The Ploys of the Nafs

Identifying Your Ego Strategies for Defending the False Self

Doing needed spiritual work will bring into harmony with the Divine that which might be out of harmony, that which might be resistant or an obstacle to the pure Light of Presence coming through you.  Kabir helps explore the spiritual work you’re doing and its practical side through the discussion of Al-‘Inshiqaq, Al-Baqara and two Rumi poems.  We can take heart remembering that God does not put on a soul more than it can bear and that in the favor of the soul will be what the soul does and against the soul will be what he/she does not do.  The work can fulfill your responsibility to your own spiritual development and to all of humankind:  you cannot transform if it is at the cost of your neighbor.

We are part of an extraordinary and subtle Reality.  There are two aspects of knowing yourself. There is a beautiful aspect of knowing the part that is in a very subtle “record” and kept in a “book”  being written for you if you are doing the work…if you are letting the false self (the ego, or nafs) continually die.  The other aspect of it is work that you can do to transform limiting aspects of that other “book” making up your life—your DNA, personality and family, social and religious conditioning.  These need to be known to be transformed and healed.

Malice, perceiving enemies and acting defensively against perceived enemies hurts only you. Recognize that ego or nafs is not enthusiastic about transformation because it serves as a defense and survival mechanism.  The nafs may have strange ideas about what is needed for your survival and devise clever strategies to defend the false self at any cost.  A list to reflect on includes:

  • numbing yourself;
  • seeking oblivion in all the wrong places;
  • withdrawing from relationship;
  • being an acerbic critic and judge;
  • being unable to love something beside yourself;
  • self-justifying your false self and its laziness, privilege and sense of superiority—or inferiority;
  • self-sabotaging;
  • surrounding yourself with false viziers;
  • blaming;
  • envying and resenting;
  • being proud;
  • being angry;
  • engaging in self-pity;
  • needing to be right all the time;
  • manipulating others to gain their attention;
  • attempting to control your environment and the people in it;
  • being other than you appear;
  • using spirituality to fortify your  ego;
  • making religion more important than God; and
  • denying the mercy of God.

The Rumi poems and Quaranic passages remind us of the Reality of that Infinite Generosity, Mercy and Beauty that we need to know to transform every aspect in our lives that is blocking or obstructing the Divine.  These obstructions won’t flourish—in fact, they can’t exist—when the True Experience of the Divine Mercy, the Divine Abundance, the Generosity and Love of the Divine is a real experience for us.

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