I was reading that a common practice of Sufism at the outset of a retreat is the examination of conscience, or what is called Muhasaba. Apparently it is a process of inner scrutiny that requires a high degree of honesty. I have to admit when people start suggesting such exercises, I usually run and hide. Whether justified or not, I grew up with a guilty conscience and never live up to my own expectations. When it is suggested that I step back from my life and survey my circumstances, examine my motives, explore expectations, and evaluate why I took certain actions, I usually try to disarm the process with humor and divert the discussion. (See I am already getting fidgety ). I admire and applaud those who can engage in this type of examination, it just isn’t my “cup of tea.”
That said, why is such a process so important to so many, and so helpful? Perhaps, the answer lies in the search? What are so many looking for these days? Perhaps, what our body and inner self senses is that we are out of balance in our lives, and we are searching for a way to get comfortable on the balance beam called life. Often, we sense that our personal survival needs, dramatically outweigh the time we devote to our spiritual needs. So we worry, subconsciously, that if we continue to live the same way, tilted always to survival, we will ultimately fall with no spiritual net to protect us.
Perhaps, that is why Jesus suggested that we be in the world, but not of the world. Why Jesus talked in terms of leaving earthly possessions and ties. I don’t believe, that he believed we will give everything up like the rich man his wealth, or leave our mother or father, or remove our eye or hand, as his parables go. I think he was just showing us that there is another side to each of us that is not linked to personal survival, and he is slightly nudging or guiding us on our balance beam to a center. A center where our personal needs and spiritual needs are in harmony.
What do you think? Webb
What I think is that this latest entry of yours raises very important points and concerns. First, to your comment about personal survival needs, and how sometimes they seem to outweigh our need to develop spiritually. The Sufi readings I’ve examined suggest that we tend to define “survival” more in the context of our ego (or “lower self”) needs than as relating to food, shelter, income. Elevating ourselves beyond ego needs (need to look good, be right, see self as a victim, blame others, live in fear, judgement, comparison, not hold self accountable, etc. etc.) requires work, self honesty, and willingness to change. That latter point is important. The person caught up, for example, in the victim triangle, continually playing one of the roles of victim, perpetrator or rescuer, gets personal rewards to their egos while in those roles.
When we are in our ego space, developing our spirituality is challenged. Sufis say that life spent in the ego space is a form of intoxication – we come to find comfort in our discomfort. Instead, Sufis talk about being conscious or awake – honest with one’s self and (getting to your comments on self examination) asking where I should have done something and didn’t and why. Even when fully awake, we will make mistakes. As the saying goes, we are perfectly designed to be imperfect. So if we don’t consider our imperfections, our mistakes, how can we learn from them? The Sufis tell us to love ourselves, forgive AND accept our imperfection, and grow toward mastery. I think I’ve shared this quote from Rumi before, but it fits here too:
Come, come whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving – it doesn’t matter
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times.
Come, come again, come.