Contentment (rida) is the highest station on the Sufi path in many iterations because it represents the ability to flow with life without resistance. It represents a heart that cannot be impacted by any external circumstances and has found peace and satisfaction within regardless of what happens. Of course, it is also the hardest station to master for it requires nothing short of enlightenment.
According to Qushayri, Sufis of his day argued about whether contentment is a state or station, i.e. is it bestowed upon the spiritual wayfarer or do you have to earn it through effort? This pretty much sums up for me the whole complexity of attaining full contentment in life. And I believe that you have to work at it first, work at redirecting your mind, body and spirit to contentment until it begins to flow through you more naturally.
Contentment for me boils down to the principle of nonresistance. As Abu ‘Ali al-Daqqaq says, it’s not about being unaffected by life and its trials. It’s about receiving life and all its trials without resistance. It’s the difference between, “Why is this happening to me?” and “I see this is happening. And I’m going to be okay.”
One of my favorite mystics, Dhu’l-Nun al-Misri, said that a major sign of contentment is “feeling no bitterness.” For me, that says it all. So many of us spend the precious time we are given feeling bitter about what we don’t have, how we’ve been mistreated, what we wish we looked like, who we wish we could be with, what we think we deserve etc. But this beautiful gift of life we’ve been given can only truly be savored if it is cleansed of bitterness and purified with the water of vitality and life.
A major practice of mine when I first started me on the path of daily meditation is the MBSR Body Scan (here is an example). In order to help me maintain presence and attention as I moved my awareness to each part of my body for 30 minutes to 1 hour (sometimes it felt like forever), I would “ask” each part of my body to show me what’s there, giving it my whole loving attention and presence like I would my child. Then, whether it showed me pain or ease, I would say “Thank you for this.” This mini gratitude practice within each body scan started shifting things inside of me and I began to understand everything, good or bad, as a piece of wisdom housed in my body teaching me to live my life in the best way possible. It was a very mysterious transformational process, but it changed so much for me. Suddenly everything in my world could be seen the same way, as a divine messenger showing me what is within me and teaching me how to be in greater harmony. And when I glimpsed that harmony, I learned to stop resisting.
I don’t do formal Body Scan meditations anymore though I check in with my body constantly. But I felt the effects of the lessons I learned in the rest of my life. I notice whenever resistance arises in me and what triggered it. That self-awareness alone is paramount and transformational. Then I try my best to say “Thank you,” to whatever pain, uncomfortable situation or whatever. Even if I don’t feel grateful at all and don’t see why I should suffer in this and that way. But that act alone has helped me live my life with less bitterness. And I wish the same for you, dear friend.
So if you’re inspired, go ahead and try the Body Scan every night for a week, and see what you begin to notice. Try to thank every situation, person or thing that makes you uncomfortable and see what shifts. With love and gratitude ❤
So this was the final station of the Sufi path! I have one more post to go that will combine the final three states, but they are really just an extension of this final station right here. Though I myself have a long way to go on my journey of spiritual transformation, just the very act of reading and engaging with these ideas and trying to put into practice small rituals and actions to cultivate these beautiful states and stations has been such a healing path for me. I wish for you the same healing, self-love and expansiveness ❤
Until next time!
May you be filled with peace.
For the introduction to this series on the Sufi Path through Yoga, click here.