By Hwaa Irfan
Another day begins, but we wake to it less refreshed, as the day will be a repetition of the previous days, weeks, months, or even years. We switch on the automatic mode in order to get through this new day, which we approach in old ways. Regulated by time, we get through a set of challenges that seem to have increased with greater force. The only difference is, is that we are not as energetic as we used to be, and it all seems to demand off us much more, but we keep on going until the weekend. The weekend descends upon us, but we find like the evenings of the week days, the energy seems to be only available to get that paid work done, and before you know it, your life is all about work, which keeps on demanding more, and more, and more. The holidays descend, and a week into it, you are able to enjoy it with the family, and just as you really unwind, the palpitations start, the indigestion, the blood pressure rises, and waking exhausted from a full night’s sleep has returned.
Sooner or later, you realized that you just cannot do it anymore. You might not fully understand why, but you do know that your health is on a downward slope, the perpetual feeling of exhaustion is causing your body to ache, and there are days when it is hard to move your legs; and your world has shrunk to exclude all the things that you enjoy. There is always tension in your neck, an your spine is always sore, and so in the process you have learnt to walk with a lot more tension in order to control the pain in your spine, and increasingly your pelvis – you want to rest, but you are fighting gravity!
Well, it is not that you do not like your work, and that you get on with your colleagues quite well, but is the rest of life going to be like that! All your loved ones seem to be barking at you as you share less and less with them – how much more are you going to lose before it is all too late! You give out more and more energy, but nothing seems to be coming back because you have depleted your spiritual bank account!
Energy is all around us, but somehow we do not seem to be tapping into it. It is in all that Allah (SWT) has created. It is in the air we breathe, the birds that sing, the smell of nature, the wooden chair that has been carved inspired by – the food that has been inspired by – the recitation that has been inspired by – the music that has been inspired by The Greatest Love of All. We know all of this, yet, it slipped us by, because we forgot before we have to have energy before we can give energy. Emotions are a form of energy, just as thought is a form of energy, and if we are fragmented emotionally, so too are we fragmented physically, and spiritually.
We thought we had grown accustomed to the noise pollution, and the rude mannerisms, and the almost, no not almost, actual sexual innuendos written to every daily social transactions, and the length of time it takes to get anywhere, or the deteriorating level of service, when one wants to get the washing machine fixed for example, oh! And of course the growing greed that explains the increased prices, and the poor food quality. We thought we had gotten used, and in fact had become quite adept at handling those empty conversations which have become normal conversation.
Or you did make that all important decision, when you became dissatisfied with your life and you chose to acknowledge your purpose — your gifts. Everything seemed to be going OK, and you have had some quite interesting realizations. However, at some point along your journey, you went beyond what you were ready for, and have found yourself vulnerable to certain risks believing far too much in your skills, and unaware of what you still needed to do.
Or you have been one of those fortunate ones who discovered Eckhart’s “The Power of Now”, missed out on the spiritual context, and the real meaning, and up until now you have been feeling quite liberated from the past, and having no guilt, shame, or responsibilities. Now, you find that certain incidences have happened which have challenged your belief, and that certain things you want to reach out to is evading you.
These are a series of situations, which one might find one’s self in, making one feel quite inadequate, or powerless – the effect of not recognizing what one is experiencing. The mind wanders, drifting off in a manner that one may not be quite aware of. One is easily distracted even in mid-thought. Promises seem hard to fulfill, and decisions seem to be hard to make – one is going through a shift in paradigm. There may be mood swings, or obsessive thought, with extremes in ideas that may seem contradictory, because one has shifted one’s polarity, and may be vaguely aware of something else – the problem is that “something else” has been hanging around for a long while seeking your attention, and you are still not quite aware of it. In a state of limbo, one might have decided to over-ride this “something else” as a matter of survival. You may have over-ridden it for so long, ignoring all the answered questions until your emotional and psychological body could take no more – hence your current state and it is a state that leaves you unable to respond to instantly when the situation demands it, which is usual in cases of pain, illness, mental/emotional/spiritual struggle.
Prophet Muhammed said: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating of harm” (An-Nawawi #32)
This includes the harming of the self!
You are not who you thought you were, because you left your spirit self out of the equation. The essential “I” has been trying to wake you up from your sleep with warning signs of excess tension, depression, muscles aches/cramps, sleeplessness headaches, frequent indigestion, problems remembering everyday things, and constant tiredness. If you do not wake up now, the symptoms will become worse manifesting as illnesses, and if you have been struggling to work at a higher level, a psychic attack!
All of the above happens because we are not living in harmony with ones’ self i.e. when one is nor living having integrated all parts of one’s self. Yes, we may have made changes, but those changes in our lives were superficial. One has hurt oneself with lies, self deception, withholding compassion, and as a result one has hurt oneself more with guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, ego, frustration, repression of feelings, unworthiness, greed etc. It is time to take time out/slow down, and to spend time getting to know oneself. One can start with the pains, and symptoms – spending time with them to discover with an open mind and heart what the source of the sleeplessness nights are. What has one not been listening to, practicing (spiritual), seeing, or has there been a situation that has been difficult to digest, and one chose to refute/ignore it! This is where mindfulness is such an important skill, because it teaches you to be open and available to the signs around and within you.
One can start by setting the same time each day to do these exercises. They can take place anywhere, but one might find it useful to have a “special place” to do the exercises. The benefit of anywhere is that it teaches you to be prepared in any situation, and as such, personally I prefer to do them after prayer.
#1: Sit in a place that is comfortable to you. Relax. Take in how you sit, what you are sitting on of you, the feel of what you are sitting on, the position of your legs, your back – each part of your body and what each part is in contact with, even if it is the air you feel/breathe!
– What do you see around you – look at each feature. What impression does it make on you (the colors, the shape, the size etc).
– What can you taste? Identify the flavors
– What can you smell? Identify the odors.
This will help to awaken the senses that have gone to sleep!
#2: This can take place anywhere.
– Listen to all the sounds around you. What can you hear?
– Separate and identify all the sounds, the rhythm of life – nature. If this is done at night time, or before Fajr (dawn prayer), one may even hear the sound of the earth, and feel the shift of the earth.
This will help one to identify one’s own inner sound, rhythm, and voice – that which is one’s own and not lost in everything else! Those things that truly gives one pleasure – enthuses one are clues to one’s own nature, they are guides along one’s journey in life. They can direct one to one’s true nature, and thus one’s true path, or present a media from which one can learn an important tool to further one’s self development. By practicing them, and in remembrance of where all creation comes from, once can discover what is within one’s own environment a sign as to the changes one needs to make in one’s life in openness. As Prophet Muhammed (SAW) divided his day into one third work, one third others, and one third study, one can discover the balance. Study can be self study, and worship is in everything that one does – it is not a time set aside only for prayer.
“…Everybody starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin” (An Nawawi #23)
After one greets the day with the Fajr/dawn prayers, instead of hurriedly ending this all-important time with Allah (SWT), and just sit in quietude. Listen to all the sounds you can hear, and as you do so take deep breaths.
Out 2, 3, 4
And then when one is comfortable
In 2, 3, 4, 5
Out 2, 3, 4, 5.
When one feels the stillness, focus on the aspects of one’s life that one is not at peace with. Ask yourself, (without answering), what you can do to improve upon it, remembering those whose worlds are torn apart around the world. Give thanks for what you have, and make du’aa (supplication) for these people, and let the answer to the problem present itself as one goes about one’s day.
If the problem involves others, we may need to ask ourselves what has been our role in the problem. We might have expressed outwardly the opposite to what we are internally. Have we been communicating with our true self? When we communicate with our true selves, there are fewer contradictions. We communicate with the truth of who we are, we reach out with the truth of who we are without expectations. After all communication is the basis of all relationships so is it not worth it? By communicating with our true selves we honor those we communicate with, and they too will feel more able to communicate with their true selves – speaking without blame, attacking, insults, and the need to manipulate. Listening without reacting — without being defensive – but listen by acknowledging the other, and each other’s space.
After all, it about taking care of one’s self, so that one care take care with what one does!
It seems easy does it not, but try practicing it with an open heart, and with the practice more will be revealed!