Over the last four months, we have focused almost entirely on programs—many programs! In this time, we hosted four live gatherings, plus two online courses, both with an in-person component. All of us involved in making these programs happen have now had a chance to rest and are beginning to get ready for our fall schedule. But, before we turn the corner and look at a new season, here are a few highlights from spring and summer, so far.
Inayati Leadership Visioning Gatherings
This winter and spring, we brought together Inayati leaders from across the globe in two separate Leadership Visioning Gatherings, one in Europe in late January, and another in New Lebanon, New York, in April. About 85 Inayati leaders attended both gatherings, which were designed to get us talking about Hazrat Inayat Khan’s legacy, the Inayati Order as it stands today, and about how we would like to see the future of our organization unfold.
Deepa Gulrukh Patel, the Inayati Order’s International Coordinator, based out of the United Kingdom, led this effort, and will be facilitating next steps—a series of “task groups” looking at four areas: culture, leadership, organizational structure, and our relationship with the wider world. Task groups will be made up of 2-3 attendee-leaders from each of the European and North American leadership gatherings, and will invite involvement from the larger mureedship over the next 6-12 months.
Wisdom of the Prophets: Sufism & Buddhism
The second session in our Wisdom of the Prophets series ran from May 5-8 at the Abode of the Message. Lama Jigme Chotso and Dr. Joe Loizzo joined Pir Zia this time to discuss Buddhism’s relationship with Sufism. 53 people attended online, and 30 people in-person. We are hoping for greater in-person participation for Wisdom of the Prophets: Sufism & Zoroastrianism in November (see below), as well as growing online participation.
All previous Wisdom of the Prophets session video and materials will be available for purchase by Inayati Order initiates later this fall, and are already available to past participants.
Entering the Consciousness of Pir Vilayat: A 100th Birthday Celebration
Our “Pir Vilayat 100th Birthday Weekend,” June 16-19, was one of our most celebratory and joyous programs ever. 85 people participated in the full weekend, with over 120 people attending evening programs and the Universal Worship on Sunday.
Aziza Scott served as Master of Ceremonies, with Pir Zia giving two talks and leading the group up to Pir Vilayat’s Pod on the day of Pir Vilayat’s 11th Urs on June 17. Other teachers and events included: Taj Inayat guiding early morning teachings each day; Tasnim Fernandez, Zarifah Kadian, Saphira Linden, and Mikhail Horowitz sharing stories in the Abode’s Library; Sharif Munawwir Graham telling his own stories about Pir Vilayat in several sessions; conductor Sara Tarana Jobin organizing music throughout, and pieces of Bach’s B Minor Mass, featuring acclaimed musicians and vocalists from New York City; a special Ramadan Feast at 8:50 pm Saturday night; a birds of prey demonstration, including Pir Vilayat’s favorite falcons and hawks; and Universal Worship (called a Cosmic Celebration) on Sunday morning.
The “Falcon Demonstration” was livestreamed on Facebook with over 600 views so far. We also livestreamed the opening evening, Pir Zia’s Saturday morning talk, the Bach concert, and Universal Worship, with over 250 people viewing each.
Pir Vilayat 100th birthday photos, an article about the gathering by journalist Humera Afridi, and the Falcon video can be found at the following link:
Season of the Rose: Essentials of the Sufi Path
Season of the Rose, July 6-11 at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, was unlike any event we have held before (more of a community gathering and summer school than a retreat or seminar). The space was “civilized,” as one of the participants put it, on a gorgeous campus, with beautifully designed buildings and gardens, including upgraded amenities, such as athletic facilities and expansive organic and ethical dining.
We shared the campus with a number of other groups, including over 60 Japanese high school students wanting to make friends with us, to practice English, and sing Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift songs.
Our Inayati community of 145 people created dedicated spaces in the Agnes Flanagan Chapel and Templeton Student Building to gather and study Breath, Love, Beauty, Light, Death, Guidance, Meditation and Remembrance, among other things.
Evaluations have been very positive, with everyone praising our teachers, the location, and especially Sukhawat Ali Khan, who played qawwali music throughout the gathering. There are questions about how to have a program that allows for silence, and a contemplative container, and how location affects these elements. All points will be taken into consideration as we prepare for next year’s Season of the Rose, scheduled for June 28-July 3, 2017, at the Abode of the Message. We will return to the West Coast again in 2018.
Season of the Rose photos and audio can be found at the following link:
Aziza Scott & Suhrawardi Gebel’s Online Courses
Aziza and Suhrawardi both taught courses this spring, live and online from the Abode’s Meditation Hall. 2,000+ people participated in their courses worldwide, with 60-150 attending each in real-time online, and another 20-30 in-person at the Abode. Initially, each course was offered for free, to allow the greatest accessibility, then moved to Vimeo for rent or purchase. If you would like to own and/or re-watch these courses, they can be found at http://inayatiorder.org/multimedia/.
Suluk’s Jabalqa Class of 28 students met twice, once in April with Pir Zia as lead faculty, and a second time in June, with Gayan Macher. Both sessions were on the theme, Contemplation. Jabalqa has completed its first year, and will enter its second year in September, with graduation set for June 2017.
We anticipate launching a new two-year Suluk class fall 2018, after taking a year off for our office relocation.
Pir Zia Travels
Also, during this time, Pir Zia has traveled leading programs at Naropa University in Boulder Colorado (April 15-17) and Zenith Institure in the Swiss Alps (July 25 – August 6), as well as attended part of the Federation of the Sufi Message Gathering in Berlin, Germany (May 18-22). We will share more about Pir Zia’s annual travel in a report issued this fall.
We continue to upgrade our communications and technological infrastructure under the leadership of Satya Inayat Khan, the Inayati Order’s Director of Communications.
Over the past months, we have continued to Enhance Program Promotion through online marketing, e-newsletters, social media, and word of mouth. The difference can be seen in strong attendance numbers for the Pir Vilayat 100th Birthday Weekend and the Season of the Rose. As we continue to upgrade and refine promotion, we will begin to look more closely at pricing as a factor, and also at ways to better reach new audiences.
In July, we created several Promotional Pieces, including: a new Inayati Order postcard, sharing basic information about the Order; an Info-Collection Postcard to collect contact information from those who attend events; and an Inayati Order Water Bottle, featuring our new heart and wings logo. (The water bottle was first given as a gift to Season of the Rose faculty and staff, and will be made available for sale through our website later this year.)
Satya has also created an Online Learning Environment (Inayati Order Premium Membership), integrated with our website, for students of Inayati Order online courses. Students are issued a log-in and are able to see all current and archived video from courses they have purchased, as well as related notes and materials. Current courses available include: Season of the Rose 2016 audio; Aziza Scott’s three-part series on Esotericism; Suhrawardi Gebel’s five-part series on The Message; and Pir Zia’s eight-part course on Unfolding the Message. Wisdom of the Prophets, parts I & II will be soon be available as well.
Facebook is currently our most active form of social media. In July, the Inayati Order’s Public Group Facebook page experienced increasing conflict between its members. We intervened and changed the page to allow moderator-approved posts only, and to more clearly state that the page is only for posts directly related to Inayat Khan’s teaching and Inayati Order offerings.
Several years ago, a Digital Media Archive was set-up to archive audio, video and images, using a specialized Amazon S3 Cloud Service. This service has been primarily used to archive Suluk audio and notes. We are in the process of expanding the online archive to include digital media from past programs. Currently, there are two issues that we are trying to resolve:
1. A faster way to upload digital media with limited broadband.
2. An easier way to upload digital media via an uploader plug-in.
Then, of course, there is regular Communications Maintenance, including updates to the website, e-newsletters, database work, online program registration set-up, and social media outreach.
As announced last September, the Inayati Order Secretariat in North America plans to move from the Abode of the Message, its home of the last 13 years, to a more populated and diverse location. While the Abode will remain the Order’s primary residential community and retreat center in North America, the new headquarters will become our hub for organizing webcasts, programs, print and digital media; supporting students, teachers, guides and center leaders; as well as managing Pir Zia’s teaching and writing schedule.
After months of researching and visiting possible locations for the new office—including Austin, TX, Boston, MA, Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Baltimore, MD, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, NC, and Atlanta, GA—we are currently setting our sights on Richmond, Virginia.
Pir Zia and his family visited Richmond in April, somewhat by accident on their way back from a tour of the South. They loved it, finding it to be a dynamic, diverse, culturally rich, receptive, and affordable city. Jennifer Alia Wittman, the executive director of the Order, also visited in June, finding a surprisingly open environment for our kind of work. Later this week, once Pir Zia returns from Europe, we will head back down to Richmond to look at real estate, meet with local friends, and generally get a better sense of the place before making a final decision. We hope to announce our location pick by early September, with a plan to move Spring 2017.
Abode of the Message
As the Inayati Order Secretariat prepares to relocate, the Abode is well on its way to reestablishing itself as an independent community and retreat center dedicated to the Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan. Good things are in the works at the Abode, with a new board in place, a new Executive Director just hired (after 21 months as Executive Director of both the Abode and Inayati Order, Jennifer Alia Wittman will now focus solely on the Inayati Order), and summer appeal actively inviting investment in the Abode’s future.
For details on all of the above, including recent financial data, please visit www.theabode.org/news/. (Also, if you love the Abode, and would like to receive the weekly Abode e-newsletter, please consider signing up at www.theabode.org.)
The Inayati Order Budget for 2016 was approved by the Board and is attached. In addition, we have also included a comparison to the 2015 Budget vs Actual Performance of the organization. We will be issuing a detailed financial summary in our new Annual Report, to be issued Fall 2016.
Board of Trustees News
For the last two years, the Inayati Order Board has been tirelessly devoted to: making sure that the Abode has the infrastructure it needs to survive, and eventually, thrive; incorporating our new name, The Inayati Order; and laying the groundwork necessary for large-scale realignment of our work, including the Secretariat move and unification of all Inayati Activities into a clear public presence, relevant and accessible for today’s seekers.
The period from September 2014–August 2016 could be thought of as Phase I. Now we are entering Phase II. During this next phase, we will: relocate the North American Secretariat; begin a conversation with the Five Activities (Esoteric School, Universal Worship, Healing Order, Ziraat & Kinship) about how to integrate our work to create a unified organizational structure; reach-out to Inayati Center leaders to create a responsive network of support; and develop a model for expanded leadership development within the Order, among other things.
In October we will meet for an Inayati Order Board Retreat in New Lebanon, New York, and begin to focus on a Strategic Planning process integrated with the post-Leadership Visioning Gathering “task group” work mentioned above. Over the next year, stay tuned for ways that we plan to involve our larger community in this process.
Consider joining us for four upcoming programs this fall. Over Labor Day weekend in the United States, Pir Zia and friends, including Aziza Scott, Khabira Brown, and Yaqin Aubert (with Sarah Leila Manolson, Salima McCall, and Rehan Morey offering evening zikr programs), will guide a three-day Silent Retreat at the Abode (in-person only), September 2-5, 2016.
A few days later, Pir Zia will launch a multi-year online course studying the Sufi Message Volumes, beginning with the newly published volume I, The Inner Life. Join us for four Thursday night teachings, September 8-29, 7–8:30 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Video will be available in real-time, and free throughout the month of October. Please purchase a copy of the new Sufi Message Volume, The Inner Life, updated, authenticated, gender inclusive, and with added supplemental material, so you can study along with us. www.sulukpress.org.
Then, November 10-13, join us in-person or online for Wisdom of the Prophets III: Sufism & Zoroastrianism, with Pir Zia and Dr. Jehan Bagli, an ordained Zarathushti priest through Navar and Martab ceremonies.
Closing out our year, December 2-4, the Inayati Order of the Greater Boston Area will host Pir Zia in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a two-day meditation seminar, Know Thyself, an Exploration of the Within.
Please find details and registration information for all programs on our website www. inayatiorder.org/calendar/
To keep you up-to-date on our activities, we will continue to share quarterly reports like this one. Look for a new update this fall. In the meantime, previous reports can be found on our website on the footer under “Organizational Blog” (http://www.inayatiorder.org/organization/). Also, always feel free to reach-out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you thoroughly enjoy the rest of your summer!