Tuesday, September 20, 2005

PERSONAL PROBLEMS
“The wise of all ages have taught that it is the knowledge of the divine Being that is life, and the only reality. Although a human activity may have a number of complicated motives, some of which are base and gross, it is the aspiration towards divinity, the desire towards beauty, which is its soul, its life, its reality. And it is in proportion to the degree of strength or weakness of his aspiration towards beauty that man's ideal is great or small, and his religion is great or small.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful responses to the last article. Last night one of my mureeds visited me and posed a similar question which I found difficult to answer. Then, in searching for something the above quote came up, not necessarily as a direct answer to her question but as a means of examining what the response might be.
The problem she posed was not that uncommon, in fact Pir Vilayat often alluded to a similar issue from his early days. The way she stated it was to ask me what to do about people who come to her and, in her words, wonder why it hurts when they stick a fork in the electrical receptacle, as allusion to a conversation earlier in the evening about children who do such things. They ask and ask and, even though she tries to avoid giving advice, eventually she gives in and says, “Don’t do that!” to which they often reply, “That’s pretty arrogant of you to judge me that way!” Is this familiar to anyone? You have this desire to help, might even be good at it but, when you give your response to the dilemma or predicament, your very reasonable advice is rejected, even though it was asked for. If this happened once or twice in your life it could be acceptable but, when it happens repeatedly, it can become something very annoying.
In Pir Vilayat’s case, he often told of his early experiences being the center leader in Paris. This was before he decided to come to the US and work here. People would come to him and ask him what their biggest fault was so they could work on it. And he told them. He rapidly learned that was a really bad idea. No one really wants to hear what their biggest fault is, what they want is someone to tell them that they are really okay and this is a not so clever means of asking for validation. The inevitable result was that they resented his information and would get really angry. As a result he adopted a policy of never giving advice. I think this took awhile because I can remember from my early days in the SOI that he would give allusions or hints but during his last ten years or so he consistently refused to give any personal advice at all.
I must say that I notice this tendency in myself. I try to keep in mind not giving personal advice but still I do it. Apparently this human tendency to fix other people is almost a genetic imperative. Therefore, it would seem that not giving advice could almost be a spiritual practice. On the other hand, one should not necessarily be totally rigid about it, there should be a balance in there somewhere.
Let’s look back at the above quote and see if there is a clue in there. It might come from turning the problem on it’s head. Assuming that the God Ideal has some power in your life, is it possible for you to look at whatever the issue is from a very high perspective. For instance, will it truly be helpful for this person to have an answer presented to them? Or, would it be better for them to refuse to say anything and watch as they continually stick the fork in the electrical socket, get burned, jerk back their hand wondering why it hurts and do it again. Then they turn back to you with pain in their eyes and ask why you won’t help. Do you know with certainty what they are learning? This person who visited me last night is always accusing me of answering her questions with a question. She thinks that is hilarious that I will never simply say it is this or that but I think it is frustrating to her as well. I suppose that some of you may have noticed the same thing in my answers to you. What I am doing, or think I am doing, is widening the question, making the problem you may be trying to resolve a lot bigger so that you might see more aspects. Just as Pir O Murshid is talking of the God Ideal above and pointing out that it has degrees, so do our personal problems, as well as the problems of others, have degrees if only we can see them.
Right now my tendency is to resolve all of the above in some clever way and make it all very clear. The truth is that I am not all that clear about it but I do know that there is an answer in there somewhere. Maybe not a directive so much as an attitude that can be aspired to. Let’s talk about it and see what works for some of us.
Love & Blessings, Musawwir

5 comments:

Beatrix Kiddo said...

A moth to a flame, why does the little insect continue to bump the lightbulb and burn and having been jolted back it goes forward to the light once again.

Cognitive thinking kicks in at around 3 and we know if something is bad for us or our safety from past experience. The problem lies in the ability for an adult mind to stray from the path of simplicity and is plauged by outside autonomy notions and we see a situation developing in our lives and we know from the past experience that it ended badly someway yet we go forth to the bulb because now not being 3 anymore we feel there may be a chance that this time it will be different for whatever reason's we believe it wont burn us this time. Ofcourse most times it will. To seek answers and advise and then not follow it and get negative results leads to a resentment towards the advise giver. Strange but true all too often. What is a Lighthouse to do? He shall seek advise on these matters from one of more wisdom than himself and hope he will follow it. If we truly trust the adviser, we will sooner or later lean on them, trust them and learn from our past burns from the lightbulb.

Khabira said...

I guess I look at it as a pattern that we dance because it is what we know, until we recognize it as painful, then as a pattern of painful experiences, then as a pattern that we set up to learn something, then start looking around in increasing awareness to figure out the pattern and the part where we are heading toward the flame so that we can hope to avoid crashing and burning. Eventually, with much practice, we are able to move from blindly flying into the flame to recognizing and avoiding the painful experience, and finally to not even approaching that pattern and replacing it with other behaviors. This changes as the awareness happens sooner and sooner in the pattern dance. The frustrating point to me is when I see the pattern and do it anyway. Just like with learning a new language, one recognizes the mistake about to be made but "can't stop" because the new way of doing/saying it isn't in place yet. It is a process and the hard work is after the awareness of the fault. Maybe that's why it is hard to hear about our faults. It means there is more work to do than we were aware of before we got the advice. - Khabira

Qalbi Emmons said...

Take my advice, I'm not using it! -Qalbi.

Speaking of the outlet, my 9 month old granddaughter, who didn't feel well when I was caring for her on Saturday, kept going to the outlet - but I noticed that she never did it if I wasn't looking... Do we help to set up the situation by giving more or better attention when people head for trouble?

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molly said...

Dear Musawwir and Friends,
Thank you for the post, as always, timely!

I am wondering, as we move towards beauty, that we wonder how we can contribute more fully. From my personal experience, the painful lessons we move through over and over again can be traced back to our first encounters/experience. It's what we know. Until i looked deeply at a situation, i had not been able to "see" where i was doing something that provided a result that undesirable. Something like "insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different outcome".
when people ask for advice, they seem ready to receive it. from my point of view, many of us are striving for unity within ourselves. we ask others to help us on our journey...to point out the obvious, since we are too close to see it, sometimes. i believe that the response to those queries is to teach the individual to review themselves...to teach them to be able to recognize their patterns. Holding unconditional love for myself and others to move through the steps necessary to witness ourselves as we go through the motions of daily life.
From my own experience, having awareness of my pattern(s) is the first step. having the willpower to change a pattern that i have been following for over 35 years is another story.
patience & grace.