QUESTION: Our spiritual guide, Sidi, teaches us to not return to the “past” in order to heal something. He writes to “take something out by the root.” This seems contradictory. Could you please clarify? The first aspect that comes to me is that the question itself comes from the cultural veil that we have in western psychology that Sidi is working to clean. Specifically, the veil that healing something “completely” requires going back into the past and often searching for what “really happened” and then “facing it,” etc. If one is angry, for example, and one wants to get to the root of one’s anger, Sidi is not suggesting that we keep going back through our catalog of events which “made us” angry. Quite the opposite. He says that if you’re angry, then you do the Sufi practice of tawbah and return to divine love now. The tawbah practice can be used to bypass by the past and the
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“root” of the problem. However, Sidi says in describing the tawbah practice that we should “consume the essence of the mistake, so that once having done this and deeply understood, you cannot return to make that mistake again. “Going to the root” I believe is part of the process of understanding deeply the “cause” of anger. Sometimes Allah gives that knowledge “spontaneously” during the tawbah. However, when Sidi says to search for the conceit underlying the anger he is opening a door for us to understand more deeply. Second thought: in the example Sidi gives about going to the root of anger, one doesn’t have to go to the past at all. He guides us to look for the “conceit” that lies under the anger. Perhaps Joe “made me” angry by “insulting me” this morning. Sidi is not guiding me to go back through all the times Joe or anyone else insulted me. Sidi is guiding me to find the conceit inside myself that was ignited by Joe’s comments. When I look inside myself for conceits perhaps I find several: I’m better than Joe; I deserve respect; It’s important to me that people praise me and recognize all of my good qualities, etc. Consequently, I’m working in real time, in the present, to clear the conceits inside myself. What Joe did or did not do becomes irrelevant to this part of the process, ie, finding the root. That’s my most basic understanding currently. ~Dr. John Wadude Laird, faculty at UOS