The Tales of the Sands – A Sufi Spiritual Story by Idries Shah

A stream, from its source in far-off mountains, passing through every kind and description of countryside, at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one, but it found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.

It was convinced, however, that its destiny was to cross this desert, and yet there was no way. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: “The Wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream.”

The stream objected that it was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed: that the wind could fly, and this was why it could cross a desert.

“By hurtling in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination.”

“But how could this happen?”

“By allowing yourself to be absorbed in the wind.”

This idea was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality. And, once having lost it, how was one to know that it could ever be regained?

“The wind,” said the sand, “performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.”

“How can I know that this is true?”

“It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become more than a quagmire, and even that could take many, many years; and it certainly is not the same as a stream.”

“But can I not remain the same stream that I am today?”

“You cannot in either case remain so,” the whisper said. “Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one.”

This Sufi spiritual story is from the book Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah. It is a delightful book full of Sufi spiritual stories.

If you liked this story, you'll love this! We've compiled a list of the top 10 spiritual stories that our readers love. You can read them here.

What Is the Spiritual Moral & Message of “The Tales of the Sands” Story?

This tale, whispered through the corridors of time, reverberates with spiritual significance—a parable mirroring the journey of the soul and its inherent longing for transcendence. The story unfurls amidst a stream's fervent desire to traverse a seemingly insurmountable barrier—the sands of the desert. It mirrors the human quest for growth, evolution, and the yearning to overcome barriers that stand in the way of our destinies.

In this tale, the stream embodies the spirit of resilience and determination, akin to the human spirit seeking to overcome obstacles. It relentlessly attempts to breach the desert's expanse, only to find itself absorbed by the very sands it seeks to traverse. The stream, convinced of its destiny to cross this desert, encounters an unexpected whisper—a voice from within the desert itself—an esoteric guidance that reveals a path unseen.

This hidden voice, akin to the spiritual wisdom within, speaks of the Wind—an entity that defies the limitations of terrain, effortlessly traversing the desert's expanse. The Wind becomes an allegory for a higher force—an emblem of transcendence, offering a way beyond the stream's perceived impasse.

The stream, in its fervor to resist absorption, grapples with the notion of surrender—of allowing itself to be carried by the Wind. It resists this idea, fearing the loss of its individuality, unsure of its destiny once its essence is seemingly relinquished.

Herein lies the spiritual essence of this narrative—a metaphorical journey that mirrors our own quest for transformation. It echoes the profound truth of surrender—an act not of losing oneself but of transcending limitations, of letting go to find a higher purpose.

The sands, whispering to the stream, symbolize the wisdom of transformation. They speak of the stream's potential to become something more—something beyond its current form. The stream, caught in the struggle between retaining its identity and embracing a higher calling, grapples with the nature of change, of becoming more than it ever imagined.

The heart of this tale speaks to the spiritual paradox—the idea that in surrendering to the greater flow of existence, one doesn't lose individuality but discovers a greater truth. It echoes the journey of the soul—constantly evolving, transforming, and yet retaining the essence of its existence through each metamorphosis.

Ultimately, this story reflects the eternal dance of transformation—the endless cycle of becoming, shedding, and reclaiming one's essence. It mirrors the human journey of embracing change, allowing ourselves to be carried by the divine flow, and trusting that in surrendering to this greater force, we discover our truest selves.

May this parable be a guiding light—a reminder of the profound wisdom in surrendering to the higher currents of existence, embracing transformation, and finding our essence within the ceaseless flow of life's eternal dance. For in the surrender to the Wind lies the secret of our transcendence—a journey where the stream finds itself anew, reborn and reunited with its essential truth, like the rain returning to the river, becoming what it was destined to be.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Reflect on the journey of the stream, encountering various landscapes before reaching the desert. How does this journey parallel the diverse experiences and challenges one might face in life?
  2. Explore the stream's determination to cross the desert, symbolizing a desire for progress and overcoming obstacles. How does this resonate with your own aspirations and the barriers you've encountered in your personal journey?
  3. Consider the hidden voice from the desert suggesting that the wind crosses the desert. How might this metaphor inspire contemplation on unconventional approaches to achieving one's goals and navigating life's challenges?
  4. Reflect on the stream's objection to being absorbed by the wind. How does the stream's resistance to losing its individuality evoke thoughts about the fear of change and the unknown in your own life?
  5. Ponder the sand's explanation that the wind carries water over the desert, allowing it to fall again as rain and become a river. How does this cyclical process of transformation resonate with your understanding of personal growth and renewal?
  6. Explore the stream's doubt and skepticism about the truth of the sand's explanation. How might this reluctance mirror your own hesitations and uncertainties when presented with unconventional or unfamiliar ideas?
  7. Consider the sand's assertion that without belief, the stream may become a quagmire, a stagnant and unfulfilled state. How does this notion prompt reflection on the role of belief, trust, and openness to new possibilities in your own life?
  8. Reflect on the stream's desire to remain the same and the sand's response that neither remaining the same nor maintaining individuality is possible. How does this dilemma mirror the tension between stability and change in your own life?
  9. Ponder the idea that the stream's essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. How might this concept of essential parts and continuous transformation resonate with your own understanding of identity and personal evolution?
  10. Consider the overall message of the story and its relevance to your own life. How might the stream's journey and the wisdom shared by the desert prompt you to reflect on your beliefs, resilience, and openness to change as you navigate the ever-changing landscapes of your own existence?



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