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Trials Along the Way

by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff


O my God, what irony it is
That we are at the bottom of hell,
And yet are afraid of immortality.
Rumi

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about why there isn’t much written in the spiritual literature by advanced spiritual travelers concerning their trials, physical aches and pains of being human and a general ‘bitch session’ with their friends or students about life.

In Rumi’s poem we have a very rare account of a spiritual master discussing some of the trials along the way. Here Rumi is calling everyday life ‘the bottom of hell’ and noting the ironical nature of all human frailty: living in a real mess and fearful of taking the next step; to a higher plane and away from this earthly mess.  

Keep in mind that Sufis are experts at using words, and masters of verbal precision.  My first teacher never discussed with his students any of his personal problems, doubts or fears or anything that was not targeted at helping the student advance. In Rumi’s poem, we have a teaching instrument—not a general observation or complaint about life.

One of my teachers, described life as a series of ups and downs, and far below the surface water there was a deep, ancient stillness, calling each traveler forward. Daily this was the water we were to learn to swim in: when assailed with life’s trials and difficulties

On at least 2 occasions, we had the opportunity to observe our first teacher is moments of high stress and presumably inner turmoil. To his students, he always showed little outward stressful emotion.  

During one incident, he took a phone call in another office away from his desk, where we were having a teaching session; this phone call was about his wife and 2 sons who were involved in an automobile accident in their home country, and it would be hours before he received more detailed information. Hesitantly one of us offered our hopes for a positive outcome for those involved and offered you must be terribly worried about your wife and sons? He replied, “Yes I am, but we are always in God’s Hands and must accept what ever happens.”  Then he offered a silent prayer and continued with the teaching session.  

When we left the office, we all remarked how well he had handled the situation and kept on with the task at hand: continuing with the lesson and trying not to make any of us feel uncomfortable.  Later in the day, we learned that everyone had survived with minimal injury. 

Why The Lack of Written Accounts

This lack of written description and emphasis upon emotional inner turmoil, fears, doubts or the effect of painful physical malady upon the spiritual traveler’s attitude and life view, is due to the following reasons.

· These states need to be minimized so the higher consciousness can come forward.  It isn’t that these emotions do not exist, but as little time as possible must be spent on them. They are not the goal and often block the higher awareness. 

· If the teacher were to describe his own inner fears and doubts; this might negatively influence the student’s progress.

· The outcome of spiritual learning is to submit to all that life offers and become a vehicle for God Consciousness and the will of the Absolute. Acceptance is different than airing out, discussing, and working on honoring/getting past emotions.  We are to learn from nature and bow before the wind and rain.

O Lord, I surrender myself to You.
As the willow bends to the wind
And the leaf curls to the rain,
O Lord, I surrender myself to You.
 
· Perhaps there are God Men/Women out there who have transcended their own pain, suffering and troubling reactions to life’s stressful events.  However these beings are more Godlike than human.

· Most teachings focus on the goal and how to minimize our time in the negative zone. Life is a full-contact sport; lots of bruises, dirty and grimy. Similarly it is beautiful, poetic and glorious. Opposites exist so they may be experienced and at certain times transcended. Higher consciousness is not a fixed state of awareness; it comes and goes depending upon the needs of the situation.

· Pain and suffering help to teach humility and turn our hearts upward for help from the Friend.

Show me someone whose life has been easy and I will show you ½ a person. 
-SB
__________
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