Now before you picture yourself isolated on a mountain or becoming a Buddhist monk, I’ll have you know that there’s more to it than that. Much more. And it’s not as hard as people make it sound (or look).
Before starting, I’d like to point out that searching for your true purpose is highly encouraged in Islam. Imam Ali (as) teaches us ‘he who attains inner knowledge of his self attains inner knowledge of his Lord.’ In addition to hadiths like this one, the Quran also highlights the obverse of the link between knowledge of oneself and knowledge of one’s Lord:
“And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient” [59:19]
I am a strong believer in spirituality, and an even stronger believer in the fact that everything must be done in baby steps. By the will of Allah, my humble attempt will help you realise the importance of starting your spiritual journey by looking at what we are, the forms we exist in and by kick-starting you with a few different methods you can rely on for self-development and improvement.
Humans are the only creatures that were created with both intellect and desire meaning that, according to hadith, we are able to exceed the levels of angels (who were created with only intellect), or we can stoop to a level lower than animals (who were created with only desire.) In other words, only we have the choice to decide where we want to be on the continuum between animals and angels. The choice is yours.
As the religion of Islam already teaches us, we exist in two forms: physical (body) and spiritual (soul). The problem seems to be that a lot of people nurture their physical form and completely forget about their soul, which is the most important and everlasting form. We eat when we are hungry, take medicine when we are sickly and in some cases reach extreme levels in trying to beautify our outer appearances. The question arises: what are we doing to nurture our spiritual connection with ourselves, with God and with those around us? The following ways will hopefully give you an idea.
1. The science of your soul.
Everything exists as forms of energy, and this includes us too. The human body naturally has seven main energy points, usually referred to as chakras. All of these energy points are arranged in a line along the spine, each of which is associated with a different purpose varying from one’s sexual relations to emotional attachments to intellectual affairs. Humans can harness positive or negative energy from these points, depending entirely on their actions and habits.
Luckily for Muslims, the actions that are destructive of the soul are already forbidden in the Quran such as drinking alcohol, eating unclean meat and maintaining illegitimate sexual relations before marriage. Unsurprisingly, the actions that do harness positive energy are also recommended and ordered by the Quran and hadith; including enjoining good and forbidding evil, speaking truthfully, respecting parents, giving money to the poor and supplicating.
Yes, you read that correctly and no, not the pies we eat. PIESS stands for Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Social and Spiritual. What to do:
Take some time off for yourself, and write down each individual word as a subheading. Under each subheading, sit with yourself and make a note of all the points you wish to improve on in that aspect. For example, underneath ‘Physical’ I have written ‘eat more fruit and veg’ and under ‘Intellectual’ I’ve put down ‘read all the books I’ve been meaning to read’.
This is a simple yet effective strategy in helping you figure out where you are now, where you want to be and what you know you need to get there.
3. Progress Chart.
Once you have written down what you need to do, or if you already have a mental idea of some of the steps you need to take to improve yourself, you can create a progress chart.
On the y-axis, number the days. On the x-axis, put down a number of different factors you wish to review at the end of each day, to keep you on the right track. For instance, ‘number of fruit & veg consumed’, ‘number of prayers on time’, ‘did you read some of your book?’ and ‘minutes of reflection/meditation’. All these are of course just examples, and vary from one person to another, but with time you will realise that you are creating good habits and sticking to them.
This is the last, but most definitely not the least way in which I have experienced a great deal of change in my character. If you know me well enough, you know that I aim to meditate at least 10 minutes a day. People always ask me: how do you meditate? It’s really simple.
Find yourself a quiet place with good ventilation, and where nobody will interrupt you. You can lie down, sit up or prostrate, as long as you ensure that your back is straight and you are very comfortable with relaxed shoulders. The key is to internalise all your attention. Close your eyes and completely turn off all your thoughts and feelings related to the outer world, and focus on yourself as a spirit trying to align all its energy in order to reach a higher level – God.
You can YouTube ‘guided meditation’ until you understand what train of thought takes you away from the outer world – this is what worked for me, as I needed a kick-start before doing my own independent meditation.
Although I’m sounding like I’ve found myself a long time ago, I haven’t. I’m still on my journey and I believe this journey is on going until death. So take inspiration from everything around you and let it push you to become the person who you wish to be.