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storm over the ocean

3 Sufi Teachings for Taking Refuge During Storms


The psychological balance proposed by Sufi teachings offers respite from the mind’s inclement weather.

Adverse circumstances can often seem relentless. When they happen (and they do happen to everyone), our minds, we know too well, can be our worst enemies. It’s as if a riot of predatory ideas ally themselves against the ideas willing to get ahead and then obfuscate your view as one might do during a storm. In those moments, perhaps reading something simple on the mechanisms of nature and how things work can help to change one’s perspective while one rides out the bad weather.

For its focus on mindfulness and psychological balance, Sufism is a logical antidote to self-deprecation and narcissism. Not that the philosophy claims to be a panacea, much less a comforting worldview, rather Sufism is about imparting skills and setting aside facts and doctrines. Doris Lessing said it well: “[in Sufism] one is immediately forced to think differently.”

Following are three simple reminders for moving in the world and honoring the other:

1. Truth without compassion is not true

Sufis say that a truth is not complete unless it is born of compassion. Often, when someone does something wrong, or a fails at decision making, he or she is doing the best they can at the time. Include empathy and careful observation of the other when issuing your own full version of that truth. So, instead of hurting the other, we help them to heal. And indeed, by definition, that should help.

2. Comparison comes from a dark place

It is natural and fantastically useful to learn from other people and their examples, and their histories. But the line is crossed when we make direct comparisons with someone else.

Every person has a unique path and a history, circumstances, talents and challenges. To compare your achievements with someone else’s, or your problems, underestimates the unique nature of both parties.

3. In facing the world, we’re all equal

An essential part of building any business is contacting people who intimidate us. There are critics who have disparaging views of what we are and what we do. Sufis say that every human being is equal. And keeping this in mind is always essential. We face each other as expressions of the divine, so no one is above or below anyone else. Go out with confidence and look everyone in the eye.


Painting by Joel Sartore.

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