The journey of life continues and so do the trials of the soul; ups and downs, highs and lows, tears of joy and pain, a seemingly never ending cycle. But hidden in each of these circumstances is potential, the means for the soul to grow and learn. To get to know God, to know it's own purpose, with each cycle having within it the means to evolve, to evolve into a spiral.
Maybe what we see as a cycle isn't simply a monotonous circle of joys and sorrows that we are trapped in, but actually a spiral. With each turn we are either moving upwards or downwards, and at each turn lies the promise of self-improvement. The spiral itself being a gift so you are never lost, you always have the chance to move forward and upwards, all you need to do is be aware of your direction and turn yourself to the direction of growth. As you move up, your heart and perspectives expand, you become light.
Just because we feel stuck, doesn't mean we are broken. This distinction is an important part of moving forward.
" And this allows us to make space for our flaws, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities, we get to see that all of these are simply part of being human and that none of them are the enemy. In fact, these parts of ourselves we carry connects us with our common humanity. " Says Joe Oliver PHD in his post on The Mindful Path to self acceptance. (1)
It helps us develop empathy and compassion towards others which is an important part of healing ourselves as well, to be able to let go of resentment and anger because we can understand that we aren't the only ones hurting.
"Things happen FOR you, not to you" , if we can let that thought sink in we can change our perspective, our direction. Then anger and the feeling of being wronged , the frustration , begin to dissolve. In their place begins to grow insight. You see potential for self-improvement, you see opportunities where you once saw only despair.
The secret to the shift in thought and action lies in the power of the moment, one of the many precious gifts we have been given.
“Life is a series of moments. The quality of attention and action that we bring to each moment determines the quality of our lives.”
– Dan Millman
Let us examine how we can bring awareness to our moments and utilize them for our improvement
Kaizen is a Japenese "way of life" philosophy.
It means a gradual change towards improvement. Marzia Hassan says ,
"It is improvement of the very small kind. Small tweaks and what we would call baby steps.
The philosophy of kaizen suggests that great and lasting success is achieved not through huge leaps, but rather by taking small and consistent steps.
These are changes so tiny and steps so small that they dissolve and overcome the mind’s resistance to change." (2)
By applying this concept to our moments we can move towards the growth that is the purpose of the soul.
The first thing needed on a journey is the goal or destination which enables us to set our direction. In the journey of the soul this translates to purpose. Now we can work towards our ultimate purpose by focusing on the baby steps that will lead to gradual progress .
Just "show up" for the moment you are in.
For example, you are exhausted after a long day of home schooling and housework , at this very moment your child comes in with that look of pent up excitement to share what he considers to be something "very important". You can snap and respond , or if you don't have the internal energy to listen , you could gently say you would love to discuss it later.
This is just tiny example, there are countless moments where we have the opportunity to choose our responses, to rise to the moment. If we can just be responsible for our moments, it is these collective moments that will lead to our overall progress.
It is time for prayers, there is a long to do list , can we just stop and give that moment to God?
Is it a purpose to your life your are searching for? Do you want to find a calling? Do you desperately need to find a goal to work towards?
Start small; find the purpose in the moment.
What is your purpose in this very moment?
Is it to answer someone you don't wish to? Is it to give yourself a moment to breathe or to collect yourself?
Meditation allows you to practice bringing yourself into the moment, to slow down your mind and use techniques such as focusing on your in breath and out breath , to bring your awareness into the moment. Find the technique that works for you and use it to bring awareness to your moments.
The past and future do not exist , only the present moment does, but they each serve a purpose.
The past serves to help you in making informed choices moving forward, the future directs your choices in the moment towards a goal , not aimless choices but choices for a purpose, in order to best serve God .
The mind worries and ruminates, either about the past or future, only so that it feels it is accomplishing something. It feels helpless and needs to feel it is doing something. So use your moments to do something :
Practice the habits you want to build into yourself .
Think carefully, do you practice, complaining and worrying or could you use the moment to practice focusing on gratitude instead? The moments of practicing will pay off and you will get good at whatever it is you decided to practice.
Imam Ali says:
"Seize good opportunities, for indeed they pass by [quickly] like the passing of clouds" (3)
And opportunities arise in the moment.
So let's value our moments and not let them all get swept away in the waves of life.
Simply being aware of moments also brings with it the opportunity to appreciate the little things in life that are going well, the chance to focus on gratitude; gratitude being the opposite of the denial of our blessings. Denial is not being able to see the countless ways we are being supported by God, and that is what brings discontent.
This is reflected in the Qur'anic concept of kufr and shukr.
Surah Luqman, Verse 12:
أَنِ اشْكُرْ لِلَّهِ وَمَن يَشْكُرْ فَإِنَّمَا يَشْكُرُ لِنَفْسِهِ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ
Be grateful to Allah. And whoever is grateful, he is only grateful for his own soul; and whoever is ungrateful, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, Praised (31:12)
Without gratitude we would actually be unable to see or experience our blessings as blessings.
It is a life long process, the spiral , taking spins downwards at times along with the upward ones and that is ok. A spiral has a center point , a constant , with all the circles revolving around it, make God your constant , the center point of your spiral , the reason behind all your actions. He is the one who will guide you up , making sure your upward turns are more than your downward spirals .
Surah At-Taghabun, Verse 11:
مَا أَصَابَ مِن مُّصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَمَن يُؤْمِن بِاللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
No affliction comes about but by Allah's permission; and whoever believes in Allah, He guides aright his heart; and Allah is Cognizant of all things. (Shakir translation)
Even all the problems in our lives are under God's management, He won't let your moments spin out of control. He is the unwavering constant, let Him be the reason for every purpose in your moments.
Written by: Saleha Haji
1-The Mindful Path to self acceptance-
2- DW #814 The Kaizen way to change-
3-Source: 10810 - Ghurar Al-Hikam Wa Durar Al-Kalim, Exalted Aphorisms And Pearls