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Heaven and Earth

The Southwest Sufi Community invites participants to help them "build green" and share the experience of spiritual community.


"This is our mission—to be a retreat center, a residential village and a nature preserve," says Azima Lila Forest. "Sustainability is written right into our mission statement."

Forest, program coordinator for the Southwest Sufi community's Voice of the Turtle Retreat Center near Silver City, is talking about "Building Green Together," a hands-on workshop and camp-style retreat to be held May 18-25. The event will take place out on the group's rural residential property, an intentional community on 1,500 rugged acres of Bear Creek land.

Event participants will learn about green building techniques, take a tour of a passive-solar adobe house currently under construction on the property, and get hands-on green-building experience by helping to build the straw-bale walls of a residential meditation hut. The Murshid Moineddin Maqbara Retreat Hut will be a two-room adobe structure, situated on a picturesque ridge.

"Maqbara means 'burial place,'" Forest explains, adding that the ashes of Moineddin Jablonski, the community's founder, are interred on the property. "The burial place of a saint has strong energy. It's why people like to do retreats there."

Jablonski chose the site for the hut before his death, she says. The view—overlooking a part of Bear Creek and the mountains beyond—is spectacular, she adds: "And the construction of the hut is an important part of Moineddin's vision: to enable people to do extended retreats on the land at a reasonable price."

The building will eventually consist of two rooms. The first, which the retreat participants will construct during the workshop, will have space for a sofa bed, personal storage, a writing desk and kitchen facilities. The straw-bale walls will be non-load-bearing, the roof borne instead by a system of poles.

Eventually, a second step-down room with round walls will be added, with a woodstove and space for a bed.

A walkway for "walking practice" will be constructed around the maqbara hut. Sufi walking practice is similar to Buddhist meditative walking practice, Forest says, but also different. "We walk the prophets, walk the elements and the planets," she explains. "As we walk, we keep them in mind and we also walk with their energies." "Walking the sun," for example, one would walk radiantly and powerfully. "Walking the moon," one would walk with a sense of openness, receptivity—and so forth with "walking Jesus" or "walking fire."

Participants in the green building workshop will have a chance to practice various aspects of the Sufi faith and tradition—meditations in the morning and dances of Universal Peace at night—but the event is open to all.

Forest currently is having a home built on the property, and workshop attendees will get a tour of the structure, observing its green-built features. "It's adobe and has passive solar," she says. The home also has water catchment and gray-water usage systems, uses passive-solar technology for hot water and electricity, and has a radiant heating system in its poured adobe floor.

Living and building sustainably harmonizes with the group's philosophy and makes sense on the rural property, making the most of natural resources like solar power and precious water, Forest says. And lessons learned at the retreat center can translate out into the world.

"People can learn these techniques and use them in their own homes," Forest says. "If they are interested in green building and want to learn some skills, if they want to learn about intentional community and share in that experience, well, that's what we are!"

—Donna Clayton Lawder


"Building Green Together," a hands-on workshop May 18-25, at the Southwest Sufi Community's Voice of the Turtle Retreat Center. $200 covers vegetarian meals. Workshop/retreat limited to 20 participants. Limited indoor accommodations and ample space for camping. Info: Azima Forest, 534-0431, www.southwestsuficommunity.org. Register via email: hayranur@southwestsuficommunity.org


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