Of Jihad and Rumi

Greetings friends, and welcome to another episode – another podcast of mindfulness involving Fishing Without Bait.  

Jim:    It’s a concept – many of you may wonder what is fishing without bait?  Well, it’s a concept that was developed by myself and along with my good friend and producer, Mr. Mike, who’s with me as always this evening.  So, perhaps you could explain to everyone out there what’s your conception of fishing without bait.

Mike:    You give me far too much credit for conceptualizing Fishing Without Bait as it is all out of your head.

Jim:    You’re the cauldron in which this was brewed.  So, Mike, let’s review again the definition of mindfulness.

Mike:    Certainly.

Jim:    Jon Kabat-Zinn basically said it’s paying attention on purpose.  Dr. Russ Harris says that it’s a mental state of awareness, focus and openness which allows you to engage fully in what you are doing at any present moment.  And, with Jim Ellermeyer’s definition of mindfulness is being right here and being right now.  That’s our conception of mindfulness – being right here and being right now.  As we discussed in our last podcast, Mike, we reviewed mindfulness through the lens of Jesus the Christ in the Christian bible.  And, we do have to keep in mind that Christ was not Jesus’ last name.  We definitely want to keep that.

Mike:    No.  It is not the same as Smith.

Jim:    The mindfulness perspective, as it comes from the perspective of Jesus.  So, what we’re going to talk a little bit about tonight, we’re going to talk about another faith that is engaged and entwined and enmeshed in mindfulness practices.  So, what we’re going to is talk about this evening – in this podcast, we’re going to talk about mindfulness in Islam.  And, mindfulness in Islam – and also through the eyes of the prophet Mohammed.  As when the prophet Mohammed is mentioned with people of the Islamic faith, one of the statements that is always said by prophet Mohammed may peace be upon him.  Isn’t that a wonderful thing to say about somebody?

Mike:    Sounds great.

Jim:    May peace be upon him.  So, if you were talking about your father, or your mother, or your brother, or your sister, or a friend and you mentioned to them – and say, “May peace be upon them.”  What a loving gesture that is.  What a gesture of respect.  Mike, that reminds me of the Buddhist wow – wishing others well.  

Mike:    Wow!

Jim:    Wow!  Wishing others well.  And, as we begin to explore we see the commonality among all faiths.  Dogma aside and all the rituals, it basically boils down to a lot of the same thing.  Wishing others well, and may peace be upon him.  I think that’s certainly a beautiful phrase – especially for the prophet.  One of the things out there, Mike, and we certainly hear a lot of misunderstanding.  I did a blog earlier about fear and fear is something that we truly don’t understand.  One other thing is the misconception of the Arabic term jihad or struggle.  For some people, it denotes religious fanaticism – military action, and violence.  Does it not?  

Mike:    To some.  Because that’s what they see on TV with CNN – that word on the television, and those visions of the things that are happening these days.

Jim:    And, just as in Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism, words can be taken out of context by followers and perhaps used for their own purposes, okay?  So, there are really two (2) types of jihad, Mike.  One is described as the lesser jihad – which can be termed as an outward struggle against the enemies of Islam.  However, what the prophet was meaning – that was self-defense.  Of course, everyone has the right to self-defense.  Where this came about was when Genghis Khan was encroaching up on the Middle East is where this truly began.  However, there is the greater jihad which is mentioned in the holy Quran – it’s called inner struggle.  Jihad in Arabic means inner struggle, and it is the struggle to remove the bonds and the barriers that separate one from connection with either a higher power or oneself.

Mike:    To me, that sounds like a very – it seems relatable to a very Eastern concept of dealing with your inner demons, which can mean alcohol abuse, emotional trauma, other issues like that.  Is that right?

Jim:    Mm-hmm.  So what is mindfulness about?  Mindfulness is about examination, is it not?  Which is the same thing as jihad, which is inner struggle to do that self-improvement.  The term jihad is beautiful when it’s a contemplation.  When you’re using a mindful activity, what in your life is separating you from truly learning about yourself and participating in a life about you – which in that case involves participating with the divine.  One of the persons that I’d like to talk about in this podcast, next to the Quran, the most widely read literature in Islamic culture is by a poet by the name of Rumi.  Have you ever heard of Rumi?

Mike:    A whole bunch in our work together, Jim.

Jim:    Absolutely.

Mike:    It is the most quoted thing since I’ve started working in this field with you – or actually before actually meeting you, since then.  I don’t know much.  I just know Rumi’s words.  I don’t know much about the history of Rumi.

Jim:    Well, Rumi was born in 1207 in present day Afghanistan and he died in Turkey in 1273.  He was the son of an Islamic teacher and mystic, and Rumi became a mystic.  He had a meeting, an encounter with a sufa, a particular individual who changed his life.  Rumi was more of a sufi, sort of a Muslim mold.  And, one of the key concepts in Rumi’s teaching is acceptance and acknowledgment of positive and negative experiences.  That’s one of his key concepts.  Mike, does that sound an awful lot like taking a non-judgmental stance?

Mike:    A good bit, yeah.  

Jim:    And, one of his other concepts was the unlearning of old habits and looking at the world with new eyes.  Mike, does that sound like a beginner’s mind to you?

Mike:    Certainly.

Jim:    So, let me give you a little bit of – in my own private practice my office was just recently renovated with new carpeting especially.  This happened about three (3) weeks ago.  In the past three (3) weeks with every person that would come in, I would ask, “Tell me what’s different.  Describe to me what’s different.”  And, Mike, of all the people that have been in front of me in the last few weeks in that room – only three (3) have noticed the carpeting underneath their feet.  I’ll often have to say “What’s underneath your feet.”  So, how mindful are people being when they go into a place – and we don’t look up; we don’t’ look down; we don’t look side-to-side.  We have those blinders on.  What we’re talking about – we’re talking about the attunement of the mind and body through an Islamic culture – through sufiism, is meditation, music, and dance.  Also, Rumi was always concerned with the present moment.  One of his most famous poems, one of the most quoted ones is the cure for pain is in the pain.  Good and bad are mired.  If you don’t have both you don’t belong to us.  When one of us gets lost it is not here, it must be inside us – which means that anxiety, pain and fear – if we don’t recognize it then it dwells in and stays inside us.  Where are most mental disorders and unhappiness forged?  Mike, they’re forged by efforts to avoid unpleasant thoughts and to escape from painful memories, are they not?  That reminds me of dealing with our friend Krishna Pendyala  and his book that we often refer to called Beyond the Pig and the Ape: Realizing Success and True Happiness Book.  So, what is the ape?  Avoiding painful experiences.  And, what is the pig?  Pursuing instant gratification.  And, many of these things lead to painful memories.  However, unlike western psychology which teaches thought suppression and thought blocking techniques in our mindfulness practices we learn to accept these things.  We learn to acknowledge them and embrace them because they truly are part of us, and unless we do that we can’t deal with them effectively.  Rumi had another line in a poem that truly – I believe, describes a beginner’s mind most effectively.  It’s close the door of words that the window of your heart may be open.  The moon’s kiss only comes through an open window.  I believe that Rumi certainly was attuned to a beginner’s mind.  What we’re doing is – we often talk about, in our mindful practices, about the thinker being in control, do we not?  Another one of my famous Rumi thoughts and Rumi quotes is that your thinking is like a camel driver, and you are the camel.  It drives you in every direction and under its bitter control.  So, this is Rumi talking in the 1200s.  

Mike:    And it certainly resonates today.

Jim:    Doesn’t it?  Which reminds me of – what’s old is new.  There is nothing – everything is always changing and fluid.  However, it reminds me of one of our friends, our famous philosophers, mystics, a Christian monk: Thomas Merton, who said that our minds are like crows picking up every shiny object and then sitting in our crowded nest wondering why we’re so uncomfortable.  I think Merton and Rumi would have got along famously.  In Islam, the prophet made a prohibition against alcohol, did he not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Do you know what the Buddha instructed his followers?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    The Buddha instructed his followers not to drink even a drop of alcohol.  Mindfulness, discipline, and self-control are lost.  The Buddha and the prophet were on the same wave length.

Mike:    And, so separated culturally and geographically, right?

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, how different can they be, Mike?

Mike:    Not very.  

Jim:    Today, Mike, we just scratched a bit of the surface just dealing with one of the most widely read principle authors – a poet mystic by the name of Rumi, dealing with a bit of Islamic thought.  And, I think we touched on the beginner’s mind.  I think we touched on being the observer behind the thinker, and a bit of how mindfulness perhaps works in Islam.  In Islam, one (1) of the five (5) tenants of Islam is prayer five (5) times a day.  And, what can prayer be more than a dedicated, focused meditation?  Is it not?  So, our Islamic brothers and sisters – I believe, are a lot more involved in mindfulness than we give folks credit for.  When we approach another faith without fear, without preconceived notions of what it is – when we have that mind of awareness, I can think how we all weave together and make a beautiful strand.  Make a beautiful tapestry of life.  And, until next time, Mr. Mike, it’s so good to be with you.  

Please check out our website at FishingWithoutBait.com where you can listen to the show, comment on our discussions and find out where you can subscribe to our podcast.  Fishing Without Bait is a production of Namaste Holistic Counseling, P.C.