Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, post no evil; My forty days of solitude

It all started when I realized how much my brain was fried. It was over-excited. I was stressed out. ALL. THE. TIME.
A steady barrage of news and information to respond to, retain, analyze, sort out and decipher. My days were a lifeless routine and my prayers were a series of emotionless movements and words.
I was becoming desensitized to violence, my empathy towards others has lessened.
I was slipping into an abyss.
It also seemed to me that my previously clear dividing line between right and wrong was getting a little too murky for comfort.
A stand with the self was necessary.
Even though I have always portrayed myself as an extrovert, I fit in more comfortably with an introvert’s description and way of life. I needed a turtle shell to retreat into.
So I decided to take a break from it all. I took me by the shoulder, shook me and looked me in the eyes and told me that wish as I may, I have no control of all things beyond me. I cannot feed all the hungry. I cannot heal the lepers nor make the blind see. I cannot be the good mother, wife, daughter or friend that I wanted to be if I’m not in tune with me.
With a family and a job, one cannot just up and disappear into the desert (as tempting as that might sound). So with physical solitude out of the question, I opted for a psychological one. I decided to practice “3uzla” or spiritual solitude eliminating all unnecessary communication and reconnecting with the Divine. The desert adds and allows for melancholy and contemplation in a strange haunting way. And lots of desert I have here.
My aim was not merely to shield myself from negativity, but also to examine myself well.
Research has shown that decreasing noise in all its forms, even for a few minutes daily, boosts the immune system and lowers aggression.
But quiet should not be just the absence of sound. It should be a state of calm. A state of reflection and inner peace.
Interestingly all spiritual disciplines employ solitude as the pathway to the divine through silent meditation, prayer etc. Buddhism’s “Noble Eightfold Path” is the Buddha’s practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from suffering, attachments and delusions. They were embodied in:
Right Understanding
Right Thoughts
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration.
Ancient Zoroastrians used the term “Humata, Hukhta, Hvarshta,” which stood for: “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”
In Islam, solitude is encouraged too. The prophet, peace be upon him was asked “How can salvation be achieved?” He replied, “Control your tongue, keep to your house, and weep over your sins.”
The Qur’an tells us how alsayida Maryam (Mary mother of Jesus), peace be upon her, withdrew into a private place to worship her Lord in a time in which moral decadence was prevalent.
 “Whomsoever wishes his religion to be healthy and at peace, and his heart and body at comfort tell him embark upon solitude since these are horrific times and the wise are aloof”.

So dive in I did!

As I embarked on this journey, I strived for elevation from the humiliation of sins to the greatness of submission, acceptance and worship. I wanted to be able to see my own faults, be able to forgive my past and direct my heart towards my Maker at all times.
I also prayed for forgiveness from leading any other soul astray.

At the time I started thinking about all of this, I began reading a beautiful book a dear friend gifted me (Thank you friend) called The Forty Rules of Love, a novel about the Sufi mystic, Rumi. I am not a Sufi follower by any means but I have to say I enjoyed the book tremendously and highly recommend it.
Rules 17 and 23 respectively state:
“The whole universe is contained within a single human being-YOU. Everything that you see around, including the things that you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan (Evil) outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you set to know yourself fully, face it with honesty and hardness.”
“The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each and every one of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it fells upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.”

This all sounded easy-peasy when I planned it! But anyone who knows me even barely will know how hard it is for me to be quiet and not talk much. It took a lot of determination in the first few days but after that, I was actually very comfortable in my own company and noticed overall calm. I would like to think that I also found “ons” or companionship with Allah via zikr. A tête-à-tête with Him if I may say so.
I turned off all social media venues and only responded to work emails and spoke to my parents and children. And yes, my spouse too J
So an added bonus was that I proved to myself and to the naysayers that I was capable of zipping my mouth shut. Amen!
(I have to say though that I have spoken out loud to myself more times than I care to admit. And found that I called myself Shawqiya. Don’t ask)

So…To a mind that is disciplined. To shunning of all that is detrimental to one’s soul and to fellow human beings. To all that is human and good.

N.B. More of this and I just might reach enlightenment. Stay tuned J