Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh and Summer Cody

Recorded September 2, 2021 Archived September 2, 2021 37:06 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021032


Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh (40) is interviewed by new friend Summer Cody (23) about her path to becoming the president of the Sufi Psychology Association and what there is to learn and gain from blending Sufi spirituality and psychology.

Subject Log / Time Code

SC asks SB to describe her earliest experience with sufism.
“If you don’t change, how do you expect anyone else to?” SB quotes her teacher, who impacted her during a time of deep teenage turmoil.
SB shares the story of what led her to study Sufi Psychology and becoming the president of the Sufi Psychology Association.
SC asks if Psychology has added to SB’s understanding of Sufism.
SB shares the way Sufi stories play a role in her practice.
SB shares a lesson she’s learning right now.
SC asks SB what she’s hopeful for in her future.


  • Saloumeh Bozorgzadeh
  • Summer Cody



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00:02 Hi, my name is Summer. Cody. I am 23 years old. Today's date is Thursday, September 2nd 2021. I'm calling in from Brooklyn, New York, the name of my conversation partner. Today is Sally and we are new friends.

00:17 My name is Salah, made. Those are excited. I am 40 years old. Today is September, 2nd 2021. I'm calling in from Chicago, Illinois. And speaking to my new friend summer.

00:29 Awesome. Okay, so just to start off solenoid. Thank you for coming in to have this conversation with me. And the first question. I wanted to ask you was, could you just described to me, you know, your earliest experiences with Sufism. What you remember, you know, when it started things like that. Yeah. So I was I was born in Iran and Iran when my parents got divorced, when I was just a few months old and then Iran, when there's a divorce, the father gets custody. So, my father got custody and he was a student of Sufism since I think before he even married to my mother. But he was out here and then get in the state's, getting his degree. And he, you know, they got divorced but she said, you can stay with your mom. And so you're 5 and then and then, you know, because you need a mom. But with the revolution everything he's like, okay, we got to get you out of there. So him and I moved here when I was four.

01:30 And that to the states. And I believe I I started going to the MTO shahmaghsoudi, the school of Islamic Sufism when I was 7 years old and it was in a daze, you know, you where you wear white in the school, which has a lot of symbolic meaning. And I remember being wearing a, the only single. The only thing he could get me was like a big white wedding dress like that. Boo costume play kind of thing and he would put me in that and I would, I would sit on the men's side cuz the men and women stood separate or sit on two sides of the room, just different sides of the room. And I would sit on the men's side and my dress would take out like four different people spots because it was so big. But that when I was younger, I didn't really know know much, you know, I was just there was something I did and it wasn't until later on in my teenage years that it really started her. Maybe like me.

02:30 10 or 12 when I really started understanding. And it was in my teenage years that I really began to understand. What's a thumb is and how it how it began to affect my life, right? Incredible end. You tell me a little bit about how you're doing with psychologist. Would have played into that experience as well, or need a related to that experience so far for people who don't know, Sufism is a, it's a, it's a discipline and self-knowledge. So the entire goal of this practice is for each person to know themselves. And by knowing yourself, it's more than just how my like, what I've gathered from society, the labels. I tell myself I limitations what I can and can't do or I am this aren't that, but it's to truly know that part of us that is separate from all of these experiences. We've.

03:30 So my mind has changed my opinion to change. My personality has changed but there's still a part of us that remains constant stable. And that's the part that Sue doesn't focus is on its to bring that part out to the surface to reacquaint somebody with that. And so being a teenager, when you're really searching for yourself, is when it really kind of all started making a little bit more sense to me, because nothing about nothing felt real to me, you know, I I felt like I didn't know who I am, which is a totally normal developmental process cuz I would, I would look at my friends and try to copy the things they did, because I thought I should be more like, Sarah, and she constantly felt like I was constantly trying to be something for, for Piers, or for others, to accept me, really, really depressed. I remember,

04:30 Spend hours just in my room alone and thinking and thinking, and I noticed I was really isolating from people and just so sad. Like I didn't know why I was really sad and I really that was disgusted with myself as a lot of teenagers are, if you, can you ever had that experience with teenagers are really traumatic? And hopefully, actually, professor said, it is sad and he has. So I had a basic at that point. I attempted suicide multiple times. I don't think they were ever real, real towns. Like, in the sense of I think, I don't think I ever really wanted to die. I don't know. I think I just wanted to be done with whatever the experience was in.

05:22 My father didn't know what to do. And he said, I just don't know. And I remember he was crying off dad's trying so hard and he started crying and he's just right, you know, who is Professor of Geo. And he, you know, he has students all across the world and I was in luck that the MTO school, but I would go to, he was there at that time. So I wrote this long letter, like this, Manifesto, six pages, front and back like, dumping everything that I've ever experienced. You do like, all the teenagers write very dramatic and it was tonight to get to the Sufi school. And

06:13 And so, he called me into his office and he's like, just this very pragmatic and supportive, like teacher a man and he and he just kind of looks so, what's wrong? And what was wrong with me. I mean, maybe I was nervous, maybe whatever it was, but I couldn't remember. And he just gave me time. And it felt like, 30 minutes was probably at 2 or 5, but I was like searching my entire being is wrong with me.

07:00 And so he looks up again and does well, like, what was wrong and I am, I didn't want to have nothing to say. So I made something up. I wish I complained about like my regular, like, you know, my regular ranting about like Society. I was like, why is there a society? The way there is so much, you know, he says he says to me, he says, well, if you don't change, how do you expect anyone else to? And I knew it was profound, cuz it like hit like my heart, you know, that I didn't quite know what that was about. What part of it was with my age.

07:50 The part of it was as I learned in that in his office was I have been isolating so much. I have been and I was in my head and I was in the I was just creating this world and my brain. These are all things that I kind of learned later on down the line through his teachings, but he explained to me, he gave me some and I remember at that point that was the moment that it occurred to me that if my arm was broken even in his room even in his office, my arm would be broken if I had a chemical imbalance and there's something that's really actually going on within my mind, right? That is causing, you know, some kind of psychological disturbance that wasn't going to go away in his office, right? This was all fabricated. I created this world and it was so powerful. The experience was so incredibly powerful that I was willing to take to kill myself.

08:50 Measures and so, yeah, he asked me who, I think next time. I I saw him. He asked me what I wanted to be and I said, I want to be a psychologist. And then seeing you know, throughout my life really began to his teachings, teaching me about about psychology about how the human being operates about the ways that we create these things and, you know, part of Sufism being that you realize, you're at your recognizing, one more about who you are. You realize the incredible power that you can create the most amazing beautiful things. At the same time, you realize that if you're using your resources incorrectly, the way that it can actually affect you in the worst way possible, so,

09:41 That would be with the moment. I arrived. I saw that and so, you know fast forward and now it clinical psychologist, the president of the current president of the Sufi psychology Association where we've taken this expanded on it and are working on it with patients. Wow, that's really really incredible that you were able to have that moment. I saw the connection between, you know, the Sufi teachings and understandings. And then also, you know, sex psychological practice instead of seeing the connection between those two things through your teacher and having that experience with them. You said you were the president of the Sufi psychology Association little bit. But how you found the association who came into that position. Just Joey that experience Association. It was founded in 1997 by a group of healthcare professionals who were just realizing that there's so much benefit patients when they use Sushi teaching in line with it.

10:41 Current modern-day psychology, you know, it really teaches us. It's great. I mean I use I use a lot of the practices as it's right. They teach you how to change your thoughts. Right? Like your thoughts are negative. You change your thoughts, they teach you about your behavior as how that's going to affect your mood, your livelihood to help you set goals. They help you fix your personal relationships with one another, all of those are wonderful, and we use those. But then the Sufi part of it is the part that then shift the focus to within, right? So all of that is great and it's great for a living. But who are you, who is the person who's making these decisions? Who is, what are the capabilities and the potentials of that person? And so that's where it kind of Falls. Really. At least, I'm still at Psychology at Falls really beautifully in line. Other fields were also using it because part of Sufism in learning about yourself, is also learning about how the physical body.

11:41 Parade. So it's very evidence-based in terms of my heart works. And how does the heart play a role in this one entity that I am and my connection to all of the universe existing. So basically 97 on the creator of the Sufi psychology Association and began to do workshops Retreats conferences all across the globe. And, you know, I would always go to them and those were the most powerful experiences I had was at this Retreat Retreat, swear in Northern California, and if you could imagine like 7 a.m. You would wake up, go into the woods and they would do closer to the Sufi meditation practice. And then it was like a whole weekend away from your phone and people, and they have different Sufi psychology workshops throughout the day where you're learning about yourself and do an experiential exercises. You know, everyone would cry. No one wanted to go home.

12:40 What is the experience? So that was a lot of of, you know, once I turned 18, you have to be 18 to go to those. I was able to go to those really it was like I felt like I felt like I was just craving wanting like to know about myself. It was just something I want so badly. I wanted more and more and more of these experiences and

13:04 So that's kind of when when I started then I remember then it was so funny because this just became so much part of how I operate, you know, every week I go to to them to school and it is the school of Sufism. So I have to learn. I have to take with hot and go and implemented and work on it and see it. Is it true that it resonate with me cuz it's not just memory like memorizing something back. But it's you have to take what is hurt and you have to search within your being to see is it true? Doesn't make sense. If it's not you go somewhere else, you know, is this your reality?

13:41 So I remember when I was in grad school three different professors is like the first day of class. They would say they pulled me aside each of them and said, I can't wait to see what you're going to do with the field of psychology not because I was doing it and I didn't understand what they were saying. Cuz to me everything I was saying and class was common sense is what I've been raised with it. Just I thought everybody knew these things of how human operator how our brains operator from we are is us and no I guess not. It was, it was different. And so

14:14 Basically, I got my doctorate, my final year of my doctorate. I was at a psychiatric hospital here in Chicago and I was working in the self-injury units and I was an intern. I wasn't licensed at all. I was just my last year. I was an intern and based on the Sufi teachings and the things I had seen at The Retreat. I created a week-long programme for the self-injury clients and I just created this program and it was such a strange time because it was like, this is what they would need and I brought it up to my supervisor.

14:55 And I don't know what happened or how it occurred, but somehow they gave me the entire Hospital program for one week's implement this, which is really quite ridiculous. When you think about the context of the fact that I'm just an intern really. Okay. We'll hold our regular programming. This, this makes sense and dumb.

15:21 So we did it. We called it identity week and we implemented across the program. I think there was like maybe 30 or 40 patients who were going through. It was really great because I was able to work with the different clinicians in the different departments and ask them to a, this is the theme. So Implement within your ass like art therapist. Whatever you're doing it. Can you bring it into this theme? This is what they're working on. And so she was like, okay, like I'm going to do now since it was, like, everyone's kind of came together around this, they were very supportive and it was a really powerful week. You know, like one of the things is oftentimes, you know, we avoid because a lot of these clients are these patients are very vulnerable. And so we're avoiding talking about really emotional things because we don't want them to get worked up or film or suicidal, cuz there's a lot of suicide ideation within this population, but

16:15 This was like, people were crying people where there was one exercise where that you have to come face-to-face with the negative, the negative thoughts that always run in the back of your head, towards yourself that you don't even recognize anymore. They're just like on autopilot. They just go through, you know, if it shows up pops up every now and then when you make a mistake and you're beating yourself up, but they're just they're so coming to terms with you. Have you had to face that like as if it was a mere, there was like all these different types of experience or crying. It was there was a lot of emotion.

16:53 I remember at the end of the week, it felt like everyone felt lighter, like it just, it didn't feel so heavy and serious. And, and at the end of when people were being discharged, they're always given when they discharge the hospital, like, what worked, and what didn't and across-the-board. Everyone kept saying that they found that to be the most beneficial week for that, was that identity week. And so, my supervisor again, hadn't thought of any of this. I was just trying something out and then my supervisor wrote it up how to publish and was like, this was really great. You know, we presented I'm on it at a conference and then they asked me to come back and do it again to a couple of different units, which was really just. It was so, it was so interesting was like, dipping my toes in for the first time. And so then I got my when I got my doctorate degree and I I started working with patients again, it would just it's just something that naturally comes out because that's all I know.

17:53 How high is my world then? And

17:57 My supervisors would say one of my supervisors or anything. She's like, I don't know, but it seemed to work for people. So there's that. Then I just I became the the present I was involved with Sufi psychology conferences and doing presentations there and then in 2016 is about when the current president Wilcox, she kind of asked me to presidents. And so now we're there and we're, we're we're doing the work and we just did a was really cool. Just did a study. It was part of a Templeton Foundation. Granted. They would like a study on spiritual practices in Psychotherapy. And so they followed her patients for one year.

18:56 And saw a kind of the effects of CD psychology and how it decrease, the stress across a multitude of scales for people. So, that's, that's kind of what the workshop what we're doing now. And then, we also work with health care, workers, with covid. The covid 10 Dominic. We've created a bunch of programs for them as well. That is incredible. And I love, I love hearing about, you know, some of the ways that you experienced how, you know, you bringing your own funeral Sushi understandings from how you can go up into like the world of psychology as you're practicing. Just had these like really brilliant moments of Glee, working for people. And it was just like, you said, it was just, you know, it's what you knew. And I just to be able to see how those things kind of came together, really able to help people overtime again, and again, it's like really incredible to hear about it in that saying, I'm just curious. I wanted to ask you as well.

19:47 You know, you've explained in some of the different ways that you're at the Sufi teaching that you learned how to sort of like assisted in your practice in Psychology. And I'm wondering if there's ever been treated like the flip of that as well. Wear something you've learned, as you study psychology also made you think about it when he should be teachings differently or anything like that, if there's a given take there, if you could, if that if that's true, you can strip share some of that in the practice of psychology still in the field. When when I'm learning about it was really interesting when I was in graduate school and I was learning about all these different things and I was just like, there isn't a multitude of things. There's only one, we are all part of this one. Whether you call it energy, existence, the universe, whatever you want to call it. We're all part of this one, right? And so,

20:47 You know, I I would, I would hear about like different like theories of psychology. You just, I couldn't, I couldn't that was the part that when all the separation that were made. I understood that their, their tools, you're looking through a different lens at it, at a person or a part of a person. We're talking about one, human being one and two teeth. And so I think that that was one of the things that I remember just in. And the other thing is, every time they would talk. I feel like it was more of a confirmation of it was interesting. It was like a confirmation of what I had believed inexperienced, you know, you until you see someone else sometimes, you don't believe it for yourself, you know, you like within yourself and then it was like,

21:47 It's how I think. I think that was it. It just beat the the problem for me has has been though. It's it fell, it fell flat. So within the field of Sufi psychology, we talked about human beings having two Dimensions to their being. There's the physical Dimension, which includes your thoughts and emotions your body or social relationships, which is usually, which is all that question. Psychology focuses on is the physical Dimension, but then there's the spiritual Dimension. This is the ineffable, part of us, right. This is the part that, you know, some people might call it a soul. Some people call it just that we you know, when you talk about like mindfulness and observing its The Observer, but who is the person who's observing? What it, what is that? It's the part that all the sudden you have an incredible idea and you're like an artist, will create something. Where did that come from when everything else is strained? You have, you feel?

22:47 Who plays in you? There's no reason to continue. You get strength to move through somehow, right? It's the part that never stops being you even though you have shifted. And so that always felt missing to me in Psychology. Maybe cuz I have learned that in Sufism. So as I was felt very it felt it felt superficial like yes, it's beneficial. So I called you so bad. It wasn't like it's been so beneficial for all my patients, right? Beneficial for me to relearn, how to think about situations and all of that, but it still feels somehow empty. It feels like rearranging just rearranging the decor in a room without like, actually going to like looking at the room. I don't know if that's even a good analogy, but I can't come up with something so profound on this.

23:39 I think that was very profound about.

23:51 Sufism necessarily except for when things were when I understood more and more about how the brain and the mind operate, then maybe it helped me understand some of some of the teachings of Sufism. But I will say this because Sufism is such a personal individual Journey, right? It's you really it really teaches you to take a courageous. Look at yourself like there. You can't escape it, like it is really and it's really hard to do.

24:23 I am, you know, that is something that I think helps both in Psychology, but I think also sometimes the schooling in Psychology really pushes for that too. And so you can only go as deep as you can and schooling depending on how much you're willing to look at yourself because the more you're able to look at yourself the more you understand your clients to because if I'm sitting with a client and it's as always is so funny to me when I used to teach a search for about 7 years or something and I would tell these it leaves early therapist, the same thing, you know, you're not a blank slate, your it's impossible as a human being for you to be a blank slate. Right? And the more you pretend you are or you're in denial about all that you're bringing to the table. The more, you're you run the risk of allowing its influence you without realizing it and being unable to see

25:13 We have all sorts of everything we've experienced. Color is how we do the world, you know, and so the more you're able to take a honest look at that the more than, you know, when it's interfering with your work. So I think that's really really important.

25:31 And it's not like, you know, I certainly I want to emphasize, it's not like I've arrived right? I'm still total your work in progress and miss a lot of things. It's just been so beneficial and so on so many ways to be able to do that. And I think a lot of the reasons that we we oftentimes can't look at ourselves or don't want to look at ourselves as we have this fundamental fear of what we're going to see and I think maybe one of the, the most incredible things that I have gained from from Sufism, has been that no one can do anything to me, really harm me in that way, right? Like that bruise, for sure, but good. I mean, that's not serve any purpose, my emotions. May it hurts, but, you know, those are fleeting.

26:31 Actually harm me. So I might as well just take a look at it and see what I can do. What I'm actually dealing with so I can fix it in your spoken a lot about this already. But just trust her to shut it even more. Focus light on it. And your experience are there any sort of specific teachings that you have found to have been really helpful or applicable in your practice? I'm Grove come up a lot and just reflecting on them anything like that. And I know like I said, you could rest a little bit already, but I just want to let you know, there are so many so we use a lot of I use a lot of Sufi stories in my practice and one of them is it's a really great story. And at this this is all the time, or maybe, I don't know.

27:31 I think it's an 8 year old boy has them on a donkey and they're walking into town, and is a walking into town. People walked by townspeople, like mine. They say, oh, look at this. Look at this distance. Selfish said he's at the peak of health and is making his poor old, man. Dad walk take the child out and put them on the ground. She gets on the donkey and they start going into town and then another group. And then he stops. And we don't look back and look at the animal rights in there, like, hold on.

28:22 So then I think the story ends with the two of them, carrying the donkey into town and then there's like the the, the fables, like how absolutely ridiculous that could possibly be. But you know, when you think about how much we play two, other people are thinking and what other people want from us. And we're constantly trying to Flushing a time of social media constantly trying to please the masses. Whatever that is, you know, I'm at the at the heart of it, there is no there's no answer. You can't do that. You don't have to live for yourself.

28:52 I think I used a lot of those types of stories. There's a quote by Rumi that I really love that if you're irritated by every rub, how will you be polished? Which is a really great one. And in the times of, you know, with couples for example, or for myself like whenever it's something challenging or couples are fighting then, it's like they wait a minute. You can either focus on how this affected me or I can go back to what my purpose and goal is from my own personal journey. And how is it polishing me? You know, so I think that it's a mean way is constantly with patient and with myself the teaching of you bring it back to internally that main goal. Like what is your goal? What is your purpose in life? If it's to develop into percent into be who you are? A lot of things in life are great ways for us to exercise that and to learn how to do that. It's a working a muscle, you know, every interaction I have with people is working a muscle in Yuma.

29:52 I need to separate out, right? Mean learning to how much of this, my reaction was ego. It was I just offended because I'm worried. They're going to see me in a different light life. Is that still important to me right now? You know how it works. So I think it's a lot of that.

30:09 And for I guess for patients, A lot of the things that I could say right now, you know, it's a different lesson and then probably the last thing that right now that I'm personally working on that will come up. I'm sure with patients also right now is you know, what I've learned is how whatever I had experience in life. So I saw certain experiences. I felt certain things. He created a framework within us. How something should be in Psychology. We call that scheme has. This is a little deeper cuz it applies to everything. But so my understanding of a healthy relationship or a relationship in general have somebody should treat me in a relationship, how I should be, how I should feel about, my job. Everything is based on this framework that I learned.

31:09 Anything that is outside of this framework.

31:30 So everything that I've learned is based on his Chrissa framework for me. Anything that is outside of this framework feels uncomfortable. I want to avoid it. I want to run. I think it's bad. It doesn't actually mean that it just means it's not something. I know, you know, and so that I think is one of the main things but I feel that not only am I working on my talk with clients and patients on a lot is a lot of this concept of good and bad it.

31:56 It's your framework, right? And the more and more, we expand this framework and we break these boundaries that we created based on. I just was lucky or unlucky. Whatever. I was in this family. I learned these things that now says the more we learn to push past that discomfort in to open that boundary and open that up. The last things bother me, right. The more flexible. I am to the world's everything that I encounter psychologically and what could be more healthy than that then. But the more and more I get stuck and rigid in the way. I feel that things should be accustomed to them on so many different ways, the more and more I end up feeling anxious myself, you know.

32:46 Put medicine in how you should feel. We sometimes have this notion that I should be happy. This framework is probably based on TV shows cuz I don't think we've actually seen this in your life where people are never sad and they're always happy. What is that?

33:00 That's not a normal experience, Human Experience, right? Or up and down. And so the more and more I kind of understand that and I got comfortable with that. And expand these related to everything the more and more. I recognize what I'm capable of and I have this ability to cope and deal in a drawer with everything. So I have one of the love get into, it's just a snippet but just tired of sharing. Some of those teachings. You have a sort of I think they're really important influential. I can definitely see how you know, it was positively affect someone who's like you have going through any number of things in life, understanding about your sense of self, instead of expanding a sense of self and you know, doing what you need to do for yourself like the donkeys store.

34:00 I know where it works out of creeping towards the end cheer, but I wanted to ask you, you know what, she got to look towards the future. Like what what are some things that you're hopeful for either in your own practice or should have continued until like in a UCP kitchens to help others to help people in her practice things like that? With what? What are some things that you hope for in the future or looking towards. I think I'm for my own personal practice. I mean the hope is that I will continue to chip away at these at these Frameworks be quite painful. It might be something as small as like, I would never do that, never do that. And then lo and behold a year later, you're doing that very same thing and you're like, so I think just getting into this place of these Nevers and always

35:00 Iams and just being able to chip away at that and it would be an amazing if I could just live in the moment and in the experience without feeling the need to Define and put it in a nice neat box where I been limit myself. So that would be personal with in the field of Sufi psychology. I think getting out and being able to help as many people recognize this, as we have this incredible treasure within that we are, you don't know how to do it. You don't know how to look at it. You don't know how to explore it. So I think getting more workshops out there getting more seeing how we can help people and just making people more aware of this within themselves would be the future of the goal.

35:47 So I hope I have no idea what that's going to look like anything else that you know, I didn't ask for that. You just want people to know where share with the world about super psychology, anything at all, but yourself, anything at all. I hope that you know, a little bit about what this book is filled ends. And and I hope that it it gets people. I got to pay me when I was thinking about the fact that there is, there is something that is

36:25 So deep and unique and beautiful that connects all of us and that's within us. And I hope it it lights at a desire for each person to kind of seek it out. That's all I hope. And I guess that would be the last thing I would want to to relay.

36:42 Wonderful incredible. Thank you so much for having this conversation with me. It was so enlightening. I've been so wonderful to share this experience with you. So thank you so much. Thank you. I really appreciate it.