Wave After Wave

It almost felt like things were starting to get normal again. A few months ago, we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But just as we started getting comfortable and complacent, the fear of another wave started creeping in.

Life is like the ocean. The tide oscillates between high and low. Waves come crashing in at different speeds, heights and strengths. We have no control over that. What we can do is learn how to surf through the challenges.

Today’s post won’t be focused on Covid or the beach. I’m sure you read enough about that already. I’d like to talk about how things generally get worse before they get better, expecting the unexpected, noticing our behaviours and reflecting on the shortness of life.

Things get worse before they get better

In hindsight, we always tend to appreciate the struggle. Amidst the chaos, however, there is a very different feel to the pressure. What I’ve noticed in most of the challenging experiences that I’ve encountered, is that it generally gets worse before it starts getting better. This is not always true and I am speaking from limited experience, but it’s just an observed trend.

The insights I gained from this is that when things start hitting the fan and you feel overwhelmed, it’s easy to lose hope and want to give up. What we don’t realize though is that our growth and greatest strengths tend to arise soon after overcoming the struggle.

If things were always easy and we behaved complacently, we wouldn’t need to push past our limiting beliefs. So, when things start looking gloomy and difficult again, embrace it! It firstly means that there will be a moment of relief eventually. Secondly, it means that we will be forced to grow and push past our comfort zone.

This is how we can equip ourselves with a rigorous growth mindset and an impeccable ability to be resilient.

Expect the unexpected

This should be standard procedure by now. We should no longer expect a smooth sailing the whole way through. It’s about looking at all that is unpredictable and almost expecting it. Sure, you cannot expect everything. But if you start thinking about the worst-case scenario and how you would potentially overcome that, it makes it less shocking when things do get pretty bad.

You’d need to be in a fairly healthy state of mind to be able to do this exercise. It’s not about being pessimistic and holding onto negative thoughts. It’s about finding ways to be proactive. Here are some examples of questions you can ponder over:

  • If you lost your job, how would you react?
  • If you became terminally ill, what would you do differently?
  • If you lost certain loved ones, how would that affect you?
  • If Covid only gets worse, what do you need to do from now to adapt?
Thomas Jefferson Quote: “If you want something you have ...

The flipside to this is to also give thought to optimistic ‘what ifs’. Don’t limit yourself and don’t hold yourself back. I won’t write down bullet points on that, but it’s essentially thinking along the lines of ‘What if I achieved that goal?’, ‘What if I won that prize?’, ‘What if I could start that business?’ etc.

Your mind is a supercomputer. Don’t undermine it. The more you work it out, the stronger it gets. The more data you feed it, the better it become at analysing. Let’s look at what drives our behaviour then.

What drives our behaviours?

Intentions, intentions, intentions. Why do I keep coming back to intentions? Because what I’m realizing more and more, is that when you have the right intentions (and behave accordingly), it makes a difference. We don’t necessarily have to get it perfectly right or think like angels, but at least just think about your intentions before you do anything.

It substantially changes your ability to make sound decisions. The thing about waves is that your intention is what helps you push forward. It’s what keeps you dedicated to the purpose. The intention to do good in the world. To try your best. To keep learning. To help other people. To be as kind as you possibly can. To make an impact.

Remember your intentions, assumptions, beliefs and values. It will all affect your behaviour and how you show up in the world.

What drives our behaviour at work?
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The shortness of life

Again and again and again, we need to ponder over our death. If we look at the world around us, it’s just absolutely chaos sometimes. That’s the cycle of life. We will pass on in order for others to carry on living. Nature has a remarkable way of operating, thanks to God.

I’d like to leave you again with the concept of how short-lived we are. The reason I constantly emphasize this is because it can also drive our behaviours. We should strive to be more grateful, more appreciative, kinder to those around us, and shower people with love and compassion.

We should try to give everything we do our best shot. Why? Because why not? When you reach the end of your life, you’re more likely to regret the chances you never took (definitely can’t say that I’m speaking from experience, haha). Stop trying so hard to satisfy your ego and live in a little bubble. It’s not going to burn the fire inside of you.

The Shortness of Life quote by Seneca

Try out something new. Go on an epic adventure. Speak to strangers more often. Plan that party or event. Live more fully and in alignment with your values. It’s not about being reckless or out of boundaries, it’s about making the most of the time you have left.

Wave after wave, we get better at surfing.

Surfing and Posture - The Surfing AccountantThe Surfing ...
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On The Shortness Of Life

I’m currently reading a book called ‘On the Shortness of Life’ by Seneca; a Roman stoic philosopher from the stone-age (haha). The principle is straightforward and quite relevant to the blog’s theme; remember that you will die (Memento Mori).

Life is short. As part of nature, we have one inevitable experience in common; to pass on. It’s easy to forget how short-lived and temporary we are. We’re always chasing tomorrow and planning like we’ve got infinite days ahead of us. Let’s really look at how time, wisdom, service and purpose play a role in our understanding of death (and life I suppose).

Time

I keep coming back to the concept of time. It’s seriously abstract and most of us have just ignored that fact. What does experiencing ‘an hour’ even mean? Even things like time zones and losing time whilst travelling (on a plane for example). It really does boggle the mind when you sit and think about it.

What we ultimately need to understand is that time is our most precious resource. We tend to prioritize things like wealth and socializing, over time. We behave as if we drew from an infinite supply. Each of us has a very specific time, location and way in which we’re going to pass on. There’s no escaping that for sure.

Life is kind of like playing 30 seconds. As soon as you’re born, the hourglass is turned over and you have to get as much done before your time is up. Meditate on how often you waste your time over trivial matters and having mundane conversations.

What if you treated everyday as if it were your last? How different would your current trajectory look?

Wisdom

There’s a lot of wisdom to gain from contemplating your own death. I’ve spoken about this before, but it’s a reminder we need all the time. Wisdom to me, is just learning from your own mistakes and making improvements based on that.

We’ve all made several mistakes in our lifetime. We’re going to make a lot more in the near future. The point is to accept that you’re imperfect and temporary. That you’re on a journey to continuous learning. That you’re just a student of life. There’s no such thing as perfection, no matter how hard you strive for it.

Keeping that in mind, I want you to further think about your limiting beliefs and what’s preventing you from being vulnerably honest with those you care about.

Here’s a good question to ask yourself if you’re ever feeling embarrassed or ashamed about a mistake you’ve made:
Is this going to matter in a year? In 5 years? In 10 years?

Service

We’re here to help each other. We’ve come this far as a species because of collaboration. Because of education. Because of the way we’ve looked after each other. The best way to leave your mark on the world is through service.

This can come in any form that seems fit to you. It can be through serving your parents, assisting with charity events, teaching and sharing your knowledge, looking after the elderly, visiting the sick or just being kind to strangers that you meet. There’s no limit or set way of contributing.

Do what makes you feel good whilst assisting others in any way possible. You’ll notice what a tremendous effect that will have on your sense of purpose.

Purpose

Have you ever sat down to consider the legacy you’d like to leave behind? The impact you want to make on the world? We’re not here by chance or coincidence. Everything is purposeful, it’s all Divine Wisdom.

Service and purpose go hand-in-hand. They both feed into each other. The more you contribute, the more you feel alive, the more you develop your sense of purpose. It’s not necessarily a ‘quest’. You don’t have to search for purpose. You just live it by doing the best that you can, in everything you experience.

To try and make sense of these concepts, I’ve got an interesting way to think about it.

Imagine yourself on your death bed. You’re old, you’re weak and you’re very much dependent on others. What was your biggest regret? What was something you’ve always wanted to pursue? What was the biggest waste of your time? What drained your energy? What made you energized?

Who would you spend more time on? Who would you spend less time with? What would you appreciate and cherish more if you could? What would you do differently?

Honestly, we’re not that far off from being on our death beds. We take nothing with us when go down to our grave. Keep that in mind and reflect on these important questions. Make the most of the time that you have left. Always remember, now is all you have.

Why is Ramadan so important?

Have you ever wondered why Ramadan was such an important aspect of Islam? This post will focus on shedding some light to those who are curious about this blessed month. It will also serve as a reminder to those of you who are familiar with Islamic knowledge.

I’ll briefly discuss the 5 pillars of Islam, the revelation of the Quran, the reason why Muslims fast, how this month coincides with a crisis and why we try our best to revive our spirituality.

[This is based on my understanding and the research that I have done. Please consult literature or a scholar for more detailed and authentic interpretations.]

Ramadan is the 4th Pillar of Islam

Islam is constructed on the 5 pillars shown below. Each have a significant contribution to one’s faith and need to be consistently adhered to. The 1st pillar is the Shahadah, which is professing that there’s ‘No God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger’. It’s considered the foundation of Islam, because everything builds upon that testimony.

The 2nd pillar is Salaah (prayer), which is expected to be performed 5 times a day. This consistency in prayer has always been remarkable to me, as it truly keeps the 1st pillar in place and reminds me of my true purpose in life. It forms a beautiful structure to the day and allows us to frequently remember God.

The 3rd pillar is Zakaat, which is a form of giving charity. This needs to be performed annually, where we’re expected to give 2.5% of our monetary wealth to those who are less fortunate (There are more specifications to this, I’m merely giving an overview). This is such a beautiful pillar because it indicates that giving to others and being considerate is part of the religion.

The 4th pillar will be my focus today; fasting the month of Ramadan. It is the 9th month of the Hijri calendar, where we’re expected to abstain from food and drink for 29 or 30 days every year (depending on the sighting of the new moon). There’s more to it than just the abstinence of food and drink however, which I’ll also discuss.

The final pillar is Hajj; the pilgrimage to Makkah. There are roughly 2 million pilgrims on average who embark on this journey every year. This year will be the first time in history where the pilgrimage would be extremely restricted, possibly even cancelled.

The Revelation of the Quran

One of the most interesting aspects of Ramadan is that it’s the month in which the Quran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He was 40 years old when he was blessed with prophet-hood and when the angel Jibreel first revealed to him the Holy text sent by Allah. It was a constant stream of verses that spanned 23 years, which started around the year 609 CE.

The Quran contains timeless wisdom and is memorized by Muslims all over the world. It is what we recite during prayer and it has remain unscathed since it was revealed (Nothing has been edited). It’s as relevant to us today as it was when it was sent over 1400 years ago.

There’s a lot of emphasis for us to recite the Quran during Ramadan. It’s the one time of the year where everyone is a lot more focused and dedicated to their spirituality, making it a lot easier and enjoyable. Rewards for performing good deeds are multiplied by over 10 fold, which is motivating and encouraging.

Allah’s Prophet said, “Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, ‘I am fasting.”

Why do Muslims fast during this month?

You may have encountered the buzzword ‘Intermittent fasting’ over the past few years. I’m proud to say that Muslims have been doing that consistently over the past 1400 years. Let’s discuss what fasting in Islam entails, whilst looking at the scientific benefits behind it.

The infographic above shows a number of health benefits associated with fasting. From an Islamic point of view however, there’s much more to it than that. The fasting starts at the Fajr prayer and ends at the Maghrib prayer. Essentially from dawn till dusk.

The fasting includes abstaining from food and drink, keeping the stimulation of senses to a minimum and staying away from sexual activity. It’s a time to practice self-control, not to indulge in the usual luxuries of life and to focus on your blessings.

The reason behind fasting is for us to become empathetic with those who are less fortunate than us. Many people live without sufficient food or water their entire lives. For those of us who are blessed with a variety of food choices every day, it gives us time to reflect on that and understand how circumstances are for others.

We often complain about the most trivial aspects of our luxurious lives, without realizing that others would be extremely grateful for a mere fraction of what we have.

Spiritual rejuvenation

We’re without a doubt, living through one of the most unique Ramadans in history. It’s no coincidence that this blessed month coincides with a global pandemic. People have the opportunity to focus more on their spirituality, to reflect, to grow and to become compassionate.

The lock down restrictions have forced us to gain a few realizations. We need to understand that everything happens for a reason. Whether you see it as a blessing or a curse, entirely depends on your perception.

I say this again and again, but it’s an important reminder. Life is short and we are all temporary. Look at how quickly time is passing. Before you know it, your time will be up and you’ll spend the rest of your days in the grave (until Resurrection). Keep that in mind often. It’s not something to be bleak about, it’s part of the circle of life.

You should try and feel motivated by how fleeting this all is. You’re not here for nothing. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s all part of the plan.

The reason I wrote this post was to remind myself of why I focus so much during Ramadan. I also hope to have inspired you in some way, or to have helped you understand it a little better. I really enjoyed writing about this, if you’d like me to discuss the 4 other pillars of Islam, please let me know!

I hope the rest of your month and days ahead are blessed InshaAllah. Stay strong, stay thankful, stay present. Everything happens for a reason, don’t forget that. The more struggle you have to endure, the more you are rewarded. Alhamdulillah for everything.

Meditations

How can we follow our nature? Can we lose anything other than the present? How can we learn to accept death and make the most of our time? Why are we so bothered by other people?

I’m so excited to be talking to you about my favourite philosophy book; ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. Despite the title of the book, it has little to do with meditation. It’s all about stoicism, which is a genre of philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor around the period of 161 AD.

In today’s post, I’ll be talking all about death, following your nature, living in the present moment, dealing with your thoughts and being straightforward in your actions. Absolutely critical for times like this, when things seem to be falling out of control. Here are key takings from the book:

  1. Discard your misperceptions
  2. Limit yourself to the present
  3. Anticipate your final hours

I’ll be quoting a lot directly from the book, as I won’t be able to paraphrase everything.

The world is maintained by change.

Human Nature

Maintaining your character is key to living a fulfilling life. Ask yourself at every moment: ‘Is this necessary?’

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. >> Your soul takes on the colour of your thoughts. Avoid randomness. No pointless thoughts or actions. Let your thoughts be that of an unselfish person. Unconcerned with pleasure and sensual indulgence.

“If it doesn’t harm your character, how can it harm your life?”

There is an emphasis on self-control and resisting distractions within this philosophy. Not falling into temptations or desire. Being straight, not straightened. Work for proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech.

We have control over our perceptions. It’s inappropriate to judge things as being “good” or “evil”. Our interpretations of the objects and events are the problem. Protect your mind from error and accept what’s out of your control.

“Nowhere you can go is more peaceful – more free of interruptions- than your own soul.”

Practice virtues that you can show: Honesty, endurance, abstinence, patience, sincerity, moderation, resilience, seriousness. If it’s not right – don’t do it. If it’s not true – don’t say it.

We need to master the art of acquiescence. Pay attention to your impulses, make sure they don’t go unmoderated. Steer clear of your desires.

Get back up when you fail – celebrate behaving like a human. Stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

“Our own worth is determined by what we devote our energy to.”

Death

“Don’t live as if you have endless days ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.”

If you do everything as if it were the last thing you ever did, you would live with so much more passion. Look at how soon we’re all forgotten. Disturbance only comes from within; the way we perceive the world.

Recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small. Death is inevitable. It’s the end of sense-perception, of being controlled by emotions, mental activity & enslavement to our bodies.

Why should we fear what’s bound to happen? It’s part of the flux of life. All those before you, long gone. All those to come, soon to go. Utilize the days you have to work on your character and help those around you.

Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

Disgraceful: For the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.”

Life is short. That’s all there is to say. Get what you can from the present – thoughtfully and justly.

Now

You can’t lose the past or the future, how could you lose what you don’t have?

Those who are alive today regardless of age, location, or race only have this present moment. A thousand more years or just one more day, what’s the difference?

The present is the same for everyone, its loss is the same. Don’t forget that.

“Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.”

Be grateful for all that you have. Imagine how much you’d crave any of your blessings if they were to perish.

Short-lived creatures; long dead.

Serving Others

Everyone has a nature similar to our own. Even those who do us wrong are made of the same material. We were all born to work together, like feet, hands and eyes. We are all connected. Each of us are limbs, connected to the planet like a body.

Help others and be eager to share. How else are we meant to grow and flourish as a species? To care for all human beings is part of being human. Pride is a master of deception. To help others is to ultimately help yourself.

What use is praise except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?

The truth never harmed anyone. We harm ourselves by persisting in self-deceit and ignorance. By accepting what has been ordained unto us; that is wisdom. Don’t be ashamed to need help. Where does blaming others get you?

This book is phenomenal in helping you deal with pain and to overcome struggles. I highly recommend you give it a read for yourself, to fully absorb the wisdom behind it.

Stay present. Remember death. Serve those around you and follow your nature. This too shall pass.

Anniversary with the womb

What is the best time to start contemplating everything that has ever happened in your life? On your birthday!

I’m going to think out loud again. This time, I’ll be sharing the insights I’ve gained over my birthday. I tend to use the space to reflect and ponder over what truly matters in life.

Death

Let’s start with some classic Memento Mori. I often realize how much closer I am to dying. It’s a combination of fear and liberty. The question that comes to my mind:

What would you do if you were to pass on tomorrow?

I sometimes wonder why I take my time for granted. It’s a weird roller-coaster of emotions. I either stress myself out and take on too many responsibilities, or I keep my schedule empty and just chill.

When I contemplate my own death, I’m often absorbed into the present moment. Regardless of all the worries, anxieties and stress, remembering the fact that I’m temporary definitely calms me down. The best way to spend my time, is to accept the present.

What time is it? Now… What else is there? 🙂

Gratitude

I also find myself contemplating my blessings. This process is genuinely endless, you can’t truly comprehend how blessed you are. There’s always something that you can be thankful for.

Take a few minutes every single day to just appreciate the wonderful people in your life. Your beautiful family and friends. Your senses, your body, your mind, your intellect, your eagerness to learn, your house, your food, your transport, your safety.

We should also appreciate our mothers more! It’s strange that I get all the attention, when she was the one who struggled for 9 months to get me here. Our anniversary with the womb should certainly focus on our moms.

I also realized that being grateful is a lot more than just words, it’s also based on action. How much you’re willing to do for other people, is a form of gratitude.

Service

The reason I bring up service so often, is because I think it’s combining the realization of death and gratitude; forming a legacy.

How else are we to find fulfillment on this chaotic little blue planet?

When we’re able to serve a cause greater than ourselves. When we’re able to serve those around us out of pure love. When we’re trying our best to be better people. When we’re trying our best to facilitate the growth of other people.

How do you want to be remembered?

That question brings about the notion of legacy. Not from an egotistical POV, but from a rather humbling aspect. What are the values and causes that you want to be remembered for? People won’t always remember what you say or do, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.

Use your birthday to reflect over your relationship with yourself, with others, with the present moment and most importantly with God.

I use posts like these to serve as reminders. We’re naturally forgetful beings, it’s what helps us stay sane (or insane). Remember that you will die. Remember that now is all you have. Remember to help others. Remember to be thankful.

Death!

Ahh, the topics seem to be getting more and more interesting hey? Trigger warning in advance for people who might find this topic a sensitive issue. I do not intend on writing in a dreadful or pernicious manner but rather in an eye opening or inspirational way.

For those of you that spend enough time with me, you’ll know that I often use death as motivation. It’s also been a recurring theme in the past few posts, considering how often I mention memento mori. In this post, I’m going to dive into my personal view on how we can use the realization of death to our advantage, not only to live life to its fullest, but to also help gain a deeper psychological understanding of our own behaviours.

Just as with change, death is inevitable; resistance is futile. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is an incredible book which emphasizes the importance of the present moment. Again and again, I can’t tell you how vital it is to implement that form of mindfulness in your life. Keeping death in mind healthily, is probably the ultimate form of being present. When we understand that now is all we have, and that we could die at any moment, we open ourselves to living more meaningfully. Considering the only guarantee we have in life, is that we’re going to die. The point isn’t to get anxious or worried about it, but rather to appreciate everything and everyone much more.

Have you ever realized how we create problems and situations for ourselves, even when everything seems to be going okay? On a subconscious level, think of how often we try to escape our own thoughts and ideas, from the fact that we’re so temporary. We tend to complicate things for ourselves all the time and find different ways to keep our minds occupied. If you’re into philosophy, you’ll often notice that many of the discussions revolve around our deep and hidden anxiety regarding death. This is something that we don’t truly understand, yet it has such a profound impact on our day to day interactions. So when faced with unforeseen emotional turbulence, ponder on why it’s affecting you as much as it is. I just mean that there’s a lot of unnecessary distraction that we create for ourselves, and being aware and more thoughtful of where it’s arising from could help deal with it.

So, how can we use this thought process to motivate or inspire us?
More than anything, when you’re in difficult situation: overwhelmed, stressed, panicked or depressed, embrace that it will be temporary. Remind yourself that this too shall pass!
Prioritize what’s important to you by following your dreams, leaving your comfort zone & keeping in mind that we only have one shot at this! So
how could you not give it your all? Picture yourself on your death bed from time to time, and think: How would I want to feel at that moment? Remember that we regret the chances we didn’t take, not the ones we took and failed at. So don’t let fear stop you from chasing your goals. Don’t let fear keep you in your unhappiness, we seriously don’t have time to waste on that.

From an Islamic point of view (my religious practice), this world is meant to be a temporary transition. The hereafter is what ultimately matters; what we’re meant to be striving for. Our prayers include: not making this world / life our biggest priority. When we dig into the essence of this, it makes sense… Everyone that has ever preceded us, everyone that will ever follow, is so temporary and so unimportant in the greater scheme of things. How does it then make sense for us, to think that we’re the centre of the universe and that we won’t be accountable for all that we do on this planet? Does being rich and famous really matter? Can you take anything materialistic with you when you’re gone? We need to focus more on leaving a positive impact on the world. To give people something to remember, not to merely be remembered.

The beauty of Islam is that it emphasizes peace and forgiveness as much as possible. Especially because we don’t know how long we’re going to be here for. Being kind to your neighbours, giving charity, assisting those in need, gaining knowledge, smiling to strangers, taking care of yourself. These are all actions which are highly valued and rewarded; where it’s accounted for in the afterlife. It brings me back to the main point, if we don’t know how long we’re going to live for, why not be the best possible person you can be, to everyone around you? So we need to try and understand and just think about how there’s a lot more to life than just existing, we need to strive to live.

This is where I’m trying to aim the posts in this blog, to difficult conversations and topics that many of us are uncomfortable with thinking and speaking about. So keep these questions in mind, especially when you’re afraid, upset, confused or just unsure. We can all find so much more meaning if we understand how valuable our time is. Keep pushing yourself, do more for others, and picture yourself on your deathbed more often. I have a lot to discuss regarding balance; mind, body & soul. That will be the topic for the next post.