Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Training of the Ego: Humility

A short, beautiful reading from the Gathas of Inayat Khan:

"Humility is the principal thing that must be learnt in the path of training the ego. It is the constant effort of effacing the ego that prepares man for the greater journey. This principle of humility can be practiced by forgetting one's personality in every thought and action and in every dealing with another. No doubt it is difficult and may not seem very practicable in everyday life, though in the end it will prove to be the successful way, not only in one's spiritual life, but in one's everyday affairs. The general tendency is to bring one's personality forward, which builds a wall between two souls whose destiny and happiness lie in unity. In business, in profession, in all aspects of life it is necessary that one should unite with the other in this unity, in which the purpose of life is fulfilled."

"There are two forms of effacing the self, which in other words may be called giving in. One way is by weakness, the other is by willingness, the former being a defect, the latter a virtue. One comes by lack of will, the other by charity of the heart. Therefore in training the ego, one must take care that one is not developing a weakness, presuming it to be a virtue. The best way of dealing with the question is to let life take its natural course, and at the same time, to allow the conscience to keep before it the highest idea. On one side life taking its natural course, on the other side the conscience holding its highest ideal, balancing it, will make the journey easy. The words of Christ, which teach man to walk with another two miles if the other wanted him to walk one, prove the great importance of harmony in life. And his words, 'Resist not evil', show still more the importance of harmony in life, namely, that if you can avoid evil, in other words keep it away, that is better than to want to fight it. And the idea of Christ's teaching of giving in is also expressive of harmonizing with the wishes of another person. No doubt in this, discrimination is necessary. That harmony is advisable which develops into harmony and culminates in greater harmony, not that which may seem in the beginning to be harmony and would result in greater inharmony. In training the ego, balance must be taken as the most important principle"

Khan recommends we practice humility in our everyday lives by stepping out of the limelight and by letting others go forward. This may seem like anathema in today's society, but there is an underlying principle here. We are not being told not to achieve or to be excellent in our undertakings, whatever that arena may be. Rather, we gain much more in life by fostering a sense of cooperation over that of competition. We build bridges by unifying with others and honoring their gifts and contributions. Yet, we can still do our best by competing with ourselves to always hold forth our highest ideals, whatever the situation may be. As always, Khan advises discrimination in our desires to harmonize with others by seeking balance in all things.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Training Is As Well a Science as an Art

Another reading from the Gathas of Hazrat Inayat Khan:

"It is a science and an art to understand the nature of the human ego and to train it. Once can understand the nature of the human ego by a study of human nature; but one can learn the way of training it by training one's own ego. Man can train his ego by being patient with all around him that has a jarring effect upon him. For every jar upon the soul irritates the ego. When man expresses his irritation, he develops a disagreeable nature; when he controls it and does not express it, then he becomes crushed inwardly. The idea is to rise above all such irritations."

This is a wonderful application of the science aspect to training the ego. If we use our people-watching abilities and then apply that to ourselves, then we can begin to train our own ego. There are so many things in life that can prove to be irritating: from traffic to family issues or colleagues, to paying one's bills. Almost always, these sources of irritation are the sticking points of our own egos; so, take the more painful medication and crush the false ego. Lashing out in own form or another proves nothing, but being able to flow with life's problems develops beauty in one's character.

"Life has a jarring effect by its very nature which every sensitive soul can feel. If a person wishes to keep away all jarring influences, he had better not try to live, for life is a constant jarring. Life is motion, and it is in the nature of motion to strike against something. It does not require strength to stand against the jarring influences of life - there is no wall of stone or of iron that can always stand against the waves of the ocean - but a small piece of wood, little and light, can always rise and  fall with the waves, yet always above them, uninjured and safe. The lighter and littler man's ego becomes, the more power of endurance he has. It is two strong egos that strike against one another. The little ego, the light ego, just slips over when a powerful wave of a strong ego comes for it to knock over itself against a stronger wall that may throw it over."

This is a beautiful reminder that our path is being in the world. We don't wish to escape onto the mountaintop (although the occasional retreat may be rejuvenating), we want to embrace life as fully as possible. This means we will be bounced around, knocked about and thrown off our usual course at times. So, by bowing to what may come to us, as unpleasant or as painful as it might be, we become like the willow tree when the winds of life blow. This brings forth our true ego - we become malleable to what life presents.

"The art of dealing with egos of different grades of evolution is to learn gentleness, tolerance, and forgiveness, which all come from charity of heart. When man stands on the same plane as the other, then he is subject to the influence of the other ego. But if he rises above it, then every effort of the other ego falls flat. There is a poem in Hindustani, the verse of Ghalib: 'The world seems to me a playground of children. How constantly busy the infants seem with their toys!' Verily, the secret of peace is hidden under the cover of the ego."

How wonderful is this artfulness of life - if we just keep persisting with the work with our egos, we create peacefulness! The ingredients for success are learning and practicing tolerance, gentleness and forgiveness: living from the heart.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another Ramification of the Economic Crisis

As most people are reeling from the effects of the global economic crisis, I was delighted to read this article, which, for many of us, is a wonderful reminder of how much we have to be grateful for, despite the outer appearance. Here is the link:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Little Flute

Little Flute

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail

vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales,

and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in

joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.

Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

Rabindranath Tagore - (1861-1941)

Training by Abstinence

From the second set of the Saluk Gathas of Inayat Khan:

"There is no better way of training the ego than denying it what it wants for satisfaction of its vanity. It is painful sometimes, and it often seems hard, to deny the ego all it demands, but it always results in great satisfaction. Spirituality may be called a capacity; plainly explained, it may be called a depth. In some people naturally there is this capacity, this depth; and in some it may be made. In order to collect the rainwater people dig the ground and make a capacity for the water to collect. So in order to receive the spiritual life and light, one must open oneself a capacity. The egoistic has no capacity, for it is his ego which makes the heart, so to speak, solid, giving no accommodation to the essence of God. The more one denies the demands of the ego, which satisfy its vanity, the more capacity one makes to be filled by the life of God."

This portion of the reading reminds me very much of the Christian Lenten practice of self-denial while in preparation for Easter. By giving up something we enjoy, or, perhaps, something that might be best eliminated entirely, the opening for greater spiritual capacity may be created, thereby, we may then "open our hearts, that we may hear thy voice, which constantly comes from within." This is also reflected in this period of the Christian calendar as one would crucify, along with Christ, elements that may be in one's way for deeper communion with the Divine. Afterwards, there is a resurrection of the soul, hopefully, clearer and revivified after these weeks of inner reflection.

"When the will is able to rule one's life, and not one's bodily appetites and mental fancies, then there is the reign of the Golden Age, as the Hindus say; there is no injustice and there is no reward. When man finds disturbance in his life, a lack of harmony in the external life, he must take refuge under the reign within, which is the kingdom of God. To a Sufi, this body is the Temple of God and the heart His shrine; and as long as man keeps God away from His temple, from His shrine, his limited ego reigns, and that reign is called Iron Age by the Hindus. A person who has not opened his heart to God to abide in may yet be a good person, but as his life will be involved in the activities of the world, his ego will turn from bad to worse, culminating into the worst state of mind, and it is that condition of mind which is personified in the religious term 'Satan'.

"In order to learn to realize, 'I am not, but God is', one must first deny oneself for his fellow men. Respecting another, enduring a person or an action which is uncongenial to oneself, tolerating all, overlooking the faults of others, covering the weaknesses that one finds in one's fellow men, willingness to forgive, all these things are the  first lessons in self-denial."

The final paragraphs are a reminder of the choices we can make in life. Do we want to live in the Golden Age by heeding the call of the Divine on a daily basis (which helps create harmony in our lives and others), or do we prefer the Iron Age, our lives being run by the little self and its demands?

Here are ways we can started on our personal alchemy: respect others, endure people or situations that are trying, be tolerant, overlook others' faults, cover the weaknesses of others and practice forgiveness.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Three Stages Through Which the Ego Develops

This is the last Gatha reading in the series on the Training of the Ego of Inayat Khan.

"There are three different stages through which the ego develops and reaches the ideal state. The first stage is called Ammara by Sufis, and in this the ego is satisfied by the satisfaction of the passions and the appetites."

This first aspect concerns the nafs ammara, which, in this interpretation of the Arabic word nafs would refer to the petty self, the false ego, is indicating addiction to the carnal and sensual self, which we all have (nafs can also mean the soul or breath of life: the relation to the first meaning is a good linguistic example of the covering of the physical ego over the spiritual one) . Food, sex, substance abuse or many other items could come under this category. Idries Shah would call this the commanding self, i.e., the domineering false self which runs our lives.

"From this animal stage the ego may rise to a higher stage, which is man's ego, and that stage is the gratification of vanity. This ego is termed by the Sufi Lawwama, and this stage in the beginning causes a person to act in every way that is likely to cause harm and to be hurtful and unjust to others. This continues until he learns to understand the true nature of vanity, since all good as well as all evil is born of vanity. When vanity ceases to cause man to do evil, he has reached the human stage, Mutmainna."

This next stage of development is divided into two parts. The nafs lawwama is when one is in the state of constantly blaming others or accusing himself. Over time, as one takes more responsibility for one's actions and practices forgiveness, the nafs is purified and moves into the state of nafs mutmainna, the tranquil aspect of the nafs, when one has moved beyond the lower states of ammara and lawamma and is peaceful. 

"But when vanity causes man to do good the ego becomes humane, using this word in the oriental sense, in which it means more than human, as it is derived from the words, Hu, divine, and Manas, mind.

The first lesson that the ego must learn in order to develop into the humane state is that of pride in the form of self-respect. As man has the inclination to have good clothes and good ornaments in order to appear in the eyes of others as what he considers beautiful, so he must feel the same inclination towards the building of personality by the ornamentation of every action and manner in the way that he considers good and beautiful."

Finally, when one reaches the humane state, the art of personality is at a pinnacle, its most beautiful state. Khan here is hinting at akhlaq-I Allah, or, the manner of God, in which all parts of the human being are harmonized and beautiful. Attaining this truly is an art, and, as any artist knows, must be practiced daily, with great love and patience in order for this inner beauty to manifest and flower, extending itself to all creation.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Sun Never Says

All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

"You owe

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the

Hafiz (c.1320-1389)

Trans. Daniel Ladinsky

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Training of the Ego: Vanity

Another of the Gathas of Inayat Khan:

"Man has the desire to do good and to refrain from doing evil because to do so feeds his vanity. Among one thousand good and virtuous people there is scarcely one who does good and refrains from evil because that is his natural inclination. The majority of those engaged in art, science, religion, or politics are conscious all the time of the opinion of others and they can only work upon the lines they are following if appreciation comes from some quarter; the least antagonism or opposition discourages them and  often kills their desire. Among thousands, it is one great soul that can keep firm and strong in his purpose through life, unshaken and unweakened by opposition from any side. It is the person who wins in the end and accomplishes things that are worthwhile."

This paragraph is a wonderful remark on our actions vis-a-vis outer influences versus inner knowing. Do we do good deeds and works because that comes from our hearts, or is it, for better or for worse, social, religious, or familial upbringing or conventions that pressure us into learned behaviors, even if they are positive ones?

We know that public opinion and polls may certainly have an influence on politicians - might this also lead to the content of sermons and homilies, what research scientists may pursue or what art might be deemed acceptable and pleasing (the National Endowment for the Arts comes to mind)? Do we take the time to check into the depth of our hearts to hear what its voice is saying? Khan says that few people have this inner connectedness, and, if they do, they are not at all swayed away from this Spirit of Guidance and their purposefulness in life when the winds begin to blow.

"In the lives of all the great souls who have accomplished wonderful deeds in life, you will surely find this mystery hidden. Those souls have not learned it, it happens to be their nature, and the thinker will see in this a philosophy which teaches that it is the ego that chains man's feet, keeping him from progress in all paths in life. The ego not only makes man self-conscious, but it makes of him a coward and renders him helpless. He is timid because he sees his own limitations and he is helpless because everything stronger overpowers him as he confines his being within a certain limit. Besides all the other disadvantages that self-consciousness brings with it, there is about all else one thing it does, it prevents man from realizing that the thought of self keeps him away from God. In the heart of man, there is room for one only, either for himself or for God."

The greatest of souls have learned, or have perhaps always understood innately, that if we let go of the ego, which is always worried about its appearance and concerned about its vanity in the eyes of others, then the true miracle of life happens: we allow the Divine to flow through us at all times. Not only does this way of surrender give us fearlessness and tenacity, it provides us with the opportunity to create what is uniquely ours, however grand or humble that may be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When the Violin

The violin
Can forgive the past

It starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying
About the future

You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God
Will then lean down
And start combing you into

When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by

The heart starts

Hafiz  (1320-1389)
trans. Daniel Ladinsky

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Training of the Ego: Constant Battle with the Ego

Hi Friends,

This is a continuation of commentary on the Gathas of Inayat Khan. Even though these lectures and writings were collected in the early part of the 20th century, I am continually amazed at how they remain relevant for us in this century. The reading follows below in blue:

"For the person who walks in the path of God, the only struggle is a constant battle with the ego. It is the ego which forms the cover on the light of the soul, and the light hidden under the ego is the "light hidden under a bushel." Man's sense of justice, his logic, his reason, his intelligence, his affection, all is covered by the ego. If he judges anyone, it is from the point of view of his own interest, if he reasons, his selfish mind produces the result, in his affections, he puts self first, his intelligence is darkened by self; and this is the condition of the average man. In proportion, as man takes away the covering from the soul, so much more just, truer, more sincere, more loving does he become. Selfishness develops the sense of self-interest, and very often a person may gain earthly prosperity because of it. But as all things in the world are subject to change, death and decay, he remains in the end empty-handed; while the unselfish man, who has perhaps been debarred from the earthly good by his lack of self-interest, at least remains possessed of his sense of reason and is rich in the qualities of love, justice and intelligence."

This section above gives an insight into how our ego works. When it is out of control, it darkens the innate light we carry within, thereby coloring all our interactions with other human beings. However, our senses of justice, reason, logic, intelligence and affection can shift from being guided by mere self-interest to that of gradually being relieved of the burden of the ego and gathering together the components of our true self.

The proof of this is in the pudding as Inayat Khan correctly points out. Even more so today than when this was written, we live in a society strongly focused on worldly attainment above all else. Not only are we seeing the unraveling of this impulse in the financial markets today, we are coming back to the age-old question that is hinted at here in this discussion, the question many folks come to at some point in their life: Is this all there is? And, then, the true inner work may begin and the freedom from the ego may commence, if we take up the challenge to the ego.

"The whole  tragedy of life is in losing sight of one's natural self, and the greatest gain in life is coming into touch with one's real self. The real self is covered by many layers of ego; those which preponderate above all others are hunger and passion, beneath these are pride and vanity. One must learn to discriminate between what is natural and what is unnatural, what is necessary and what is not necessary, what brings happiness and what brings sorrow. No doubt it is difficult for many to discriminate between right and wrong; but by standing face to face with one's ego and recognizing it as someone who is ready to make war against us, and be keeping one's strength of will as an unsheathed sword, one protects oneself from one's greatest enemy, which is one's own ego. And a time comes in life when one can say, 'My worst enemy has been within myself.'"

Once again, we come to the issue of discernment: what is natural or unnatural? What brings happiness or sorrow? What do I truly need in life, what is the chaff? What have my hungers, passions, pride and vanity brought me and those around me? Only by deep self-inquiry can we come to conclusions that are the correct ones for ourselves. Once we stop being our own worst enemies, we can begin to engage ourselves from the inside out to produce the joy and happiness we so truly desire and is our natural birthright.

If you would like to make this a practice, choose an issue where you know you are still attached to an egoic response. Then, breathe fully and rhythmically into and out of the heart, asking the heart to answer, "What is my first step in letting go of this pattern?" Take some time - let yourself be surprised by the heart's answer!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Training of the Ego: What the Ego Needs and What It Does Not Need

This is another commentary on one of the Gathas writings of Inayat Khan. This has to be one of his most concise, clear and beautiful writings.

"In order to train the ego, it is necessary that one should distinguish what is the right of the ego and what is not its right. The ego has a tendency to want what it needs and also what it does not need. The first is its natural appetite and the second is greed."

This first comment requires that we have discernment about ourselves. This might be simple with regard to certain tendencies we have already conquered or that have come into our awareness, but it proves more difficult when we are unaware of certain behavioral patterns or our shadow tendencies which may be eluding us.

"This is like the nature of the dog, that after eating the flesh off a bone, still guards the bone against another dog. Besides this, the ego has a tendency to want more and more of what it likes, regardless of right and justice, also regardless of the after-effect. For instance, a person may eat and drink more and more until this makes him ill. Every kind of gratification of desires or appetite gives a tendency to want more and more. Then there is the desire for change of experience, and when a person gives in to it, it never ends. Excess of desire in appetites or passions always produces an intoxication in man. It increases to such an extent that the limited means that man has, become insufficient to gratify his desires. Therefore, naturally, to satisfy his desires he wants more than what is his own, wants what belongs to other people. When this begins, naturally injustice begins. Then he cannot get what he wants, then there is pain and disappointment."

What can be most difficult is when one of our bad habits gets the most of us: we can become so entrenched in a behavior or position, that it takes over entire areas of our lives. This might not only be issues of food or drink, but excessive anger, manipulation, victimhood, insisting on our point of view...the list can be quite long. We can even see this ego beyond into a regional or national level.

"When one person gratifies his desires more than other people, the others who see this want to take away the gratification he has. One naturally expects a thinker to understand this and to relieve his ego of all that is unnecessary."

So, how do we begin to do this? We begin by practicing moderation.

"The training of the ego is this, to eat to live and not to live to eat, and so with all things one desires. The nature of desire is such that nothing will satisfy it forever, and sometimes the pleasure of a moment costs more than it is worth. And when one's eyes are closed to this, one takes the momentary pleasure regardless of what will come after. The training of the ego is not necessarily a sad life of renunciation, nor is it necessarily the life of a hermit."

We don't need to run away from life at all. Here is the key to how we escape the suffering we encounter when the ego is runaway in our lives:

"The training is to be wise in life, and to understand what we desire and why we desire it and what effect will follow, what we can afford and what we cannot afford. It is also to understand desire from the point of view of justice, to know whether it is right and just. If the ego is given way to in the very least in the excess of its desires, it becomes master of one's self. Therefore, in training the ego, even the slightest thing must be avoided which may in time master us. The ideal life is the life of balance, not necessarily the life of renunciation. Renunciation must not be practiced for the sake of renunciation, but it must be practiced if it is necessary for balance. Verily, balance is the ideal life."

I invite you to take an area of your life that may be challenging , and to place your awareness there. Let your inhalation breathe this issue into your heart and let your exhalation let go of it, bringing insight and solution. May balance in life become your forte.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Sense of Beauty and Sincerity

Inayat Khan writes: "There are two things needful in the development of personality: the sense of beauty and the preservation of sincerity." (View the full text here:  ).

He defines the sense of beauty as the ability to incorporate all that appears beautiful in thought, word and deed. He points out that we readily respond to those people who treat us respectfully and in a humble manner , but that we may look the other way when we ourselves fail to behave in this appealing way.

The two basic reasons for this are: One, that we tend to look outwardly rather than inwardly, and so we see the other person before we "see' ourselves. The other is that we are selfish by nature, wanting what is good for ourselves but not wanting to give that goodness so readily to others.

If we focus on others, it is always much easier to blame them for our failure, unhappiness or the like. What is more difficult is to look inside and to see where we may be unwilling to face our own contributions to what is mucking up our own lives. Probably the vast majority of our projections onto other people are not about their faults; rather, it is about some issue of our own that we have not yet embraced. What we may see as pushy and arrogant may be a disowned reflection back to our hearts about how we would like to be more assertive or confident in our work or personal lives as the person we dislike is doing so successfully! The list could rife with possibilities for development of a beautiful personality if we abandon our false ego to learn from what is in front of us.

Khan's reference to the rose is also illuminating, since we have the choice at all times to be either the rose or the thorns, both of which spring from the same root. Perhaps this is that choice to succumb to the nafs, or the pain body, as Echardt Tolle calls it, or, to elect beauty in manner by recognizing when this choice of thorns or rose is arising, and then, hopefully, choose the path of fragrance, color and unique form.

Lastly, another aspect, sincerity, is necessary to beauty. There is a tremendous difference between developing polish and having true sincerity, which rises from the inner essence. A good example of this might be the sales person who has a pleasing manner  on the outside, but has the agenda to close the sale, whether to the other person's benefit or not. We can also see this in the current political posturing where candidates are very polished in manner or speech, and may even have a level of physical attractiveness, but, depending on your viewpoint, you may see them as also having an agenda, not emanating from a true place of sincerity. This is where Inayat Khan correctly assesses that we must have sincerity in our beauty and beauty in our sincerity, otherwise it is nothing other than dross, and the true emanation of the heart cannot occur.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was  a Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun and reformer. She led an extraordinary life during the period of the Spanish Inquisition, and was not immune to their pressures. Notwithstanding, she established numerous convents and was a prolific writer.

Teresa's self-described stages of realization are discussed very well at (in the Mysticism section):
This description of her series of four stages clearly indicates the depth from which she not only wrote but lived.

Her poetry is written from her experience of Divine Love, but, today I have chose two selections which reflect her sense of humor:


Just these two words He spoke
changed my life.

"Enjoy Me."

What a burden I thought I was to carry -
a crucifix, as did He.

Love once said to me "I know a song,
would you like to hear it?"

And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore
in the sky.

After a night of prayer, He
changed my life when 
He sang.

"Enjoy Me."


How did those priests ever get so serious
and preach all that

I don't think God
tickled them 

Beloved - hurry.

trans. Daniel Ladinsky

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Message Across Time for Today's World

What can always amaze me are the words from across the centuries that still hold tremendous power and meaning for those living today. Such is the message of Moinuddin Chishti, who left a beautiful discourse for his students a month before his death:

"Love all and hate none.
Mere talk of peace will avail you naught.
Mere talk of God and religion will not take you far.
Bring out all the latent powers of your being
and reveal the full magnificence of your immortal self."

"Be overflowing with peace and joy,
and scatter them wherever you are
and wherever you go."

"Be a blazing fire of truth,
be a beauteous blossom of love
and be a soothing balm of peace."

"With your spiritual light,
dispel the darkness of ignorance;
dissolve the clouds of discord and war
and spread goodwill, peace and harmony among the people."

"Never seek any help, charity, or favors
from anybody except God.
Never go to the courts of kings,
but never refuse to bless and help the needy and the poor,
the widow, and the orphan, if they come to your door."

"This is your mission, to serve the people....."

"Carry it out dutifully and courageously, so that I, as your Pir-O-Murshid,
may not be ashamed of any shortcomings on your part 
before the Almighty God and our holy predecessors
in the Silsila on the Day of Judgement."

This, to me, is a message as relevant to us today as it was in the 10th century. May his message find resonance in your heart as well.

A little background: The Chishti Sufi Order was founded circa 900 AD in the city of Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan. Abu Ishaq Shami was sent by his teacher from Syria to spread the Sufi message.

(If the last paragraph is confusing, a Pir-O-Murshid is usually the head of a Sufi order held in high esteem. He would intervene on behalf of his initiates on Judgement Day. The Silsila is the initiatic chain which stretches back in time from the living teacher back to the Prophet Muhammad.)

Monday, August 25, 2008


Many times we desire to create change in our lives, but often do not know how to begin, especially if we have particular habits that are deeply engrained.

Neuroscientists confirm that each time we repeat an action or thought, the groove in the brain corresponding to that action or thought deepens. This fact can serve us both positively (look both ways before you cross the street) or negatively ("I will never be able to...." fill in the blank).

Remarkably, scientists have discovered that our brains have neuroplasticity, which means that they are far more mutable than we have thought. This means we are able to influence physical change in the brain in response to our thoughts.

Shifting our thoughts from what we lack to being grateful for what we have is profound. From, The Art of Personality, Inayat Khan:

"Gratefulness in the character is like fragrance in the flower. A person, however learned and qualified in his life's work, in whom gratefulness is absent, is devoid of that beauty of character which makes personality fragrant. If we answer every little deed of kindness with appreciation, we develop in our nature the spirit of gratefulness..."

"There is much in life that we can be grateful for, in spite of all the difficulties and troubles of life. Sadi says, 'The sun and the moon and the rain and clouds, all are busy to prepare your food for you, and it is unfair indeed if you do not appreciate it in thanksgiving.'"

"...But little actions of kindness, which we receive from those around us, we can know, and we can be thankful if we want to be. In this way, man develops gratefulness in his nature, and expresses it in his thought, speech and action as an exquisite form of beauty."

I especially think this following section is important, in how we express our gratitude and how it may or may not be reflected back to us:

"As long as one weighs and measures and say, 'What I have done for you' and 'What have you done for me', 'How kind I have been to you' and "How good you have been to me',  one wastes one's time disputing over something which is inexpressible in words; besides, one closes by this that fountain of beauty which rises from the depth of one's heart. The first lesson that we can learn in the path of thankfulness is to forget absolutely what we do for another, and to remember only what the other person has done for us."

"Throughout the whole journey in the spiritual path, the main thing to be accomplished is the forgetting of our false ego, so that in this way we may arrive some day at the realization of that Being whom we call God."

So, be grateful every day. Say aloud five things you appreciate about your life every morning and evening. Express sincerely your gratitude towards others, to your beloved, your colleagues, your friends, your neighbors. Expect nothing in return (although I suspect this practice may garner a few smiles).

Then watch: the fountain of beauty which rises from the depths of our hearts, where we feel our deepest emotions, have sympathy for others, and where we can connect to the Universal Heart, see what perfume begins to permeate your being.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Transformative Practice

A while back I found a wonderful article on the effect of group meditation. About 4000 meditation practitioners went to Washington, DC, between June and July, 1993, to see if their efforts would be able to prevent violence for eight weeks during these warm summer months. The idea was to test whether their personal coherence, or balance, stability and harmony produced by their personal meditation practice, would translate over into community coherence. The protocol was very strictly set and followed.

As the number of participants increased over the test period, there was a direct correlation in the decrease of violent crime.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes:
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are actually powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, fabulous, gorgeous, talented? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You're playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that's within us. It's not just in some of us. It's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we automatically give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.
Cultivation of your own transformative practice is the means to having a direct impact not only on your own life, but of all those you touch in daily life. This is done in three steps:
  • Intention - before you sit to meditate, set an intention for a quality you want to cultivate. This may be done by a statement or a prayer. Energy will follow intention.
  • Attention - in Heart Rhythm Meditation, we initially put the focus on the heart and the breath. This easily creates physical coherence with practice and then informs our being on the levels of emotion, mind and spirit.
  • Repetition - Lather, rinse and repeat! The undoings of the patterns we have learned over the years may take some time to change. Gentle patience towards ourselves will let these qualities emerge, even as they are tested in the day to day realities of our world.
The great Sufi mystic Inayat Khan wrote: "It is mind which creates atmosphere. One often wonders why it is that one feels uncomfortable in the presence of someone without his having done any harm; or that one feels excited in the presence of someone, or that one gets out of tune, or tired, or confused in the presence of someone else. Why is it? It is the effect of the person's mind. The mind that is on fire creates fire in the atmosphere, and everyone within its atmosphere is burning, too, in the same fire. The mind which is restful and peaceful gives rest and peace to those who come within the atmosphere of the mind....It is the atmosphere that his presence creates: for no one can create an atmosphere which does not belong to his spirit."

I invite you to create an atmosphere filled with harmony and beauty and to let the inner workings of your heart touch every other heart you come into contact with today and everyday.