Affairs of the heart

I am a work in progress. I am working towards being a better human being. The essence of our being is reflected in our hearts. Our hearts are like mirrors. They either show our own ugliness, or they show the goodness.

One of the ways that helped me figure out, how many grudges and ill feelings I had been holding inside, was through meditation. I developed this meditation technique back in 2018 after, a friend told me about compassion meditation and shared some interesting facts about how our brains are wired, how the subconscious plays a key role in shaping who we are, and why we feel and do what we feel and do?

This meditation technique is known as Compassion Meditation. A Buddhist practice. The link attached is a short lecture with a guided practice.

I adopted this technique the way it would work for me. Here’s a short description of it, if you prefer to follow this method, I describe it briefly below:

  1. Start by sitting in a relaxed position in a quiet place. Make the body still.
  2. Close the eyes. Cutting off the sensory stimulation.
  3. Be present by focusing on the individual sounds in the surrounding (not busying the ears).
  4. Establish the focus on the breath. A few deep breaths to connect with the present moment.
  5. I start the compassion meditation by being compassionate to myself. I say a prayer in my head imagining myself, I echo this prayer until the force of the prayer is all around me in my head, then I start including those who are close to me expanding the circle of compassion in my head with every prayer. After that I bring the image of the whole earth in my head and echo the prayer in my head. The prayer translates in English to: Our Lord, have mercy on us. Bestow mercy on us!

The practise can last from anywhere from 5 mins to 20 mins.

This meditation technique really helped me let go of grudges and resentment I didn’t know I was holding on to. When I first started practising this technique, images of people that I disliked or was angry or holding some negative emotion for, started to pop up in my head while meditating. I countered this by including those people in my prayers too. I realised that I was holding onto unnecessary and unwanted feelings and emotions. I started becoming more aware of my negative side. I questioned myself why I didn’t like them? Was it useful to hold on to grudges and resentment? Was it helpful? Eventually, I was able to include everyone in this meditation practise without feeling any grudges, dislike, and resentment towards others. 

Back to the intro… I am a work in progress. Although I was happy to discover that some negative emotions found place in my heart and head easier than others. To give you an example, anger and fear found place in my heart and mind easier than other emotions like hate and envy. The reason I am writing this is because, in the past week or 2, I find that anger and fear is once more easily finding place in my heart and occupying my mind. However, armed with the tools to combat them, I am able to keep my composure. However, I cannot remain calm in everything I do, so this highlights that I should start practising this meditation daily, looking deeper inside my heart and subconscious. I am also sharing this because since developing this method, I have consumed a lot of content and found out that similar practices of contemplation have been part of the Islamic tradition too. Here’s a lecture series that talks about the practise of Tafaqqur by Dr. Abdullah Rothman. He talks about 9th century scholar Muhasibi, who mentioned a similar practise in his works. He highly influenced the main scholar of metaphysics Imam Ghazzali.

Sunday Musings

Why we do the things we do? Hmm… probably a wrong question to start with. We do a lot of things subconsciously, a lot of things because they are part of what we reflect outwards, few things deliberately. The things I am referring to here are our thoughts, actions and emotions. Right now I am trying to meditate with my eyes closed, breathing and searching through these past two weeks. Why? Because I said a lot bad things to someone I know- retaliating. A few years back or maybe more, it’d be fine and it wouldn’t upset how I act or what I say. Even now sometimes I do think that dropping to other person’s level and lashing out can be a good way to deal with certain individuals- especially narcissists and individuals that exhibit psychopathic traits or are perhaps psychopaths.

Obviously it is better to keep away from such people, however, we cannot always choose who we encounter in our lives and if I were to personally take a long look back, I think I have learnt a lot from some of the people I wish I hadn’t encountered. These individuals can be a good test of character and resilience. People are tested through other people. It’s part of human society. Life is not a bed of roses… certainly not for me in the present haha… but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing in life to be grateful for. Rather gratitude should always be first… we are always blessed with a lot of good. We just have to open our eyes and mind, feel the gratitude in our hearts. Life is not easy… life is a challenge and if you are not challenging yourself, you aren’t living up to your potential.

Every time I start writing, my mind just tries to delve deeper into the philosophy that has shaped my thinking so I have to take a step back and refer back to what I am trying to write instead of what I want to write. Would it be a good thing to just write out all my thoughts and how they are layered? It’s what I do in all my blogs… perhaps because of few recent encounters I am unable to. What gets to me is the fact, that I let my ego and old behaviours control me. It’s easy to drop to other person’s level, especially when other person is mean and malicious. I retaliated because I was perturbed. I was mean and harsh, said a lot things that I didn’t want to or think of. The blog sometimes is a cool way of letting out what’s going through my mind… let it all out and re-centre myself so that I can focus on the process and not outcomes. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviours our intertwined… how we act out is what gets filtered into other aspects of our lives. For example my writing and thoughts right now, in the present moment are distressed by recent encounters. This will filter into other pursuits if I don’t examine it and let it settle in my subconscious. So hence why, before it happens… I address it. I have given myself enough time to feel whatever happened. In the last 3 weeks or so… I cannot say that I have been focussed on following the process, routine and staying disciplined. So perhaps these are the reasons why my behaviour during the encounter though somewhat calm initially, couldn’t remain so.

When things go awry… it is time to take a step back, look at the discipline, routine and practice. This is what I am always to trying to achieve more in… measure myself against. A quote I love says, be grateful for the blessings you are blessed with and be grateful for the blessings you are denied. Therein lies divine wisdom.

Here one might think- am I denied a blessing because I don’t deserve it? This is surely a wrong way to think about it. A better approach would be to think, what would I be like had I been blessed with those things? Recognising the extent of evil and chaos that I could perhaps fall in, …. if I invert this, the way I am currently thinking about it or what I mean by it is, “You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” (J Clear) In trying to take a step too many, there is a greater chance of temptations and evil within us side tracking us or make us shoot for the wrong goals. Hence why, before we set out to create order, we create order within ourselves.

I cannot take back the words I said, however, in future I can show better display of character. That would be a good step forwards… in the present moment, I can show and feel gratitude, cherish the good people. Most of all… staying focussed on the process and routine.

Manifestation, Choices

In my last post Fragility, I discussed some of the cause-effect issues that surround human behaviour by presenting simple example of what I have experienced. You know what they say, little knowledge is dangerous. To some it is not a big deal, but to me how I write and what I mean by it and how it is interpreted matters. Cause-effect relationships occur from macro to micro. To us humans, it may be correct to say that we may experience them and observe them, however, we/the object/the element/compound are not the source of causation. This is a theological issue and perhaps I came across it to realise what mistakes I made. And perhaps not just realising the mistake of using incorrect words, the idea and its understanding, philosophy behind it. Even though I may have known and accepted the understanding intuitively. Reminders are a great way to delve deeper into difficult issues, knowledge that is not mainstream anymore. In my search for seeking answers, I came across a new series of lectures which explained the idea to me in the way that it made sense to me. What we see as cause and effect in this universe is simply manifestation of the decree. The pen has been put down and ink dried.

Of course, my love for writing and continuing these posts of self-reflection and idea sharing, hasn’t come to an end with the last post. That said, after writing it those few days of stumble perhaps lingered on for a bit longer. However, I have also stumbled into a lot of good in the meanwhile, things that are waiting so that I can explore them.

In this post, what I want to talk about is something simple. I want to clarify first that I am not an expert in the field of psychology. The little knowledge that I have, has been gained through reading some books, listening to some lectures, and most of all living through experiences the good ones, the bad ones; reflecting upon those moments and trying to understand my thoughts, behaviours and emotions. I will keep this super simple and would like to explain just a few concepts that might help some people who may read this. Firstly, I want to talk about fixed vs growth mindset. I want to talk about nature vs nurture. I want to touch upon the tools that if you use them too, will provide you with important life lessons from your own experiences.

Fixed mindset individuals carry this belief that their intelligence, creativity, personality traits are unchangeable and hence static. They carry this belief that our life’s successes and failures are dependent upon these inherent values, traits, and qualities. Growth mindset on the other hand, promotes the notion that failures and challenges in life are a means of growth in personal lives and professional careers. It simply makes more sense to me, as we constantly learn from our mistakes, even if we do make some mistakes over and over. In the study of CBT- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, research has deduced that cognitions(thoughts), emotions and behaviours are inter-linked. Hence to change our patterns of behaviours, we can work by changing our patterns of thoughts. In doing so, the emotions we feel will change too. This requires deliberate practice, and change may come easy to some and delayed to others. The idea here is that, change requires small progressive steps, requires a foundation of habits. This is why habit stacking is extremely important. This should be taught in schools at an early age so that these principles are well understood. I definitely wished I had known the little I know now when I was younger haha.

Nature vs Nurture. The way I understand nature is through the Arabic word فطرة. In my understanding, all humans are born upon pure nature. As we grow our environment and surroundings nurture this nature. At an early age, some qualities stand out more so than others. All of this is manifestation too. Our characters are proportioned out. However, nurture is the ability that if constantly utilised, results in gradual improvement of human nature or perhaps gradual destruction, depending whether you’re walking the path of light or of darkness. It’s obviously understood that a murderer after each murder only becomes more numb. The evil act becomes easier to carry out each turn. Similarly, if we project our nature towards good, nurturing the good qualities and traits with repeated habits, actions, and processes.

So, what are the tools that can help you in achieving a growth mindset and shift away from having a fixed one?

1- Acknowledging and affirming that you have a growth mindset. Realising that failure can be overcome, setbacks perhaps are a blessing in disguise. 2- Each time you fail, ask yourself, was there a lesson to be learnt? 3- Not dwelling in the past, living in the present and working to build a better future.

What tools can help you nurture a good nature? One is obvious that you all already have. Life experiences! We all have different life experiences, so we may all learn something different from reflecting on unique experiences that we have had. Keeping in mind at the same time, out of the 7 billion people alive and many that have lived before, they have also most likely been through similar experiences. We are unique and at the same time tied to a bigger picture. Reflecting on your experiences, not ruminating, not dwelling in the past, just reflecting! Squeezing life lessons and carrying them forwards to new experiences. This is one way of nurturing a good nature.

I will end this here. Share it with others if this helped you in some way.

Until next time…. Ciao