Patricia Agheli and Lynn Wilcox

Recorded January 6, 2021 Archived January 6, 2021 34:31 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020301


Friends Patricia Agheli (60) and Dr. Lynn Wilcox (85) discuss the religious journeys that led them to Islamic Sufism and the way their lives have shifted for the better.

Subject Log / Time Code

P.A. and L.W. share some information about themselves.
P.A. gives an introduction to MTO School of Islamic Sufism.
P.A. asks L.A. about her family and religious background.
“I went out searching for a spiritual home for me,” L.W. shares her story of arriving at Islamic Sufism.
P.A. shares about her own religious journey.
“How did you discover MTO?” P.A. asks L.W.
“I was in my teen years and I began to questions my religion... I felt like I needed something deeper, something higher, something better…” P.A. describes her journey towards finding MTO.
“What attracted you to MTO once you found it?” P.A. asks L.W.
“I was extremely skeptical about how Muslims treated women, because I was involved in the women’s movement…” L.W. talks about the skepticism and the way she educated herself about the difference between cultural practices and religious ones.
“I didn’t understand the meaning of the words, but I felt it in my heart. I felt it,” L.W. explains the way she felt about the prayers that were all in Farsi.
“Rituals all have a background behind them… MTO gave a practical application to what had only been words before to me,” P.A. says.
“They just make good sense,” L.W. speaks on the importance of MTO teachings being logical.
“While the teachings involve your heart more than your head, the teachings made sense,” P.A. agrees.
L.W. shares a statement that has always stood out to her. “It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we deal with it, how we respond, that creates the rest of our lives in many ways,” she says.
“When the storm comes and you feel like you’re being blown out of the earth, you need a pole to hold onto,” P.A. says of her faith.
P.A. shares one of her favorite teachings with L.W.
“When did you start teachings and how was that experience for you?” P.A. asks L.W. about her experience teaching meditation.
“The teaching Is where I have learned the most,” L.W. shares.
“Saying prayers 5 times a day calms you, centers you, and it’s very helpful. Never underestimate the power of prayer,” L.W. says of the way prayer has helped her during the pandemic.
“My life could have been an empty shell, like a lot of people, but instead, thanks to Sufism, it has been so fruitful,” L.W. says
“It’s neither my good deeds or mistakes that define me,” P.A. says of herself. “What’s most important to me as I’m playing all these roles, is my dedication to myself.”
“This process has been learning to control my brain, instead of my brain controlling me, and to let my heart be the source in this life,” L.W. says.


  • Patricia Agheli
  • Lynn Wilcox

Recording Location

Virtual Recording


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00:02 Go ahead.

00:04 My name is Patricia. Egeli. I'm 60 years old. Today is January 6th, 2021. I live in Folsom California today. I'll be talking to my good friend and Lynn Wilcox Dr. Lynn Wilcox and we are friends and also students together in MTO shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism.

00:29 Hi, my name is Lynn Wilcox. I'm 85 years old.

00:36 Man, today is Wednesday, January 6th, 2021.

00:42 I'm coming to you from Davis, California.

00:46 And my partner is Patricia a galley who is a very close friend for many years.

00:59 Okay, I am just to tell you a little bit more about myself. I'm married. My husband is Persian. We've been married for almost forty two years. Now. We have three children and three grandchildren with a school teacher for over 20 years in between some of those years. I worked in real estate and mortgage and I stopped teaching all together about 12 years ago. I work exclusively now as a real estate agent, but also assist my husband with his real estate investment business. I've been at students in MTO shahmaghsoudi school since about 1981 40 years now and today I'm going to be talking to Glenn about our experience of students in the school and I'll give her a chance to tell little more about herself now.

01:56 Okay, this is Lynn Wilcox again.

02:00 I'm a psychologist and a retired Professor. I taught for 44 years at California State University Sacramento. I'm also a writer and I published several books and I've been a student of MTO shahmaghsoudi since May 5th 1984.

02:25 Okay, as I said today, when am I ever going to be discussing our experience that students in the MTO shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism and now that we've introduced ourselves, I want to give you a brief introduction of the school. So the letters m t o stand for table. That will be see which means the school of the path of a vase which is the past of self-knowledge and have extra food was the 41st Sufi Master. He expanded the school to provide learning opportunities to people all over the world and actually has made it more accessible to everyone who can really has the desire to learn. He was also the father of our current 42nd Master Professor daughter and God or has a tear

03:22 Who is the light of our path and for the term Islamic Sufism it is Islamic because the method of inward cognition was shown to buy the prophet of Islam, but it actually applies to all of humanity without any boundaries of Rage or ethnicity or religion.

03:47 And so today when I have so many good questions for you. I know we've known each other for a good 35 years now and there's still so much that I don't know about you and think that we've never discussed and today I'm happy to be sharing our conversation about our Journeys and MTO to start with I wanted to get a little bit about your background or childhood, especially in regard to religion or your religious upbringing with your family religious. What could you tell me?

04:24 Well, I was born in Alabama and my family was Methodist. So I used to go to the Methodist Sunday school. And that was fine with me. They had nice pictures to color. But when I was about twelve my mother became a Christian Scientist.

04:45 I was not happy with that church at all. It was a no fit.

04:52 And soon near on I went out searching to find a place for a spiritual home for me.

04:59 Am I ended up as a Unitarian for a while?

05:05 And then I just wonder SLI because I never even considered.

05:13 I never heard a Sufism and I never considered Islam and wondrously I was able to begin my study of Sufism and that's continued to not yell.

05:28 Okay, so you went through a lot to get to that point for me. I was born and raised in the midwest in a small city in Ohio and my grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher and so my parents my father really doubt. He had had enough religion the last of a lifetime. So he really wasn't involved in church much but my mother was pretty religious and I was baptized at the baby in the Church of Christ. And then when I was really young we started going to a Baptist Church and I remember taking religion very seriously at the age of eight or nine much more so than my brothers and sister and soon after that. I was baptized again in the river just like Jesus was

06:21 And then when I was about twelve we started going to a Nazarene church and you know through my whole childhood. I would attend church three times a week plus most of my extracurricular activities were church-related either Bible study or choir practice. I wasn't allowed to go to football games or school dances or really any after-school activities and go to activities associated with a church youth group, but I love going to church was good for me and the sense that it gave me a good moral character and it was a safe and clean environment, but it was very sheltered at the same time.

07:08 So that you can see our experiences were very different. But anyway enough about me and when I ask you some more questions you and I met at the Civic Center in the Bay Area back. I'm going to say it was the early 80s. I was in my early twenties and I think you were probably about here late forties. And I was just wondering how did you discover MTO?

07:38 How did that happen? Well, it was it was interesting. I was going to training workshops and the person in charge told us how effective is Sufism laws in changing people's behavior for the better. I'm a psychologist. I found this very interesting and I never heard of Citizen before so I went to get a book on it to learn more.

08:02 And instead of a book I found a student of Sufism and she told me there was a Sufi master in the Bay Area.

08:11 So I said the acquittal meet the master. I mean the book if you could

08:19 Of course, then she answered it to ya two weeks later. She called the Sufi master and he agreed to give me an audience and two weeks later. I went off Sufi master.

08:35 Okay my life.

08:39 Wow.

08:41 So for me, I was in my teen years and I began questioning my religion and I wasn't really satisfied with what I was getting at church regardless of how much I was going and involved and I just felt like I needed something.

09:02 Something more something deeper or something higher or something better and I felt guilty about it at the same time, but it was just too important for me to ignore it and one day it was the summer after I had graduated from high school.

09:25 And I went down to the beach or the lake there and I went down to the beach took my shoes off and I just walked alone. I spoke out loud, and I sorry I just get emotional when I think about those days and I just asked God for guidance and you know I said if there's something else that I'm supposed to know and you need to tell me and it was three days later that I met my husband and four years. I have been so concerned and Confused.

10:01 Trying to figure out how to deal with this discomfort that was in my gut.

10:05 So after meeting him, you know, we began the spending time together and he would share what he had learned in him to back in his country.

10:15 Everything you said makes so much sense to me and I just prayed for God to help me with the choices that stood before me and and he did and so that's really how how I found a chi-o What attracted you came to do? Once you found it. What what did you find? So interesting about it or

10:42 I have been looking for the a religious home. I've been looking for a spiritual home and I've been doing it very systematically. I made a list of all the Protestant churches and their characteristics and I was visiting each one of them to decide which one would be the best one for me and then I'll ride.

11:11 Anything about it how many different churches had you gone to?

11:18 Oh three or four.

11:22 And then three or four new ones that doesn't count the ones I visited in the past that I've already decided that wasn't quite where I am. So I

11:33 628 churches before

11:36 Well, I was a little skeptical in the beginning where you skeptical at all.

11:46 Well, I was extremely skeptical and mainly over how Muslims treat women because I've been very involved in the women's movements and women's rights.

11:58 So I had this image in my head that about Muslims treated women badly. I told her that and he looked at me very quiet and he said people do is their parents did.

12:19 Said that I realized.

12:22 Oh, I don't know what's cultural and what's real is. Yes, and so and I are very carefully how women were treated in MTO.

12:40 And I ended up writing a book on women in the Holy Quran as a result. I know you did. Yes. You're right. Wow! Why I remember the first time you came it was I was you know, happy to see you there and I think it was maybe

13:01 Probably like her third or fourth class that I offered to teach you how to do the prayers to do Namaz. And you said that you were not going to recite any prayers until you knew what it meant. And how did you feel during that time does First first few classes the first few times that you came?

13:21 Well, I was fascinated winning, but I couldn't understand why everyone was speaking Farsi. So I I didn't really understand any kind was so loving.

13:39 And I yes.

13:42 And of course the people began to translate more and more I can understand the meaning of the word, but you know, I felt it in my heart.

13:57 I felt.

14:01 What made you confident that this wasn't some kind of a cult or something did you?

14:09 Was it scary for you? Did you ever feel that? Maybe I'm getting involved in some sort of a cult.

14:16 Well, no because as a psychologist or what with people who would let cows and I study them carefully and will Bears no resemblance to help.

14:28 Make you leave your friends and family. Usually they try and get all your money and from you and get you to sell your belongings. They want you to come and live with them and their other characteristics with MTO didn't show any of those. So I have never felt the idea had crossed my mind because you know, it was this had this for me was just when I when I came to empty. Oh, it was just maybe a year or so after that hold Jim Jones thing in the late 70s and you know, I questioned I thought oh, maybe it was just a coincidence that I had met my husband after asking for guidance. And you know, maybe this is something tempting me to go in the wrong direction and but once I

15:24 Once I gave it a chance, I mean I could tell most of the students were very faint not all but many of them were very educated professionals, you know, doctors and dentists in the attorneys and business owners. And this was not some sort of the social club. The classes were very organized and the teachings I could tell there was a stability to the teachings and they were teaching truths that were

15:56 If human history and the thing that I guess was very impressive to me was that

16:06 MTO teachings gave a practical application to

16:11 Jesus's teachings that I have been hearing for so many years and you know, I didn't have to change my religion. I mean that's just a label or name anyway, but I felt that it's one thing to read about a subject or hear a lecture or a sermon and it's another thing to experience it and rituals all have a purpose behind them. But like getting baptized in the river, you know, I'd gone swimming in that same river many times but the baptism was symbolic a ritual and but if the internal cleansing and the purification that people seek and need and MTO really gave a practical application to what had only been words are rituals before for me.

16:59 So that made a big difference for me and also questions that I have been asking you since childhood. We're finally getting answered. Like if you have to be a Christian to go to heaven, you know, what happens to all the people who live before Christ. Nobody has been able to answer that for me.

17:19 I want to go can I say one more thing? I'm going to say the empty or teachings. They make sense their rational their logical. They just make good sense. And to me I guess I'm too was too focused on my brain, but that was very important to me. The word logical was always in my mind as well. And while the teachings more involve your heart and your head it, you know, it it has it didn't make sense to me to

18:00 How did you know it was right for you when you came to MTO? How did you know that that that you were in the right place?

18:08 It took a little while but and then it began to feel like there was a hole in.

18:19 And it is filled and even more than that.

18:24 I had this sense of homecoming. I felt like I had come I come where I belong trying to just and I never felt like I belong why anywhere before

18:40 Yeah, so you just knew it was right for you. Yeah.

18:48 I felt like you know at church everyone would dress up and go into the beautiful church and seeing and hear the song man and pray but it felt like I was sitting at a beautiful table set with lovely China and silverware only to sit down and eat nothing from an empty plate. But as MTO classes, I could feel my soul began receiving the nourishment that I have been starving for.

19:15 And you know the statement that soup is in his the reality of religion is an understatement. I mean, it's the science of the soul and the Art of Loving yourself and

19:31 That's really I felt the same way. I had no doubt once I

19:38 That has started learning more and reading and hearing and practicing then there was no doubt in my mind and I've never looked back. I was wondering, you know, we've learned so much over the years. Do you have a favorite teaching or experience that stands out to you?

19:58 I don't know where there's a favorite or not, but something keeps coming back to me and that is

20:05 Has not our own Gaga his statement that each of us is the architect of our own environment.

20:18 When I first heard that.

20:23 You know, I just wondered it. How could that be?

20:28 And then the more I thought about it the more I realized.

20:31 How potent that was because it isn't.

20:36 What happens to us?

20:39 It's how we deal with it.

20:42 How we how we respond that?

20:52 How about you?

20:54 That's so true. You know when you said that I was just thinking cuz you know over the past several years. I mean just in recent years, you know, I had that box surgery that requires me to have three additional surgeries and I barely got through that and had the car accident and then the following year our son passed away and that was a lot and it was really my stability and MTO that gave me something to hang onto and between the stress reduction exercises and the meditation that I had learned. I would say it literally saved my life and you know, when the storm comes and you feel like you're being blown off the face of the Earth you need to pull to hang on to

21:42 And Heather appears teachings have been my pole in my strength.

21:47 And

21:48 By the way, when I want to thank you so much for your prayers and support through all of that as well because you were so supportive to me like a sister or sometimes even a second mom. And you know, when we lost our son I called my mother first and called you second. So just want to thank you for being there for me through all of that. Oh my goodness. You knew have had a difficult life.

22:13 And you've come through it well.

22:17 Al will thank you. Thank you for your your care of your friendship, but

22:25 I want to share one of my favorite teachings with you.

22:29 What's that?

22:32 For me, I would say.

22:37 My favorite is the meaning of Sufism itself.

22:45 It's about the baby which starts has one cell that has within it all the knowledge and the precise instructions to grow the

22:54 Arms and legs and brain and lungs and all the organs and blood vessels.

23:03 It knows exactly what to do to be prepared for life and to succeed in this world.

23:09 And in the womb hit doesn't have much use for all those parts, but It prepares everything to be ready for its day of birth. And that's exactly the way it works for being prepared for life after death. So after we're born we still have that knowledge within us all that potential and whatever we need to be prepared for the next stage of our journey, but the thing is

23:33 From the moment of birth between our environment and our thoughts and desires or distractions that knowledge becomes buried and Sufism is about peeling away all the extras and purifying myself so that the knowledge that lies within can build that.

23:54 Some call it. The excess is spiritual body of light or the Luminous figure.

24:00 On a Heavenly double that it needs for the afterlife and just like it built this body in the womb. That's what is really meant by being born again. And that's what Sufism is and that is my very favorite teaching and I'm so happy to be able to share that today.

24:25 That's a powerful experience.

24:29 Count

24:34 It's a it's a great teaching and something that you know, we are all work towards and

24:43 Something that I'm striving for, but I wanted to ask you.

24:48 About meditation classes. I know it must have been an honor to you to be teaching meditation classes all these years. And when did you start teaching and how has that experience been for you?

25:06 How to repair had me start teaching the same year I came to MTL which is in 1984.

25:18 And at first I was teaching with another student and and he told us what to teach and how to teach you know what to do. And that is the most powerful learning experience of my life and it's still continuing. The teaching is where I've learned the most you've said it was somebody important so that she really don't know something until you can teach it effectively.

25:50 So a lot of people have said that because it's so true.

25:59 Student or one event that stands out in my mind if the building experience and that the broadness of it and lucky enough to receive.

26:15 And I've learned more than anyone can ever imagine.

26:21 I will say one other thing.

26:24 There hasn't been an answer that but there's a pattern that recurs over and over and over again. And that is that I see what happens to students during one class 1 hour.

26:41 They they literally there's a transformation that occurs. They come in 10 uptight and Nerf just you can just see the pressure in the tension.

26:58 And then by the end of class they're relaxed.

27:03 Constable

27:05 Their voice is gone back to normal.

27:10 And they're open to enjoying life and it's huge.

27:19 That is really huge. Yeah, I know.

27:25 When I started going to the classes, you know down in the Bay Area.

27:30 It made a big difference for me. I I realized it made me a lot more alert more focused that feeling of being more on top of my game and I I literally emotionally and physically felt different. I mean I stood up straighter. I walk taller and you know, it just say it made me.

27:57 A better version of me and I began attending classes in the Sacramento area up here after we moved up here and you know, it's not enough to just go to a class once a week or once a month kind of like going to physical therapy you go to learn the teachings on the exercises and then you have to practice it everyday, but you know it it has helped me tremendously to have had those meditation classes and to you know to do my meditation and as I said before MTO has been my rock through many tough times including the pandemic that were in right now.

28:39 And I wanted to ask you is there a particular teaching or something that has been especially helpful to you during the pandemic?

28:48 Yes.

28:51 What is the same prayers five times a day versus what we do?

28:59 Home to its Center shoe and it's helpful. Never underestimate. The power of prayer has class online once yes.

29:25 So no because it rain has me it brings me back to my heart.

29:33 And it sent

29:35 I can relate to that that's how that's that's for me. It's the same way when I do namas. It's like a it's like a chance to regroup and refocus myself.

29:47 And

29:50 It's very helpful. So especially you know, when we have all the social distancing and not going out the out of the house much. It's a time that I can.

30:09 Relieve my stress and

30:14 I guess the word regroup just kind of you know, if we focus is what comes to mind. Is there anything else you want to add then enclosing about yourself or your experience as an mpo students?

30:30 Yes.

30:32 I am grateful.

30:36 Are the opportunity to study Sufism?

30:40 On dirty or not or uncle?

30:44 Doing so has healed me.

30:48 It's open My Heart is Open my mind and able me to do things. I never dreamed of doing like writing a book.

30:59 Am I on my life could have been an empty shell like a lot of people are but instead thanks to Sufism. It's become fruit.

31:11 I'm so grateful.

31:14 Yeah. Had so many accomplishments.

31:18 Well, I feel like I've come a long way to get where I am today and

31:25 Throughout my life, you know, I've worked very hard. I've had a lot of accomplishments too. And I've done a lot of good things. I've helped a lot of people.

31:35 And I've also made some mistakes and made some poor choices at times, but it's neither my good deeds nor my mistakes that Define me and

31:47 I guess what I mean is for example in the beginning I introduce myself as a wife a mother a schoolteacher real estate investor or whatever. These are all true, but they don't Define me either.

32:06 So I mean what's most important to me as I'm playing? All these rules in life is my dedication to myself to what's in my heart my spiritual awareness and my progress on my path as a student of Sufism.

32:27 Trying to purify myself as has appear has taught me to concentrate on the source of Life In My Heart.

32:34 To prepare myself for the next stage of my journey after this life.

32:39 And

32:43 I as well. I'm so grateful.

32:47 That I've had this opportunity and have this opportunity to learn and to continue to learn.

32:55 Can I add something to a point you just made?

32:59 What years and if you're on your brain, and yes you get to Jerry Groening, that's easy to forget your heart.

33:19 And so for me this whole week has been a process of learning.

33:26 Took control my brain instead of letting my brain control me.

33:32 And to move my heart

33:36 Mark Hart be the source

33:39 Yeah, yeah, you know we say things all the time. I felt it from the bottom of my heart or I knew it in my heart and without really realizing that it really is in your heart. It actually is in your heart.

34:00 Yeah, well well when I genuinely enjoyed sharing this conversation with you today, I always enjoy spending time with you and thank you so much. I really miss being with you during this pandemic. It's been a long time. So I look forward to when we can get together again.

34:22 Yes. I look forward to that, too. Thank you.

34:29 Ain't you?