This path is not only friendship, love, and ecstasy, but a long and sometimes painful struggle. What is the nature of the discipline needed on the spiritual path? The discipline or struggle of this path is one in which we find our right relationship with the nafs, the ego-self. This relationship must come from a higher level than that of the battle of like and dislike, desire and aversion. These opposites are each related to the nafs, or small self. The discipline of the path does not arise from desire, or any egoistic impulse. It is the discipline of maintaining our higher nature in relation to the demands of the body and the ego-self. No spiritual development is possible unless we develop a state of being independent of bodily demands and ego satisfactions. By confronting the pressures of desire and aversion, we develop a being-awareness that can resist or transcend the pulls of these demands which will always be present to some extent. This being-awareness needs to be constantly exercised. This is known as “the greater jihad,” the struggle with the self/soul/nafs. Our true being lies beyond the likes and dislikes of the ego-self, but we seldom glimpse it because we are so involved in the slavery of attempting to satisfy the demands of the small self. The dervish is one who is creating a channel to that real being.
By the discipline of maintaining a higher awareness in relation to the demands of the nafs, the essential self is awakened and developed. We can do this is countless ways: By undertaking selfless acts that go against our habitual preferences; by being kind and patient to those who show negativity toward us; by undertaking a new level of commitment in our practice; by giving away things that are valuable to us; by keeping our attention aligned with the intention of our work.
The essential self is a being that is independent of the pulls of the ego-self. With this quality of being it becomes possible to affirm and transmit the divine love.
This theme will become real if we choose a particular weakness of our ego-self to be aware of and struggle with.