Sunday, April 18, 2010


"The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without a dignified ease."

"Our validation of ourselves is so precariously suspended upon our self-image, so that we are safeguarding it as best we know by either parading an inflated psychological demeanor or lying low to evade confrontation - humility as inverted tentative pride. Little does one know most times that one is not only deceiving others but oneself."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I have noticed lately that the smaller a person's world view the more likely they are to be indignant about trivial matters. This was brought home to me recently in a fairly benign manner. I was at one of the many four way stop intersections that abound in Scranton. I waited for one car on my right to go and was about to go myself when I realized that the car on my left was also moving into the intersection, so I stopped. For some reason the young woman driving the car thought I had challenged her I suppose and I could see her yelling at me, though I could not hear the words. Obviously, in her world, I had committed an unpardonable sin even though it was a very simple thing. I didn't mind letting her go. Her passenger, as they were passing in front of me, made a rude gesture, which we are all familiar with. My impulse was to return it but that was instantly supplanted by humor and I smiled at him, which I suppose was disconcerting. Well I don't really know what his reaction was to my grin but this tiny incident was the source of my idea for this article. There was really no reason for the young woman to get upset. This kind of misstep happens all the time at these four way intersections and most people accept that occasionally it will occur and someone will have to give way. Usually one person will make a small gesture and the other driver will give a thank you wave and go through the intersection but not this young woman. And that caused me to wonder why?

Obviously I have no idea if my analysis of the young woman's motivation is correct or not. Maybe she was just having a crappy day and lashed out at the most convenient target. Still it was a place to launch this article.

The most important part of any observation like the one above is when you look at yourself and see if you exhibit similar behavior. It may not be at stop signs but do you find yourself getting annoyed or downright indignant over meaningless circumstances? That is what I found myself doing after the incident. How often do I find myself irate over something relatively insignificant? I had to admit that I do, not all that often, I am much better then I was when I was younger, but I do. Once again I am secretly embarrassed and now am displaying it for all to see. I wonder if this is the inverted pride that Pir Vilayat speaks about. Whew, it certainly does get complicated doesn't it?

We, as humans trying to live our lives, are constantly assaulted by all sorts of opportunities to be smaller then we really are. My teacher used to say that we see ourselves as lowly worms when we are really magnificent celestial beings. Be that as it may, we still look for validations of all kinds. And sometimes our validation comes with false indignation. What to do? The very first thing to do is to simply admit that your self image might need a tiny bit of rearranging. I think that a major mistake that people make is in thinking that, because the work looks impossible, to attain some kind of elusive perfection, then it cannot be done. I hear it from people all the time. It's a kind of wail, "I am a mess and will never get better!" Such thinking will remain true as long as you feel that you cannot become the being you have always been intended to be. The good news is that you get to keep some flaws.

Muhasaba, the practice of self examination of the Sufi's, is not intended to embarrass you, though it will. What it is intended to do is to give you perspective. It is as if you stand outside of yourself and watch this silly person attempt to get it right and you notice what it does. That's it. Beating yourself up is optional of course but not really all that effective because then you get into the afore mentioned inverted pride thing. So, just notice, be aware and slowly, slowly you will begin to shift who you think you are to who you really are – a glorious vice-regent of the creative force of the Universe.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Anonymous said...

This story I can relate to in so many scenarios. I actually find myself letting someone go ahead of me and for my good gesture, which I thought I was not expecting any such thank you or wave, I found myself annoyed because I didn't get the wave or thank you.
When I get irritated by what I perceive as thoughtlessness /ignorance / rudeness of the other person to 'Thank Me', I wonder if I set my expectations too high. Then I set in motion the 'Who do I think I am?' mind game.
Perhaps as you said, that person is having a bad day or they had just encountered a similar situation moments ago and it stayed with them until they set it right by doing it to someone else.
And then I think... what if I think too much about what other people are doing and saying. What if, I like you, decided to just smile and pretend that what they did was all right and move on? Would I be swallowing what I think is right and let them get away with something? What does it matter to me? Which again brings me to a big issue that I think carries a lot of weight and in turn.. problems.
WHY WHY WHY... do I worry so much about what other people are doing? What they are saying, how they are saying it and WHY do I think that it is a reflection on me?
I think I am just ranting because you have opened a door within me on a subject that I am trying to get through.
I have a few friends (who have good qualities other than the ones I am about to wench about) who speak their mind, disregarding that the words they say, opinions they voice and actions they make are justified in their mind cause that is how they feel at the moment. I cringe... CRINGE (in all capital letters) when I am with them. Thinking that I am being judged because I hang around with them. I feel that I should apologize for their misbehavior or rudeness. (I don't, because in my heart I know I am not like that AT ALL, no doubt.)
Am I expecting too much from the people around me. I know I have no angel wings nor do I wear a halo, but I respect people. I want to pass along my goodness as best I can. Trust me, the tiny devil in me does rear his head, but most times I can pound him down.
My bottom line is.... I try to treat people how I want to be treated. I KNOW I need to let go, as you did in that traffic incident, of other people's bad moments. A smile was a good thing you did. Too bad they might have perceived it as another form of the finger in a more kindly way.
Forgive me for the ramble... I dare not read it over, so accept this as what was in my heart and head at the moment.
Mail Lady

Eklutna said...

WOW, what a wonderful quote from our beloved Pir, Musawwir!! Good stuff otherwise,too, and coming on "one of those days" when I am feeling my own "sins" very keenly. And as you say, the remedy for that is found in a simple switch in perspective from that ingrained Judeo-Christian guilt we all grew up with to that awareness Pir gave us, of our innate magnificence. How grateful we must be to have such role models!


Za'ida said...

Musawwir, you made me laugh out loudly!

In the past I was in similar situations and always I expected a certain gesture of gratidude that I, Za'ida the magnificiant, was so generous to give a stranger an advantage. And what happend? Other people didn't even dare to think of me as so great and so generous as I wanted them to think.

It is all a matter of self perception and expectation.

Don't blame the flaws! What would we be without them? Imagine a world of perfect beings, saintly, innocent, ... how boring that would be.

Have a great Sunday

Maggie said...

Well done, as always, Musawwir!

Do I see myself in your story? Of course. I do my best to observe and move forward.

Much love, many blessings....


sheree said...

your insight amazes me. i also enjoyed the previous comments of others.

Linda said...

The mark of true genius is that each of your readers can believe that the lesson was written with them in mind. My thanks to everyone who ads to the comments. I am learning so much everyday.

Sarala said...

yeah, it is embarrassing, isn't it, to catch myself shooting canon balls at mosquitos, which, at the time, appear to be swooping banshees. Thankfully, I've noticed it doesn't happen so often as it used to, as you noticed for yourself.

And when I do catch myself in it, I say to myself: "hmpf, aren't you all twisted up into a ball? What' this really about?" It's usually something else that has me riled, so then I get another opportunity to defuse the actual bomb.

I love your turn of phrase "we are constantly assaulted by all sorts of opportunities to be smaller than we really are."

Thanks for doing these blogs!