Friday October 28th 2011
It was beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies at 5.00 pm and I was thinking maybe I shouldn't have declined that invitation to a Deepavali Open House after all. It had been raining monsoons this past week so I didn't see why today should be any different.
But as I was deep-frying cekodok pisang to have with afternoon tea, it suddenly poured cats and dogs and monkeys. Lightning clapped every so often it was a wonder the yellow electric switch did not trip, however the automatic gate went wonky like it sometimes do in this kind of wet situation, opening one side and then refusing to close at my commands ie. me pressing the switch repeatedly. Today it wasn't that bad though; it has been known to open and close countless times by itself like a malwared PC.
Anyway, I guess it was good that I need not attend that Open House, what with having to drive myself there in a car whose front tires are balding and which the mechanic had said need to be replaced but they did not have stock that day. He too had pumped air into my tyres a few thousand psi's over normal that it feels like I'm driving.. or rather pirouetting on pointy ballerina shoes, whenever I turn a corner.
It was good too I suppose that earlier today I had stopped by at the gym after dropping off my youngest at the LRT station on the first leg of her journey to college. She'll be catching the bus home and I hope she won't get too wet in this weather.
I did nothing fancy at the gym, only walked "briskly" (averaging 4.5mph) on a treadmill at a 5% incline for 30 minutes, while reading... random paragraphs from a book.
That's the thing with me. I rarely read a book from cover to cover (not counting the Quran which I take ages to finish outside of Ramadan). I read snippets, especially non-fiction, which was what I had with me at the gym, a how-to book on mastering the mind, body and character to attain a perfect life.
Whoa... sounds impossible. A perfect life?
Nonetheless it's an OK book to read, in snippets, to help me stay motivated on the treadmill, and to keep zee eyes from vundering to the huffs and the puffs and the grunts coming from the resistance machines.
I read that former chess superstar Bobby Fisher focused most of his training not on studying chess strategies but on becoming physically fit by running long distances and doing laps in the pool, hence increasing his stamina and mental endurance.
Hmmm... I must admit we all can do with a little more of those.
It says the mind is a terrible master but a wonderful servant.
Didn't know what that meant, a master-servant relationship with the body perhaps, or the spirit? Like the treadmill and me? I set the pace, and the incline and how long to walk, hence I'm the master. But for as long as it's moving I'm it's servant? For I HAVE to move at that set pace otherwise I'll fall off. It's a terrible master to let me fall off, isn't it?
Unless of course it is never my master. On the contrary I am always the boss of that machine. Because I have the power to stop it at any time.
So I was thinking that's the kind of relationship to have with our minds. We can let it "rule" us in ways that benefit us, but we need to be always in control of the stop button. Sounds plausible?
OK. I just did some research about this and found a good explanation here, which I have reproduced below:
"It's like this. There are two things here, You and Mind. Either You are in control (of your Mind) or your Mind is in control (of You). Either you are the master or the mind is the master. It has to be one or the other. If You are master (ie, in control of Mind) then Mind is a wonderful servant but if Mind is the master (ie, in control of You) then it is a terrible master.
So the question is who is in control.
If You truly are in control of mind then you can do wonders, indeed miracles. You must have heard of mastery of the mind, mind over matter, mind science, etc. You can have peace of mind, real happiness, you can channel your thoughts, you can stop all thought, you can cure yourself and others, etc., etc. The list is endless.
However, when the Mind is in control, when Mind becomes Master, then you are in trouble. Mind can tear you apart because with mind comes ego, desires, emotions, frustrations, etc. Mind wants to survive too.
Your thoughts will take free reign, going this way and that way. You will succumb to all sorts of temptations. There will be no end to desires. You will never find true happiness. The uncontrolled mind will drive you this way and that way as your thoughts come coming freely, with no one in control, just as wild horses will run this way and that way. Unfortunately in the vast majority of mankind it is the mind that is in control."
And indeed this reminds me of the concept of Nafs in Islam (desires, ego, mind) of which there are basically three dimensions as referred to in the Quran, and explained thus:
Sa'id Hawwa says regarding these Nafs:
"Depending upon its condition, the Nafs exist in multidimensional form. When the Nafs is tranquil because of obeying Allah, and the soul opposes its desires, this soul is known as Nafs al-Mutma`inna. Regarding this, Allah has spoken about it in the Qur'an (89:27-28).
But if the soul does not attain peace with itself, rather being exposed to desires, then such soul is known as the Nafs al-Lawwama because this soul reproaches its owner due to the owner's carelessness in fulfilling out Allah's wishes - Qur'an (75:2).
More so, if the soul submits to lusts and allows itself to be seduced by Shaytan, such a soul is known as Nafs al-Ammara Bissu'. Allah tells the story about the wife of al-Aziz (Zulaikha) in Qur'an (12:53).
(Tarbiyatun nar Ruhiyah, pg. 32, Cairo: Dar al- Salam, 1408)"
Being forgetful humans that we are, I believe we transit between these three nafs as often as we have thoughts.
The tranquil nafs is what we want to achieve ultimately, we just need to put our minds to it every second of everyday, rain or shine.
And not let a little lightning scare us into inconsistency... God willing