I used to love nothing more than being on holiday and lying on a beach, staring at the clouds and the blue sky and listening to the waves crashing against the shore. To me it was heaven; an escape from the day to day grind, with little on my mind other than what I would wear or eat that day. It was pure bliss.
I felt so calm and at peace with myself… and so relaxed. It’s no surprise that in that state of mind, my best ideas came about how to move forward with my life over the next few months. My summer holiday became what the New Year is to many – a chance to reflect on where you were in life and think about what you wanted to achieve in all areas of your life over the coming year. I always felt so refreshed and so clear.
However, as the days passed, a feeling of dread would seep into me as I saw that my return flight home was looming ever closer. Slowly but surely, I would fall out of that beautiful, chilled place in my mind and return to the busy-ness of life and everything that came with that – most notably a chaotic mind. Once that plane landed back at London Heathrow, it was as though I was being greeted by my ‘real’ life – which was far from peaceful and relaxed. A big sign seemed to be awaiting me in the arrivals hall saying ‘Welcome back to reality – the holiday is over! Deal with it.’ As much as I desperately tried to hold onto that positive outlook and renewed energy, within a couple of days I’d started to wonder if I’d ever experienced it at all. It felt like nothing more than a distant memory.
It should come as no surprise that my next holiday was always on my mind because it seemed as though ‘getting away’ was the only opportunity for me to experience that quiet and bliss again. I felt closer to Allah too when I was able to get away from it all because my mind was quieter and I felt so much more at peace with life. So I would get on with planning my next holiday and busy my mind with overplanning the trip and be counting down the days until I could just get away from it all.
My life started to revolve around my annual holiday. Everything was building up to when I’d be able to get away next.
This pressure started to have a not so desirable effect on my holiday because I now had so much riding on my annual escape that the holiday never seemed to live up to my heightened expectations. I was no longer present and enjoying each moment for what it was. I wanted to experience that peaceful feeling again so badly that I would become easily disappointed when the trip that I had planned in so much detail was not going to plan. My mind was busy with needing to make it the ‘perfect holiday’, because otherwise, how would I get through the rest of the year without this ‘spiritual boost’ that I had become accustomed to?
As the years passed and life took over in the form of marriage and children, I no longer had the luxury of escaping from it all and chilling out with zero responsibility for a few weeks every year. I started to feel as though I would never experience that peaceful feeling again because I was no longer able to go on that type of holiday. I became envious of those who were able to get away and take a break from their day to day lives, and would reminisce on my younger days when I was able to live in that peaceful place once every year.
Would I ever get to experience that deep calmness again?
Yes – and it was nowhere near a beach. In fact, it was in a packed-out conference hall on a busy Saturday morning in London.
I was being taught about the Inside-Out Paradigm of Psychology, a new and powerful way of understanding how we experience life, through thought. In that quiet space of reflection, with the noise in my head turned all the way down, I experienced presence… the state of no thought, a quiet, clear mind… I felt I was in the presence of Allah; and there it was, right there, what I’d be searching for all that time. That connection with Allah was what gave me all of those feelings of calm, peace, tranquillity and contentment I’d been searching for. I had just innocently but incorrectly believed that getting away from it all physically was what was required to give me that quiet mind and that space for reflection. In reality, all I needed was to ‘get away from it all’ psychologically. I didn’t need to leave the country at all. I could have it anytime I wanted… I no longer had to travel to the most remote beach I could find to experience the calmness and connectedness with my spirituality that I had believed was only available to me if I was able to shut out my day to day life and run away from it all.
Through my tears, I realised that Allah was always right there, and I didn’t need to go anywhere or do anything to feel that connection with Him. I just needed to quieten my mind of all the day to day noise that had filled it for years, and the Inside-Out Paradigm gave me a simple but transformational way of doing that. The Inside-Out Paradigm of Psychology teaches us the truth of where our feelings actually come from. We learn that we are only ever feeling our thinking, moment to moment. Even when it can seem as though something else is the cause of our feelings, it absolutely does not work that way. Feelings are never coming from anywhere other than our own thinking. This is the one, constant truth in our psychology: you have a thought = you have a feeling. It’s all coming from inside us.
So how does knowing this help with quietening our minds and being more present, more of the time, so that we can experience that connection with Allah?
When we insightfully understand that we are only feeling our own thinking, at that moment it removes all of the other reasons we may have attributed to our feelings out of the equation. When you realise you are feeling upset because of the way you are thinking, not only is the target removed from other people or other things (thereby naturally improving your relationship with those), but we also turn inwards and realise that if it’s just my thinking that’s caused that particular feeling, then there’s nothing really to be concerned about. It becomes okay to have those particular feelings because we know they were just created by our own thinking at that moment. We can let go of them more easily, because it’s so much easier to let go of a feeling that you know you created, through your own thinking, rather than trying to let go of a feeling that you believe someone or something else caused and therefore needs resolving. There may well be an issue at hand that does need resolving and we can now do that from a place of logic and a clearer mind. Any emotions we experience around that issue, however, are only ever going to come from the way we’re thinking about it.
When we can really see the truth of this unfolding in all areas of our lives, we naturally end up dropping so much of the often-unhelpful thinking that takes up so much space in our minds. Our minds then become quieter, less cluttered and better able to receive insight and understanding from Allah. We return to our natural state of peace and calm, thereby increasing our feeling of connectedness with Allah even more.
If you’d like to learn more about The Inside-Out Paradigm, you can get a free training on it here: www.ptissem.com/iop