‘Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach. Now all I have is this sword and I give it to whomever wishes to continue his pilgrimage. I carry with me marks and scars of battles – they are the witnesses of what I suffered and the rewards of what I suffered and the rewards of what I conquered.
‘These are the beloved marks and scars that will open the gates of paradise to me. There was a time when I used to listen to tales of bravery. There was a time when I lived only because I needed to live. But now I live because I am a warrior and because I wish one day to be in the company of Him for whom I have fought so hard.’
John Bunyan. Pilgrim’s Progress.
I first came across the above quote when I was quite young.
I remember flicking through the book, Pilgrim’s Progress, a spiritual narrative of the evolving Christian and becoming absorbed by the grotesque pictures. There was the hapless gargoyle masquerading as a man as he stepped out on the road to perdition. Fascinated, I marvelled at the depth of faith and courage that the writers in antiquity had. It was a passion for understanding the power of life and their charge of how easily it could be snatched away.
I came across the quote again in a book by Paulo Coelho, Manual of the Warriors of Light. It is a heartwarming, life affirming book of mantras and quotes designed to assist the pilgrim on his journey into initiations of spiritual wisdom.
Books such as the ones Coelho writes are a source of insight but mostly comfort. It is true that the spiritual path is not easy yet the challenges that emerge out of the darkness make a life well lived, as long as we are prepared to pick up the gauntlet and run with it.
We live in a funny old time.
This is the era of anxiety, stress and fear. The generation of my grandparents during the war years were fear fuelled but contemporary living conditions have turned up the volume by several notches. There is so much pressure to be the individual, to have beliefs or a lifestyle or a story to tell. There is murder on the streets as a common occurrence and we are encouraged to stand back and viscerally participate in the destruction and bloodshed of countries and cultures. Never before has there been such a need for our gift of our light in the world to shine at its brightest but the challenge is maintaining our balance and our mental health.
I don’t think there is one single person who does not suffer with mental health issues at some point or another.
Most of the time we partially raise or lower the mental drawbridge to allow information in and out of the proverbial box. But what happens when the drawbridge opens but refuses to be closed?
Sometimes what we observe as mental health issues can be our desire to abscond from the mediocrity of social acceptance and conditioning. The urge to be impulsive, daring and impetuous, unpredictable and intuitive is the untamed free spirit longing to express itself without boundary or obstacle.
Heart-centred action has little concern for long term goals rather it is about confidence in the moment and a fearlessness to travel through unknown territories. The healer is very much like that. He or she is the wayfarer, the bearer of light for others to follow.
Those moments where we meet that part of ourselves that doesn’t fit or wrangles against the norm can be the best bit of ourselves and can signify the emergence of a spiritual presence. Love and passion recover the hidden aspects of self, harmony and thankfulness. The joy of goodness in wholeness are the beacons along the way for the healer.
Healing, whether it is from others or from self, is not just a haphazard act but in the world we live in it should be a must. We are encouraged to maintain, as opposed to transform, to loathe as opposed to love, especially of the self.
Sufis refer to the state of ‘Muhasiba’, the path of self-discovery.
One could describe it as a developmental achievement. It is the ability to observe and utilise awareness in the process of self-evaluation.
Sufi wisdom speaks of three stages of nafs or ego/self. They can be seen as various stages of development, refinement and mastery. The first stage is annafs-al-ammarah this is the basic instinct, our struggle or fight is with our nafs.
The second stage is an nafs al-luwwama, this is the self-accusing nafs. I think that societal living holds us in this particular place of being and the fight is a real one. This is not an easy zone to be in. The blaming nafs by its very nature can sabotage the internal point which says that healing should and can occur.
The point of work on self is to come from a limited state to one that is more durable and sustaining.
Distress, disorder and dis-ease are capable of taking us away from function, meaningfulness and peace. Process allows us to see the difference between resolution and perpetuation. It is the next stage that we hope will bring the aforesaid peace and with it a sense of completion. This is not the same as wholeness as I believe we are always whole just sometimes interrupted.
The third stage is an nafs al-mutma’innah, nafs at peace, here we rest in the heart. The eyes of the heart are awakened and come to repose in love.
Tarot can teach us so much about these developmental stages and how we can find that peace within which works for us. The balance and harmony where our perception of our truth is not just the reward for determination and perseverance but the jewel in the crown, the essence of our spirit.
KEEPING A DIARY
Keeping a diary of our moods, thoughts and actions can help us to see how we can utilise our mental states. By observing a thread or pattern we can determine the source of our ways of being and how we can channel that experience in to a peaceful response to the turbulent act of living. No experience is ever wasted.
5 CARD TAROT QUICKIE
What is my current state of being?
What emotion is not letting me see things clearly?
How can I gain clarity?
What can I do to be more uplifted?
How can I deepen my relationship with myself?