Sufi Wisdom Series: The Chick Pea

This blog video was made almost 15 years ago, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately, so I decided to share it:

I wish to speak about something that the Sufis called cooking, or being cooked. It’s a reference to a poem by Rumi about a chickpea being boiled. The chickpea jumps up to the rim of the pot to yell to the cook, “Why are you doing this to me?” Perhaps a familiar voice…

“What are you doing to me? Why are you doing this to me?”

The cook whacks the chickpea with the ladle to send it back into the boiling waters, and says, “I’m doing this to soften you, and to help you mix with the flavor of spices, so that you can be served over rice, and enter more deeply into the vitality of life. You can be included in more things, and will be much more delicious, from this cooking.”

We are often boiled and boiled again, and boiled for a bit longer. It appears that the way of Allah is not a microwave. Sometimes we are cooked for a long time, like a chickpea that takes a long time to be infused with spices, softened, and made able to be included in a deeper vitality.

The poem says, “Remember when you drank the rain from the garden? All of that was for this.

It’s not that the times of grace are other than, or separate from, or in contradiction to the times of being cooked. The boiling, and the deep times of receiving grace and drinking the rain from the garden, are for this. We are cooked.

Now, the peril of being cooked is drama. If we are going to be cooked, how do we go ahead and be cooked? One of the main ways that we try and try and try to leap out of the pot is with all kinds of stories, and all kinds of dramas. We make up all kinds of things. I’m just trying to try to think of an example.

I’m in the middle of something right now, but I don’t actually know what it is. Sometimes, something is bothering a person… Something got to me in an interaction with someone the other day. Something happened, and something inside of me is going “Aaaaggh,” and I am not positive what it is.

But I’m ready to make up a whole lot of stories, with a lot of justifications, and then run with them! I’m willing! I’m ready to say things like, “I’m just sick of relating to people; I’m done with people. I want to go off in the woods and watch leaves fall, and that’s it. Contemplate eternity. To heck with relating.”

Something like that.

Kinda sorta, I could convince myself that that’s honest. Kinda sorta, I could convince myself that a whole lot of emotional reactions are honest, just because I’m feeling them. I would like to suggest, however, that just because we are feeling something, doesn’t make it honest.

There’s the level of honesty or dishonesty of saying one thing, when it’s not really what we feel. Then there’s another level of honesty or dishonesty where we may be feeling something, but are we feeling it as a dodge? Are we feeling it to get out of staying present with something that we even more don’t want to feel than whatever we’re running off into?

Usually the cooking point—whatever the cooking point is—is something in us that’s got to give. It’s something that, for the sake of our softening and our digestibility deeper into the Unity, has got to give.

This feeling of coming right up against something in ourselves that’s got to give— I usually feel it at around the level of the fourth rib insertion into the sternum. It’s this feeling of something that’s right up in here, that I don’t like it. That it is this way is causing me discomfort or pain, grief, anger, fear, all kinds of emotions that I can go off into, with justification, and spend time in the emotion… when really what’s going on is the hardness of my own indigestibility—of my own indigestion.

What’s happening, and what’s needed, and what the Sufi practices are for, is helping us to stay right here, present with what is, which includes our response to what is cooking… feeling boiled by life, feeling the nature of our “I don’t like it,” of our discomfort. The practices help us with staying right there in the discomfort, and letting ourselves soften, and not try to get out of it.

Obviously what I’m saying has parallels in many paths. Pema Chodron. Many teachers and many paths say something very similar about how to be with discomfort, not run, not make up stories, not meta-emote. Instead, we breathe into it, and allow ourself to be held.

When I do, I tend to feel something almost like fingers right here, just holding me to it. I must say that when I am being cooked—and I am being cooked these days—my practices suddenly become really important.

When I am not being cooked and I do my practices, I feel really good after my practices. When I’m being cooked, usually I’m in whatever melodrama or theory about whatever’s going on. And then I actually pray salat, and do al-Wird, and all of my qigong practices… and come right back to the original point of:

Here’s my sticking place with life. Here’s where I am indigestable. Here’s where I’m cooking. Ouch.

So I often feel worse, when I’m doing practices and it’s a cooking time. What I’m meant to do is become more honest—to do the practices for the sake of becoming more honest: What’s really bothering me? I can’t even tell you. But now I’m actually with it.

I see it very often. People are in an emotional melodrama about what’s bothering them, rather than just staying with it: “Here’s the spot.” We want to do something immediately, forgetting that there are things that happen that are a process, like cooking.

My son right now is grieving deeply the loss of his pet ferret, Nilufer. She was a sweetheart. She was a really wonderful person. He’s going through something right now that there isn’t a cure for, because it isn’t an illness. Not all that is painful or difficult in life is an illness, nor requires a cure. Sometimes it’s a goad. Sometimes it’s a restructuring.

I think it was David Whyte who said, “When one thing dies, everything dies…” and that, in effect, everything has to find a new meaning and structure in our lives. My son is going through this right now. Nilufer is dead. What does anything mean anymore? How does it all fit together? Something central is gone. 

I watch him wanting to—he’s actually doing very well. But I watch him wanting to careen off into melodramas about it, as opposed to sitting still in: She’s gone. This hurts it. It is not healthy to get over it right away, and it’s not healthy for it to stop hurting right now. To be in harmony with it is to be cooked by it, is to let it restructure us, change us, change our life, change our values, change our priorities, change how we are with those we love who are alive, whom we perhaps never would have conceived off as being able to die.

This is an uncomfortable cooking process that needs to be stayed with. It works on a level that is much deeper than thinking. When we are in this kind of cooking, in a situation, so much of the time there is an urge to formulate a plan and do something. But we are being done unto; we are being changed.

This is not a an encouragement for passivity in front of life. There may be things that we need to do. My son still needs to do his homework. But the feeling of being cooked can be recognized by this feeling of being up against a place in myself that does not want to yield, and that if I stay with this, if I don’t dodge into drama, if I don’t dodge into premature activism, if I stay with this, I am going to change. This is actually going to take me apart in some way. That feeling of being taken apart is not something to fear. It’s an important part of living, and receiving the gift that the cook gives to the chickpea, of being made more digestible by life.

Would you like to experience Sufi healing practices to aid and ease your cooking process? Join us for Doorways to the Divine Feb 24-25.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply