Fragility

It’s very easy for me to talk about the good things that I am constantly trying to improve on and implement.

Today I want to talk about the difficult stuff. Fragility- how vulnerable humans can be? How easy it is to do away with the positive emotions that require a lot of work to build and let them be overwhelmed by the negative emotions that are quick to take over. Our survival mechanism that has been built in us, ensures that we feel these negative emotions for our own benefit. This is how we survive and thrive in the world.

To give you some context, I took up some challenges to build new habits and compound on them, all was well until it wasn’t. One of the challenges was a combo of meditation and exercise twice a day for 90 days. I meditated and exercised at least once every day for the last 50 or so days. I have skipped the last 3 days and missed some meditation sessions and/or exercise combo that goes with them, so there goes the 90 days challenge as I broke continuity. It doesn’t sound that bad writing that yeah, I missed those 3 days, but when I talk about why I missed those 3 days, it may sound that I went through a slump. In those 3 days, my mind was occupied with anxiety, worries and cues for depression seemed to be returning. I was trying to suppress those emotions simultaneously, which is the worst thing to do when feeling such way.

” It’s good to express your emotions and it’s not good to suppress your emotions”.

This is a line I repeat often in some classes I have been holding. Yet, I was not exercising this myself. That said, I don’t mean that you should scream when you’re angry or eat sugary foods when craving food. Good and wanted emotions are good to express and bad and unwanted emotions should be managed and controlled. The 3 days I skipped on all the little things I do to win the day and ingrain the process fell apart. In those 3 days, I felt a lot of other emotions too; self-doubts, feelings of being ungrateful, feelings of burn-out because I may be trying to take on too many tasks, combined with some concerns for my well-being and health and thinking how this may impact me. All of this to me, highlights how fragile and vulnerable I can be at times and, how easy it can be to get derailed. I can go into much deeper details and how my mind works but that may not necessarily be how your mind works. If you have through experiences learnt the cues for anxiety and depression, if you have learnt through reflection how to overcome, if you have learnt to not suppress emotions, rather allow yourself to feel the emotions and then overriding it with your cognitions and actions to stop these cues from returning. This is how perhaps; I think I have been able to pick myself up through slumps and periods of low mood and energy. To re-centre myself, I have to take a step back and start again at the causes and resolving those causes. The causes and cues of these negative feelings and slumps can be rectified through addressing the cause and/or reinforcing the actions that will subside these emotions and bring back the positivity and process back in sight.

3 days of slump may have seemed like a huge setback to me in my head and because of the overwhelming feelings I felt in those 3 days. What helped me is being able to detach myself from’ my Self’ and observe myself objectively. I know that I can never do this with full objectivity but what helps me is, talking about myself in 3rd person as if I am not me and am just looking at my behaviour/actions because that’s what’s visible outwardly, I then observe my emotions and try see how they are affecting my thoughts and behaviours. Wherever there is a disconnect and wherever there is a causal reaction, those areas identified then need to be rectified. It may all sound a bit fancy because of how I might be explaining things, to give an example and make a relation between emotions, thoughts, and behaviours. Consider this, which in my case, is one of the cues for depression and anxiety returning. What I want to do is wake up and carry on with my daily routine but instead, I lay about in bed. In not getting up off the bed, I start feeling lazy, this then brings feelings of being unproductive and uselessness, I reinforce these feelings through my actions of remaining lazy. The actions reinforce the thoughts in my mind that yes, the feelings and behaviours confirm that I am actually lazy, unproductive, and useless, the thoughts then turn to rumination. Rumination is a cue for depression returning. It’s not a simple process for me, thoughts, behaviours and emotions either reinforce each other or often there is a disconnect, when my feelings and thoughts lag the actions/behaviours. Sometimes it is my actions that lag the emotions. What I am simply saying is, yeah, it’s complex to explain it. Which shows how fragile and vulnerable I can be.

Once we are in the fragile and vulnerable state, our lower self, survival instincts, survival mechanism overtake our rational thinking and rational behaviour and we fall into old habits which may also be a precursor for anxiety and depression. We may feel afraid, we may become distrustful of others and/or ourselves. We may start eating unhealthy foods/ binge eat/ consume high sugar foods. We oversleep, we may lose our appetite, we may become disengaged with our surroundings and disconnected with those close to us.

Being able to reflect while going through this can be really helpful, as it can help you get back on track. I am a big believer in dreams and what shape they take in our sleep. If we try connecting to our unconscious and subconscious minds and what they are trying to tell us, we can recognise the areas where we have to give attention. I am not going to delve into interpretation of dreams. I am not an expert in the area, I feel that I am well connected with how my dreams are shaped and my ability to influence my own dreams in my sleep. Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. Reflection, allowing yourself time to feel emotions, accepting them is a good way to address the slump. Self-awareness and recognising early on the shift in your routines, behaviour and emotions is a great tool to possess too. Remembering this one line, that no soul is burdened beyond what it can bear helps me a lot. It helps me reinforce the confidence and grants me persistence and wisdom to keep working towards my goals and visions. The ability to implement even in small ways, this is the way to start working on your dreams and goals. Wishful thinking and having great ideas lead to get rich quick schemes and hoping for overnight success if you lack the courage to pursue them knowing and dealing with periods of setbacks. In modern age, our brains are more prone to instant gratification because of the impact of the social media, environment, constant bombardment of advertisements and reality TV shows.

Most of all knowing yourself and your ability to re-centre when overwhelmed is what can help you overcome setbacks. In all honesty I want to add that I don’t think I know myself well. It’s an ongoing process that perhaps never ends till you’re dead.

p.s. I do not suffer from clinical depression. What I talk about in this blog is the feelings of depression that people may feel in different stages of their lives. This is not an expert advice, just moments of self-reflection. I really wrote this to allow myself to feel all emotions and be able to reflect on them. It also helped me overcome the slump which in the moment was overwhelming. Keep a note of this when reading it. Thank you!

Deep Reflections

It’s the last 10 blessed nights of Ramadan. I want to take this opportunity to reflect upon my life, goals and dreams.

The meandering path that I have tread upon, the struggle against the heavy currents, the deep desire to constantly improve, learn more about myself and increase in knowledge. Through the practise of martial arts the main lesson that I have learnt is that by going to the first principles, we can see how different paths in life are similar. Through reflection I have been able to seek these similarities in many different fields and sciences, the principles hold through time. Principles are universal and those who deny it, they are deluded within the realm of their ego and self-esteem. Humility and open-mindedness are traits to possess when seeking knowledge, it will help develop critical thinking, analytical thinking and a mindset that questions before you start following anything blindly.

I am reading a psychology book which talks about the minds of masses. Throughout history we can delve into this study and see how many events of the past have been shaped because of these factors, perhaps I will write all of this in another blog post. For now, let me stick to discussing my reflections, goals and dreams.

One of my dreams in life is to eradicate poverty and child abuse. I know it’s idealistic to believe that all vices can be eliminated completely. However, I want to do what I can within my capacity and I want to achieve this through education. Hence, one of my main dreams from a younger age has been to establish an educational institution which is self-sustaining and once set-up it can function with minimum injection of additional capital- be that through any public or private means.

What I want that educational institution to be like? I have spent many hours in the past years thinking over it and I can say that the more I think and visualise it, the clearer the image of this institution becomes. It’s just an idea that I have shared on many other platforms before, not yet implemented on my part. However, there are many institutions around that have implemented many aspects similar to my thinking. I have learnt a lot by looking at these different institutions and how they function. One such institution is Zaytuna. If you read my blog, I would suggest you donate to them because for 1) educating and teaching others is an ongoing charity unlike other forms of charity which once given gets a set reward and 2) Zaytuna is one of those institutions that instil the principles in its pupils that help them succeed in whatever field they want to pursue afterwards. How do they do that? Through teaching the first principles, by developing the minds of the pupils enabling them to think for themselves; it grants them the ability to make sound judgement, utilising good morals and values. Through teaching them rhetoric and grammar, through teaching them the skills of effective communication, through eloquence.

I haven’t had the opportunity to study there and hence my words cannot describe their system the best way. However, what I would like to add to this is that, if you’d like to get to know the Islamic teachings through traditional way, not what the Mainstream media portrays what Islam is. E.g. Islam was the first religion to grant women equal rights, the first wife of Prophet pbuh, was a businesswoman, a source of comfort for him, a friend, who shared the responsibility of the household together. By getting to the correct teachings you can perhaps come to change your views about Islam, whether you follow its teachings or you don’t. The best way to remove animosity towards one another is by taking interest in others. Real interest that shows the real morals and values of the community, the people, the nation, the society.

I think prejudice, judging others and forming opinions without properly knowing others is the wrong way to get to know someone. It is an easy way for closed-minded people to stay within their comfort zones and live inside the bubble of their ego. We should especially be bursting these bubbles in these times, we have so much free time. Let’s take this opportunity to learn about ourselves and others. Reflect within and learn to see the goodness in others. If we look at others with faults, that’s all we will ever find. To expand on this, when we look at others with faults, we really are just extending our own subconscious on others. That’s a deep thing to ponder over.

For those of you who know me personally or are at least acquainted with me, I would like to request that you kindly donate what you can towards Zaytuna. If you wish to see more helpful muslims as your neighbours, as your friends, as community leaders who lead as good role models, as loving and caring members of the society then please donate. The institution runs with the help of donors and you can be part of providing good education, which becomes a means of an ongoing reward for yourself and anyone on whose behalf you donate, be they your deceased loved ones or those who are alive and close to you.

In my next few posts, I will perhaps talk a bit more about the educational institution that I want to build. It’s my long-term goal, if and when I have the capacity to follow this path. I will also talk about the mind of the masses and how to understand it. I perhaps being one of those deep thinkers, and who isn’t easily swayed by trends and someone who likes to call themselves a non-conformist (as in my name as the author), you can understand why I would lean towards reading such deep books. Anyhow, to end this blog, I would like to say, don’t fall into the trap of knowing-it-all and don’t fall into the trap that you’re worthless. Rather have a balanced approach, stay humble, stay curious, curiosity towards learning, not being nosy in other people’s matters or curiosity that leads to hate and envy. To create a harmonious society, I firmly believe that we all should strive to better ourselves individually, and then, only then extend that help forward. That said, this tells me that it is time for me to stop writing and look within myself to better myself. Look within, what’s within is what’s reflected outwards. See the funny thing about delusional people is that, they themselves don’t ever realise that they are deluded. The irony! Hmm, I still have the habit of being spontaneous when I write, just typing my mind out loud, perhaps it is my strength. With time, I will start writing articles with better research process. I am fairly new with this blog so I focus on consistency because I love writing. I started loving it more by sharing more and writing more often. You develop a passion by engaging in the arts. The art of writing has now become my passion, I know there is always room for improvement. The grammar, the sentence structure, how I articulate my thoughts, so much more to improve on. With time and years to come, I will seek to improve. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Feel free to share this and help raise funds for a good cause.

Until next time,

Keep safe

Restarting the Economy

How to Restart the Economy and Ease the Lockdown Measures?

Covid-19 pandemic has caused a global depression within a few months. There is no cure currently as of this writing or a vaccine. The only viable option available to remove these economic sudden stops and bring back productivity and normalcy is to design a way to stop the spread of the virus transmission.

Thus far, the governments and various health departments have issued self-isolation measures, lockdown measures, advice on PPE such as N95 respirators and surgical masks, hand sanitisers, washing the hands with soap for minimum of 20 seconds to dissolve the virus. But the measures have not been enough to stop the contagion and rise in number of deaths globally. Here is a snapshot of the global pandemic via John Hopkins University

There is a case in every continent, and those who initially flattened the curve such as Singapore and South Korea and China are reporting new cases. The second wave and reinfection are what is preventing those countries from a return to normal. To be precise, pre Covid-19 normal.

Furthermore, what we know so far from the researchers is that even if vaccine is developed, the vaccine fades away and the risk of infection remains once it does. We are coming dangerously close to a time, where only the healthy population survives and the others slowly inch closer to death. This is a stark reality when you look at the number of deaths and how quickly it has spread globally. The first cases were reported some say in December, some say in November, the bottom line however, is that in Four Months, the global cases stand at 2.9M, the deaths at 203.5K.

There is no consistency in measures and response either, different policy makers have taken different approaches. Some who responded earlier, limited the number of fatalities, others who were slow to respond and hoping for herd immunity have witnessed an exponential rise in number of cases and deaths. In previous wars, military heroes and political heroes emerged. In this new war, it is the doctors and nurses fighting the invisible forces of the universe.

The health damage is not limited to covid-19 fatalities, the mental health, domestic abuse, paedophilia, sexual and physical abuse is creeping and gripping upon those who are vulnerable. Here is an article by FT related to this subject; The Hidden Health Costs of UK Lockdowns. This is not just a UK phenomenon. The bigger risks are developing countries.

The reason I am mentioning this is because everything is very much connected to the global financial system. Economic failures, risks and unemployment in the developing world where many are daily labourers face unprecedented risks. This economic collapse of demand and work is creating ripples and affecting the mental health.

Economic Impact

To understand the global monetary system and how it is currently shaping, have a read of this thread by Raoul Pal of Real Vision. Flight to dollars has caused a shortage of dollars globally, everybody wants to hold the reserve currency because 55% transactions occur in dollars globally. The stock market has seen outflows in trillions of dollars since the spread of pandemic.

The travel and tourism industry has come to halt with forecasted business travel spend revenue loss in billions of dollars. According to data by Statista, China is projected to lose $404.1 bn, Europe is projected to lose $190.5 bn, with the rest of the regions bringing the forecasted total to $810.7 bn. The actual numbers will be much worse because it is difficult to quantify the impact of coronavirus and the extension of lockdowns with each milestone.

Here is a look at US Non-Farm Payrolls for the month of March. April’s data will be released on the 1st Friday of May given no delays. The US economy lost 701 thousand jobs in March, much worse than market expectations of a 100K cut, reflecting the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it. It is the first decline in payrolls since September of 2010, but the figures were not as bad as those seen in 2008 as the number excludes the last two weeks of March when unemployment claims surged by nearly 10 million. About two-thirds of job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, mainly in food services and drinking places. Employment also declined in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction via Trading Economics.

I think the next couple of months are going to look terrible,” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters. “You’re going to see numbers as bad as anything we’ve ever seen before.” Reported 26thApr20, 15:33 BST.

The US economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, less than market expectations of a 22 million cut, and after declining by 870K in March. It is the largest drop ever, bringing the employment to 131 million, its lowest level since February 2011, due to the coronavirus pandemic and consequent restrictive lockdown restrictions imposed such as business closures. Job losses were widespread, with the largest 7.7 million decline occurring in leisure and hospitality. Almost three-quarters of the decrease occurred in food services and drinking places (-5.5 million). Employment also fell in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry (-1.3 million) and in the accommodation industry (-839,000). The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised down by 45,000 to +230,000, and the change for March was revised down by 169,000 to -870,000. With these revisions, employment changes in February and March combined were 214,000 lower than previously reported. [Trading Economics]

I do not think any amount of economic data justifies the message I am trying to convey. The reality is not yet fully quantifiable. Looking at the April NFP data, some of the quantifiable impact can be seen. Although investors such as Ray Dalio and others iterate that this was a likely outcome, coronavirus is the cause for the effects which would have inevitably taken hold of the global economy. He is right, the global economy would have come to this point because of some other cause. However, what can we do to address current issues? What can the people with wealth and money do to address this issue? Call me a cynic but, is that best that they can do? With vast resources in possession, the best minds, tech available? I am sure they are equally dumbfounded at their own powerlessness when faced with the forces of universe. We have already witnessed negative oil prices, the futures for May WTI Crude oil contract settling in negative territory for the first time in history. What more are we waiting for before we kickstart the economy? Yes, it is a dangerous approach and majority are against it because everyone fears the virus, the risk of reinfection and the burden on the health and medical facilities. However, we leave many bigger problems unaddressed, if we do not find an alternative to a new normal. A normal amidst the pandemic and a post-pandemic normal. Politicians are weaponizing the pandemic in US to smear at each other’s inadequate responses.

I am addressing this document as a proposal to put out an alternative solution. It seems a viable option, effective in theory to stop person to person transmission of the virus. It can be an effective way of easing the lockdown measures while researchers and scientists work hard at finding a cure and developing a vaccine. And as we know thus far, vaccine is not the ultimate solution. I am sure the people involved in inventing and designing these measures are doing their best and I wish them the best of luck, considering they are really putting the heart of the world before anything else.