Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem,
Assalam alaikum wr wb and wassup, peeps.
Do you guys remember being scolded in school for not paying attention?
Have you ever wondered what it was you were supposed to be paying attention to?
The answer probably arises quite naturally – your studies. As if that ever helped anyway.
But what were you doing really that was so bad? Day-dreaming? Looking out of the window at a beautiful day you were forced to wait to enjoy? Passing notes to your friends?
I wish our teachers had taught us consciousness rather than attention.
I’ve had anxiety problems for a very long time now, probably from when I was in high school.
In university, I took a workshop on mindfulness meditation. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I felt hyper-aware and very blessed. I was so frightened by that degree of consciousness that I decided to abandon it halfway, telling myself I needed to study for my silly finals.
When I entered my working life, the stress grew so quickly I could hardly think. So I started looking for peace where I could find it.
My five daily prayers afforded me a desperately needed respite from the helter-skelter mad rush of daily life. But I needed something more, something I could practice all day, regardless of where I was.
Some months ago, my parents found a beautiful little red toy motorcycle near the dustbin below our apartment building. Some lucky child must have outgrown the thing or a family must have moved out. My 3-year-old niece is a little motorhead – she loves Top Gear and her hero is Jeremy Clarkson. My parents miss her painfully, so they brought the little red motorcycle up to our flat. It sits now on my balcony, having found a very different use.
My niece taught me something about paying attention. What little blessed time I’ve spent with her (she lives in New Zealand), her attention has been entirely focused on the destruction we were causing at that particular moment, whether it was to a chocolate cake, her mother’s vegetable garden or a toothpaste tube. She delighted in the most mundane things – seeds, smudges, flowers, paint. I realized that what was mundane to me was amazing to her – she was seeing the world for the first time.
I’ve been trying to do that lately. Abandon my preconceived notions of familiarity and look at my world with beginner’s mind. I try to look at my neighborhood, my friends, my parents, my car, my life, as if I’m seeing them for the first time, through the eyes of a grown-up child.
In a world overloaded with visual information, I feel like my other senses have been starved. I’ve been spending time sitting on that little red motorcycle on my balcony, closing my eyes and opening my other four senses and thanking God for what I find there.
I’ve discovered some amazing things.
I live opposite a school and I hear the children playing every morning. The sound of children laughing makes me happy. There are layers of sound in our neighbourhood – air-conditioning, cars passing beneath my window, cars on the roads around us, the clank and clink of machinery in a nearby construction site and my favorite, dry leaves rolling on the dry tarmac as if they were alive.
Once I got used to paying attention, I shifted my attention inward to my emotions, a curiously terrifying task. I watched them manifest, usually in my chest, but sometimes in my abdomen too. Anger, frustration, guilt, embarrassment all sit like coiled serpents in my rib-cage, rage radiating outwards even into my shoulders. I discovered their triggers. I eavesdropped on my own inner voice and listened as it formed decades-old judgements, relived past hurts, blamed the usual scapegoats for my challenges. I listened to my inner voice as if it were an old cantankerous friend, that wanted what was best for me, but sometimes really went too far. But that’s okay.
Beneath the din of the city and my own inner monologue was the peace I had been looking for.
What does any of this have to do with writing? Or creativity?
I believe creativity is found in channeling the divine inspiration of the present moment. I don’t believe it’s something inside us – I believe it’s given to us by God. What kind of thoughts are going through you head when you’re creating? What are you feeling? What are your fears?
Just watch, listen and accept what you observe. You may come to realize from some deep part of you that your fears are actually toothless tigers, that in fact, God is on your team and you can’t lose.
That’s what I’ve realized anyway.
Keep laughing, beautiful people. Thanks for stopping by.
La Musulmanne Qui Rit.