I was the sole African-American woman in an eclectic group of healers — reformed Jews, Roman Catholics, Muslims, and Wanderers, all striving to follow the Sufi path of submission, surrender, and love. In lives that appeared to be vastly different in the outer world, our inner world was amazingly similar — all brothers and sisters of the same spiritual guide (sheikh), who, many years prior to this moment, landed on this sacred space and called it our home.
I often returned to our retreat center to deepen my healing practices for myself and my work. The night before my departure, I asked my journal, “What am I still not seeing about my work as a healer? Where do I still need to work on myself?” Without the physical guidance of my sheikh, I sought the guidance of one of his most beloved students, who was also one of my wisest teachers. I trusted Ibrahim with my life. I now had to trust him with my soul.
Every mystical practice has a term for the experience of seeking answers in a deep meditative state — vision, quest, trance, nidra. All terms navigate us to the place where we are able to experience sacred listening. Our Sufi community called it, “traveling”. On the third morning of our retreat, Ibrahim invited us to “travel” with him, from the material realm, to the higher spiritual realms. Our goal was to remove all of the pictures in our minds and hearts that kept us in separation from our Lord, Creation, and our true selves. Since I had traveled with this noble teacher in the past, I trusted him to take me not just to where I wanted to go, but to where Allah was leading me in this next chapter of my life.
The journey began the moment I closed my eyes…”Bow to Allah”, he urged. He was not asking me to physically bow. His request referred to a deeper, spiritual bowing. It was a request to honor my pain, and to release its grip on my mind, body, and spirit. He was asking me to take yet another step in my walking towards surrender.
I bowed deeper, allowing my body to soften, making room for the images to emerge. “Yes, beloved Saarah Sabrina, that’s it…you are carrying so much…I feel that there may be some tears or even a sound trapped in there. Let it out if it needs to be freed…”
He already knew where I was — surrounded by a myriad of pictures in my mind, heart, and embedded in my DNA. There, I was once again forced to witness the suffering of my people. The images rushed through the cinema of my imagination at x10 speed — -wooden slave ships, brown bodies flying into the seas…rapes…lynchings…blood…a pause to hear the primal screams of my paternal cousin, who was raped and murdered by her pastor, my maternal grandmother, who was held at gunpoint by a white police officer for the crime of being related to a heroin addict..all of the heroin addicts, the world’s empaths, my grandfather, missing for decades, an unclaimed body in a borough of ashes. Yes, Ibrahim, an unfamiliar sound was rising. It permeated my bones, my bowels, hammered at my uterus…
While traveling with me, Ibrahim also began to walk with another brother in the room, a white man who was struggling to overcome his prostate cancer. While my brother began to shed tears over his losses, I felt the pictures slow down, transforming into a collage of stories of many people. I began to see the suffering of white men, with overbearing fathers, and overburdened minds. I saw their losses. I peered into their eyes and witnessed their physical discomfort in their own skin. And I saw each of them as completely alone. I had thousands to share my stories with. They had no one.
I was in the barzakh, the invisible barrier between two spiritual realms. I had been there many times before. “Ya Allah,” I pleaded, “Please show me more.”
“Go deeper, Saarah”. Ibrahim’s melodic voice kept me safe and grounded while flying.
A voice welcomed me into the higher realm: “This was not my system. I did not create it. Would you like to teach mine?
“Then love the men who your mother told you were unlovable.”
“So whose hearts am I to serve?’
“The ones who made it up”.
My traveling hit turbulence. I landed at the intersection of jamal and jelal, the beauty and the extreme severity of being, and was being forced to see both. While the weeping continued, I was also keenly aware of the presence of a powerful light. It bathed my eyes, cupped my legs beneath me, and gently raised me. The weeping of my soul shifted from that of my people, to including that of my brothers who had lost their souls, vacating their spiritual homes in the pursuit of material mansions. They had no community, and were veiled from that reality as the true source of their rage.
“I accept the job. Please show me how”.
“Now, you are headed to the secret”.
There were no pictures in this oasis. I was simply an entity of sensations — tingling in my legs, warmth in my hands, and an intoxicating buzz…the same sensation of snuggling in bed with my beloved, with just enough cold air from the outside to keep us tucked in bed for just a few more moments. I wanted to live there…right there..
Ibrahim told me that the Sufi station of the Secret was Divine Slavery — a complete bowing to God’s will for our lives. That desire to be a true slave, propelled me to follow our sheikh’s teachings into places and spaces that had the potential for pain. Yet, I also knew that in the core of witnessing that pain, I would also find my purpose and myself. In witnessing the pain, I would also land at a place of pure ecstasy.
I already knew that I had been prepared for my “promotion” for a while — the words were simply the outer expression of my inner reality for the past few years. It had begun the day I first heard an older white man speak of angels. It continued when a white physician sat in one of my healing groups and apologized for the racism and misogyny in his lineage and in him.
My capacity for this level of forgiveness continued to expand with every lecture, every relationship, and every couple who sought my guidance. After teaching about the trauma of racism and oppression for years, I was finally being called to serve the people who seemed to have benefited the most from this vicious thief.
When I returned to my Baltimore-based private practice, it seemed that the entire world had been eavesdropping on my conversation with my Lord. I began to receive phone messages and e-mails from random white men, asking for healing sessions. Those messages not only validated my journey, they also filled my heart with hope. At the same time, I received hate mail from other healthcare professionals, who expressed discomfort around my desire to guide others from separation to deep connection.
Despite my ecstatic experience in the Pope Valley mountainside, I am terrified of stepping into this uncharted territory of healing work. I have thousands of picture and voices in my mind that remind me of the dangers of being alone with white men. They are not figments of my imagination-they are the collective realities of my people. At the same time, I stand poised, excited, and completely prepared for what is headed my way. I look forward to witnessing the return of white men’s hearts and souls. And I look forward to being used by the Creator in a way that allows that return to happen.
Divine Slavery is frightening. Yet it is the path that will set me, and humanity, free.
Dr. Sabrina N’Diaye is a wife, mom, seeker, teacher, and bridge. She is currently completing her first memoir/self-help book, The Laugh of Love. Chat with her on her Facebook community, live forgiveness daily.
Originally published at medium.com