A dense September fog had arrived during the night, so as Murshida Shakespeare peered through her kitchen window that morning she could barely make out the figure of someone slumped over the outdoor table on her patio. But there was something familiar about this person, wrapped in an army blanket and evidently asleep. Stepping out cautiously, she realized it was Matteo; he must have been there all night.
She roused him, “Good morning, Matteo. How about some tea? Why don’t you come inside.” A half-awake face looked up at her and smiled; the sight of her always made Matteo happy. A few minutes later they were seated at her kitchen table with a steaming pot of tea and some buttered toast. Matteo yawned, shivered, pulled the blanket around him. “Hope you don’t mind,” he said, “I found this blanket in your shed. Didn’t realize it was getting so chilly until after I got here.”
“And when was that, Matteo?” Murshida inquired. “Oh I think it was about midnight. I knew it was late but I just had to talk to you. I saw all the lights were out so I figured I’d wait. Hope that’s OK.” Murshida nodded; in her world, and in his too, doing such a strange thing was not at all strange. “Well, here we are. What was so pressing?” she asked.
Matteo’s face darkened; he took a deep breath, letting it out in a prodigious sigh, “I’m abandoning the Sufi way, I’m giving it up, I’m out.” He looked up to see Murshida’s reaction and while her face was calm and serious there was a faint sparkle in her eyes. “Tell me more, my dear,” she encouraged. Sighing again, he went on, “I had a talk with PIr Petru yesterday when I drove him home after that environmental meeting and… It’s hard to put into words… I saw more clearly than I ever have: all this Sufi business is just a way I use to keep avoiding…” Matteo lowered his head, tears were forming in him.
Murshida, sat back, knowing that it would take him some time to find the words; to light the path opening up before him, in a way that would enable him to step onto it. They sat there silently, he with his head lowered, tears running down his cheek. She stayed with him, not just physically at the table, but spiritually, essentially. [Forgive me, dear reader, I lack the art to adequately describe this form of communion; other than to say that when the openness of me is joined to the openness of you, that fusion becomes the undifferentiated openness holding everything.]
Finally Matteo spoke: “When I found Sufism, I remember, something in me woke straight up. Recognition, understanding, a much deeper comprehension burst into my mind and I knew I had come home. Now I realize that I instantly transferred that flash of illumination onto what I most craved: Salvation.” "Salvation?” Murshida asked. Matteo nodded, “From myself. From my awfulness, my craziness, my willfulness, my fear, my disappointment, my inadequacies, my...my basic... The gift of the Sufis would fix me. That’s what I really wanted, that’s what I believed. I haven’t been seeking enlightenment, I’ve been chasing salvation. I’ve been trying to prove to god or whatever that I’m really a good person."
Murshida leaned forward placed her hand on Matteo’s and a current passed between them. This energetic transfer conveyed a blessing Matteo would only recognize in years to come. For the moment what he felt was that something had been shared and understood. He was ready to move on. There was nothing more to say, he didn’t want Murshida to console or advise him.
He got up. Folded the blanket and put it on the chair. “I don’t belong on the Sufi path, or any spiritual path, really." They hugged at the door. Matteo suddenly realized that his relationship to this elderly, beautiful Sufi master was now dissolving; or at least changing dramatically. “I hope we will still be friends,” Matteo choked back a new issue of tears. “I really love you.” he said not knowing how to give up the warmth of her embrace. “Always,” she said, a little teary herself. “Always.”
She watched as Matte walked down the path to her driveway. Under her breath she said, “Welcome to the Sufi way.”