The Alchemy of Happiness
In the Name of God, the Most Kind, the Kindest
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Lisa A. Ramona, the Breakthrough Life Coach, is one of my favorite YouTubers. She is an expert on codependency and narcissistic abuse. A big part of her work is helping viewers see the faulty programming that has been downloaded from childhood. Louise Hayes does something similar when she says most of us are victims of victims. But we can break this cycle and live above the veil of consciousness!
Sociology tells us that children receive a blueprint from their parents. This blueprint is predominately unconscious; it is something we witnessed without having the words or ability to know what it meant. And it often becomes our default way of framing the world and our relationships. Some of it may be beautifully designed, while other aspects may have been neglected or require renovation.
Given how vast human experience is and how complicated interpersonal relationships are, it should come as no surprise that some families will have healthier dynamics than others. It can range from generally healthy to utterly toxic. And almost every family has some skeleton in its closet. Skeletons are often a source of shame that no one wants to speak about because of the pain, mortification, or scandal it might entail. These skeletons can change with the changing of trends and norms in societies (compare the sexual advice to Victorian America with that of the Women’s rights movement). Others may be generational, such as addictions, abuse, or narcissism.
So we have these blueprints and programs running in the background of our minds. And for this reason, it is helpful to scan our minds and bodies to see if those programs and designs are functional or dysfunctional. Try to notice when something is not aligned with who you want to be and the values you want to embody. That may be a default program running, and it can be frustrating at first to observe. But it is also rewarding to catch. Ruya is a friend who mentored me with great care. She recently sent me a note congratulating me for catching my egoic inner critic going rogue after reading the special edition of this newsletter. Sufi psychologists have astutely observed that we are often our own worst enemy.
It occurred to me that that merciless inner critic is my tyrannical self, what Sufis call the nafs al-ammara. It was a delightful breakthrough because it gave me a name for that voice, one that I can use to label these negative thoughts whenever they creep up, which is a powerful psychological technique and Buddhist practice (see the work of Tara Brach for more on this). Labeling thoughts with a Sufic label like nafs al-ammara or thinking (like the Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön recommends) gets us out of our emotional brain and back into our logical left-lobe. It helps us defuse intrusive, distressful, counterproductive thoughts and will enable us to become unstuck and break free from habitual patterns of thinking.
Another technique is mirror work, which Louise Hayes made famous. It can be uncomfortable to look in the mirror, but the more we do, the better we will see. “The believer is the mirror of the believer” is a well-known hadith about being open to seeing ourselves in others and others in ourselves, being receptive to the feedback we are given from believing friends, and esoterically seeing the Divine Believer, Al-Mu’min, in ourselves. Al-Ghazali begins The Alchemy of Happiness by quoting a tradition and the Quran Sharif: “He who knows himself knows God,” and “We will show them Our signs in the world and themselves, that the truth may be manifest to them.” According to the Holy Hadith, the heart is the only place that can contain The Believer. When we look past ourselves and see the One residing within, we experience bliss and touch the Eternal.
Make a game out of catching negative self-talk and labeling it. Defuse the mind’s habitual chatter to experience the NOW. Identify and discard dysfunctional programs and blueprints, and replace them with new programs and designs aligned with your sublime innermost being, The Believer within. Befriend the true ego that is healthy, serene, blissful, and pure; and “born of the ashes of the false.” And surround yourself with believers who see and reflect the best in you while lovingly pointing out the rust and dust that accumulates with time.
With deep and abiding love ,
Eid Gift | Dessert Chai
In honor of Eid al-Adha, I am sharing a chai recipe that our family enjoys. They’ve dubbed it “dessert chai” because it’s so sweet.
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Brooke Bond’s Red Label Natural Care loose leaf black tea
2 tablespoons (or to taste) half and half
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of saffron
3 teaspoons of sugar
Heat water to a rapid boil; reduce heat to low. Add tea leaves; simmer for 2 to 4 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Strain tea into a cup!