I don’t know how most of you view the practice of meditation by a Muslim as I am aware of how it is heavily connected and associated with the practice of Buddhists and Hindus in becoming more spiritual. I respect your perspectives and stands but I intended to share this article because I experienced how practicing meditation everyday has actually made me closer to God than I think I ever had before #gratitude.
Some people discover God through travelling, some through other people, some through their endless search of the power of the Divine, some through unexpected events, some through reading books, some through challenging tests and situations and some through their ancestors.
As for me, I was handed down this belief from my father, who got it from his father, who got it from his father whom might have discovered it himself and embraced the faith. For that, I thank him for handing this faith down the lineage making it easier for us to decipher the purpose of life. I am grateful to be here, to hold strong to a faith when others would struggle to find it. I am blessed to grow up already having a faith in which I see as a light that guides my heart, a hope that I can always look forward to, because I know – there is Hope. Because there might be people out there, without faith who constantly find themselves lost and always in a journey of searching the purpose of life, who might spend the rest or whole of their lives searching and searching.
Even so, it doesn’t mean that having a faith that is handed down through lineage guarantees me an unshakable belief forever. At times, I have my doubts; at times I have questions I need answers to; at times when people ask me about my faith – I don’t even know what appropriate respond to give them. So, whether you are handed down a faith or have been in a constant search of one – I believe all of us are in this journey to find what our own unique purpose of life is. And I am in no exception of voyaging in this journey, together with you to constantly finding answers and maintaining our connection with the Creator.
(In Islam, prayers could mean two things which are:
- Solat/Salat/Salah – an act of worship through physical movements/poses and recitations of Qur’anic verses during the salat, saying supplications while staying in one of the movements/poses and surrendering ourselves to God. It is done 5 times daily.
- Dua/Doa/Du’a – is usually done by putting both our hands in prayer position on the chest, our palms facing upwards, we look onto our palms and have a conversation with God).
Living life as a Muslim, I constantly find myself facing hardships to stay focused in my 5 times daily salat. This frustrates me because I knew and believe that each prayer is supposed to leave me feeling more connected to God or at least make me a calmer being. But somehow, it did not and I knew there was something wrong with me that resulted in my salat to feel somewhat empty. In my recent post, I spoke about how I was a lost-cause for almost 5 years and it was during these times that I felt so disconnected with myself and in return, with God. Every time I pray; I would yawn as much when I wasn’t even sleepy, my mind would wander so much thinking about the things that just happened, or the conversation I just had with my friend or the things that I needed to attend to later.
I shared this concern with my husband and he suggested that I learn the meaning of the Qur’anic Arabic verses that I recite in my salat so that I could understand what I was reciting better, thus will make me more focused in my salat. I did that and yes, it helped me to have a better focus in my salat but I knew there must be something else that can supplement me to achieve a whole-rounded focus in my salat and in return, in my life. So, I prayed to Him to show me ways to elevate my focus. And I believe, He answered my prayers by opening me up to the practice of meditation.
After a few weeks of practicing yoga everyday with an instructor in YouTube, I started to venture into meditation videos that were suggested to me. The meditation video that worked for me was this Guided Meditation for Beginners by Boho Beautiful. I could connect to this video for the calmness of the instructor’s voice, the serene background music, the nature in which the video is shot at and how sequential the instructor’s guidance is that I could easily follow one-by-one. I committed to her 9 Days of Guided Meditation Challenge (where I do it every morning. If you prefer, you can also do it every night before going to sleep) and at the end of my 9th day, I saw changes. I became a calmer being, I could connect to things better, I became more present and accepting of who I am and where I am in life. I let go of my bitter past, I became more relieved from anxiety and stress, I feel strengthened inside, I am more peaceful and content and most of all – I am full of gratitude to God.
The practice of meditation involves a person to be in a seated position or lying down in what he feels most comfortable for him. Then, the person starts to invoke awareness of his breath, focusing on the coolness of the air as he inhales and the warmth of the air as he exhales. This mindful breathing technique steadies the mind and the heart. Making the whole experience of a person meditating, a relaxing one.
By practicing meditation, you will learn to –
- Take things one breath at a time – a lot of people, whether we realise it or not, have shallow breathing pattern. Now, let’s try inhaling calmly for 10 seconds, can you do it? I can’t, my inhalation is only up to 5 seconds. This shows how my breath is shallow and the space in my lungs are restricted. With this shallow breathing pattern, I find staying calm in confusing situations challenging. That’s why, by training yourself to inhale and exhale 10 seconds length at a time, you can calm yourself down better. Thus, helping you to be patient with yourself, your dreams, difficult situations and people you deal with.
- Let go of what no longer serves you to give space to what does – meditation promotes a breathing technique in which you inhale deeply; sensing an area in your mind, body and soul that feel stiff. You gather oxygen in that stiff area (imagining the oxygen forms a ball around that stiffness) and slowly exhale the imaginary ball letting that resistance that has been holding you down leave your mind, body and soul. After that, you will be left feeling cleared, lighted and ready to move forward and on.
- Become more aware of your inside being and your surrounding – meditation encourages you to be aware of your breath and sense the wellness of your mind, body and soul. This practice when done regularly helps you to become more aware of your inside and outside, helping you to address any engagements that need your attention more clearly, wisely and sharply.
- Acknowledge thoughts and distractions that come into your minds and be undisturbed enough to just let it pass – let’s face it, we have so much going on in our minds. At times, we just get overwhelmed – not knowing how to slow down the mind, how to stop it from thinking or wandering too wildly. We somehow get caught inside it no matter how nonsense or how much it just doesn’t matter anymore. So, by practicing meditation, it helps you to differentiate between the bad and the good – which one you should pay attention to & address and which one you can just let pass.
- Focus – meditation is about focusing on your breath. While being mindful to include focus on your third eye chakra which is located slightly higher in between our eyes externally or the pineal gland which is located in the prefrontal cortex of our brain internally. With constant practice of this, you will begin to develop your focus more each day and then, you will witness that you are no longer easily distracted because your mind is more mindful. In difficult situations, you are able to breathe calmly while brainstorming of what to do to fix the situation.
- Develop your prefrontal cortex (very important to success in life!) – this area of the brain is associated with your complex cognitive behaviour planning, expression of your personality, your decision making skills and your social behaviour moderation. It is basically where your thoughts and actions in accordance with your internal goals are orchestrated. Among the activities this part of the brain relates to is to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different. Easy said, this part of the brain is your center of wisdom and intuition which is very important for anticipating your future, planning your outcome and seeing things more thoroughly.
- Accept yourself for who you are and where you are in life right now – when you become calmer through the practice of meditation, you can and will make more sense about yourself and your life. You learn to quiet down and take sometime to connect your past, understand your present and being hopeful for the future.
- Forgive and thank yourself – when you become more accepting of yourself and where you are in life right now, you could easily forgive yourself for your past under achievements, or for any regrets you still hold in you, or for any unpleasant memories. You will begin to see and accept that things happened for the best reasons albeit not knowing what the reason is but you are opened enough to accept it anyway and believed that it so happened for the best of reasons. When you forgive yourself, you are more ready to thank yourself with where you have come in life so far – gratitude will then make you flow and move forward in life more easily.
So, how can meditation help you to connect with God better?
It’s the calmness you’ve achieved through the process which helps you to let go of the things that no longer serves you. Which helps you to become more present and centered and in return, awaken a brilliant part of your brain. Which helps you to understand your past, work in your present to achieve the future you aspire to. Which helps you to forgive and thank yourself for everything that you have done and made in life so far.
Thankfulness equals to gratitude in which, the more you are in the state of gratitude, the more He will bless you, guide you, enlighten you to the path where He ought you to take. And when you can see your path clearer, this in return will make you want to thank Him more and more, worship and please Him even better than you ever did before.
Psst: While researching to write for this article, I stumbled upon very good reads on prayers and Islamic meditations.
- Meditation in Islam
- Muslim Prayers May Increase Alpha Waves in the Brain
- Study Shows How Prayer, Meditation Affect Brain Activity
- Meditation and Islam
- Salat | The Islamic Prayer and Meditation
It’s a ‘short’ read (hahaha) but I hope it is really beneficial for you guys!
Stay awesome, mwah!