Sunday, 16 July 2017


Quran 2:216

Quran 2:216

In surah baqara verse 216 Allah tells us that we may love a thing and it is bad for us and we may hate a thing and it is good for us and Allah knows and we know not.

And this applies to absolutely everything He does.  He knows and does best for us. 

This applies to what we experience as failure.  It applies to the thwarting of our most ardent desires.  

Most of us hate failure. It is painful, humiliating, crushing.  But people of inner traditions realize what a blessing failure is.  

What does success do but make us complacent and smug?  It entrenches our sense of significance and power.  It reaffirms the illusion that we are in control of our lives; that we can manage outcomes for our benefit and take care of ourselves.  It reinforces our ego, makes us arrogant and intolerant of others’ weaknesses and failures.  And it makes us more, not less, desirous of worldly success.

Failure, if understood and used correctly, has the opposite effect.  Unless, of course, we plunge into a pit of self-pity, play the victim and blame the world for our failure and misery.  But if used correctly, failure can be beneficial for our growth as human beings.

How can failure help us?  

One of the first things that failure does is that it shakes our arrogant self-possession. It makes us humble.  Repeated and devastating failure can force us to look inwards at ourselves and reflect if there is something about us that needs changing.  Are we perhaps pursuing the wrong things? Are we looking at the world the wrong way? Is there something wrong in the way we are doing things?

Failure also makes us more compassionate and understanding.  When we begin to accept our own flaws, mistakes, weaknesses and failures, we become more understanding and accepting of others and their blemishes and disappointments.  

Failure makes us more patient.  We learn to endure pain, humiliation and disappointment when we fail, because we do not have a choice.

Failure makes us submit.  By definition, submission must be to something that is not pleasant or desired.  Submission only makes sense if it is to something that is painful and difficult.  

And if we do all this – reflect and work on ourselves, patiently endure, and submit to what Allah delivers to us – then in time He shows us the blessing in the failure.  He shows us how it was indeed better for us than what we had desired, just as He says in this ayat.

Once we have experienced the blessing of failure, it no longer worries us or distresses us as it used to.  We become more and more patient and tranquil in submission and in the conviction that Allah knows and does best for us.

May Allah grant us tawfiq to be patient in failure and grant us the wisdom to see the blessing in it.  

Monday, 22 May 2017

Generosity and the Self

Life is the product of an Unconditionally Generous Creative Force. Creation came into being and we are given life out of nothing at all.  We are given life before we do anything to earn or deserve it.  

The self comes from this unfathomable Generosity. Unconditional Generosity which can also be called Love, is the very essence of Existence, of the self.  It is our very nature.

A wholesome self is a generous self; it spends itself in unconditional service. It gives of itself without regard to self-interest.

An unwholesome self, which misuses and withholds itself and acts selfishly, will eventually destroy itself because it is going against its nature.

Unconditional generosity is never painful or onerous.  If giving feels onerous or painful then the self is giving for its own sake; it has a conditional motive. Unconditional generosity - giving to give away - is exhilarating, joyful, freeing. It feels right in the bones.

Spending the self unconditionally is joyful because it is Homecoming. It is fruition.  It is the fulfillment of an original promise.  It is like the Sun shining and the rain pouring down on saint and sinner alike, because that's what they are, that's what they do.

and AllahuAlim

Tuesday, 2 May 2017


To love someone for the sake of Allah is to love them as a verb, where to love is to serve. That is, serve someone for the sake of Allah because they are in your life as family, colleagues or friends or because they have come to you and appear to require your service. In such cases, you may not even like the person, but you submit to your role, your duty or what the moment asks of you for Allah's sake - not for the sake of the person really (though you strive to do what is best for them) and not for your own sake (to benefit yourself or appear good).

To love someone for the sake of Allah is to love them -- as a noun, a warm, expansive, pleasurable feeling; or as a verb, where to love is to serve -- because they love Allah and they demonstrate their love for Allah in their actions and speech.

To love someone for the sake of Allah -- as a noun and as a verb -- is to love someone because you see the Divine Reflected in their goodness or beauty.

To love someone for the sake of Allah is to love someone unconditionally, without any regard for self-interest.

and AllahuAlim

image: kufic "Allah Hu" with thanks via the internet

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


image: with thanks via Maarten Appel

The nature of the human shadow is sickness: it is a complaint, a hunger, an emptiness that seeks to be filled. 

This sickness knows its own remedy.  Its remedy is light - the light of consciousness.  The shadow knows it can only be dispelled by light so like a thirsty person who is drawn to water, or a hungry person drawn to food, the shadow tries to emerge to the surface of consciousness.  And spiritual practices facilitate this emergence.  

The forms in which the shadow appears induce fear, shame and horror in the conscious self, so the one who has embarked on a spiritual path has to be courageous and look at the shadow’s manifestations, at what emerges from the sub and unconscious no matter how painful or difficult or ugly.

The degree to which the self is in denial of its shadow is the degree to which it is a slave to its shadow.  Such a self can lie, cheat, maim or murder and justify it on the basis of others’ behaviour or life’s circumstances.  

A life dedicated to the inner struggle for the sake of Allah can produce a transformative, healing consciousness.  All that is required is that the shadow be allowed to come into the light of such a consciousness. No denial, repression, justification, indulgence, judgment, explanation, attachment or resistance. Just acknowledgement:  this is what happened, this is how I feel, this is what I want.  Just allowing yourself to become fully aware of the denied and repressed feeling or experience, no matter how distressing to acknowledge. That is all. Then and only then can you become free of that feeling and experience. 

This process of acknowledgment has to be done carefully so that it does not damage you or anyone else.  It has to be done with the right intention and under correct guidance.  A fine balance has to be struck so that you do not deny or repress, but neither do you get sucked into self-pity or fly into a rage and hurt anyone.  

This process of acknowledgment also has to be done with as much detachment as possible.  A (growing) piece of consciousness has to be the detached seer, who is here just to see. Who is not identified with the feelings, thoughts and experiences.  But is only the one who sees, understands, learns, grows and moves on.

Otherwise, the sickness lingers, the shadow poisons everything, and the hunger, the thirst are never filled. You keep trying to run away from yourself and seek fulfilment and comfort here and there, with this one, in that activity. But nothing provides lasting relief. Because both the sickness and the remedy are inside. Both the shadow and the light are inside.  

You are the shadow and the light. 

image with thanks via Maarten Appel on facebook

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Separation and Conditional Motive

Appel Art Via Maarten Appel on facebook

Separation and Conditional Motive

The core moral message of religion instructs us to act correctly at the cost of self-interest and in the benefit of the other (or sometimes for our own higher good). In other words, morality asks the self to forgo conditional motive.

When the self submits to this moral code, the self discovers the truth that lies behind this transactional correctness:

1) The self can forgo conditional motive based on self-interest because the self has been, is and will be taken care of by Other than it self.

2) The self and the other are not separate from and in conflict with each other, therefore doing what is best for the other, is best for the self.

In other words, there never was any need for conditional motive because separation was an illusion. 

And in fact, it is conditional motive that perpetuates separation, alienation and suffering.

From this perspective, the self realizes that the moral struggle is not about being good per se. It is a means to an end, and a very practical struggle. It is the process by which the consciousness of the self is liberated to realize itself as a Sublime Continuity.  

And AllahuAlim

image with thanks via Maarten Appel on facebook

Monday, 27 March 2017


Most of us are outcome focused because that is how we are conditioned. Human beings are essentially predatory, out to get something from the world to ensure (as we believe are trying to do) our survival.

When we are children, we are told that we will be rewarded if we do something ‘good’:  “Eat the vegetables and you will get dessert…. Get an A on your report card and you will get a new smart phone …. Behave well at aunty’s house and you will get to visit your friend…“ And the list goes on.

Initially, it may be the only way to teach a child something useful and beneficial.  You may have to bribe a child with chocolate to ensure she eats what is nutritious and beneficial for her.  You may have to promise him playtime at the park so that he finishes his homework.  Children do not, naturally, want to do things that are useful and beneficial.  They have to be taught and disciplined, in their own interest and in order to raise a person among people, and not a wild, irresponsible, hedonistic thing.

This training, this conditioning works initially.  The good child gets rewarded. The greatest of all rewards she gets is praise.  The good child – the one who is disciplined and diligent and obedient, the one who does hours of boring homework, is polite and helpful to the cantankerous old aunt, and helps out around the house – is understandably beloved by adults.  The good child gets recognition in academia or sports or arts.  The good child also generally gets gifts and material rewards.

This conditioning, however, makes the doing of things, which are inherently beneficial and should be done for their own sake, something to endure to get to the real purpose – which is the reward.  This means we learn to do things NOT TO DO THEM but to get them done so that we can get the reward at the end. Even if the reward is just the relief of being done.  

Now if my attention is not on what I am doing but on the future, on when it is done, then the process of doing becomes as joyful as getting stuck in traffic. You never sit in a car to get stuck in traffic.  You sit in a car to get somewhere. As long as you are moving easily, you can endure being in the car, but as soon as someone cuts in front of you or speeds past you or especially if there is a traffic jam, all your resentment about having to endure the car ride boils over to the surface.  The more outcome focused you are, the more painful the process becomes.  

We become conditioned, therefore, to expect rewards for doing things.  Even when we ourselves choose to do something, we act like children – resentful and somewhat reluctant while doing it and expecting a reward when we are done.  

So many adults who work hard at jobs they endure only for the paycheck party hard on weekends – eating and drinking to excess and sleeping late to “reward” themselves, as if they are compelled/ greedy children and not adults who have freely chosen to do what they do.

Not surprisingly, over time this effort-reward system starts to break down. Firstly because the outcomes we are expected to achieve become more and more complex and beyond our individual capacity to achieve, causing us anxiety and resentment about failure.  And secondly because all of life becomes a series of painful activities we must endure to get to the outcome and the reward, which are now farther and farther out of reach.

At this stage, we can either become more and more frustrated, bitter and exhausted from our attempts to control and get to outcomes that are harder to achieve, or we can choose to become conscious about our motivations and conditional motives.

Ask yourself: why am I doing what I am doing?  As an adult you are not compelled or bribed by anyone other than yourself.  You always have a choice. You are making the choice to work at your job.  Being unemployed, and going hungry – if the only other option, is still an option. It is a choice you are refusing to make.  You don’t want to risk your job.  Fine, but own up to that.  

Generally, no one can force you to stay in a job or a relationship or situation that you do not want to be in.  You are willing to endure it to get something, for some kind of security, or because you are unwilling to take the risk of walking out into uncertainty, into what is unknown.  That is fine.  But own up to it.  It will make you less resentful and your experience of life less onerous.

Ideally, of course, this process of self-inquiry and reflection makes us more conscious, over time, about our conditional motives, about why we choose to do what we do.  Once we become conscious of our motivations, we can begin to transform conditional intent to unconditional intent.  We can choose to do what is beneficial and what is appropriate FOR ITS OWN SAKE.  We can choose to serve others unconditionally because by putting our attention on what we can do, what we can contribute, we become fulfilled and secure. We can choose to eat what is good for us because it is good for us and not so we can binge on chocolate later.  

When we become conscious adults, we CHOOSE.  And then we submit to what we have chosen.  We do our best at the activity and we do it for its own sake. Doing things to do things, for their own sake, is being process focused; when we no longer care about outcomes and about rewards from achieving outcomes. Life is no longer a series of painful activities to endure to get to an increasingly elusive reward. Life becomes a series of joyfully, unconditionally done activities that deliver, each moment, the pleasurable reward BECAUSE THEY ARE THE REWARD.

image with thanks via

Sunday, 26 March 2017


Imagine you watched a film in which all kinds of horrible and random things happened and it ended in one of these random bizarre scenes, where nothing was resolved.  

How would you feel?  

Probably resentful, like you were cheated; with a bad taste in your mouth about the meaningless horror you had to witness.

Now imagine instead that towards the end things came together in a breath-taking manner.  And every bizarre, random, horrible thing made sense.  In this instance, you will probably be left astounded, amazed, enthralled.

In the first instance you experience the whole film as a total waste.  

In the second, you experience it as a work of genius.

So it doesn't matter how the story starts, what matters is how it ends. The end changes your experience of EVERYTHING. Even the beginning. 

So it doesn’t matter if you didn’t have a say in the way your story started.  You can have a say in how it ends, if you decide to change yourself and pursue meaning over form.  (The pursuit of meaning, by definition, requires you to seek your own higher potential).

This is what the quest for meaning can do; it can change the past. It can transform your whole life.  It can turn it from a series of random horrors to a tale of breath taking genius.

The Now is key.  

The witness, the reader of the text is paramount.  

And wholesome action and spiritual practices that make you submit and make you present, are helpful.

So cultivate the detached witness, the one who is here to see, not the one who is seen. And always come back to the present and what you can do now. 

Because your power to change the whole story, the whole experience of your life, is in the Here and Now.

Even if it means one word, one step, one breath.  Do that one tiny correct thing NOW.