Thursday, October 19, 2006

Winds of Change

Wow! What a ride!! Over the past few months, I have experienced some life changing moments that has rendered me wordless. Whatever that I have known for sure the whole of my life about myself, is all gone. Everything that was right side up is now upside down. Currently, I have a surmountable urge to delete all my past blog entries in my archive, because they are not about me anymore. The person that I was then has ceased to exist.

I believe that God allows things to happen for a reason. I can feel the winds of change blustering all around me and the people in my life, bringing inexplicable occurrances, leaving a trail of confusion in its path. And because I am in the middle of the storm as well, I couldn't be there for those who sought my guidance in their time of need for directions. I have lost my bearings. I have lost me...

However, I am learning new things lately. God is replacing my old knowledge with new ones. I have gained better insight of myself and have learnt that there are no guarantees in life. There are no definites, except for those preordained by God. For those who have yet to be blown away by the winds of change, they simply stand there, watching the rest of us with critical and judgemental eyes. They deem us as weaklings, stupid and shallow minded. That is the way of the human mind. They judge others by their behaviours but they judge themselves by their own intentions. But I truly believe that when the winds of change hit them, it will bring empathic understanding and insight for them. And then they will regret every bad thought they have ever had about others. I know that for sure. Because I have been there.

It is easy for us to be envious of people who we think have it all. They seem to glide through life like as if they are on some golden, buttery road in heaven. Everybody wants what other people have. Only the good things, mind you. They don't want problems and warts. They think they have enough of that on their plates. But since nothing in life is free, and that everything that is worth your while involves a sacrifice of some sort, everyone who is contemplating and reflecting on their lives should consider this statement by Gandhi:

"There are times when you have to obey a call which is the highest of all, i.e., the voice of conscience even though such obedience may cost many a bitter tear, and even more, separation from friends, from family, from the state to which you may belong, from all that you have held as dear as life itself. For this obedience is the law of our being."

The emotional roller-coaster ride for me has yet to grind to a halt. I am still waiting for the next swerve and dips. Although at this point of time, I feel like a complete oaf, screaming my lungs out when I dive into the lowest lows and sigh a big relief when I feel safe again, I am being watched by the eyes of the world. After learning from what I am going through now, I'm not sure whether I can bring myself to watch when it's their turn to ride on the roller-coaster called the winds of change.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Humility

Humility might be defined as taking one's true measure" and then not hiding from the truth of that realization. Humility, is a state that is achieved, not through practice, but through awareness.

Benjamin Franklin, at one point in his life, made it a practice to work on one virtue each week. He was making excellent progress, he felt, in his self-development until he worked on humility. What he found was that, as often as he practiced, and made himself more conscious of humility in his life, the prouder he became of his own progress.

What then is your true measure? In the context of this world, you are one among billions, here for but a single breath. You matter to very few people, and even the few who know you may think about you seldom.

Without humility, we can be as puffed up about ourselves as the gnat in the following story: A self-important gnat, having raised his family for some years in the ear of an elephant, finally decided to move. Shouting at the top of his lungs, he informed the elephant of what was, to him, a momentous decision. The elephant, having previously known nothing of the gnat's existence, made no reply, not wishing to hurt the feelings of his small and totally insignificant visitor.

Even if you see yourself as a part of all creation and lasting for eternity, you, as a single human, are still but a drop in a vast ocean. That ocean is held by gravity to a small sphere orbitting a tiny star among billions of others. Your time as a separate drop, however important you may seem to be in your own world, is so brief that the ocean itself may be unaware of your existence, your forming, or your dissolving.

"All my brothers are better than I!"
"How is that?"
"Every one of them considers me more worthy than himself, and whoever rates me higher than himself is in fact better
than I." - al Ghazzali

Excerpt from Essential Sufism by James Fadiman & Robert Frager

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Traveller

The traveller on the path to truth must have intelligence, understanding and insight. These are his prerequisites.

"Allah created servants wise and understanding
Who leave the world, the abode of afflictions.
They take to the sea where waves are their only trial,
Where good deeds are ships on which to ride the waves."

The traveller is on the path because there is a place to which he wishes to go. His attention is fixed principally upon that goal, yet he cannot ignore the importance of the preparation for this voyage. When he prepares, he must take heed not to be fooled by the attraction of appearances, and he must not load himself with luggage nor take the stops and stations as his final goal.

The people of the mystic path say that deeds belong to the One who created them. Man is not fully responsible: in his hands deeds may appear other than what they are. Allah says:

"....one is secure from Allah's scheme except the people who have lost everything [and are in total want]." (Sura A'raf, 99)

This is fundamental on this path: to leave all luggage behind and depend on Allah, undistracted by the temptations of the stations on the path. In divine tradition Allah says:

O Muhammad, give the good news to the sinners that I am All-Forgiving. But tell the ones who are truly Mine and sincere in their wish for Me that I am Most Jealous (of anything that they may wish for besides Me).

The miracles that appear through those close to God and the spiritual stations in which they appear are true. Yet, even such people are not safe from Allah's schemes and His tests inciting them to sin - sometimes they are even granted success when they begin to sin, so they think that their states belong to them and that the miracles are theirs. It is only the prophets and their miracles that are free from such tests. It is said that the fear of losing ones faith at one's last breath is the only safeguard that will grant faith at one's last moment.

An excerpt from "The Secret of Secrets" - Revelation of Islamic Sufism & Mysticism by Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani

Friday, October 6, 2006

Month of Temptations

Most people view Ramadhan as a time of fasting, abstaining from eating and drinking and any sexual activities during the day. The enlightened ones embrace this month as a time for bringing themselves closer to their Creator by virtue of controlling their lowly desires and busying themselves with extra religious and spiritual activities to cleanse and enrich their souls. Although the intrinsic value of Ramadhan and what it stands for varies from one individual to another, I found myself looking at me and my life in a very different light than before.

If you were to find yourself lost in the woods and have nothing to eat, you can't actually call it fasting. The difference is too colossal. Fasting is about choices. Everyday we are presented with an array of delicious food (a bigger one is made available to you if you go to a hotel for breaking your fast because you have to pay an absurd amount of money for a large buffet which is impossible for you to sample everything offered to you unless you continuously eat until they chase you out of the hotel!). Even when you go to the Ramadhan bazaar, you have such a wide variety of food to buy home so much so that you are spoilt for choice. But Ramadhan is not just about choices. It is also about temptations.

During other months, we often blame Iblis for tempting us to do things we will often regret. But the thing is, Iblis can only do just that! Attempt to make you do something you are not suppose to do. More often than not, we would succumb to the seduction and live to regret our choices. But every Ramadhan, God promises to chain Iblis and his honchos so that we can have some peace and quiet and proceed to battle on with our lowly desires. We are left with only our desires. This is so that we can understand its characteristics, traits and tricks and learn to withstand and fight our biggest enemy...which is our inner demons. In doing this, we will also get a glimpse of where our strengths lie. With this knowledge, we will be able to administer ourselves better when Iblis is released again.

I can't say that I am immune to the wiles of my nafs. I just try to manage it as best I can. And when my spiritual faith weakens, I turn to God for help and assistance. Truly, we can never win this battle alone. It is easy for anyone of us to view temptation as something that is outside of ourselves. But this is where our achilles heels are. For as long as we are disconnected from our true selves and deny the roles of our nafs in our defeat when dealing with temptations, we will continue to fail.

Since I consider myself as a person that operates on a cognitive level, I decided to employ whatever knowledge that I have to understand my weaknesses and use it to fight my nafs rather than give in. I now understand why certain temptations are just too irresistable to me and with this understanding, I began to see the temptations as it truly is. Trouble! And because I am not willing to face the consequences of bad choices and giving in to it, I don't find it so desireable after all.

I use to wish that I could go into isolation during Ramadhan to get the fullest benefits of it. But that would be unrealistic. After all, Ramadhan is just for a month. What would I do with myself for the rest of the months? It is easy to be steadfast in religious activities in a controlled environment. But the world is not such a place. Therefore, I shall take this month as an opportunity to take a holiday and I shall return to the 'real world' more rested and recharged. Insya Allah.

Truly, there is no might within me except from God. After all, unlike temptations, opportunities only knock once!