A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.– Shams Tabrizi
How is it possible to be thankful for what we have been denied?
I am far from always and immediately grateful for what I have been denied, especially if I have – understandably and unwisely – invested an idea of future happiness in it and assumed it would happen.
When I look at it for myself, I find three angles into exploring this:
Aligning with reality, finding trust, and making it my own.
ALIGNING WITH REALITY
Do I know that what I want is what I need or what is good for me?
Not really. I cannot know anything for certain. I cannot know how my life would have been different.
I have several examples of where I got something I wanted, and it came with a big shadow side. And I also have several examples where I didn’t get what I wanted, and something else came in that perhaps was better.
This is what the story of the Chinese farmer points to. And it’s undeniably true, even if some parts of us don’t like to admit it.
Who decides what’s better or worse?
On the same topic, we see that our ideas of what’s better and worse are our ideas. It’s not something we can find outside of our ideas. It’s not inherent in reality.
Our ideas come from our conditioning – as a human being, as a child in a family, as a member of a culture, and so on. This conditioning is not the final word, and although it may reflect conventional wisdom, it does not reflect deeper wisdom.
Focus on what we have and not what we don’t have
If we are denied something we didn’t already have, it just means we are where we were. In reality, not much has happened.
In general, a part of good mental hygiene is to focus on what we have and not what we don’t have, and see that what we have – life, food, shelter, family, friends etc. – is a blessing and not a given.
What’s the upside of the loss?
This is partly dependent of the situation. In most or any situation, and with a more open mind and heart, we can find genuine examples of the upsides of what happened.
There is also something universal here. When we don’t get what we (thought we) wanted, we get to see what’s unhealed and unexamined in us. We get to see what emotional issues are triggered, what beliefs and identifications the loss rubs up against, and so on.
If we take it as an opportunity to befriend these parts of us, it’s an obvious blessing. We can listen to these parts of us. Be a good friend to them and ourselves. Examine the stressful stories behind them. Find love for them.
Finding what we are
When we find what we are, we see that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. Although we have our very human preferences, it all also has one taste. The more we recognize this, the more we’ll meet situations with some equanimity. And the more our center of gravity is in what we are, and not only who we are, we’ll easier find not only peace with what is but appreciation.
Another side to this is trusting the divine or life.
How do we find this trust?
We can inquire generally into some of the topics mentioned here. Can I know anything for certain? Do I really know what’s best for me? Do I know that getting what I wanted would have been best for me?
We can inquire into our most fearful beliefs and identities, see what’s already more true for us, and support these in softening and healing.
We can befriend and find love for our fears and hangups.
We can reorient to life in general through heart-centered practices, and find love for life as it is and ourselves as we are.
We can find trust of the divine through devotional practices.
We can find a sense of centeredness, grounding, and trust through body-centered practices – tai chi, chigong, yoga, TRE, Breema, and so on.
It helps a lot to heal central emotional issues and traumas in our system. The fear that’s stored in our system makes it more difficult to trust life.
We can see perfection in all as it is through discovering and becoming more familiar with what we are.
Over time, we may also find trust in that life and the divine always gives us exactly what we need – to heal, grown, and continue exploring the divine.
MAKING IT MY OWN
It’s not enough to read about this or understand it in a conventional sense. And what I have written about here is very incomplete and from my own bias and limited experience.
We have to investigate it for ourselves. We have to test it out. See what we find. See what approaches work for us. See what’s honest for us, and have the courage to follow truth rather than our conditioning and unloved fears. Read More