids.

SABIRA: What was that like?

 SELIMA: Shirin was about 18 months old, almost two, not quite two, and Nathan must have been about 3 or 4, really young, and we would go into these restaurants—we had been in the car like for hours and hours and hours, and barely being able to go to the bathroom or something—with this timetable and we would go into a restaurant to order and the kids would want to run around and everything and Murshid made them—he would insist that they sit there, and he would insist that I make them sit there, and I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t do it, I wanted to run around too—but they’d be climbing over the back and everything and he would say, "Those children can’t run around!" And I would say, “Oh Murshid, they have to run around, they’ve just been cooped up in the car all day long,” and he would go, “Look now, they are spilling the salt, they are spilling the water, and they are just disturbing everybody,” and “No, they can’t help it,” and many times he would walk out, and I’d say, “Forget it, I’ll take the kids,” and we’d go outside to run around or something, and he and Mansur would eat.

WALI ALI: He and Mansur had a lot of things in common.

SELIMA: A lot of things in common—

WALI ALI: Then you lived next to the Khankah in Novato, didn’t you?

SELIMA: I moved there just before we went to Lama, and then I lived there for awhile when we came back and then Jemila and I switched around, switched houses, and then Murshid used to take the kids all the time for ice-cream and for walks downtown. He would look like the Pied-Piper because he would have Kevin and Nathan and whoever else happened to be around at the time. That was his thing about the Khankah and the Alhamdulillah house. It was going to be sort of like a nursery type of thing—actually maybe I’m fulfilling destiny now that I think about it—

WALI ALI: Starting your own nursery?

SELIMA: Yeah, starting my own nursery—Murshid’s nursery, but we had all the toys over there in the yard and it was fenced in and everything and all the kids could come over there and play to their heart’s content—

WALI ALI: Do you remember any particular incidents with the kids?

SELIMA: No, but he used to take them on a lot of outings, he would take them downtown and buy them rock candy, buy them ice cream and stuff, look in all the shops. The kids would actually—probably—be worth talking to about it—Kevin and Nathan.

WALI ALI: It would be interesting to do.

SELIMA: Yeah, because you see—I know this summer when Nathan was up at the ranch with us for a month or so, and a couple of times we would sit around, and he and Kevin would go, “Remember when Murshid used to take us, remember how funny,” and there would be peals of laughter and stuff. I couldn’t get them to give any specifics, anymore than I can give you.

WALI ALI: I remember a Fatima story when Murshid came in and said, “I’ve spoiled Asa, I’ve spoiled Asa, he is screaming his head off, I’ve spoiled Asa,”—he kept saying it—and his nose is all bloody and running—apparently he was carrying him when he ran into something.

SELIMA: Oh dear!

WALI ALI: Did he ever try to dissuade you from divorcing Phillip?

SELIMA: No, it’s real strange; when we separated, about a month later or so, he came over to me and he said, “You have to get a divorce,” and I said, “Oh, okay, I’ll get a divorce,” and he goes, “We can’t have this kind of thing, like it doesn’t look good—I guess Mansur was living with me at the time—and he said, "We can't have this sort of thing," you are a married woman and you are living with another man," and he said, "it's bad enough," and he went on about Pir Vilayat and Jemila. I said, "Okay, that's fine," I'm not going to argue, it's fine, that's what I want to do anyway," and then later I thought about it and I thought, that's weird, I wonder why he told me that, he never told Mansur that as far as I knew that he had to get a divorce, but he was living with me. But that was a long time after that—I had just never thought about it. He never tried—in fact it is real strange because we went to him one time—Vasistha and I—with our charts and we said, "We'd like you to read our charts," and we had all the kids and everything, and he goes, "Okay," he goes, "Let's start with the Venuses," and he looks at them and he says, "Let's find something else." What does that mean? That was—that was like a matter of months before we separated, and I always think back and I wonder, "What did he see there?" But he just wouldn't say anything about it at all, he just said, "Let's find something else." I thought that was real strange, and he just completely overwhelmed with Shirin and everything, she was just—

WALI ALI: Because she was one of his favorites—

SELIMA: One of his favorites, yeah. She was going to run the show—she is running the show.

WALI ALI: How old is she now?

SELIMA: Eight.

WALI ALI: I wonder if she remembers anything?

SELIMA: I don't know.

WALI ALI: Did he ever read your kid's charts for you?

SELIMA: Yeah he did, he looked at mine and Kevin's once, because Kevin and I were having difficulties. It turned out that Kevin and I are like the same person; our charts just about line up, the same sun, the same rising sign, we have opposite moons, I am a Virgo and he is a Pisces, and he says, "You two will understand each other, you will know exactly where the other one is at all the time, it won't do you any good but you'll know—you are each other." And Shirin, I don't remember Shirin, I think Vasistha might remember more, I don't remember what he said about Shirin's chart.

WALI ALI: He felt that any difficulties you were having with him or just with your own situation, he wouldn't give them any weight—did he avoid having interviews with you or did you—?

SELIMA: He didn't avoid it, but I rarely asked him, if I did ask him it was just, "Will you?"

WALI ALI: Very brusque and quick.


WALI ALI: He tried not to get impressed by doubts or anything that you were having, he just  maintained his positivity.

SELIMA: Yeah in fact one time at Lama—the second week there I wasn't acclimating properly or something and everyone came down with conjunctivitis, and everybody was sick—and so the second week there I was just completely flat on my back, incapacitated, I was blind and couldn't see, I was sick, and I got in a big fight with Steve—I didn't do the things I had signed up for because I had been sick, and I was just really having a hard time—the end of the second week I had just had it, I was mad at Murshid because Shirin had been sick and he wouldn't stop, and it wasn't his fault, it was Mansur's fault, and I was mad at Mansur because when we got to Lama Nathan had stepped on a nail and then he insisted on rushing him to a doctor, and I'm going, "Wait a minute, it's not fair"—anyway it had just been horrible two weeks and …

[side two of the tape]

… Selima is freaking out—she needs something, she is just completely falling apart and Murshid apparently said—Saul told me later—“Selima is okay, don’t worry about her,” and he never said a word to me about it, and then later—a couple of days later when I was back together—I had gotten myself back together, Saul told me about it. But that’s sort of how I felt that he treated me all the time, it was that I could just work it out and I guess I did! When we moved up to the ranch which was all of last year, about a year and a half, I’ve never really felt so in tune with him. As in my back yard we had an acre—almost an acre fenced in and with our garden and orchards and doing things like mixing different things for different soils and I had never done it before and yet everything that I stuck in the ground came up, and I just really felt like I was doing something for him—doing his work or something—more than I had ever felt before, and it was just really beautiful. I felt—like I would think about him—I would be out digging fence postholes, and I would think, “Wow, what a fantastic concentration, total centering,” and I would just be out there, and next thing I would know, I’d have 15 holes dug in this rocky terrain—it was just like thinking of Murshid and being centered and concentrating on it and doing it—and it was just really beautiful.

WALI ALI: Has your conception of who he was or what his real being was or what his role was changed through the time?

SELIMA: If it has changed it has gotten stronger, yeah. I had a dream one time with Murshid, and I dreamed that we were all in this little room and it was Basira and me and all the ladies, and we were dancing around, and Murshid was in the center of us and we just started twirling, and were laughing, we were just laughing and laughing, and he was just spinning and spinning and all of a sudden he was just a big blur, and the blur just started reforming into Christ, and I told him this, “This is really beautiful, Murshid, you were just so happy and everything and you were Christ,” and he said, “Right, that’s right.” And that has gotten stronger.

WALI ALI: How do you put together that Christ side or that really deep spiritual realization and his role with his personality—how do you put that all together?

SELIMA: I think it is more on a whole different plane, I think probably it manifested to me as a Christ figure because of how I associate like that, but on the face of it I couldn’t put them together, I couldn’t. Sometimes I would just love the man, I would just want to hug him, and other times I would just be so angry at him, I would just think that he was completely out of his head, and I would look at him, “That’s crazy, what are you doing, that is completely insane?”

WALI ALI: Do you remember what sort of things would most elicit that sort of feeling—would you say his stubbornness or just his—

SELIMA: Yeah, like sometimes he would be sitting in the room or something and he would be talking in a meeting or something like that, and someone would say something that wasn’t particularly offensive or anything and the next thing he would just be off on a tirade about it—it has happened so many times that he knew what the next step was going to be, or something, and he didn’t wait for it or something, but at the time it just seemed like odd—he was just really out of it, he was just going off on a complete tirade about it. Or when he would go on about how people just didn’t recognize him for what he was, he would just go on and on and on and on, and on about it—that’s real strange, because in a way it is sort of opposite of what he has been saying—it doesn’t matter, it is what you show, it is what you are rather than what people see you as—so there was a lot of stuff that didn’t jive, and you never got in a rut with Murshid—he was always dancing one step ahead of you. I couldn’t ever let go—in a way when he died, it was better. I missed him, I really missed having him around and everything, but in a way it was better because he sort of merged with everybody—you could see it. He just sort of merged with everybody, and we weren’t just hanging on to him being here physically, and I for one just felt really, really close after that and guilty about the birthday party. Fatima and I—I guess a couple of days before he fell down the stairs was my birthday party, remember he used to have birthday parties for me and Yasmin and Moineddin, and we’d go out to dinner and we’d do something, and we had a birthday party—Fatima and I were just talking about this last week—she had wanted it to be just with the dance class—the Saturday night dance class, she wanted it to be just the people that came to the dance class, and he wanted the whole shebang of kids and everything, cake and ice cream and the whole thing, and he got it, and that’s how he had it, except that I showed up without my kids. And I walked in and the first thing that he said to me was like, “Where are your children?” And I said, “Oh, I left them at home,” and he just blew up and said, “Why?” “It’s my birthday party, Murshid.” “Because I wanted those kids here and I bought ice cream and.. . .” He went on about this whole thing, this tirade, and I just felt horrible about it because it was selfish of me on my own birthday not to bring my children, and I felt really bad, and then two days later he fell down the stairs and they never saw him again.

SABIRA: Do you think he had a premonition when he said that?

SELIMA: I really don’t know.

WALI ALI: He wouldn’t have had to, that was just the way he was.

SELIMA: That’s the way he was about the kids—when he didn’t want them there you’d better not bring them, but when he wanted them there you’d better not leave them at home.

WALI ALI: You didn’t have any connection with Rancho Olompali, did you?

SELIMA: We went up there a couple of times when Shirin was living up there. I think that Vasistha was involved in the big kiln heist, but other than that, not much, no.

WALI ALI: But when The Oracle—you were involved with The Oracle weren’t you?


WALI ALI: Vasistha was too.

SELIMA: He was much more involved in dealing with the interviews and the people and all that and I was just trying to keep the money straight. Krishnadas was involved in that too for a very brief period of time.

WALI ALI: With the Oracle? Let’s see, what else can we think of to tap into hidden memories?

SABIRA: What about your name? Did Murshid give you your name?

SELIMA: Murshid gave me my name at one of the meetings at Amin and Amina’s other place up on Morningside. It was Amina, Basira and I—we all got our names on the same night—I think it was a Christmas party, maybe he did it at a Christmas party or in January. I know that Shirin had just been born, she was a tiny, tiny baby. It was the first meeting, in fact, I think, that I went to after having her. So it must have been around Christmas and we all—the 3 of us got our names. Mine was supposed to help me to be peaceful.

WALI ALI: Do you remember being put into any embarrassing situations publicly by Murshid?

SELIMA: Maybe at the time I thought they might have been embarrassing, but thinking back on them now they don’t seem embarrassing. I remember dancing across the street in the park there, and we would be out there dancing on Saturday and all these bugs—just bugs—would come out there and stand around and drink their beer and watch us and four times out of six, before the class was over, they would be joining in and dancing around, so it was real amazing, I think. I can’t really remember being embarrassed, no. I tell you, I still go to restaurants and order something different then everybody else all the time, I think, And it is really funny, too, because I know I have talked to a lot of people and had gone out eating with Murshid and that is something that he has just really given to everybody. Nobody can go out and order two of the same thing. I can't really remember anything else.

SABIRA: Were you driving around to any other stores with him?

SELIMA: No. I didn't—

WALI ALI: Did you—did he ever yell at you, blast you?

SELIMA: He did once when we first started coming to the meetings; he took Amina and I to the back room and told us about that we should not wear short skirts anymore because they were not conducive to meditation, And that was the only time that I can remember that he ever said anything of correcting me. And after that everybody—he might have said it to everybody—everybody started wearing long skirts all the time, and that was it. I can't remember him ever scolding me in anything—except telling me that I knew what to do.

WALI ALI: Do you remember the changes that he went through with regard to Pir Vilayat and Jemila; you were sort of involved in that in the sense that you were with Mansur a little later, and then Mansur was pretty shaken by that whole thing. I probably know the story as well as anybody else, but I am just wondering what the relationship was —

SELIMA: He never really said anything to me about it—the only time that I think he ever mentioned it to me was when he was talking to me about getting my own divorce, and about how there were people who would just look for things to discredit the Sufi Order. And he was really appalled with Pir Vilayat and Jemila at that point, and he had specifically told Jemila that she had to come back and the whole thing, and she disobeyed him . He never really went on about the morals or anything really—he did and he didn't—but nothing on that level except that this bothered him.

WALI ALI: I recall that shortly after that Pir Vilayat came and actually talked to him about it and softened him up considerably—he was glad that he had come to him in that way, like a father or something, so he was always willing to overlook things if he got some recognition or something, or if something was flowing in that way. Jemila was living in the Khankah, and then she moved out.

SABIRA: She was living in the Khankah and then she went to a camp—and then from the camp, she decided that she was staying with Pir Vilayat, and when she moved back to California ahe moved to Octavia St. in San Rafael where she lived—Vasistha when he left was living there—and then sometime in October, the end of Sept. the beginning of Oct, we switched, and she moved to the Alhamdulillah ranch so that Nathan could be with Mansur, and I moved to Octavia St. By then everyone else had left, and—

WALI ALI: Right. I don't know, I can't really find any questions. Do you feel that you have lots of memories that we haven't tapped?

SELIMA: No, not really; I really didn't spend that much time with Murshid. I was either at home with the kids or I was working, and I just didn't spend that much time doing things with him. I was either usually at meetings or at parties or something where there were a lot of people—Murshid and I just didn't have that much of a one-to-one type of a relationship, like he did more with Vasistha. I keep thinking that surely there has got to be something from all the classes and all the walks and everything, but I just—