In the rush and clamor of daily life, it is all too easy
to become so preoccupied with our own opinions and desires that
we may easily forget to pay attention to what is really important.
Our awareness of the glory and magnificence of the present moment
is often given very little attention as we chase headlong after
our own personal goals and ambitions in the never ending, never
satisfied pursuits of the self-centered ego. Certainly we each need
to have some measure of concern for ourselves, but when the whims
of the ego become an all encompassing obsession, we have lost our
awareness of what is really important, we have lost our true nature,
we have lost our awareness of the Divine Presence.
Human beings living in their shells are mostly unaware of
the privilege of life and so are unthankful to the Giver of
it. In order to see the grace of God man must open his eyes
and raise his head from his little world. Then he will see —
above and below, to the right and the left, before and behind
— the grace of God reaching him from everywhere in abundance.
Inayat Khan's spiritual teacher expressed these same thoughts
so magnificently when he said:
There is only one virtue and
one sin for a soul on this path;
virtue when he is conscious of God,
and sin when he is not.
Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani
Many speak of annihilation of the ego, but perhaps a more useful
way to approach this situation is to realize that we must put the
ego in it's proper place as a humble and useful servant, not as
the master which it aspires to be. Here are some thoughts about
this process of overcoming the ego:
The point is not to deny our ego, but to extricate ourselves
from our exclusive preoccupation with it.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.
Gospel of St Matthew 6:33
Our journey is about being more deeply involved in life,
and yet less attached to it.
I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself, leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.
While such inspirational words may seem like wonderful ideals,
it is not enough to merely acknowledge these ideals, we must find
ways to put these ideals into continual practice in our own daily
life. In the Buddhist tradition, the sound of the bell is often
used as a reminder to stop the chatter and become mindfully aware
of the present moment, in which there is always the opportunity
for a joyful sense of awe, wonder and appreciation. In everyday
life there are many distractions and annoyances, yet even these
distractions and annoyances can be used to our advantage if we use
them as a reminder to recall the essential nature of our True Self,
as in the following magnificent example from Thich Nhat Hanh:
Driving is a daily task in this society. I am not suggesting
that you stop driving, just that you do it consciously. While
we are driving, we think only about arriving. Therefore, every
time that we see a red light, we are not very happy. The red
light is a kind on enemy that prevents us from attaining our
goal. But we can also see the red light as a bell of mindfulness,
reminding us to return to the present moment. The next time
you see a red light, please smile at it and go back to your
[spiritual practices]... It is easy to transform a feeling of
irritation into a pleasant feeling. Although it is the same
red light, it becomes different. It becomes a friend, helping
us to remember that it is only in the present moment that we
can live our lives...
The next time you are caught in a traffic jam, don't fight
it. It's useless to fight. Sit back and smile to yourself, a
smile of compassion and loving kindness. Enjoy the present moment,
breathing and smiling, and make the other people in your car
happy. Happiness is there if you know how to breathe and smile,
because happiness can always be found in the present moment.
Practicing meditation is to go back to the present moment to
encounter the flower, the blue sky, the child. Happiness is
Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh
Although it may be easiest to use something simple such as a
red traffic light to begin this wonderful practice, there are no
limits to the situations or conditions that can be accommodated
if one is truly sincere and mindful. Physical pain, emotional pain
and all manner of suffering can be overcome through the use of this
same beautiful practice.
It is only love that can bring about that happiness of which
is spoken in legends, which is beyond all pleasures of this
mortal world. ... Love is the fire that burns all infirmities.
Question: How do we see the love of God in the book
of nature? We see all around us fruits and plants and animal
life brought to fruition and then to destruction, and among
men cruelty, misery, tragedies and enmities everywhere.
Answer: It is a difference of focus. If we focus our
mind upon all that is good and beautiful we shall see — in spite
of all the ugliness that exists in nature and especially more
pronounced in human nature — that the ugliness will cover itself.
We will spread a cover over it and see all that is beautiful,
and to whatever lacks beauty we will be able to add, taking
it from all that is beautiful in our heart where beauty has
sufficiently been collected. But if we focus our mind upon all
the ugliness that exists in nature — and in human nature — there
will be much of it. It will take up all our attention and there
will come a time when we shall not be able to see any good anywhere.
We shall see all cruelty, ugliness, wickedness and unkindness
Question: In focusing our mind on beauty alone, is
there not a danger of shutting our eyes to the ugliness and
suffering we might alleviate?
Answer: In order to help the poor we ought to be rich,
and in order to take away the badness of a person we ought to
be so much more good. That goodness must be earned, as money
is earned. That earning of goodness is collecting goodness wherever
we find it, and if we do not focus on goodness we will not be
able to collect it sufficiently. What happens is that man becomes
agitated by all the absence of goodness he sees. Being himself
poor he cannot add to it, and unconsciously he develops in his
own nature what he sees. He thinks, 'Oh poor person! I should
so much like you to be good', but that does not help that person.
His looking at the badness, his agitation, only adds one more
wicked person to the lot. When one has focused one's eyes on
goodness one will add to beauty, but when a man's eyes are focused
on what is bad he will collect enough wickedness for him to
be added himself to the number of the wicked in the end, for
he receives the same impression.
Besides, by criticizing, by judging, by looking at wickedness
with contempt, one does not help the wicked or the stupid person.
The one who helps is he who is ready to overlook, who is ready
to forgive, to tolerate, to take disadvantages he may have to
meet with patiently. It is he who can help.
A person who is able to help others should not hide himself
but do his best to come out into the world. 'Raise up your light
high', it is said. All that is in you should be brought out,
and if the conditions hinder you, break through the conditions!
That is the strength of life.
You are love — you come from love — you are made by love
— you cannot cease to love.
Life is a journey, and the quality of one's life depends upon
the quality of the journey. And the quality of the journey is reflected
in one's response to the present moment. If one responds to the
present moment in a heartful manner, radiating loving kindness and
overflowing with selfless generosity, then blissful contentment,
perfection and tranquility are found everywhere, regardless of the
situations along the way.
He who is really happy is happy everywhere, in a palace or
in a cottage, in riches or in poverty, for he has discovered
the fountain of happiness which is situated in his own heart.
As long as a person has not found that fountain, nothing will
give him real happiness.
A source of happiness, or unhappiness, all is in man himself.
When he is unaware of this, then he is not able to arrange his
life, and as he becomes more acquainted with this secret he
gains a mastery, and it is the process with which this mastery
is attained which is the only fulfillment of this life.
Social Gatheka II, Number 30, by Hazrat Inayat Khan (unpublished)
posted July 31, 2005