Looking for answers that lie within
In the fourth message of the six-part summer series Wisdom Tales from Around the World, Rev. Joanne tells us the story of “Looking for the Key.” Coming from the Sufi tradition it tells the story of Mulla Nasrudin, the wise sage.
One day he crept around in the dust, inspecting the ground. His persistence caused another man to stop and ask, “What are you doing?”
Mulla replied, “I have lost the key to a great treasure and I am trying to find it here.”
“A great treasure?” exclaimed the man. “Let me help you search for it.”
A woman passed on her way to the market. Seeing the two men crawling around in the dust, she asked, “What are you doing?”
The man replied, “We are searching for the key to a great treasure. It has been lost. I am helping the sage to find it.”
“A great treasure?” exclaimed the woman. “Let me help you search for it too.”
Several others also came by wanting to help. Finally, a young boy asked, “Are you certain you lost the key here?”
“No,” replied the Mulla, “I lost the key inside my house, but the light is better out here.”
The Sufi tradition holds that there are seven planes of existence. The subtlest dimension, which the Sufis call Zat, is the Abode of God in the aspect of the Creator. The Creator and the whole diversity of His Creation (Sifat, in Sufi terms) compose the Absolute. The Creator pervades the entire Creation with His Love.1
To connect with The Creator, we need an open heart. There are three levels of an open heart:
1. Loving what is good and benevolent in the world.
2. Sacrificial love – getting oneself “out of the way” in order to do what is ours to do.
3. Loving without discrimination because everyone and everything are divine expressions of God.
The story of “Looking for the Key” is a metaphor for when we look for answers outside of ourselves instead of going within and seeking answers there. Doing so is remaining where it is easy to love, such as loving your spouse and children. One often hears followers of Unity or other New Thought philosophies avoiding difficult situations or conversations because they don’t want “negativity” in their life. But that is an example of being stuck in level one. So what should we do when life becomes difficult? We need to move our consciousness into levels two and three.
Rev. Joanne shared with us an incident that illustrates her own challenge of moving from level one to levels two and three. Recently, she received a phone call in her office just five minutes before she was to lead a meditation. The person she was talking with made a request that was a difficult one, and one Joanne was not certain she wanted to do it. During the meditation, she ran through her mind all of the reasons she could use to justify not doing the thing being asked. However, during that time of quiet reflection, it came to her from her higher self that what she was being asked to do was an opportunity for her to move to those next levels of an open heart. By the conclusion of the meditation, she knew saying yes was the correct thing to do.
Many people genuinely want to make a difference in the world. In the past ten years or so, social media has become a wonderful way for family and friends to stay in touch. It is also a great way for people to exchange ideas, learn new things, and meet new people. One danger of social media posting, however, is having the idea that posting an opinion on a hot topic or a link to a news story is enough. While sharing in this way can be a good thing, often it is a way for people to feel like they are doing something, when in fact little or no personal contact or responsibility is associated with the posts.
Posting to social media in this way is similar to “writing a check” to charity. While it is absolutely true that financial contributions to worthy causes are not only necessary but can be a spiritual practice as well, it can be seen as being in level one of an open heart. These contributions are vital to supporting the good work being done on behalf of others. Without such support, all of the “thoughts and prayers” in the world will not help cure cancer or feed the hungry.
The point is not to denigrate being in level one of an open heart. In fact, one must progress from one level to the next in turn. However, it is much more difficult to take the time to actually volunteer at a soup kitchen, for example, serving those who need assistance. If you would like to take yourself to an even deeper level of an open heart once at the soup kitchen, do not pat yourself on the back just for being there. Try talking with someone whom you are serving and learning their “story.” One of the most valuable things a person can do for another is to give them your full attention and make them feel as though they have been heard.
So how do we know what we should do and how we should do it to open our hearts? All wisdom traditions give us guidance in that pursuit. The Quran tells us:
God augments the guidance of those who choose to be guided.
Quran - Surah Maryam [19:76] (Islam)
A critical part of that Surah is that we must choose to be guided. Faith is also a verb. When we open ourselves to God, or Divine Mind, we can only benefit from doing so.
As always, Rev. Joanne offers us a tangible practice as a means to a spiritual end.
Pay attention to the way you show up to the challenges in your week. As soon as possible, remind yourself to be still and listen within for understanding and guidance. Take a break. Expect an answer. The Spirit within will guide you in the next right thought to hold, word to speak, or action to take.
If you take the time to “be still and listen” it is certain that you will receive an answer. Funny thing is, sometimes the answer you receive is to a question you were not even asking! Do not ignore it. It is precisely what you need to know and do to move outside of your comfort zone and grow. I am willing to work the work. How will you move outside of yourself this week?
1 Encyclopedia of Religion – www.encyclopedia-of-religion.org/sufism