It is often difficult, especially when the story is “ugly”, to see that it was necessary.
It is very easy to say and believe that things were meant to be in this way when we have a beautiful path we have walked to reach the destination we have today. However, when for example: a child is pulled out from under the rubble of a collapsed bombed building only to find their entire family has been wiped out, it is very hard to say: “it’s okay it was a part of the journey they had to lead, it is a part of Allah’s plan, it was a necessary hard life they had to lead to become who they needed to become”. The mind and heart are not willing to accept these things as “okay” and “God’s plan” or even, dare I say, an important happening in the child’s life. But would Andy Murray be the man he is today had he not been in that fateful classroom the day that the massacre took place? Would Thomas Edison have become the man he did had he not had the teacher who kicked him out and the mother who then shaped up his learning. Although both above instances possibly still not as traumatic as the above mentioned example of the child, and perhaps not many famous examples of people exist who have ‘survived’ such a horrible experience; but that does not mean to say that despite it being so much more traumatic, and despite it not having any famous “happy endings”, that it too is not a necessary happening - that it too has not forged out of a hellish fire a truly magnificent person.
Not every famous person is great and not every great person is famous!
I think back to my beloved English Teacher, may he rest in peace, when he died there was no “state” funeral, and yet he was a man (like many others I am sure) worth of such! He touched and changed the lives of so many children who then have in turn gone on and continued his legacy multi-fold into the fabric of this world. Truly the Chinese proverb holds such truth, if you plan for 100 years, teach! The impact a teacher has cannot be measured, and a really great teach weaves their essence and teachings into the fabric of society and moulds it from the inside. Some of the stories we heard on his funeral were truly mind blowing and yet only the people who met him know his name; his impact however, reaches far far beyond. His childhood although was not the rosiest; and again, for him to become the great man he was, he needed to have faced the ugly side of life.
So why am I saying these things.
I want to invite you to see past your scars (we all have our own battles we have fought and scars that they have left behind), to what their presence has enabled for you and your journey. I want to invite you towards acceptance of a different level.
I want to invite you towards Gratitude.
And before you think anything, I want you to hear me out first.
Life sometimes has to put us through difficult learning curves to shape us; to enable us; to forge us. Every metal ore needs to go into the furnace to come out stronger purer and more in its ‘element’.
I do not know your story, I do not know your scars, but the experiences you have had and the people you have met along the way, have each in their own way, helped you into becoming the you who you are today; from the ones that put you down to the ones that picked you up, each in their own way have been necessary in your story.
If we do not brave the storm we cannot cross the seas to find our island paradise.
If you did not take this exact journey you would not have found your ‘island paradise’ with its ‘golden sands’ and ‘cool sea breezes’. Sometimes we head out to sea thinking we need to go into a certain direction and end up in a certain location. But Allah has His own plan for us. He does not want us to go to the island in the East, He knows the island we truly need is in the South. So, He sends our way harsh winds and rough seas. We can try fight it for as long as we can and not make much progress; or we can learn to harness the wind, work with the wind and go in the direction that life is taking us, and also trust in the direction life is taking us is what we need today. And when we stumble upon our true ‘island paradise’ and rest in its golden sands, only then when we look back at the journey can we truly appreciate that we needed to take it so that it could lead us here. Yes, it may have been horrible and hard, and tested us beyond our imagination, but we are here. We learned to battle our storms; we learned to tie knots we didn’t know how; we learned to control our sails to best harness the winds; we discovered uncharted territory and found we could manage our way safely through; we discovered our resilience, our patience, our determination, our perseverance is much more than we could have perceived. Sure, there may have been days when brother wind got too rough and mother nature rained on us hard and threw us about on harsh seas, we even got thrown over-board a few times, but Allah sent us our “saviours” to help us back on our boat. And while there were rough days there were days of sunshine and calm too; where father sun smiled down upon us and embraced us in its warmth, giving us strength to go on and showed us the way to go forward. If we didn’t face harsh winds and seas, we would not need any saviours in our life, if we didn’t get drenched by stormy clouds we would not appreciate the warmth of the sunshine…
I don’t want you to just see the silver lining in the clouds, I want you to feel the importance of the rain too. If there was no rain, there would be no life.
When a lightning strikes a dry barren land and causes fire and “destruction”, that very fire and destruction makes way for new life to grow from that barren land. The lightning ‘supercharges’ life back into the barren lands.
But why am I saying all this to you.
I want to invite you to think of things in a different light. Because thinking is the key!
Our reality is not what it is, it is how we see it.
Yes, sure there are somethings that are facts, but in and around the facts we paint a picture of a reality that we see.
For example, when we stub our toe, it hurts! – Fact!
But we then paint this fact with our colours: “someone put that there maliciously so we could get hurt”; “someone put that there carelessly and we got hurt because of them”; “I am so clumsy, so careless, I am hopeless, I keep getting hurt everywhere by everything there must be something wrong with me”… and so and so forth, we can paint it in any way. But the truth is, we stubbed our toe, and that is it. The rest are our formations, shaping up a reality. We need to separate out the facts from the colours we are superimposing upon it. The truth is we stubbed our toe - now we can exclaim ouch, rub our toe and move on with daily happenings like nothing happened; OR we can exclaim ouch, rub our toe and sigh or get annoyed temporarily and think need to watch where we are going a bit more before we move on; OR we can become angry and vindictive and blame someone for maliciously trying to hurt us; OR we can be angry and annoyed and blame someone for being careless; Or let our low self-esteem cause us to become guilt ridden and spiral into self-pity and self-loathing… etc etc.
SO, it all comes down to our thoughts.
If our thoughts are shaping up our reality; then by changing how we see things, think about things, can ‘change’ our reality; aka reframing. Reframing does not change facts, yet it can change how reality shapes up around the facts. Reframing can and sometimes does help some people; it can, for some instances, help to step out and take a different look at the scene (NB, this is not to say that one should create false realities and live in denial. No. that is of course also not healthy).
However, I am not going to be asking you to reframe anything.
No, the contrary, when we understand that our thoughts shape up reality, then we do not need to get too caught up in the realities that our mind is shaping up.
So actually, we do not need to reframe anything, if anything what we need to do is unframing. We need to remove the colour and see truth as it is.
Our thoughts are like glasses, by changing the lenses we change the colour. We can change the lenses all we want and every time we will see the picture with a different colour. But if we understand that the colour is superimposed and actually we can take off the glasses and see the picture as it stands then we don’t need to worry about any colour we can or may see the picture in. The truth is the picture, that cannot be change. When we can understand that the colours we see in any picture is what then induces the feelings inside of us; then just like we can detach the picture from the colours, we can detach our feelings from the truths. Our feelings are personal, they are superimposed because of the reality that we shape up; they are not inherent of the experience, they are not exclusively in and of the experience. The experience, i.e. truth, is just that – an experience – it is there for you to gain something of and from. Experiences do not have colours (our thoughts) or flavours (our feelings). We attach the colours and flavours to them. So just like we can attach them on, we can detach them too.
Now what does that achieve?
You live a moment: a vey horrid, cruel and cold moment; where a perpetrator heartlessly abuses you, physically assaults you and verbally abuses you. You feel the cruelty of the moment in the moment, you feel the cruelty of the moment years on too. No matter what you do, you cannot escape the ‘truth’ of the moment as being horrid, cruel, cold and heartless. You cried then, you cry now.
Now one can try to reframe it by saying: well the person was ill in their minds, they were partly drunk, they did know any better, etc. but nothing can actually change the ‘truth’ – your truth of the experience – because how you experience something is still a truth! That is how you experienced it! And yes, the truth is: you did experience a horrid, cruel, cold-hearted physically and verbally abusive moment, which no doubt has been life changing…
Now when we look at it from the perspective of our superimposing of colour and flavour, we can pick apart the experience in a different way.
You feeling the moment was cruel, horrid, cold and heartless, is your feelings of the moment. Although true, because that is how you experienced the moment in the moment, they are YOUR feelings. They are not exclusively in and of the experience itself, rather how you experienced the experience (one person can and may experience an experience slightly differently to another). You experienced it in this way because you thought of those abusive acts as being: cold, heartless and cruel. And yes, where majority people today would hold the same or similar views of an abusive act as such as being: cold; heartless; and cruel, it still does not make it the truth. The truth is: a person hit you and said some words to you. That is it, that is the truth.
It is our social dictates, which shape up our belief systems; these belief systems then go on to make us think that an act is: “negative”, “wrong” and “hurtful”. Undoubtedly the act of getting hit physically hurts our physical body, but so does falling out of a tree; so does over working our arm muscles in the gym; so does menstrual pain, or better yet labour pain. So why is one pain branded as “good” and one pain brand as “bad”; pain is just pain is it not? Does all pain still not equally cause us discomfort? Our morality does the branding; but where does morality come from?
As humans we have created certain codes, orders, systems, acceptable norms and behaviours, but even in that we have variations throughout different generations and cultures. It is these belief systems that control our thinking, that shape our thinking – that shapes our realities and our truths; but if we can take a step back and remove these parameters and then look at a situation we will find the situation to be neutral. Because that is all it is – a situation; an experience; an event. Without which future events, situations and happening cannot follow and unfold. A situation is just a domino in a line of dominos. The dominos are all just neutral, no one domino more important, or bigger, or smaller, than the other and yet each domino vital in its own right; even if one domino is missing the show cannot go on.
So with that said, it does not matter how you experience the domino. There is neither anything wrong with how you experienced it, nor is there any need to rethink of: how where or why the domino was as it was. It just was, and that is it. It was necessary because it was elemental for the show to go on.
When we can understand this, then we can let go of the colours and flavours that we have attached to the experiences, because although that is how we experienced them and it was vital for us to experience them how we did for the next domino to fall, at the end of the day all those experiences are just dominos in a line. Whether we have tagged an experience as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is just our superimpositions and in a way ‘irrelevant’; how we may or may not have tagged them actually bares no relevance in the grand scheme of things, they are all just dominos in a line – each the same and each just as vital.
When we can view our past experiences as dominos and allow the colours and flavours to ‘fall off’, then we can free ourselves of the hold these feelings have had upon us; allowing us to fully embrace and carry on in our life without being weighed down by the weight of a heavy heart (because that is where all our feelings live on unless we can let them go). Whether an experience was ‘good’ or ‘bad’; hurtful or beautiful; made us sad or happy; angry or worried, it does not matter now. The experience is gone, it served its purpose which was to tip the next domino in line. It was a lesson, not a life sentence, you can let go of it. Whether someone’s behaviour was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, does not matter, the branding is superimposed by our belief systems. How someone should or should not behave is based on parameters that we have imposed. When a mother leaves her baby and goes to work it is branded as 'bad', but when a father does it, it is 'right' or 'good'; when a shark eats its young, its 'ok', but when a human beats their young, its 'wrong'; when parents throw out there 18 year old, it’s 'good', but when a 50 year old throws out their 80 year old parents, it’s not. The human condition is full of contradictions and nuances, morality skewed to favour one or another; the social dictates work for some and not for others, some fit it some don’t. The more one attempts to micromanage and understand, the more life eludes us and leaves one bewildered...
The key is to let go.
The experiences brought to you in life are by the Will of Allah. They are necessary. Experience them as you do, true to yourself and the moment, but then let it go. The experience is here to shape you and your life; don’t cling on to them, don’t judge yourself or others on the bases of the experience, that is Allah’s job. Whether pleasant or unpleasant, let go of the feelings you have attached to the experiences, they served their purpose in the moment, but they are of no use to you anymore; they will just keep you anchored in the past. Even clinging on to happy memories keeps us anchored in the past, preventing us from seeing what is spreading its arms for us today. Sure, visit memory lane from time to time; but remember you are just a visitor, not a permanent resident!
You can rise above your feelings.
Yes, life may have hit some really rough ones your way, but each pitch was necessary. The behaviours of some people around you, although ugly and uncalled for, has nothing to do with you. It does not define you, it does not represent anything of and about you. They were hoops and hurdles you had to jump on your journey to here, where you are at today, to enable your journey to come this way. Like the rungs on a ladder they have fulfilled the purpose they had in your life and now you can move on from the fact that you tripped up and got hurt on them, you have climbed up much further ahead from that time, it was a lesson you had to learn from, not your legacy.
One can go around with ‘sands of time’ cupped in open palms to their perpetrators to show to them: ‘look how you have wronged me’, ‘please apologise and change your ways’. One can go to these people bleeding from the cut on their finger in hope for a sticky plaster, yet not get one. One often has to tend to their bleeding wounds themselves, applying pressure till the bleeding finally stopped on its own and eventually scars over. Over time one learns they are not going to get a “sticky plaster” from their perpetrators and that one has to find their own; so they turned away from them, but often they do not let go of those grains of sand. No, instead they clench on to them in their fist(s) in hope to one day still show to them these grains of sand to make them see and realise something from them. One can try to get on with their life, but with a clenched fist(s) no doubt it is hard to do things ‘normally’.
I am here to tell you: let go of those sands of time, there is no point in clenching your fist. When you open your fist you will find there is nothing left in there; those grains of time have long slipped out from your hand. No point in trying to clench on, it won’t achieve anything, instead it is just preventing you from living your life comfortably now.
Even if you went to them and got them to admit that they have sharp edges you cut yourself on; them admitting is not going to make any difference to your life today, you have already realised that on your own and taken precautions not to get too close as to cut yourself off of them again. Them owning up to their sharp edges and offering you that sticky plaster now is not going to help you, you cannot go back in time and give yourself that sticky plaster, it’s pointless for you now; you don’t have a time machine and if you did, you would go back in time and stop yourself from getting cut in the first place – not give yourself their sticky plaster!
So let go of your clenched fist, there is no point in keeping it clenched when there is nothing left in it and nothing to come of it. Let go and relieve yourself of the energy you are having to put into clenching your fist; open your fist and relax your hand, then see how much more easier it is to live your life without clench fists…
I don’t want one to have to reframe, rebrand, rethink their way out of anything!
Like the teachings of the Japanese Art of Kintsugi, I want for one to be able to stand tall and be ok to wear all their scars out, because every scar is proof of one’s strength and what they have overcome. We should not need to pretend or gloss over any aspect of our life, they have all made us the people we are today…
Life, is the experience of discovering ourselves.
I wish for one to be able to let go of the hold their past has upon them so that they can truly arrive in the present.
One does not need to meditate to find inner peace and presence of mind, all we have to do is let go of the past to arrive in the present (btw I have nothing against mediation, I think it is a fantastic tool as an intermediatory to help us process and let go of the past). When we arrive in the present that is when we find gratitude, true gratitude, for our life’s existence – inner peace, thus wellness comes as a side effect.
We do not need to be or become grateful when we discover gratitude, it lives inside of us in the form of humility.
True inner peace, gratitude, beauty and joy are not cloaks that one can wear, they are states of being. We cannot force our way to them, like a mirage the more you chase after them the further away they get. We will not be able to find and stay there when it is force, we have to arrive at them as a side effect to better living. They are not a destination, rather a way of living and being.
Let’s live well and let the rest take care of itself.
Over the past couple of decades I have suffered from depression several times, sometimes very severe and other times less so, but suffer I did nonetheless. On several occasions I used Homeopathy to “cure” my depression and “cure” it it did, or so I thought, until now. Surely the cloud of depression dissipated and I managed to get on better with my day to day life. But as life rolled on so did with it the cloud of depression roll on back in. Every time I took Homeopathy for it I did feel as though I had “healed” from it and most likely I did heal from said depression. As a homeopath would describe it, that layer that had formed had gotten removed. But had I actually really cured my depression? If it keeps coming back, even though in different forms as the remedies needed displayed, can I truly say I have cured it?
Let’s take a closer and deeper look at this shall we…
Yes clinically the depression I was suffering from in all the different occasions each time cleared with homeopathy, but the question is: why if I have cleared the layer of depression does it keep coming back? Do I just have a depressive personality? Do I have a depression tendency? Or it is just the ups and downs of a depression patient as an allopathic practitioner would tell you. Or is it the maintaining cause as a homeopath would say?
Well, let’s explore my life from a bird’s eye view a little for some perspective.
Each time I went into depression, was because of certain triggers; then I would take homeopathy, which helped me come out of it. But then what did I do after coming out of it? Did I remove the trigger from my life? Did I change how I reacted to the trigger to prevent the same consequences? Did I change my life in any way to prevent the trigger from being a trigger and still triggering me. The answer, as any one may easily guess, to all of these questions is “NO”. I did not remove the trigger; I did not change my reaction to the trigger; nor did I change myself in any way to prevent the trigger from being a trigger. Thus, it’s no surprise really that I kept going back into depression. The flavour of the depression may have been different each time, but that is about all that truly had changed over these past two decades…
Here in lies the problem. I did not learn anything from my depression…
I was on a boat on a stormy sea, I fell into the water, somehow I managed to pull myself back up on to my boat, but what did I do then? I did not complete the journey, I did not change how I handled the storm, so all I kept doing was falling back into the sea and rescuing myself over and over again. There was no progress. Thus I came to realise this now: I keep getting thrown overboard into the stormy sea, because I keep doing the same things again and again; I am not learning from my mistakes; I am not progressing in any direction on my journey, just staying stuck.
This is not healing myself; this is not curing myself; this is still symptom management.
After deep reflection I have come to the understanding that merely removing the triggers (or trigger people) from ones’ life is also not true healing, that is just being an ostrich – how many people is one to “run away from”? We cannot run and hide away from our problems. It is not the people that is the problem, but us with not being able to “cope” with the problem being present to us by these triggers.
I’ll explain it in another way: why is it that certain character types; or certain traits; or certain habits of people trigger us? Are they really the worse traits on earth? Are they really the only bad traits? Are they the same traits that trigger everyone else as well? NO.
Every person gets triggered by different things. Sometimes the things that trigger us might not be the worst possible traits on earth, but they still trigger us. Sometimes there may be some other traits that we do feel are also bad, maybe even just as bad as our triggering ones are, but we don’t get triggered by them. Why?
It is because of our history. What we have been through, who we are, what our belief systems are that determine what triggers one and what does not. Any trait that triggers us in any way is because of us and not the trait itself. The problem is not with one trait or the other, but within us. [That is not to say that its ok to have bad traits; or that an evil act per say should not be condemned; or that it can be pardoned. Just because it is not the actual act itself, but what it does to us because of our history, that is causing us a problem does not make the bad actions O.K. NO. By no means is this an excuse for any wrong doers to keep doing their wrongs. NO. Bad traits or evil acts are not excusable and the perpetrators have to be accountable for their ill doings, which they will be to ALLAH SWT. This matter being discussed here is not about them or their actions. This matter is about us and us getting triggered.]
Again let me explain this in another angle.
If act 1 triggers us but not act 2, why does act 2 not trigger us? They are both equally bad. Why can we “tolerate” or brush past act 2 but not act 1, despite our condemning both acts equally. It’s because somewhere deep inside act 1 has hit a nerve of ours and act 2 has not. So why has act 1 hit a nerve and not act 2? The answer to this question can only be found in our story of life. Sometimes we can find this answer with relative ease, other times maybe even deep psychotherapy might not be able to reach that far into our core. But the question is, do we need to reach the this answer or have we already reached an answer that is sufficient to proceed with remedying the situation? Does it matter what in our history made this nerve active? Is the solution not still to make it un-active? Yes if we can pinpoint it great it may help break the cycle sooner however, even if we don’t, it does not mean that the cycle itself cannot still be broken. Therefore whether we can deduce exactly the moment and incident that activated this nerve or not is neither here nor there, the point is to understand that said actions hit said nerves. Now what needs to be done is our neural pathways need to be rewritten to prevent us from going down the same neural pathways and hitting said nerve.
Is that even possible I hear you ask? Yes it really is. Our brains are not fixed, new neurons can be created and new pathways laid, but we have to actively chose to walk a different path and not let us keep slipping down the same pathways.
How can this be done? Well the first and most important step is to recognise that this needs to be done; for we cannot chose to walk a different path if we do not realise that it is our default path wherein the problem lies. Once this has been understood and our triggers identified then comes the long hard uphill slog of actively choosing a different path to set into our brains. But it is actually not as difficult as it may sound! It just calls for persistence.
Understanding ourselves is quite useful in this, if we can understand what part exactly about our trigger is causing us suffering then we can work backwards and teach ourselves not to let that take hold upon us. Like pointing a torch upon the shadows in the dark can relieve us from any fearful thoughts; pinpointing that it is (for example) the lack of ones’ freedom, felt from the others’ dominating and controlling nature, that is causing ones’ suffering can then give rise to the idea for creating a space and place for ones’ freedom.
We cannot change or control another’s actions; a dominating person will continue to try and dominate that is their personality, we cannot change it, but one can change how the others’ action affects them. By understanding that one craves their freedom which is being challenged and robbed through said actions which is affecting one negatively, they now have a better chance to fight for it. That does not mean a literal fight, but more a stand against the injustice.
It always helps to know what we are fighting for; what chance do we have in a fight we do not know we are in?
Once one has identified where the problem with a certain trait lies for them, then every time that trait presents itself they have to actively choose a different course of action to prevent the suffering that they feel from it, (for example, using the above scenario: refusing to be ruled by and dictated upon by another persons’ insecurities or ideals, being ok to set in boundaries and being content by them being placed, restores a space and place for ones’ freedoms). Do this enough times that it becomes second nature and hey presto the trait no longer presents itself as a problem for us, despite the trait itself still actively co-existing with us.
So you see, it is not just merely recovering from a fall that one needs to do, they need to heal and seal – recover, learn and grow from said fall so to not repeat it again in order for them to actually be cured from the fall.
Complete the journey of every challenge life presents to you. Don’t stay stranded in the middle of the sea; for if you stay stranded, I promise you, you will just keep staying stranded. There are no rescue boats upon these seas; there are no heroes in these stories; this is your life’s journey and you can only keep moving forward in it if you so choose to do so, otherwise you will keep re-living the same mistakes over and over again – like being trapped in a time loop. Let’s truly heal from our trauma and cure ourselves from them.
Don’t run from yours triggers, learn and grow to co-exist with them in peace, that’s is where true healing lies.
MUCH, MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALL,
Meher Andleeb Eqbal
This space features my reflections, opinions, ponderings and from time to time announcements of what I am up to. It literally is me in my corner on my soapbox.
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