Friday, October 09, 2009


"The perfect man uses his mind as a mirror.
It grasps nothing. It regrets nothing.
It receives but does not keep."
Chuang Tzu

"Oh my Beloved, fill the cup that clears
Today of past regrets and future fears.
Tomorrow? Why, tomorrow I may be
Myself with yesterday's seventy-thousand years!"
Omar Khayyam

I should explain that last line. In Sufism, depending on the source, there are either 22,000 or 70,000 veils before the face of God. Omar Khayyam is probably saying that he is waiting for the clarity that will remove all these veils and reveal his true self to his current self. That would be a very common theme in Sufi poetry.

Now, getting to the point of the blog:

We all do stupid stuff occasionally. You cannot be human and not eventually do something that you would rather you had not. Often they will be things that, in the moment seem, if not totally okay, at least somewhat responsive to whatever is taking place. Thinking back on my own regrets I can see that I probably could not have acted in any other way at that time. In retrospect these events seem foolish or harmful or downright idiotic but, at the time, they seemed normal. So, in a way, regrets are reevaluations of events that are now gone and cannot be changed.

My very first Sufi teacher, besides Pir Vilayat that is, was a woman named Iman Ibranyi Kiss. I also had a Sufi guide named Azimat, who gave me my spiritual practices, but I lived in the same community with Iman so she became my de-facto instructor into the mysteries of Sufism. She was fond of saying that she had the right to rewrite her personal history. I puzzled over this because I knew she had had a rough time in the early years and I wondered how she could rewrite it. What I did not realize then was that she meant she was rewriting her attitude toward the events that had taken place. Iman was killed in a car accident at a very young age. I still miss her.

Iman's idea that we can rewrite our history intrigued me for many years. I have a number of incidents in my life that I deeply regret and I could not see how I could experience them as other then awful. I still have trouble with it but occasionally I can see her point.

Imagine for a time that your life, not as you perceive it but as it actually is, is one long dream of God. From this point of view your experiences, however you judge them are also the experiences of God. Among the billions of experiences occurring every day, yours still have value because God, in the Sufi point of view, is kind of like a massive computer, absorbing data and processing the results into a coherent idea of its own existence. This is at least one point of view of the mystics, there are obviously others. But it is helpful. If you can hook into this point of view, even briefly, it gives you a completely different take on some of your more stupid or silly actions. You get to see that they are also the silly or stupid actions of God. And isn't that interesting?

From this we can extrapolate a certain idea about the true nature of reality and our place within it. If we are of the being of God, each of us is an active participant in the drama of the Universe, so every action of ours is also a part of that drama. So, all the stupid stuff we do is also a part of that drama. What do you think is God's point of view in all of this? A part of God, kicks his dog, or beats his wife or causes an accident. What can God be thinking to do such a thing? What does God learn?
It is a great puzzle. It becomes a difficult problem when we begin to realize that we are contributing to the over all knowledge of God, even when we do something silly. Is this our goal then to continually disappoint ourselves? With each regret, disappointment is right there helping. So, do you think that God is disappointed?

The Sufi point of view is that God is simply interested. God watches and experiences and learns and constantly evaluates in some manner that we do not understand. So perhaps it is possible for us also to see in this way and not be quite so hard on ourselves.

So, examine your regrets and see if you can see them as simply a part of your being. You learned, hopefully, and you now know not to do that again; which means that God also learned. You might say that God has been learning the same lessons over and over again and it may look like that but there has been a very slow evolution.
Next blog we will look at this a bit deeper. In the meantime your comments will help me write the next blog.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Za'ida said...

Oh, oh, you opened Pandoras box!

Past mistakes are the points where we thought to do the right thing, but evaluated the situation from a limited point of view. The regret comes when the soul learns to broaden its sight and realizes that it lately harmed itself.

At this point it is important not to let a vicious circle of blame, shame and self-punishment take control.
As I said recently on my own blog: if a canyon opens up right at your feet and you can not bridge it, walk around. There is no need to jump and break your neck.

Maggie said...

I have to say I've reached a point in my life where I regret nothing. I haven't always felt that way. But I've learned from every error in judgment, every poor choice, even from those things inflicted on me by others. As long as I am able to experience, learn, and grow....learn something positive from the worst of experiences....I continue to move forward.

Love and Blessings,


Anonymous said...

I am thinking of a poem by Robert Frost, "The road not taken" - I do not regret the choices I made, not the painful ones nor the shameful ones, and not the joyful ones, nor do I regret who they made me become so far, but I do often wonder about the roads not taken. As Frost so beautifully says ... "yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back" . If I had chosen different paths, would they have turned me into somebody different (which seems immediately so obvious that I feel silly to even ask the question), or would the end result have been the same, provided I was always an honest seeker (which makes sense if I look only at the bigger picture, and reduces the first question to something similar to wondering if it matters what colour dress you will be wearing on prom day ...)
Do all paths eventually lead to the revelation of THE true self or is this self "created" as we go ? Or am I thinking too much again ? ;-)
Another question that arises from reading your blog touches the concept of a learning Divinity, I personally find it interesting and can relate to it in the sense of what we already discussed one time - you can ask the same question over and over again, but you always reach deeper levels of understanding - but how is this compatible with the christian idea of a perfect all-knowing God ?
I'll be looking forward to reading more of your thoughts my dearest friend ... much Love from Karin

Anonymous said...

I love this post. It seems to be the best yet.
Now, a question for you. How can we examine each day to try to ascertain the good, the bad and the ugly of our actions or responses? Sometimes it is impossible to judge, of course. Is it possible to learn from our mistakes on a daily basis or is that just too draconian? I know there is a practice of reviewing the day before going to sleep but I'm usually too exhausted to do it. Do you have a practice? And how on earth can we really evaluate except to do as the poet suggests and pray to fill the cup with love?