By Hwaa Irfan
If no effort is applied, everything would stagnate, which runs contrary to the Laws of Nature ( i.e. The Law of Three). By not relating to stimuli we regress by making no effort. When we exercise our muscles we increase our bone density, improve our flexibility, burn excess fat, and release built-up negative energy. But when we do not exercise our muscles, we become weak, more vulnerable to ill-health, become lazy, decrease our metabolism, and eventually busy ourselves doing nothing that requires effort, emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically. Everything we do if we want to move from the point where we are at now – this very moment, requires effort, including self awareness.
Without self awareness we prevent ourselves from becoming, from fulfilling our potential, losing balance between our inner world and our outer world, and the reality of now, the potential in now, the gift in the present becomes unavailable to us to change. It is the difference between the person who has no interface between himself and the physical world, and is like flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life because he has excluded the third force, the stimuli, that would help navigate our relationship with our Creator, ourselves, others, and the environment.
But What is Self Awareness?
Self awareness is a conscious state of one’s thoughts, feelings, beliefs, likes and dislikes, sensitivities, words and actions. It is the difference between knowing what is good for one, and what is bad.
When we are self aware, we are more able to make better and conscious choices in our lives, when to take risks and accept challenges, and when we act out of fear instead of acting out of love. The following case is an example of acting out of fear:
“I have been married for 3 years. I don’t have a kid yet. Sometimes, I wonder what is life? What will happen to my future? I have negative feelings, which I want to delete and to be positive. I think that I think these problems over and over again. How can I stop thinking like this? Is there any solution in Islam? I’m an only child. I don’t have many friends. Anyway I can’t trust my problems with them.
“I feel that I had done so many wrong things in the past. When I spoke to my mother she said that they are small sins when compared to others. Are their people who do not do bad things in their life? How can I have a balanced life?
This woman was in her mid-twenties at the time, and therefore the foundations of what she had been feeling were put into motion relatively early in her life. She knew that something was wrong with her thinking, but was not aware of how her paradigm was forcing the question “I wonder what is life?
We act out of fear when we live in the past, or project ourselves into the future, we abuse/waste the present. We do not accept the present because we do not relate to what we do not accept about ourselves. We do not accept ourselves when we put ourselves into little boxes that contain labels as to how we should think, act, and behave. We in fact separate our whole into pieces, with each piece not bearing any relationship with the other in our conscious mind. But the conscious mind is only a part of the self, not the whole self – it is a way of focusing or projecting our consciousness, the gateway between our inner and outer world. It only has access to unrepressed memories, leaving the other memories to become a part of our shadow selves – the self we fear. It is how we exist in the outer world, our personal identity, which may be false, and it is the way we organize our thoughts, feelings, and sensations, which become only a reflection of our perception. Our lungs become burdened with pent-up emotions and thus stands vulnerable to being compromised by the external environment (dis-ease), as a result of our internal environment, and begins by heavy sighs of “Only if,” or “What if…”, as the vulnerable parts of our bodies also become compromised due to the decreased flow of oxygen received through our lungs. We not only incapacitate our self understanding, but in doing so our self worth through poor self awareness:
“…Desire that which will bring you benefit, and seek help from Allah and do not give way to incapacity. If something happens to you, do not say, ‘If only I had done such-and-such.’ Rather say, ‘The decree of Allah. He does what He will.’ Otherwise you will open yourself up to the action of Shaytan.” (Riyad as-Salihin 11 #100, Muslim).
By not accepting the truths about ourselves we become increasingly self unaware. By doing this we also reject aspects of others. We fragment ourselves into reductionist modes of perception that shape a reductionist/materialistic relationship with only our own selves, but also with others, our Creator, and the environment that sustains all creation. By not being self aware we prevent:
Self understanding of our own:
Self understanding of our own:
- Best method of learning
- Our faith
- Whether we are truly aggressive, sensitive, compassionate, intro/extrovert.
- Can give love and receive love
- Are leaders, followers, or nurturers
- Talents, and skills one could develop
- Suitable friends, marriage partners, interpersonal relations
- Stress threshold
- Challenge threshold
- Need of relaxation
|Empathy||Refusal to understand|
We are not All Bad!
One woman in her late forties had the good fortune to have multiple sclerosis. Her health was deteriorating miserably under the guidance of allopathic/modern medicine. Through a good classical homeopath, and learning the power of positive thinking, she realized her own self image, and her own self awareness was not what it should be. To the point this woman cured herself of multiple sclerosis!
One man asked of ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib about his nafs. Talib replied:
“Of which nafs are you eager to become aware?”
“Is there more than one nafs?” the man asked.
“Yes, said ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib. “There are four: nafs of growth; nafs of sensibility (animal spirit); nafs of pure intellect; and nafs of wholeness and Divinity. Each one of the nufus (plural of nafs) has powers and qualities of its own”.
When we banish parts of ourselves to the skeleton cupboard, those parts do not go away. They are a part of us, and remain with us – there is no disposal unit or paradigm shift fast enough to prevent us from processing ourselves as a whole! Well, God never created us to scapegoat ourselves! We might recognize when we do it to others, but might not recognize that we do it to others because we do it to ourselves. When we banish parts of ourselves without coming to terms with it so that it can be liberated into our more wholesome selves we create a Shadow self, waiting to act without our approval. The Shadow self consists of repressed emotions, thoughts, negative experiences, unrealized/unknown qualities (human and spiritual), and our fears. It takes courage to face one’s Shadow self, and in some cases may require an experienced counselor, but it must be done, because it has a habit of influencing what we do. When it impinges on the parts of ourselves we accept, there is a feeling of guilt, shame, unworthiness, fear, and rejection. By not dealing with them they become our personal demons = strong negative emotions that we have a tendency to project onto others through bigotry, racism, oppression, exploitation, rape, war, humiliation, greed, persecution, sexual objectification, genocide and war. Therefore the qualities and traits we dislike in others, are qualities and traits we dislike in ourselves i.e. The Shadow self.
To turn the Shadow Self around one can begin by asking oneself:
“What do I dislike about others.” (one can think of particular individuals in order to make the process more meaningful).
By starting with this question, one can find it easier to identify what one dislikes about oneself by asking “Why” and to keep asking “Why” until one comes to the answer.
Then ask one’s self:
“What do I appreciate about myself?”
“What do others appreciate about me?”
Then compare the two. If there is a mismatch, ask yourself why do others appreciate —, and why do I appreciate—-
By doing so you define what you do not know about yourself.
Then ask yourself:
“What do I like about others?”
This will help you to see a) in which way you compare yourself, b) if others present good examples in your life, and c) the damage that comparisons do by creating the Shadow self.
Prophet Muhammed (SAW) said: “… Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil, and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul, and moves to and fro in the breast even though the people again, and again have given you their legal opinion [in its favor]” (An Nawawi #27|).
The more you become self aware, the easier it is to know what to be thankful for, and to accept it with humility otherwise something new could develop which you may not accept, and the easier it is to know what parts of you need some attention, as is the case with all of us! If one accepts the parts of one’s self that need change, need to be liberated, the universe will conspire to find you solutions so that you walk in tune with His laws – the rhythm of the Laws of Nature. Then before you find anything to be unhappy about, at the end of each day, as the sunsets, ask yourself what do you feel grateful for?
- The sunrise, the sunset
- A child’s laughter
- Those that love you
- The roof over your head
- Food to eat
- The fact that you do have a choice!
- You service to a person in need
- The flu that prevented you from going into work when your boss was in a bad mood!
By giving thanks, and really feeling appreciative, you create an energy shift in your mind-body-spirit relationship. You will feel calmer, your mind will slowdown, you will respire more deeply, and you will feel more positive, which will attract the positive in turn – God Willing. And if there is a negative reaction, smile in recognition!