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Framing the Framing; Always More to Learn

keeping one foot in the worldly

Framing the Framing; Always More to Learn

Irony of the day: I have so much to say on the subject of framing, I've been having trouble getting started (choosing a frame of reference)!

Perfect, right?

The plot thickened and deepened with the etymology of "frame," discussed in the previous post, and how it carries that positively oriented baggage of advantage/benefit. Round and round my thoughts have gone.

Then, too, this blog is a frame, but I also need to carefully frame this blog. Like pictures looking back at you from their frames, this business of providing, defining, refining context can be a two-way street.

And so, since Sufi studies are part of the blog's framework, and since I was feeling to write more about Sufism, that's where I'll go with it today.  

Sufism is framing my life in a tangible, physical way with the practices I perform, the meetings and gatherings I attend. A frame of regularity, attention to body-mind balance, prayer, breathing exercises, and openhearted fellowship.  

And how am I framing Sufism? I'm framing it as a spiritual practice, as a reminder to be "in tune with the infinite, in rhythm with the finite,"  I'm framing it as supportive of my creativity, and probably also as therapeutic. On the other hand, when I go to the synagogue, the frame is more of being surrounded by Hebrew and feeling connected with my family from afar.

It's interesting that I was drawn to the ecstatic path of the whirling dervishes (even if it's actually much more disciplined than the stereotype would suggest), because I have such a strong strain of asceticism in my makeup. In addition to the fasting tendency,  there's just this core belief that becoming more spiritual means letting go of the worldly, means nonattachment, means renunciation. So many spiritual paths emphasize renunciation; why didn't I go with one of those? (Because there were other elements in the frame!)

This year's emphasis for the Sufi order, appropriately enough, has to do with being in the thick of the world while preserving a spiritual consciousness. (Frame the thick of the world spiritually, and frame the spiritual as part of the world. Be a sage in the city.) I've already noticed how the "in the thick of the world" part is a challenge, and I've gotten to observe the balancing act being done beautifully by people I admire, Sufis and non-Sufis.

But at our Sufi studies group this week (open to everyone, every Thursday 6.30pm, Little Chapel of All Nations on the UofA Campus),  I heard a great new way to consider renunciation. 

Don't give it up until you're done with it, says the teaching. Don't leave the situation, the relationship, the job, the world, until you've learned everything you want to learn from it. I suppose this could be considered both as an instruction and as a reframe--a different way of describing what has happened.

Instead of beating up on myself for eating those grapes for being weak and animalistic, perhaps I still had something to learn from them (even in a dream). Stayed in a relationship past the point when you should have parted ways? There was still something you were meant to learn. Having a hard time with the concept of letting go all your hard-earned money? Money is a great teacher! Don't leave it until you've learned everything you want to learn from it.

Framing these attachments, these things that are hard to renounce, as teachers is so much more compassionate. It shows me a very specific way to be that spiritual life in the thick of the world. And it goes right along with that other really helpful realization, that whatever I am doing, whenever I'm doing it, I'm always practicing something. 

I'm always practicing something, and when I feel a sense of attachment, it's because there's something I want to learn from the attractive thing.

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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