Lost inside, searching outside

November 05, 2007

Nazrudin, a 13th Century Sufi Master, well known as a philosopher, wise man, and to some, a fool, lived in Turkey. His gift of telling absurd tales endears him as a sage and teacher even today. One of my favorite stories about Nazrudin illustrates the following lesson:
One night, Nazrudin was on his hands and knees searching for his key in a well lit area. Some of his neighbors came to see why Nazrudin was on his hands and knees.
"What are you looking for, Nazrudin?" enquired one of the neighbors.
"My door key," came the reply.
The helpful neighbors drop to their hands and knees and joined Nazrudin in his search for the lost key. After a long unsuccessful search, one of the neighbors asks: "We’ve looked everywhere. Are you sure you dropped it here?"
Nazrudin answers: "Of course I didn’t drop it here, I dropped it outside my door."
"Then, why are you looking for it here?"
"Because there’s more light here," responded Nazrudin.
For many months, I endured a pain in my wrist, hoping it would magically disappear. I initially saw my physician and the x-ray results returned normal. Convinced of my own power, I meditated on why this pain exists, what I needed to release, and examined why I held on to the discomfort. Over-thinking ran its course and last week a hand surgeon treated me for an inflamed tendon in my wrist. After explaining the treatment options to me, I decided to receive the Cortisone injection.

The needle didn’t look that long, and as he inserted into the exact origin of the inflammation, I winced in pain, knowing full well that I agreed to this. When I asked him why he put the needle in right there where it hurt the most, he asked, "Where else would I put it?"

Seeking somewhere
So often, like Nazrudin, we search for answers to internal problems in the outside world. The solution, we acknowledge, could be either within us or found outside of us. Confronting the invisible part of ourselves, all too often evokes fear and insecurity and we choose instead to deny that our difficulties rise from the foundation of who we are. We prefer to look for external quick-fixes to cure our ailments. Barring bona fide chemical imbalances, our culture turns to pharmaceuticals to alter our minds while seeking refuge from self-inflicted emotional torment. Apparently some of us choose to embrace the notion that outside (chemical) alterations affect our internal (spiritual) well being. Worse, we place our trust in the external fix, rather than see the blessing in the internal experience which teaches us a priceless lesson. We surrender our power to worldly forces and indulge in a self-induced scapegoat if the cure fails, instead of spending that precious energy addressing the true questions our pain raises.

Spiritual or Physical answers
I demonstrated the contrary with my tendonitis and cortisone shot. I shined a beam of examination onto my mind , repeatedly, for months, never finding relief from the physical pain. I convinced myself it seemed more "spiritual" to look within regarding my physical body. Shrouded in my ego which screamed, "I’m so powerful, of course I can cure myself!" I didn’t readily honor the concept that my physical body is not really me. My physical body appears as a outer manifestation of a vehicle that carries me. Trying to find a solution in my essence when the problem presented in the physical, was just as silly as Nazrudin searching for his key in the light.

Mind over Matter
Many religions and spiritual practices celebrate the power of the mind. Documented cases of the mind curing the body rarely make it to publication in the prominent medical journals, though the cure is every bit as real as modern medical efforts. Evidence of cancer elimination offers dramatic demonstrations of spiritual work resulting in physical cures. We can assimilate the practice of "change your thinking, change your life," and sometimes the solutions still elude us. We try everything we know and seek answers to that which we aspire to learn. At some point, we need to try something different.

So how do we know when to harness the power of our minds to heal ourselves or to turn to the healing community for relief? The answer, as they say, is simple but not easy.

Surrender, in any case
The bright dawn of surrender rises over us as a final notion in response to our suffering. Whether its physical or emotional pain, after we've exhausted every possible controllable avenue, the only thing left to do is surrender. It took me enduring a few months of what I thought was hard spiritual work to admit I couldn’t heal my own wrist. I read affirmations, meditated, and even argued with God, but the pain persisted. It wasn’t until I surrendered and took advantage of the services of a physician that I sought relief and found it. The solution was there all along, and I let go of my smug sense of control, and let God do the work.

When God is your source, it doesn’t matter how God shows up. If God looks like meditation and positive thinking, great. If God appears as a physician with a needle of Cortisone, great, too. Your power resides in your ability to let go, as contradictory as that sounds. Real strength comes from surrender and real healing comes from release of ownership of the issue. The truth is, everything you require already exists within you – sometimes it takes the white flag of surrendering to the Infinite to evoke your blessings.

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