The Mindful Muslim: Awareness and Acceptance

The Mindful Muslim – Guest Post by Hannah Morris

Think of a big yellow truck. The biggest, brightest, yellowest truck you can imagine.

Have you got that picture clear in your mind now?The mindful Muslim

How many times have you thought about a bright yellow truck like this in the last few days?

Now, grab a stopwatch, or just your watch will do, and time 1 minute. For that 1 minute, your challenge is to not think of that big yellow truck…

Times up! Did you do it? If you are like most people then probably not. How many times did you think of the big yellow truck in the last minute? How many times have you thought about a bright yellow truck in the last few days? Probably not at all.

Trying not to think

Most people find themselves thinking about things they are trying not to. This is why it is likely that you didn’t think of a bright yellow truck at all in the last few days. Because you were not trying to suppress this thought. In the last minute, however, you were trying not to think about it. So it most likely it kept coming to your mind as you tried to stop it.

In fact, ironically, people often find themselves thinking about something even more when they are purposefully trying not to think about it. It is this kind of thought pattern that can lead to psychological and emotional burnout. This emotional burnout can be detrimental not only in managing the difficult situation, but will spill over into all areas of life too such as relationships and work. It will also hinder the ability to think rationally of all available options in times of crisis.

We know from research that our emotional reactions can have a significant effect on our health. It is easy to manage our emotional system when life is going well, but it becomes very hard when life gets difficult.

Of course, there are times when it is best to try and avoid a thought or feeling. Therapists will work with their clients to work out ways of helping them to change their maladaptive thought patterns. But there are also times when it is useful to simply accept the thoughts and feelings and simply allow them pass.

Dealing with difficult thoughts

Avoiding difficult thoughts and feelings can be a lot of hard work and can often only add to the distress that is faced anyway. Facing them, whilst uncomfortable at first, can in many cases, be a way to speed up the process of acceptance and recovery. It can encourage more adaptive thought processes about how to regulate emotions and thoughts regarding a difficult situation.

Fighting emotions will only contribute to this feeling over being overwhelmed by emotions. Because you will be fighting so many at once, especially in the initial stages. Avoiding them means you might actually be completely unaware of which emotions you are actually feeling. How can you address them if you don’t know exactly why you’re thinking and avoiding?

You might be putting so much effort into pushing the bad emotions away that you are also pushing away any good feelings you have also. If you don’t allow yourself to experience emotion and thoughts, this will happen. Allowing yourself to experience it means you are in control and therefore you are reducing the impact of a difficult situation. When you focus so hard on avoiding and blocking out bad emotions it is possible to completely overlook anything pleasant in your life.

Of course, it’s natural to want to defend yourself and avoid unpleasant situations, but this can create a defensive or reactive response to the situation. Awareness and acceptance is another way to respond to a difficult situation too. Being aware and accepting opens you up to more opportunities that may be more rational and proactive, ultimately resulting in a more healthy and adaptive response in many difficult situations.

Psychological research has found this approach to be particularly useful for people managing the psychological response to chronic physical illness such as asthma, arthritis and cancer for example (Bohlmeijer et al., 2010; Grossman et al., 2004 to name a couple). Quite often thoughts relating to the illness are actual facts and therefore it is less useful to challenge such thoughts and subsequent feelings.

Acceptance

Islam teaches us about the importance of acceptance of Allah’s Will and we can apply this to acceptance of our thoughts and feelings too.

“Say, “Never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; He is our protector.” And upon Allah let the believers rely.” (Qur’an: 9:51)

This can help us to move through the process of accepting difficult situations that Allah may send our way. Certainly, sometimes these thoughts might be those we know are not useful such as ingratitude and the ‘why me?’ response.

We all go through these feelings in the face of adversity at some point. Accepting such thoughts and feelings as a normal initial response is quite ok and can facilitate the move to more adaptive thoughts about the situation that are compatible with our Islamic beliefs.

Incompatible Thoughts

It might be that these thoughts and feelings are those that you know to be incompatible with Islam. Waswas, for example. Using this approach of acceptance, lets you simply notice the thoughts and feelings.

Pay attention to them and let them pass, rather than fighting them, especially because as you now know, the more you try to push them away the more you think about them. Besides, how do you even really know if they are good or bad feelings/thoughts if you keep pushing them away and don’t let yourself actually experience them?

Allowing yourself to experience these thoughts without putting huge efforts into fighting them will allow them to pass more quickly and easily, leaving you with the energy to worship Allah more devoutly than if you drain yourself fighting such thoughts. Rather than beating yourself up about the thoughts, accept them, see them from an Islamic perspective. Notice the thoughts and feelings, and allow them to pass rather than using all your energy to fight them, which can at times in fact only make these feelings stronger.

So, next time you’re facing difficult times and notice yourself fighting hard to avoid the negative thoughts and feelings, give yourself a break. Try giving yourself the space to allow yourself to observe these thoughts and feelings. (including the good ones) Give yourself the mental energy to manage your response to difficulty in a more adaptive and effective way.

Hannah Morris holds a Masters in Health Psychology and Psychological Science. She has a history of working in psychiatric facilities for adults with enduring mental health problems. Hannah is currently counselling and teaching Psychology with Islamic Online University. She is the Founder of Active Mind Care.
References

Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research68(6), 539-544.

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of psychosomatic research57(1), 35-43.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Inner Peace, Positive Thinking, 1 comment

The Power of Thoughts – Why You Are What You Think!

Guest Post by Ayesha Shoukat

The Power of Thoughts

The power of thoughts cannot be understated. In fact, they are so powerful that they shape the world around us. What we focus on and think about most is attracted towards us i.e. the law of attraction holds true universally.

Like attracts like and we are all akin to transmission towers that transmit different frequencies that reach beyond cities, countries into the universe. The pictures we receive from the transmission are not shown over the television screen – they are the pictures of our life.The Power of Thoughts

If you want to change anything in your life, change the frequency and change your thoughts. If you see yourself living in abundance, you will attract abundance soon. And if you perceive yourself as being boring and stupid, you will soon become someone like that. The power of thoughts!!

Whatever we think is returned back to us as our experience and a picture of our life. Then do we really need to think about all the negative thoughts that come to our minds? After all we’re always thinking about something whether we are driving or talking to someone.

As such negative thought can flip our world upside-down. The answer is no, not really. Because affirming thoughts are much more powerful than negative ones. Constant negative thoughts over a long period of time can however, make things go wrong us.

The Secret

Rhonda Byrne in her book ‘The Secret’ explains how thoughts can create a new world around us. But at the same time the question that springs to one’s mind is ‘Why are so many people not living a life of their dreams?’ The answer is as simple as that too many people think about what they don’t want to happen instead of focusing on what they want. The law of attraction does not take into account any words of negation; that is how it is interpreted:

“I don’t want to spill anything on this outfit.”

It means:

“I want to spill something on this outfit and I want to spill more things.”

A lot of our time and energy is focused in thinking about what we don’t want and that same thing keeps coming up over and over again. Why does it happen with so many people and all the time? Because we have shifted our focus to what we don’t want instead of focusing on what we really want.

Whereas positive thoughts have the power to change lives: ourselves and of others. Every teacher and every revolutionary in the past was aware of the law of attraction and used it to get what they wanted. Facebook was just a thought in the mind of Mark Zuckerberg and he wanted to be able to share pictures with his friends. Today, it is this thought that has revolutionized the world of social networking.

Thoughts of Gratitude

Think and think again about what you want and be grateful for what you already have. Without being thankful for your present you cannot explore what is hidden in the future.

Gratitude opens the door to more opportunities. Not only does saying, “thank you” constitutes good manners, but showing appreciation can help you get new prospects. Acknowledging the life and the contribution of other people’s in your life can lead to a better future.

Article originally posted here. Republished with permission from the author.

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5 Steps for maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan

The Ramadan Zeal

Ramadan is no doubt a special time of the year. With the devils locked up and the gates of Paradise wide open, people are motivated to go the extra mile in doing good deeds and being our best selves. This high spiritual momentum is temporary and for many people, it is gone the day Ramadan ends.

Now, to expect to maintain the same level of spirituality outside of Ramadan is not realistic. Ramadan is a special environment and outside of it, we can’t be the same. However, this does not mean we should not try.

The key to maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan is to set realistic ideas of what you can do and to focus on those few things. Here are a few steps to help you figure out what to focus on.

5 Steps for maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan

To keep this as simple and as practical as possible, I will focus only on five steps. These are the five simplest steps to keep our Imaan strong after Ramadan, and also the most important.

1. Continue reciting Quran

The first step to maintaining momentum is to continue growing in your relationship with the Quran. If you were readispiritual momentumng a Juz a day in Ramadan, continue reading at least 2 pages a day.

If you were listening to a one hour Tafseer a day during Ramadan, continue listening to 15 minute Tafseers after Ramadan.

Whatever you were doing, keep it going even if it is less. The key is to stay connected to the Quran. It doesn’t matter how little you are doing, what matters is that you are doing something on a daily basis, so you grow in your closeness to and understanding of the Quran with each day.

“The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.” (Sahih Bukhari 4739)

2. Fast the six days of Shawwal

This is a tough one for many of us, but the rewards are great. Fasting is Ramadan is easier as everybody is doing it. Fasting so soon after Ramadan requires great will power and determination.

The reward of fasting the month of Ramadan plus the six days of Shawwal is equal to fasting an entire year. That alone is motivation. Add in the spiritual benefits of fasting and this will definitely help you stay on track after Ramadan.

“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the year through.” (Sahih Muslim 1163)

3. Be realistic is your self-expectations

Sometimes we expect too much from ourselves. We expect to be sinless and perfect from this Ramadan onward until the day we die. And when it doesn’t happen, we lose hope and fall back into our own lifestyles. The way to Paradise is not through being perfect. It is through sustained daily growth.

Be realistic and set high goals for yourself. But don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t always attain those goals. You are human. You will err, you will make mistakes, and you will grow from each experience. Focus on being on your best, not on being perfect. At the end, if you sincerely try your best, Allah will forgive the rest.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Be deliberate in worship, draw near to Allah, and give glad tidings. Verily, none of you will enter Paradise because of his deeds alone.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “Not even me, unless Allah grants me mercy from himself. Know that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is done regularly even if it is small.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 6099, Sahih Muslim 2818)

4. Repent Often

We all make mistakes. We all fall into sins. We all have our faults. The difference between a righteous person and an open-sinner is not the lack of sin. It is the concealment of sins and consistent repentance. After Ramadan, you may fall back into some sin or another that you had before Ramadan.

When this happens, do not lose hope. When this happens, do not give up. When this happens, do not let Shaytaan win. Get back up and try again. Repent, and never lose hope. Because you worship Al-Ghafoor (The Most Forgiving), Ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful).

“I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness so He could forgive them.” (Sahih Muslim 2687)

5. Prioritize the five daily Salah

I left this for last as it is the single most important piece of advice in this article. No matter what happens. No matter how spiritually low you feel. No matter how much you want to give up. Never, ever, abandon your five daily Salah!

These Salah are your connection to Allah. Your means of forgiveness. Your ticket to Paradise. Your daily conversation with your Creator. Your hope during tough days. Your peace during sad days. Your reminder during good days. And your evidence that you believe in Allah. If nothing else, at the very least remain firm in praying five time a day once Ramadan has passed.

“The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”(Al-Tabarani)

These five tips will hopefully help you maintain your momentum throughout the year. May Allah forgive our faults and accept our deeds.

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Ramadan 2016 eBook and Course Sale

Ramadan 2016 SaleRamadan 2016 Special Prices

Ramadan Mubarak to all our readers. We at Islamic Self Help wish you all a spiritually uplifting and productive Ramadan 2016.

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Ramadan Mubarak from the entire Islamic Self Help Team!

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Muhammad Ali – A Legacy in breaking barriers

A few hours ago, the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74. We ask Allah to accept his good deeds, forgive his shortcomings, and enter him into Paradise.

Muhammad Ali

1942-2016

Muhammad Ali left the world today, and people from all walks of life are united in their sadness at the passing of this legendary sportsman. But Muhammad Ali’s legacy is not defined by sports alone.

The love that people have for Muhammad Ali comes from a much deeper place. It comes from his courage, his passion, his compassion, his humanitarianism, his sense of accountability to God, and his determination to accomplish goals that seemed impossible.

Initially, I was going to write a list of my favorite Muhammad Ali quotations. However, being that Muhammad Ali had the gift of speech, there are simply too many to write about. I decided then to write about what Muhammad Ali represented to me.

For me, Muhammad Ali’s legacy was proof that there is no barrier we cannot break, no stereotype that cannot be overcome, and no goal too high to achieve. The exception being things outside human control, like health and death.

Think about it. Here is a Muslim African American named Muhammad who has just passed away. Yet people all over the world are saddened by his loss. When you think about all the racism, Islamaphobia, and other forms of bigotry that still are so prevalent in modern society, this is amazing that the death of a Muslim could cause such universal sadness. When you think about the racism that existed at the time in which he rose to fame, it seems almost impossible that someone could achieve what he did.

Achieving the impossible was always a challenge that Muhammad Ali love. After all, he was the one who said:

“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Muhammad Ali overcame every barrier people put in front of him. He proved that Muslims and African Americans can accomplish their dreams and goals, despite all the bigotry that exists in the world. He showed us that we should simply push through towards our goals and ignore, or better yet, challenge those who promote hatred and intolerance. To put it in his own words, Muhammad Ali said:

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Courage was a way of life for him. This can be clearly seen in his defining moment, when he refused to enlist in the army and fight in Vietnam. In that moment, Ali showed us that you can say no, and that you should said no and bear the consequences, when pressurized to do something wrong. From his entire life, this is the moment I remember him most for. He showed me that having the courage to say no is one of the best things a believer can do.

Pleasing God by caring for his creation

One of the biggest tests of life is fame and wealth. Muhammad Ali had achieved the highest level of fame, and the wealth that goes along with it. Often this much fame and wealth can lead people into living selfish indulgent lifestyles. Yet Muhammad Ali dedicated his retirement to serving humanity and making this world a better place.

Once during an interview, he was asked about what he would do when he retired. Ali replied, “When I retire from boxing, I want to focus on meeting God, and serving the community,” He also said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” These statements indicate the kind of man Muhammad Ali was deep down inside.

Beyond the flashy charismatic athlete, he was a humanitarian who feared His Creator and prepared for the Afterlife. He did  not allow worldly success to distract him from the ultimate success. He spent his retirement in helping people, guiding people, and uplifting society.

Muhammad Ali truly a gifted athlete, and a gifted speaker, but his legacy is much more than that. From Ali, we learned:

  1. Dedicate your life to meeting Your Creator
  2. Serve humanity and make this world a better place
  3. Aim high, aim to be the best at everything you do, and don’t let cultural and racial barriers get in the way of success
  4. Don’t let worldly success distract you from the ultimate goal
  5. Be brave, and do the right thing, even if there are consequences for doing so
  6. and finally, constantly grow and evolve.

I’ll end with one last quote from Muhammad Ali on that last point:

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Written by Shaykh Ismail Kamdar, author of Guidelines for Confused Muslims. Learn how to distinguish true Islamic teachings from false teachings with this new eBook. Purchase your copy today.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Leadership, Positive Thinking, 3 comments