I came home from the store to day to find a package waiting on my porch. I tried to think if I had ordered anything but was pretty sure everything had been delivered. Then I saw that the return address was the Theosophical Society so I knew what it was, a copy of my book. What I was not expecting was to find that my book, Practical Sufism, has been translated into Italian. How cool is that? I am a happy boy.
Many Blessings, Musawwir
A friend of mine decided to read my whole blog from the beginning. She pointed something out to me that I was not aware of. She said that the first couple of years of writing the blog it was obvious that I was concerned about the number of readers I had and getting feedback from them. Then that idea seemed to drift away and now I just write without being concerned for feedback. Well, that’s not entirely true, I do wonder how people see what I write about but I’m also not all that worried about it and I no longer ask for feedback. My intent now is to express something that wells up inside as best as I can, put it out there and let it go.
One of my very best friends, a painter, once told me that people often asked him what he thought of as his best piece of art. His answer always was that he was constantly working on the same painting; it just had lots of canvasses. Which is as good a description of a life well lived as I can imagine. His intent was constant. Through all the ups and downs of normal life his persistent desire was to paint, to create art. He also told me once that when a painting left his studio it was no longer his. It belonged to whoever viewed it and their reaction and emotional response was theirs and not his.
I guess just about everyone has watched Luke Skywalker strain to get the X Fighter out of the swamp; he almost starts to shake with the effort. And then he gives up. Yoda then lifts the fighter out of the swamp with no visible effort and looks with disgust at Luke. What was the difference, besides experience? Luke knew from the beginning that he couldn’t do it. From the outset he knew he would fail. His intent was to fail.
Pir Vilayat often said that the most important thing to pay attention to in doing spiritual practices was intent. You might mess up pronunciation of some Arabic or Sanskrit word, you might even get the idea behind the practice somewhat confused but if your intent was pure the practice would have its effect anyway.
We live in a world where appearance seems to over whelm everything. Models in magazines are photo shopped before the mag is printed. Getting the right automobile so your friends are envious is paramount, etc. So, if your intent is to live a shallow life, worried about appearance and nothing else you will be fine. If however, your intent is to discover your true inner self and you are constant in your spiritual work then a life of struggle will be yours. But in the end it will be worth it.
Deep Regards, Musawwir
EDITING OTHERS LIVES!
I think the cartoon above actually predates the Internet. I seem to remember seeing this somewhere back in the early 70’s. I thought it was true at the time and now even more so. In fact, in my mind, the urge to edit has expanded from the need to alter others copy to a need to alter others lives.
Have you ever noticed an impulse that we all seem to have when it comes to listening to the woes of others? As we are listening we begin to formulate the advice we are going to offer. It is almost unavoidable. By the time our friend is finished talking, assuming we let them finish, we have already figured out what they are supposed to do and are all ready to offer these gems of wisdom for their deeply grateful consumption. Then what happens? We have all had this experience in one way or another, so what happens? It is pretty rare that we are met with the gratitude we rightfully expect. Sometimes yes, but most of the time something else takes place. The person ignores our well thought out advice and continues to complain. The person listens politely and ignores us, but stops talking. The person listens half-heartedly and then goes on to explain why we are all wet. Etc. etc. All kinds of reactions, none involving gratitude, yet we continue to do this. Why?
On the other side of this is our own reaction to the advice of others. While we are complaining to someone about something we are also watching the other person to make sure they are really listening but, what we often see is the wheels turning and the very advice we know won’t work is about to be offered. We don’t want it, all we really want is for someone to listen and agree with us, not offer anything, just listen. Never the less the advice will come.
So, we know both sides. We continue to offer unwanted advice and we continue to expect to be able to complain without receiving any. What is that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Perhaps we can take a different approach. One of the things that all of the people I guide know about me is that I do not give personal advice. I will offer techniques or my own point of view about something but I will never tell someone, “You must do this!” I learned this from Pir Vilayat and have often thought it was the best piece of wisdom he ever offered. So, people who work with me rapidly learn that complaining isn’t very useful because I won’t comment. And most of the people I know who also do this work feel the same way and adopt an attitude of Detached Compassion. In other words, you want the best for everyone but you never claim to know what that is.
Maybe you get all excited when you hear a story from someone, “he, she, they did me wrong and I am so pissed,” kind of story. What fun, tell me more!!! We do tend to get all interested when we hear this kind of thing. However there will be a small little voice inside of us that is rather embarrassed that we find these stories engaging. That’s the part of us that knows we are better then that. So, perhaps you can listen politely without contributing. Do that and see what happens. For a time life will seem dull and boring but I guarantee that it will get interesting again when you find your true self finally feeling comfortable.
Many Blessings, Musawwir
IF IT WAS FUN EVERYONE WOULD DO IT!
Spirituality is supposed to be happy time isn’t it? That’s what they told me! Peace, Love, Harmony, all that good stuff is just waiting for me. And all that is true but there are some interim steps that must first be taken.
It’s a reality about spirituality, the real thing, that it is hard work. You truly have to want it in order to get any kind of effective transformation. Even with the hard work nothing is guaranteed.
I know there are all kinds of systems out there that promise results in three weekends of intensive experience or whatever they say they can do and you can give your money to them if you like but, ultimately, the real thing, is predicated on three important qualities. Courage, Discipline and above all, Patience.
Courage is needed to face your demons. You know those hidden things within you that you don’t want to think about. Those parts of you that are uncomfortable to consider. We all have em. Well most of us do. If you are one of the rare ones who has never done anything stupid I applaud you and you can move on to the next step.
Discipline. It seems simple. Every morning you make sure that you get up early enough to spend fifteen or twenty minutes meditating. You will need instruction on how to do it but really it is pretty simple to get started. Or the instruction sounds simple anyway. Just sit and breathe. Easy enough right? If you have already mastered this part, move on, other wise, set your egg timer for 5 minutes and see if you can sit perfectly still, paying attention only to your breath. This is where discipline is learned.
Next and last we have Patience. Okay, I have been sitting here every day for a month now, breathing and all that, when do I get the good stuff? What if I were to tell you maybe never? That’s the thing, once you start on the spiritual path patience is essential. Expectation of a result just gets in the way. I do not care what the self help guru’s may say, nothing comes to you without these three elements and patience is the most critical. This is why people want short cuts. But short cuts are always temporary, not long lasting.
And that is why I titled this article as I did. I was having a conversation with one of my students and this phrase just fell out of my mouth. I looked at it and realized that it works. It is fun but sometimes if definitely feels like plodding thru mud. That’s when we separate the sheep from the goats as the saying goes. It’s a challenge to do this work and, like it or not, that’s how it is.
Eventually, if you keep at it, there will come a time when you suddenly realize that you have changed, you are calmer, easier to be with. No longer do you respond with anger or resentment, but with patience and empathy. And you might not even notice when it happens, it just does. Constant maintenance is necessary but by this time it will be as natural as opening the fridge for a glass of juice, just another thing you do.
Ultimately we are responding to a deep need for ecstatic glorification, those moments of supreme ecstasy that transform us into the beings we are truly meant to be. This is the true passion that emerges from within and demands to be known. To respond is our great gift to ourselves.
So get out there and strive.
Love and Blessings, Musawwir
Do you know what kind of shopper you are; in the grocery store that is? There are apparently two kinds of shoppers; perimeter shoppers and aisle shoppers. Perimeter shoppers generally buy fresh food, aisle shoppers buy prepared goodies. When thinking of the above photo I was struck by this thought. I am definitely a perimeter shopper. Very little of what I buy at the grocery store comes in a can or a box. However, when I am behind someone in the check out aisle who has a cart full of boxes I wonder.
This whole idea was brought home to me the other day when my daughter happened to remark that both Dawn and myself look much younger then our actual ages. And she said it’s because we pay attention to our diets, as well as doing regular meditation and practicing Tai Chi. To me that is so natural that I never think about it so my daughter mentioning it was kind of a surprise. Then I realized that paying attention in life to what is healthy is really an important exercise in self-discipline.
The idea of self-discipline tends to bring forth images of self-denial and painful choices but it does not have to be that way at all. It can actually be self-education, learning what is healthy and deciding to do that instead of what one had been doing. And it does not have to all be done at once either. Approaching healthy living in small increments works fine.
Pick one thing that you know is inappropriate to your being and change that. Some years ago I read an article in some magazine about weight loss. The person writing said they used to sit and eat a quart of ice cream at a sitting, constantly, every night before bed. When they decided to change that habit they didn’t stop ice cream but what they did do was buy really good gourmet ice cream and have a small scoop, savoring each spoonful. They did this only very occasionally, not every night and not as a reward but just as something they enjoyed. I like that approach very much.
Ultimately any of these changes you decide on are based on another much more important decision. That is, “I am tired of this and don’t want to do it any more.”
When that place is reached you are ready to effectively change your life.
Sincerely, Phillip Gowins
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