The Thunder, Chapter 13 of the Quran, describes how the thunder with its scary roar, in its essence, it glorifies and praises God. Could this be a parallel for our pains and sufferings? The roaring pain that brings within its folds a blessing and a gift from the Divine?
In its essence, suffering, like the roaring thunder, praises and glorifies God. Initially, our pain brings with it fear that might throw us into a chaotic narrative… the chaos of a life-threatening diagnosis or a life-altering illness, the chaos of cancer, depression, autoimmunity, fibromyalgia, or chronic pain… a chaos that forces us to press a pause or even a stop button on our lives…
But, what if we pause and listen? What if we try to decipher the message our body is sending us? If we listen carefully, we will hear our suffering opening the door for spiritual insight, a door that will take us closer to God. We will hear our suffering praising our Lord.
The Thunder chapter (Surat Ar-Ra’d) challenges our belief about the dichotomy of good and evil. To discern the wisdom in our trials, we need to challenge this modern cognitive frame. We need to stop judging evil solely on the basis of it not serving an immediate interest or pleasure. Likewise, healing should not be reduced to curing the illness. Healing means becoming whole again, becoming at peace with oneself, the world, and the Divine.
Healing entails finding meaning and purpose that is bigger than ourselves and bigger than our suffering. It entails bringing all who we are, body, mind, heart, and soul into a relationship with the Divine. As physical suffering is drawing us towards a bigger life meaning and purpose, to a vocation and a calling, in reality, it is drawing us towards God. To find our calling, we need to know ourselves; and to know ourselves, we need to know God. Such knowledge allows us to understand the interconnectedness of all things around us and within us and the relationship to and ultimate dependence of this amazing web on its One and Only Creator.
Listen to the inspiring story of Ali Banat: Gifted with Cancer, May God bless his soul.
At a point on our journey, we are forced to withdraw into our “innermost cave” where life challenges become just too much for us to bear... when we realize that it is not about power, strength, or fighting… when we finally accept that it is okay to be vulnerable.
In our innermost cave, we learn to be humble, we clearly see our limits as human beings and we acknowledge our limitations.
The cave is dark, cold, and scary, like the dungeon prophet Joseph (Yusuf) was thrown into… Yet, it is in this cave that our connection with God gets stronger, it is there where we realize that God is our only solace… it is there where we meet God on the deepest level… we meet Him as servants and slaves meeting their Master… we meet Him in awe and humility… we meet Him as our souls as dying from starvation and thirst… only His presence can feed our souls and only His words can quench our thirst.
Sometimes, all what we need to do is pause and connect… come back to our deepest core … to the place that Marie Schwan describes as “Home.” Home is this beautiful innermost place within us where we are truly ourselves. Home is a place where we are profoundly and genuinely connected to God, speaking to Him in our own words and mindfully listening to His reply.
Al-Harawy (d. 1089 C.E. /481 A. H.), the eleventh-century Muslim scholar and Sufi mystic, describes human beings as travellers on a life-long journey towards knowing God. This hundred-stage journey starts with the most critical step: Awakening. For him, awakening is achieved through awareness:
Awareness is essential to reach this pure centre inside each and every one of us, this Home, that is still deeply in touch with its Creator… with God who is above time and space, yet who is “closer to [us] than [our] jugular vein,” (Q, 50:16).
In our innermost cave, as we connect with God… as we strip bear our soul… as we become humble and in awe, we learn to surrender… We learn to let go and let God show us the way… the way to Him… the way back “Home” to who we truly are.
Also check staying connected blog
Since the dawn of civilization, one fundamental question that has always perplexed human being is “why?” Why is there so much suffering in the world? Illnesses, physical pain, and suffering could be debilitating and crippling. Nevertheless, for some people, they turn out to be the most rewarding experience of their life, a blessing for them and others.
Trying to just go through life with the illusion that only by willpower we can achieve everything is just that: An illusion… Our rational, logical self-control is like a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider seems to hold the rein and direct the elephant… But, the rider can never force the elephant into a direction it does not want to go into. The elephant is the one running the show… We have always learned that Ramadan fasting is there to strengthen our willpower… it is there to train us to be more in control of our desires… but unfortunately, we got the mechanism all wrong… if we treat our fasting as mere training of self-restriction and self-control… we will be further wearing off our self-control muscle… Ramadan Fasting is not a physical exercise that trains us to withstand our hunger… Neither is it a psychological exercise that teaches us to control our desires, temptations, and urges. Ramadan Fasting is a spiritual practice… We reduced Ramadan to numbers and rituals (and an endless supply of sugars, fats, and carbs). Our heart and soul are not into it… We drugged the elephant so that it takes a nap until we finish the holy month; We dissociated our hearts from the whole process… because our hearts are already very heavy, exhausted and weary... So how can we make the best out Ramadan? How can we tame our elephants?
Mindfulness is an integral part in my own self-care practices. I learned its value years ago during a family dinner at a friend’s house. As we set in the garden at sunset, I smelled an amazing fragrance enveloping the air. “That’s my Queen of Night,” my friend explained pointing at the alluring tiny white flowers in the corner of her garden. Those enchanting flowers release their special aroma with every sunset. “They seem to send a gratitude message to the Divine at the end of each day”, my friend told me. “They remind me to send mine,” she added.
The following day, I accompanied my daughter to her weekly karate class. I sat in the club’s playground reading a book as I was waiting for her to finish. The sun was setting and with it came this enchanting fragrance again… I looked around me and there it was, the glamorous Queen of Night!
Suddenly, it occurred to me that I have been sitting in this exact spot, at the exact same time every week for the past 4 months. The Queen of Night has always been there, sharing its beauty with whoever was mindful enough to receive it; sharing its Divine gratitude reminder with whoever is aware enough to remember. I simply wasn’t.
Mindfulness is intentional conscious practice. It differs from self-awareness in that it involves both internal and external insight. You are not just aware of your inner feelings and thought; you are also fully aware and engaged with your surroundings. I guess I was too involved in my inner environment that I lost touch with my outer setting.
There are tons of things I am truly grateful for in 2017... May be the most important ones are, (1) Starting my Masters in spiritual care and psychotherapy study; (2) Getting my Canadian citizenship... I am now a Proud Canadian! and (3) Starting my health and happiness movement - or at least announcing it to the world. It took a lot of courage to do that.
This reflection was a bit challenging. Sometimes when we look at our life, we think we did not achieve much because we did not reach any concrete goals yet... But, on second thought, I believe I did do a lot laying the foundation and the groundwork for my next stage in life, for my mission and my movement.
I did a lot of inner work. I really needed it. Again, this might not appear as 'great achievement' if we measure it from a Western mentality standpoint. It took some time for me to acknowledge the effort and actually see the fruit of this inner work. I feel I am much peaceful, grateful, confident, and focused.
And, I did finish 5 courses of my Masters' studies and wrote so many research papers that hopefully I will be sharing some of them with you in the coming months, God willing.
My most precious 3 lessons learned (the hard way) this year: (1) We have to let go of some of the things we love in order to make room for growth and open a new page of our life. (2) There no place for toxic people in my life, I learned to protect my boundaries. (3) No one gonna believe in your worth and your rights until you believe in them first!
Sometimes I cannot help but have this fear of the unknown, fear and worry about tomorrow. I need to let go of the need to 'know' everything and the attempt to 'control' the results of my efforts and actions. I need to work harder on strengthening my connection with God, on my surrender and my spiritual growth. This work, I believe, will bring inner peace that will reduce the stress and actually allow me to focus on what I can control: my actions, my attitude and my thoughts... but not the result. Meanwhile I believe deep in my heart in God's promise: "We do not let the reward of anyone who does a good deed go to waste" (18: 30).
My 3 big goals for 2018 are: (1) launching my signature training program "A Brave Woman's Journey of Self-Discovery" hopefully you all going to love it! I have been working on it for a long time now and it is one of the best curricula I have ever developed; (2) establish a woman circle where I live so we can actually meet and create our little community of brave, ambitious, like-minded women who support and help one another and support and help their communities. (3) finish at least 7 more courses of my Master's degree.
Now it is your turn... Take out your journal and make some reflections!
Happy New Year!
Years ago, I read a play called The Fate of a Cockroach by a famous Egyptian writer, Al Hakim. It is the story of a wife who woke up one morning to find a cockroach in her bathtub. The woman panicked and screamed waking up her husband who volunteered to kill the beast. The wife closed the bathroom door and waited outside for her husband to come out victorious. She waited and waited...
Starting to worry, she cautiously opened the bathroom door and peeked inside to see her husband sitting in front of the bathtub looking at the little beast in admiration.
The wife, failing to see any meaning in what this ‘stupid’ insect is doing screamed at her husband: “Are you crazy? What are you waiting for? Just kill it!!!”
The husband totally ignored her and kept looking at the cockroach in admiration.
Desperate, the wife reached out to her neighbors for help. The couple came quickly and the man head straight to the bathroom to help get rid of the cockroach.
Again, time went by with no news. The two women went into the bathroom; they saw their husbands leaning on the bathtub with their eyes wide-open and big smiles on their faces. They were happily following the little insect’s trips up and down the tub wall with tremendous admiration for its perseverance, determination, and forbearance.
Soon, a fight started between the two couples. The men on one side tried to explain the reason for their amazement and the women on the other just asked for the death sentence of this horrible beast. The argument suddenly came to an end when they smelled a strange odor. Running into the bathroom, they saw the maid standing victoriously with an insecticide bottle in her hand and the cockroach lying on its back in defeat.
I loved the way each character in the story dealt with the ordeal. They symbolized the three different way of approaching a problem. One person can take some time to admire the meanings and learn useful lessons (the two men in the play); another can just deal with the problem any way he/she can and get it over and done with while failing to perceive any hidden wisdom (the maid in the play). And still, a third can just panic and run around asking for help taking no action and blaming others for his/her failure (the wives in the play).
Setting aside the sexist orientation of the writer, I love the wisdom in his story: Don’t kill the beast… it is here to teach you something!
One of my favourite books about anxiety and mental illness is Sarah Wilson’s First We Make The Beast Beautiful. Sarah wrote about her life long struggle with anxiety and OCD and how she finally managed to get her life on track by admiring the uniqueness of her own mind and digging into the wisdom of her challenge. Instead of fighting and drugging ‘the beast’, she shifted her efforts into ‘making the beast beautiful’… It is not easy… In fact it is much easier to drug the life out of our beasts… but it is much more rewarding to learn and grow with them.
We all have challenges, pains and struggles… we all have ‘beasts’ that keep us awake at night and bring tears to our eyes… they are here for a reason… they are here to teach us something, to help us grow… Don’t kill the beast… you’ll find a way to make it beautiful…
What is missing in your life? Why are you unhappy, stressed or tired? Which areas of your life need your attention?
I saw women staying years on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication trying to cope with their stressful reality, life demands, and loneliness…
I saw women going ballistic every ‘time’ of the month and others suffering form hot flashes and menopausal symptoms just trying to survive because they had no idea what their body was trying to tell them… they did not know what those Body Whispers® meant and how to heal them...
This is why I developed the Body Whispers® system after years of studying, teaching and working with my clients. The purpose of The Body Whispers® System is to help you quickly identify which areas in your life need your attention so that you can experience getting your life back on track.
Now, it is your turn to take some time and reflect on each area… Listen to you Body Whispers® before they turn into screams!
1. Remain curious
One of my main ‘secrets’ of generating joy and happiness in life is remaining curious… When you look at life as an open field of surprises and adopt an attitude of excitement about whatever life throws at you, this opens a whole range of possibilities. Curiosity is proven to calm down the fight and flight response in the amygdala and helping in coping with daily life stresses. It also helps you look outside the box and increase dopamine and serotonin release in your brain which lifts your mood and makes you more passionately engaged and motivated.
2. Engage in life whole-heartedly
It is the never-ending story of who came first the chicken or the egg… Do we need motivation to start engaging in life or does our engagement generate motivation? I believe it is a never ending circle… but it starts with our actual engagement… it starts with you taking action and stepping forward claiming your life and your happiness.
When you proactively engage in everyday life, when you keep moving forward and taking steps towards you dreams and your passions, the world around you start to shift in a magical way.
Ellen Langer and Judith Rodin tested this assumption in a nursing home. They divided the elderly residents in two groups. Group 1 was totally taken care of by the staff, while group 2 was involved in taking decision and assigned some responsibilities around the residency.
At the end of the experiment, it was clear that group 2 who was engaged in their life decision and initiatives felt much happier, healthier and passionate than the passive group.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Amira... I'm all for simple, natural, uncomplicated life... My core values are derived from my Islamic faith... My definition of wellness includes lots of smiles, human interactions, delicious food, music, joy, colorful paint, Mediterranean sunshine, blue sky and turquoise sea, care, love, compassion and deep heart-felt peace.