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.

Progress and Action

My 2 good habits that I have managed to be consistent with, since the lockdown started are: Meditation and  Exercise.

I started by doing 20 push-ups a day and meditating every morning. Since last summer, I had been very inconsistent with practising martial arts or doing exercise. Perhaps going to counselling and showing up for the sessions kept me weighed down. During the whole process, I was listening to audiobooks, podcasts and watching YT videos as an escape. Escape because, my time was mostly filled by listening to fictional novels from some of my favourite authors. With the start of 2020 and having finished with counselling sessions, I wanted to re-implement some of the good habits that have stuck with me throughout difficult times. The two being meditation and exercise! It’s always these two that help me find balance and reorganise my mind.

This Spring with lockdown in place I tried a new combination of meditation followed by exercise for 90 days… I skipped a few days here and there. Skipped either am or pm session. It didn’t go as I planned, however, I managed to develop these habits back into my daily routine with greater consistency. I was meant to update my daily log of accountability but I really found that a chore lol. Still I started by doing 20 push-ups right after a meditation session. Usually I like meditating after an intense workout and emptying my mind and just sitting with myself observing and enhancing the focus and emptiness… this time, I was meditating first and to reward myself (the brain) I was doing push-ups. The idea being that my brain needs dopamine and endorphins released to feel pleasure and for the habit to stick. I can say that it worked really well. I also went from doing 20 push-ups to 50 push-ups. Then changed it up to 100 push-ups a day (5 sets × 20 reps).  Now, I have brought another slight change and started to lift weights too. The day I don’t lift weights, I do 100 push-ups. The other days I lift. I still maintain my focus on core strength and flexibility because I want to keep my taekwondo skills up to par.

Why am I sharing this? I can keep carrying on quietly and do what I am doing. My reasons for sharing are simple, everyone goes through different life challenges. You never know what others may find inspirational. I am not really going to post pictures up lol because I hardly take pictures. I don’t have a habit of taking selfies or pictures. So sadly, I don’t have the skinny me before and some after gains haha… The idea behind sharing this is that, you can start no matter your level, start with habits that you want to develop and stick with them, challenge yourself, hold yourself accountable through social media posts or through a friend. Become consistent, do a little bit everyday, rather than not doing anything at all.

Personally for me, consistency matters a lot. If I am able to stay consistent with my habits… hopefully it filters through to other aspects of life too and become consistent with everything I want to do and plan to do. Focussing on the process, not the outcome. The next steps for me are filling in the daily report card with consistency. To see what I am referring to check out these previous posts:

http://macropassions.com/2020/04/05/how-to-motivate-yourself-to-sustain-your-productivity/

http://macropassions.com/2020/02/29/leap-progress-process/

I want this progress and action to filter into my process and auction too.

Until next time,

Put in those reps

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