Hello and Assalam 'alaykum,
Warning: this post will most likely have no structure so I ask you to just flow along with the lines.
Right, where do I start?
You know, if you've been reading me for a while on this blog (before I privatised most of the older posts) and also on Zawajland that I mention the words 'spiritual' and 'spirituality' quite a lot. I consider myself a spiritual person and I always enjoy working, talking and writing about my spirituality. This past year has been such an eye opener for me on many levels and particularly in terms of spirituality, I saw the awakening of something profound within me.
My journey to reconquer my spiritual side started with me becoming interested in the heart (not the physical organ), the actions of the heart, the power of the heart, the influence of our hearts and so on. I also looked into the mental aspect of thinking, the brain, the importance of positive thoughts, the effects of affirmation, the impact of negative thoughts and self-disbelief. Then, I turned my attention to gratitude and bought a few books on this subject. I even started using a gratitude journal that I updated on a daily basis; I really enjoyed that. After a while, my interest lead me to look into character building and the importance of building one's character. I became fascinated with the concept of working on my inside. More recently, the subject of love became my newest interest. What is love? How do we love? Spiritual love, human love ect. Very interesting. These, in a nutshell are the various steps I took this past year with one element leading me to another in learning more about myself.
I have been purposely surfing on this wave of working with my soul, trying to learn more, trying to explore different ventures. This is spirituality, well it is MY kind of spirituality. But I realised something else: I realised that the way I have been using my spirituality and approaching my spiritual side during all these years has not been used to its full potential. I realised that I'm such a baby threading on this path, a beginner and that I have so much to learn. It became clear to me that I have only looked at it from one small angle.
I still remember as a teen having my first experience with my soul. As you know, every single one of us is made of a body (the physical body) and a soul (the inside). Without the soul, the body is nothing. It is dead, cold, immobile. Yet, from the very moment we are born, the only thing that is tended to and taken care of is the outside. The body is fed, perfumed, clothes, caressed, protected, cleaned, moisturised. But our soul is terribly ignored. For those of us who grew up in religious households, then we may have escaped the total absence of soul-nurturing but for sure, I think we can all agree that most of us were not raised with our souls being given as much care and love as our bodies have been by our parents or careers.
During one evening.. I wasn't able to fall sleep, I began pushing my thoughts further and further. I began asking myself 'Wait, but who are you really Libin?' 'Who are you?' I kept asking that question until I felt my soul more than I felt my body. I felt that subtle out of body experience and it scared me a little bit. That question 'Who are you?' always impacted me. When you ask people (you may also ask yourself now) 'who are you?' they will give answer about their background, their origin, their profession, maybe they'll mention their qualifications.. but is this really who you are? Who are you without all these titles and achievements? Who are you deep inside? Do you even know? Why are we always thinking in terms of what we HAVE and not of what we ARE.
Asking myself 'who are you?' has always pushed me out of my comfort zone. It also scared me because it made me realise that this life is real. It's not a dream. Sometimes, life seems like a dream and that it's just going to end one day and that nothing we do really matters. But no. Life is not a dream. I am real. I am living. I have a soul. My body is just a distraction and a protection at the same time. It was an incredible realisation. Since that first time where I spoke to my soul, I have used that technique as a way to kick my butt when I wasn't doing what I was supposed to. Any time I felt I was low in my eeman, I would try to reconnect to my soul and it would give me the electroshock that I needed to get back up. The electroshock was also useful in helping me remember that I am not a robot and my actions don't need to be automatic.. without life.
Other times, I used the staring technique to reach to my soul. This involves you staring in your eyes via a mirror reflection until you can see past the physical sphere to reach the spirit inside. It's not easy but it is so worthwhile. I thought I was so weird for doing these things because I had never heard of someone else doing these things. One day, a few years ago now but I still remember it so well, I tweeted about these experiences of reaching to my soul and the feeling I got from it. A guy replied back saying that he knew exactly what I meant and that he also gets goosebumps, a reality-check and a revived god-consciousness spring out in him. I was so glad that this was not something I was alone in and it was very comforting.
Being a quiet person by nature enables you to think more than you talk which is a real blessing. I definitely think more than I speak and when I speak, I try to speak well (doesn't always work though). Thinking however is a word we use to refer to more mundane things while meditating is the more sophisticated way of thinking. Meditating and spirituality for me are like siblings. When I tell people about meditation, they childishly say 'oh, so you sit and hum is it?' ummmmmhhh ummhhh
Saxib, you couldn't be further from the reality. This is such a close-minded way to look at meditating. I don't understand people who don't take the time to pause and reflect on life, on things, on their behaviour. I don't understand how people can be so engrossed in their physical body and be unaware of their soul and spirit inside. Meditating doesn't require a time or space. It can be done anywhere at any given moment given your mind is willing to offer you that gift. Again, I started my meditation journey from the warmth of the masjid.
I could spend hours just thinking (aka meditating) about life, about my life, about people. I loved looking out the window from the masjid and seeing all these people walking out there.. walking by the masjid.. yet hearts and minds locked away from the Truth. How can people live without knowing Allah? How can people be smiling and laughing yet they are heedless? How can people reach old age and not know Allah? What kind of life is a life without the Lord? It was (and still is) a mystery to me. It was humbling, it generated so much empathy and gratitude within me, but I found myself finding refuge in meditating when things weren't going right. Soon, I only turned to it when I needed a boost. As a result, it became harder and harder to do. My thoughts wouldn't allow me to reach depth. For a while, I became separated from two of my best friends: meditation and spirituality were distant things and I was unhappy.
But, in the past year, things have changed a lot. I am learning.. slowly but surely to reincorporate these two treasures into my life. I am learning to make them permanent guests in my life and not just run to them when things aren't going well. I don't want to approach my spirituality and access my soul through fear. I also don't want to meditate just because things have taken a wrong turn. No, I want to be in touch with my soul just as I am in touch with my body. Does anyone of us forget to eat for days on end? Do we forget to cream our faces and bodies? Most likely the answer is no. Likewise, I want to take care of my soul through meditation and through spirituality. I don't want to be scared of my soul. It's the best thing I have! I knew from a young age that my body was not kind to me: my body prefers sleeping rather than praying at night, my body rather eat than fast, my body likes to be adorned with beautiful clothes and get compliments, my body has these low desires that had I allowed them to take over, would turn me into such a pathetic human, my body is weak, it can get sick, my body gets lazy, my body is capricious, it can throw tantrums. On the other hand, my soul is kind, it wants purity, it wants to attain Allah's Love and Pleasure, it's on my side, it was created before this body made of clay. So why don't I get to know this soul? Why don't I take care of it? Why don't I make it a priority? Why don't I remember it?
Eid Al Adha 2016 was an odd one for me. My family was scattered all over: my parents chilling in Saudi.. my sister having fun in the UAE, my other sister was busy preparing herself for her new job, my brother planned his day with his friends. That left me all by myself. I didn't really know what to do. I decided to go visit the hospital and see some patients. Mind you, I didn't know of anyone who was hospitalised but I saw this as a way to 1) get out of my comfort zone (a new challenge) 2) stack some rewards 3) do something. I got dressed and everything when .. (synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) are amazing) my father called me. After a bit, I told him what I was about to do.. and he didn't really understand my reasoning. My father is a logic man (like most men), he kept saying 'why' and I didn't have an answer to why I wanted to go. He believed that visiting random people that I don't even know to be a strange concept.
I dropped the idea despite being so motivated before our conversation. Instead, I decided to go to a masjid that I knew would most likely be empty. I went there and it was empty. I sat and let my mind do all sorts of wandering. My mind went through all kinds of thinking but it stayed longer on thinking about the hereafter, about the grave, about my future life, my meeting with my Creator ect. I was lost in my bubble when a Somali woman entered. She said salaam and I replied to her. I returned to my bubble and she was clearly not used to seeing someone just sitting and staring ahead without moving. (I usually sit up straight, arms crossed or hands on my chin..). After a bit, she asked me if everything was ok and I told her that I'm just thinking. In Somali culture, if you say to someone that you are 'thinking', it's badly taken, it means you have problems.
She told me that I shouldn't be 'thinking' but making du'a for whatever is 'bothering' me. I understood that she misunderstood what I was doing. I hesitated for a bit and said to her 'habo, I am not thinking about anything bad or terrible, I'm good alhamdulilah but it's just that I'm thinking about the akhirah'. Let me tell you that she became overwhelmed at my honest reply. She began getting emotional and she began 'thinking' loudly. She even thanked me for reminding her to 'think'. See how things change? That afternoon was amazing for me. I left the masjid with a new vision, I had fed my soul, I meditated about my creation and my purpose.. I felt strengthened.
You know, walking has always been an amazing hobby of mine. My siblings don't understand why walking is a key to my well being; they gently tease me about it. I try to get as many people to join in but interest is low. People think walking is boring. Will you believe me if I tell you that walking is probably the least boring thing you could do? You get fresh air, your muscles get some work, your heart gets some exercise, your mind gets some freedom, it's wonderful. For me, it's not rocket-science. Walking allows me to meditate and it allows my soul to feel liberated. People walk their dogs, I walk my soul. But, the walking I've been doing so far in my life has been limited in the things I could achieve through it. I realised that today.
Today, I woke up and decided to embrace spirituality in every thing I do. I don't want spiritual only in certain places and at specific times only. I don't want to meditate only in some designated places or strictly in a certain sitting position. I want to live in the moment. I want to take every breath and enjoy it. I want all my 5 senses to be appealed to. I want my soul to be free and love life. I want my gratitude to not be just lip service but something my heart feels deep inside. I want to feel grateful from every corner of my body and my soul.
So, when I went on my walk.. the first thing I decided to change is my posture. I usually try my best to walk straight, shoulders back, chest out, smooth pace but, I usually look down. It's just a habit, it's not because I'm super pious. It's also a way to avoid eye-contact, it's a way to stay in my own bubble. Today, I decided to look up the whole time and look at everything. I looked at the wonderful sky above me, I looked at all these trees and their different shapes, I saw all these birds and the most shocking thing is: I saw people!!
I don't think I have ever look at as many people's faces as I have this morning. It was amazing! As a habit, when someone is walking by me in the opposite direction, I typically look down or away as we pass each other. I don't know why, it's just easier to avoid that unnecessary 'discomfort' right? I mean, we live in a world where everything is deemed 'awkward'. 'Oh, someone smiled at me today.. it was so awkward' 'oh, someone said Good Morning to me, it was so weird'. No, no, you are the weird one.
I looked at all these people just thinking how great my Lord is. All these people, just like me have a body and a soul yet we all looked different. You know what the biggest fallacy is? It is to think that we are different one from another. That's the biggest lie. This man or woman outside is just like you. A human with fears, feelings, dreams, wishes, hopes and a soul that's probably as neglected as yours. We are have more similarities than differences with the rest of humanity but it is fear that is conditioning us to think ill of those different than us. I had this smile today that I couldn't even control on my face. I was just happy inside and I can't even explain why. Today's walk was so spiritual. My mind didn't pause for a second. There was something to admire and appreciate with every step I took. There was something to listen to in every turn. There was something to smell in the air. I had all these colours to appreciate. I touched the leaves, I touched the sparkly frost. I wanted to be in the moment, taking full advantage of all my senses.
They say that you should never let the child in you die. It's true and today I felt like a child. I would wonder in so many things. A child sees a big tree and says 'woah', he sees a pile of dead leaves, he says 'woah' and listens to the noise it makes as he steps on them, he sees a bird and says 'woah'. Everything a child sees is usually seen under an eye of wonder and of awe. Why do we let this quality die in us when we grow? People could have the most stunning view in front of them, yet they feel nothing.. their smartphones are too distracting. In the past year, things have worked in such a way where most of my social media accounts got closed one by one and my phone broke. I now have a simple smartphone (my 9 year-old neighbour has the same phone as me yay!) which I only use to its most basic capacity. I don't have wifi outside the house and I love it. I feel so free. I love getting lost, I love not feeling the urgency to check for my messages or emails when I'm out and about. No one needs to know what I'm up to, I don't need to update my status every minute. I love actually using my brain when I have to go to a new place that I haven't been to before instead of the GPS guiding me there like a dumb person (no offence). I love that my phone is not glued on my hand like my fellow citizens of the world. I love that if people really need me, they will call and we all know that it's only.. the real people who call nowadays.
It's clear to me that smartphones are joy-thieves. They force you to be somewhere physically but mentally elsewhere. You're eating and scrolling on your phone; well, most likely.. you are not enjoying your food because your mind is elsewhere. Someone is talking to you yet you are on your phone only half-listening. You have an amazing scenery in front of you, instead of taking it in.. you rather take a picture of it. Strange very strange. I am implementing this new rule for myself where I am not allowed to use my phone until at least 9:30am (pushing to 10am) in the morning. I don't want to know the news (one of the best things I've ever done is stop watching and reading the news!), I don't care what you ate last night, I'm not interested in knowing what your plan for the day is.. nope, I just want to make sure my day starts well, with great energy, a positive mind, an awaken soul and get cracking!
Well... I have decided that all the posts on my blog will be dealing with this topic of spirituality/meditation for the month of December. There are so many more things I want to write about, so many things I want to share..