How Rumi’s Teachings Saved Karen Cavanagh’s Life

After a surfing accident left Karen Cavanagh with a broken neck and a traumatic brain injury, doctors didn’t think she would survive. But as she drifted in and out of consciousness, the words of the Muslim poet Rumi ran through her mind, giving her hope and the will to endure. After a miraculous recovery from her life-threatening injuries, the doctors told her she would never walk again.
Once more, Karen proved them wrong.
Inspired by Rumi and Sufism, a mystical movement within Islam, she began studying with a Sufi master, learning about meditation and an immersive form of meditative dance in which a person turns round and round. She trained by visualizing herself whirling, looking deep within herself. After several weeks, Karen healed her devastated body, first walking again and, eventually, spinning.

Karen decided to commit her life to the path of Sufism and traveled to Konya, Turkey, to become a member of the order known as the whirling dervishes. There, at the home of a revered Sufi master, she was initiated into the order, performing the Sema ceremony. “At some point during the turning, I heard the doctor say, ‘You won’t walk again,'” Karen recalls. “And I said, ‘Then I will dance.”’

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