Who am I standing in the midst of all this thought traffic?
We all need to find ourselves, lost somewhere in the midst of our thoughts. We need to give that self a voice , the voice that is drowned admist a lifetime of thoughts and perceptions.
Give yourself a "sacred pause" and listen.
Then when you need to speak to your Lord from your soul and you can't find the words, turn to dua (prayer).
Meditation helps us to reduce the constant chatter in our minds, giving that little space which we can gradually learn to expand. It is in that space that spiritual growth occurs.
If we can learn to start letting go of all that accumulated stress and all those judgmental thoughts about ourselves and others we may be able to be gentler and kinder with our own behaviors as well as with others. We are all a "work in progress" making mistakes and learning as we grow .(1)
When we listen to or follow a meditation led by a guide or teacher, it is hence known as “guided meditation".
Guided meditation is a wonderful tool , providing the words with which we can speak to our mind, to help it to be better equipped to handle situations in life. We need to talk to our mind, it too needs a bit of gentle understanding and explanation to help it grow!
As you gradually progress in meditation you then learn how best to converse with yourself as you get to know yourself better.
Similarly the duas that we have been gifted with give us the words and etiquette with which to ask of God. They teach us about our relationship with God, how to approach Him, how we should look at our behavior and actions and what our goals should be regarding ourselves.
Words are powerful, they are the medium that God chose to send his communications to us. Words need to be taught, just as God taught us His words in the Qur'an.
The duas found in the Qur'an and those from our Holy Prophet and Imams reflect a deep understanding of human behavior . The words seem to talk to the human soul which is why they resonate with us at different times in our lives . The duas express our needs in a manner that we are mostly unable to express.
Duas are also a means of guidance that teach us how we should approach the challenges in our lives. They give us the words when we need to call out to our Lord.
"And Thou, my God, art my place of flight,
my asylum, my protector, my defender, the loving toward me, the compassionate,
and the guarantor of my provision."
Supplication 59 Sahifa Sajjadia (2)
They give us words that comfort us when we feel we have done everything wrong or when we can't see a way out .
Imam Zayn al-Abidin.(a.s) in his dua says:
وكيف أدعوك وأنا أنا
How can I call you while I am what I am?
But, after saying this, the Imam (a) says:
وكيف لا أدعوك وأنت أنت
How can I not call you while You are what You are.(3)
They give us the words to help us feel connected to Allah, as we are the ones who need to sense that connection.
Surah Qaf, Verse 16:
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ
"And certainly We created man, and We know what his mind suggests to him, and We are nearer to him than his life-vein."
As Allah Himself is stating, He is ALWAYS there , connected to us, it is we who get distracted by life and thoughts and are unable to "see" that connection.(4)
In another dua from the Sahifa Sajjadia the Imam says:
"We own nothing of the affair
except what Thou hast decreed
and nothing of the good
except what Thou hast given"
"This is a fresh, new day,
over us a ready witness.
If we do good,
it will take leave from us with praise,
and if we do evil,
it will part from us in blame"
What a wonderful lesson , begin a day with the comfort of knowing that it is not just a series of coincidences and random occurrences, but is being handled by a higher power. Our responsibility simply lies in the response to the situations we are presented with. To respond with goodness and that is all.
Just like with a child, that first needs to to be taught letters so he can learn how to speak, early on in the spiritual path the heart too is like a child. When we recite the dua ,we recite with our tongues, they teach us how to converse , our hearts then follow our tongues.
We can then gradually reach the stage where the heart recites the prayer and it is the tongue that follows the heart . (5)
The Arabic words have an undeniable depth and beauty, however for those of us who don't speak Arabic , we would need to read the translation alongside, as how can the heart follow what it does not understand?
How can we reap these benefits and purposes of the Dua if we cannot understand it.?
There is so much we don't yet understand, such as why certain things are the way they are, we wonder about pain, suffering and other calamities we see around us.
Speaking about the way the world works, Imam Ali says:
"There are things in it which are beyond our ken, things which we do not and cannot know "
We are all on a journey of learning and what we know now we did not know or understand before. Be patient with yourself and accept that you don't know or understand it all and that is ok.
Imam Ali continues to say :
"...if you do not understand a thing, do not reject it. Remember that your lack of understanding is due to insufficiency of your knowledge. ..."
"Therefore, the best thing for you to do is to seek guidance of One who has created you, Who maintains and nourishes you" (6)
Duas are then the means to seek that guidance.
The duas have within them hidden truths we are yet unable to see, whether in the words or their repetition, there are realities yet to be discovered.
This age has only now started to recognize the power of meditation and as we progress we will no doubt keep learning and understanding . If we apply what we learn in meditation to our duas and zikr, to learn to focus and be present in our duas and prayers, we can then feel the true benefits of dua.
Duas allow you to validate your emotions, you learn to accept what you feel. That it is ok that you feel the way you do. But at the same time they give you hope because you can share what you feel with God , who is the true Source, and He can and does respond.
These lines in a Dua from Imam Sadiq (a) speak of looking into our hearts. This is how Dua gradually helps us with our spiritual growth. It helps us remember what to look for.
إلهي! كيف أدعوك وقد عصيتك وكيف لا أدعوك وقد عرفت حبك في قلبي
O God! How can I call you while I have disobeyed you? And how can I stop calling you while I have found your love in my heart?
May the treasures in the form of duas we have been granted, guide us along the path to true knowing. For when we will find God and recognize Him, we will fall in love with Him and that is the home that our soul yearns for. The place where it belongs, the place it has forgotten and needs to remember again.
Written by: Saleha Haji
1. A Meditation for Decentering Yourself: https://www.mindful.org/a-meditation-for-decentering-your-self-and-why-you-should-do-it/
2. Sahifa Sajjadiyya: https://www.al-islam.org/sahifa-al-kamilah-al-sajjadiyya-imam-ali-zaynul-abidin/addenda-these-seven-additional-supplications#59-his-supplication-distress-and-seeking-release
3.Dua in Islamic Teaching: https://www.al-islam.org/articles/dua-islamic-teachings-part-2-mohammad-ali-shomali
4. The Root Cause of Negative Suffering: https://youtu.be/AYK0o8gWDIc
5. O' Hope of the Hopeless: https://youtu.be/Sem2GQFvEU8
6. Letter by Imam Ali: https://www.al-islam.org/articles/letter-father-son-last-will-ali-ibn-abi-talib