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 like 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!

A Drink from the Cup of Knowledge

Long ago in a distant land, a boy was looking to find something to give him purpose in life. He searched and searched, but then everything changed, when he decided to go at war. War within himself. He set on a journey to travel within. 

He decided to walk down the same path of overcoming the ego that many great people had tread before him. 

Once when Rumi’s Friday procession was marching towards the masjid to deliver the Friday sermon. On the way, he encountered a mystic, a wanderer. The wanderer stopped his horse by getting in the way, looked at Rumi and asked him this question. Shams [(sun)-the name of the wanderer)] asked of the scholar, “O you who are as knowledgeable in meanings as a money-changer is with coins, tell me who was greater, Muhammad, the Elect of God, or Bayazid?”

“Muhammad is the Prince and the Commander of all the Prophets and all the Friends of God. All power and greatness is his.” Rumi Replied. 

Shamsuddin asked, “In that case, what does it mean that the Prophet said, ‘Glory be to You! We have not known You as You ought to be known,’ while Bayazid said, ‘How great is my glory. How exalted am I, the sultan of sultans.’”

Some may have called Bayazid’s statement/poetry Blasphemy, but Rumi knew what it really meant.
Rumi answered, “Bayazid’s thirst was quenched and the container of his comprehension was filled by a single sip, and he appeared to have been satisfied. The light entered in proportion to the opening of his heart. The Chosen one of God (peace and blessings upon him) had a profound desire that had yet to be satisfied. For the Prophet it was thirst upon thirst. His blessed chest had become God’s vast dominion… For that reason he said, ‘I have not known You as You ought to be known’.”

The cup of knowledge/wisdom and the thirst for knowledge/wisdom are directly proportional, the greater the thirst, the more it can hold. 

How big is your cup? How thirsty are you for knowledge and wisdom? Are you content with little or let ego take control and make you think you know it all. Or, do you continually learn and learn more because your heart and mind remain open?  This is a great reminder for a people who once sought knowledge even if they had to travel to far places, places as far as Fars and Cheen. In the medieval times, those were vast distances to cover. Have a listen to this lecture, thank you Youtube for recommending it to me. Spirit of Islam. p.s. I am not trying to preach, that is not my intent. I am not qualified to do so, neither do I have knowledge of such level. I am a firm believer of the teaching; practise what you preach! I struggle everyday. We bicker more than we do Dhikr. That made me laugh, listen for some good Islamic rhymes. Liquor conference and Dhikr Conference. Hamza Yusuf is one of my favourite scholars. To check out his work go to https://zaytuna.edu/ this is the college he has established for traditional Islamic studies in Amreeka. Check out https://sandala.org/ to access his lectures, recordings and explanation of many books. Amazing person(Tayyab, Mumtaaz) and very humble. So if you wonder, where does my knowledge of the self and Ruh(soul) comes from, it is Hamza Yusuf’s lectures and explanations of the many books he has delivered lectures on. While you’re at it, check out these lectures 17 benefits of tribulations.

In all chosen paths of enlightenment, be it the way of Buddha, the way of Moses, the way of Christ or the way of Muhammad peace be upon them all. Or even just a spiritual path to enlightenment. First, you measure your cup and see whether your thirst has already been quenched. Refill your cup over and over, the gems will hold, and the froth will be removed just like when a cup overflows with excess liquid. But once you find your chosen path and after many lessons you have learnt to hold more gems than froth. Dig down in that cup and turn it into a well. Perhaps something even magical that never seems to get full. This reminds of the scene when Dumbledore is drinking to recover the fake amulet (a Horcrux) already recovered by R.A. Black. No more Harry, please stop! That’s a little magical crazy. I am not talking in that sense. 

Hmm, talking about this and thinking of Dumbledore and his old friend the dark wizard, forgot his name lol and I call myself a Harry Potter fan. Oh yeah- Grindelwald. Grindelwald and Dumbledore once set upon a journey to become great wizards seeking power and motivated by greed. Don’t be the dumb Dumbledore. Be the wise Dumbledore, who upon realising that love is a stronger force than power, changed his ways, although only after suffering great losses. I don’t know why I even started comparing the path of righteousness and purification to the path of Deathly Hallows. I guess, some of you might find it interesting looking at it from this perspective. The path of enlightenment whether righteousness, gaining knowledge or whatever pursuit of happiness you choose to go after, they all have similarities. Principles, you find them take different outward appearances but principles hold through time. As Dumbledore says, “Love Harry, it’s love that protected you and shielded you. That’s how you got the scar on your forehead.” 

In all paths to greatness, the road is rocky, the path is difficult to remain steadfast upon. Grit, persistence, overcoming setbacks, abundance, believing in Providence are your tools through all thick and thin.
Grit, virtue, focus and drive
Resilience and persistence 
A thick skin! 

Found this through James Clear’s 3 2 1 Newsletter. An excerpt from the poem “Youth” by Samuel Ullman, a Jewish poet:

“Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigour of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.”

Source: Youth

Why am I linking what I have just shared with this poem? The way I see it is that, to follow the path of your choosing, you must live in your youth as Samuel Ullman mentions it is a state of mind, a matter of the will, a quality of imagination and the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Meditate this coming year

When you write in many different places, content can start getting lazy and stay in hibernation. The weather is cold and although this time around the year is lively, it is also a time to take a step away from so much noise and consumerism. Did you see what I done? I blamed the content, when it is my own laziness. Words how they come forth, experiences how they are internalised can make a whole lot difference. Word!

In a few minutes or few hours precisely, a new solar year begins as per the Gregorian calendar. A new decade 2020 begins. Will a new sun rise too? Will you take charge of your actions and choices, and rise to the calling?

I hear and listen to the call of an adventure with my eyes wide open! So Many Possibilities, So Many Opportunities!

I am grateful, grateful that I see and find abundance, live it and experience it. Scarcity aside circumstances, is amplified by our choices and mindset. Hence, I write!

I write because words are abundant. They come forth many mediums, experiences, learnings and observations.

I have no new year resolutions. I have goals and targets that I want to achieve, work on and constantly improve. My focus this year is on the process-ingrain them, embrace them and internalise them. I want to make better choices and ask God to guide me. Grant me the wisdom that leads to the best possible path.

Meditate this coming year. One habit that I am going to work on. 5 mins per day.

I spoke about meditations in my last blog. In this I will talk about two different meditation techniques that work very well for me. I am not an expert at this subject, but I can elaborate my experiences well. What I would like you to do is take and work this technique, and tailor it to suit your needs, make it your own.

Technique 1Emptying the mind. Our minds think, observe and process information constantly.

The best time to do this is after an intense work out, lie down, or sit in a relaxed position. Closing the eyes, you focus on the tip of your nose, feel the breath, focus on the inhalation and exhalation. Once you have established the focus on your breath, push out all thoughts and images from your mind. Just breathing in and breathing out. Start from a minute and build up. If you can practise emptying your mind for 5 mins after every work out, your focus and attention compartment in your brain area will also increase. So, as time goes on and this habit ingrained, you can develop better focus and attention to any task at hand.

Technique 2Mindfulness. As a beginner, you might find it hard to meditate. Whether you do or don’t, an easy way to meditate is to follow a guided meditation session. Use the app. I use Mindfulness but there’s also many other free ones like Headspace and Calm. I set it to my desired time, switch the background to waves crashing at the shore.

The rest is just listening and focusing. Breathing is key, as is relaxing and letting go of all negative emotions. Haha, that’s what meditation is supposedly for right? Getting rid of negative emotions! Once a habit though, it will give you more than just that. Zen, ying yang, peace, calmness.

Most valuable of all- focus on the task at hand.

Until my next post,

Be good.