"Once having been initiated and begun the spiritual journey, one often comes across difficulties and roadblocks. It is generally at this time that the spiritual guide tells a story in which the seeker finds similarities between his or her situation and the point of the story. Eventually the seeker learns the proper means of dealing with roadblocks by putting to use what he or she has learned from the story. As a result, stories perform a very subtle yet important function in the training and education of wayfarers on the path.
"If a teacher were to confront a pupil directly about what was blocking the pupil's progress, the teacher would likely activate the pupil's defense mechanism. The student's ego would be bruised, and the student would tend to argue that his or her actions were justified. Through the use of stories, the teacher ensures that the ego will not be alarmed and that the lessons will penetrate deep into the psyche.
"Thus, stories can serve to increase mental flexibility. The follower learns to give up his or her own perceptions of how things are or ought to be, and become prepared to receive higher levels of training. In fact, there is a saying that a master will not begin to transmit spiritual knowledge to any disciple who displays the slightest sign of self-will.
"Not all the stories associated with Sufism require a great deal of contemplation. Many stories are used to convey messages of loving care or to teach particular codes of conduct. If the pupil is ready to cross a barrier, a properly timed story gets the message across; if his attachment to the particular object of the lesson is too great, the student simply does not get the point and his training is not jeopardized."