Looking for Direction in All the Wrong Places

September 06, 2011 By: Michael Nagel Category: Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit

I work with many intelligent people. Despite their intelligence, often they are stymied by dilemmas with which they have struggled in thought – often for a very long time. Occasionally I may remark, “With your obvious intelligence and with all your thinking about this, if you haven’t yet arrived at answer, perhaps it might be because you’ve been searching for your answer in the wrong place.”

Such dilemmas remind me of the crazy wisdom teacher, Nasruddin, an Islamic character whose humorous exploits are spiritual teachings with many depths of meaning. Let me paraphrase one of my favorite Nasruddin stories, for it may suggest an answer to such getting stuck.

In the dark of night, Nasruddin was on hands and knees, searching frantically beneath a lamplight for something he had lost. A friend comes near, and watching Nasruddin’s frantic but fruitless searching finally asks, “Nasruddin, what are you looking for?”

 “Something dear which I have lost,” replies Nasruddin.

After watching Nasruddin’s further searching, the friend asks, “Where did you lose it?”

“In my house,” Nasruddin answers.

“Well why are you searching out here for it?”

“There’s more light out here!” replies Nasruddin.

Of the different meanings suggested by this Nasruddin tale, there is one that seems pertinent: sometimes we misuse the head by trying with the light of the intellect to answer questions which only the heart can answer. With the intellect, we search amidst thoughts and concepts for answers which can be found only within the sentiments of the heart. No wonder we get stuck!

We are especially prone to such misuse of thought, when we live in our heads, or we are intellectually focused. We may rely upon the intellect to answer all of our questions. That’s the path of least resistance.

Searching differently for those elusive answers, instead we might listen to the tones of the heart. Then we would be available to experience the murmur of the heart’s qualities. We would patiently be with the heart’s unfolding sentiments, their “felt sense“. So listening, then as Ezra Pound said of the sages of old, we would ‘seek to give precise verbal definition to the inarticulate tones given off by the heart’. And, our living could be carried forward.

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