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Great Sufi Tale: Trust In God, but, Um, Tether Your Camel!

09 Aug

Hi Belleruth.
I wonder if its possible to focus my attention on what I want, like a career in the culinary, and end up doing catering for a very critical group and wonder if this is a sign. Is it possible that I didn’t tweak my focus well enough and now I’m getting some negativity in the mix?
Love to hear from you.
David D.

Ah, David,

I know there’s a whole school of thought about this idea that if you focus your attention and intention on what you want, you’ll get it.  But being this specific in your expectations (right field, wrong job) is probably being a little too concrete. 

You’re always going to need to do some left brain things here too:  like, assess your situation, decide whether you need to stay for the sake of experience or move on, using this experience to leverage a better one.  This is a step, not the whole, “Happy Ending”.

Additionally, every job is going to have its down side.  Catering is a high stress environment, as is being a chef or running a restaurant.  You’re going to get some of this no matter how well you tweak your focus.  It’s just the food industry.  It’s just life, for that matter.

It’s true that focusing intention and attention is part of the mix of achieving your goals.  It’s important and it keeps you on track and it probably does energetically attract opportunities to a certain extent.  But wishing, focusing, meditating, and being energetically attuned is just a piece of the picture, and if you rely on it alone, you’re in danger of drifting into magical thinking. This is a first step. Now the ball is in your court, and some thinking, assessing and planning is required.  It doesn’t mean the Universe is against you or that you did insufficient tweaking.

I love the Sufi story about the camel.  Do you know it?  I found a version of it here:  It goes like this:

Trust in God But Tether Your Camel

There was once a man who was on his way back home from the market with his camel and, as he’d had a good day, he decided to stop at a mosque along the road and offer his thanks to God.
He left his camel outside and went in with his prayer mat and spent several hours offering thanks to Allah, praying and promising that he’d be a good Muslim in the future, help the poor and be an upstanding pillar of his community.

When he emerged it was already dark and lo and behold – his camel was gone!
He immediately flew into a violent temper and shook his fist at the sky, yelling:

“You traitor, Allah!  How could you do this to me? I put all my trust in you and then you go and stab me in the back like this!”

A passing Sufi master heard the man yelling and chuckled to himself.

“Listen,” he said, “Trust in God, but, you know, tether your camel.”

This is the classic answer for those who believe that their faith alone will carry them through life. Innocence can indeed be a valuable shield but there are basic measures that have to be taken just as a matter of common sense. If you leave the jar of honey open by morning it may be full of ants. No amount of belief is going to change the basic facts of living in this world.

I hope this helps.

All best,
Belleruth

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award