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Spiritual Container

December 31, 2021

Two years ago, whilst I was going through a particularly turbulent time in relation to an individual in my life, my therapist invited me to practice saying the following inwardly: ‘Thank you, you are giving me exactly what I need.’ At the time, I was too overwhelmed to appreciate the statement, though her words stayed with me, and whilst I continue to manage my relationship with said person, I’ve found grounding and hope in that whatever I am receiving right now- no matter how frustrating, disappointing or painful- is what will ultimately deepen my understanding, create meaning and enrich my world. 

My therapist (at that time) was practising transpersonal therapy, which integrates spiritual and transcendental human experiences as part of the therapeutic process. Essentially, taking into consideration the whole, beyond the human individual. She linked the statement to the Buddhist notion of Karma– more in relation to unfinished business in past life than good or bad deeds- though I found meaning within my own faith through kisma wa naseeb/و نصيب قسمة (concepts akin to ‘fate’ or ‘fortune’, deriving from the Arabic root of ‘part’/ ‘share’ respectively). I understand both to be the small part or share of the whole, namely, what I am experiencing is part of a much wider picture that I cannot fully comprehend. To accept this part, the fortune I am given- particularly when it is unsavoury- is to trust in Divine wisdom, and that all parts fit, even if I am unable, from my vantage point, to see exactly how.

This faith that I hold, particularly in my darkest hours, is my spiritual container, what essentially holds me when I am struggling to hold myself.

In moments of happiness and deep gratitude, my impulse is to thank God, and when at an ebb, when life seems relentless, I am at God’s mercy. On both ends of the spectrum, I trust that what I am getting right now is what I need and deserve, and importantly, what I can manage. The belief that I can carry whatever adversity lays in my path is an extension of my faith, namely, that God would not burden an individual beyond her capacity is a concept carried from Christianity into Islam. In both cases, the concept highlights that ‘God is not the giver of trouble. God is the giver of Life.’ Ultimately, God is my Protector, a loving forgiving presence, who is able to see beyond what I see, to hold me even when I struggle to hold myself. This is when faith is a resource, a container to hold the more turbulent moments in life, and a regulator of intense emotions and pain. And to engage and to be with difficult emotions, like anger, envy or hatred, rather than dismiss and deflect these, is (in my belief) part of my spiritual process, because I am endeavouring to emulate God’s infinite capacity to hold all, which I ultimately will fall short of. God ability to give life, as well as takes it, to expand as well as constrict, means that these facets need to exist together, and are neither good or bad, but part of a greater whole. See Neil Douglas-Klotz‘s wonderful book on applying God’s 99 Names to daily practice).

I leave you with a well known prayer to welcome the new year, which helps me remember that accepting my fate is a mindful, reflective practice, not a passive act, and an extension of my faith in both humanity and The Divine:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.“

Serenity Prayer

From → Random, Therapeutic

  1. You say many words of wisdom in this post.

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