Asalaamu ‘alaikum sister! I hope that you are well and feeling alert as you are reading this. On a scale of one to ten, how good is your concentration? Do you find that you are usually alert and present, or do you find yourself drifting off when you could be focusing on something in front of you? Many of us spend a great deal of time in our heads, instead of our lives. Our attention may be on past memories, recent events or even planning for the future. Looking backwards or forwards is a natural human habit, and we do this for a variety of reasons. However, I’ve discovered that by doing this, we avoid living and appreciating the present moment and the stage of life that we are in right now. This isn’t about it being right or wrong; it is just about making the best of what we have, which is this very moment. So let’s explore a few ways in which we can begin to appreciate where life has brought us right now. Insha Allah, we will be able to cultivate greater fulfilment in this way.
Notice the gift of the present
If you spend a lot of time reflecting or planning, then know that is has become an unconscious habit. Our habits, though useful, may also present some limitations and hold us back without us realising. So, if you would like to experience more joy in your life, then the first step is to reconnect with what the present moment feels like. Let’s remind ourselves of two very important things. The first is that the past is gone, and we can’t bring those moments back even if we would like to. The second is that the future hasn’t arrived yet, so in one way or another it is still uncertain. What we do have is the very moment that we are living, and once this moment passes, it will be in the past. We will not be able to appreciate it fully if our minds are engaged elsewhere. We need to train ourselves to live in and experience the present moment. I invite you to do the following exercise at the beginning of the day:
Close your eyes and being to breathe deeply. Start to focus on your body. Notice how the tips of your toes feel, your feet, your ankles, your legs, and keep moving upwards to the top of your head. Notice how your clothes feel against your skin. Notice your heart beating; notice any internal sensations that are emerging, reminding yourself that you are living in this very moment that is now. Notice how it feels to be alive right now. When you are ready, open your eyes, and remind yourself to make the most of this very moment.
If you find yourself being easily distracted, then practise this quiet exercise a few times a day. Soon you will find yourself being more aware and alive in the moment.
Another behaviour that stops us from appreciating our current phase of life is the behaviour of comparison. We naturally compare, given the societies that we live in. It’s either what we have or don’t have in relation to others. What we may not realise is that comparison takes our focus away from appreciating our life and our accomplishments, because we put our whole life up against something else. Even if that something isn’t as good in our opinion, the comparison is unfair. Remember, you are unique. There is only one of you that looks, thinks, feels and acts exactly like you – yes, that’s you! You share similarities with others, but you are unique.
Take some time to write down some of the things that make you who you are. Also, write down some of your experiences that have brought change or given meaning to your life. Write down how you responded and what you’ve learned. Now, think about the current phase of life you are in. What are you doing now that only you can do? When we learn to appreciate ourselves for who we are, only then can we appreciate our lives in the same way.
What’s the opportunity in the challenge?
If you’re going through a rough patch, then the present moment may be the last place you want to be. It can be challenging to appreciate life when all you notice are problems. So, what do you do? Do you keep thinking about the past when things were better? Do you focus on the future and just keep plugging away? Just do the best you can with the resources you have. One thing that may make it easier, is if you spend some time really looking for the things you’ve learned during these challenging times. For example, if you are having financial challenges, then you may have figured out ways to be more economical. If it’s relationship issues you’re facing, you may have become more patient. Write down some of the new skills that you’ve learned during this time. There may be some opportunities to learn new ways of being as well. Take a few moments to ask yourself the following questions:
• What is the opportunity hidden within this challenging time?
• How may I handle these challenges in the most empowering way possible?
• How might I make the most of the experiences that I am having right here, right now?
You will find that keeping your mindset productive will give you the information you need to appreciate and make the most of any phase of life you’re in.
Accept your current stage
Life is rarely at a standstill. Even when it feels like things aren’t moving, we will discover changes occurring when we look underneath the surface. Age brings wisdom, but it also brings with it some changes in our physical abilities. We may find that we aren’t able to do quite as much as we were able to do before. This can come as a bit of a shock, and many of us may tend to resist getting older. So, how do we make this process a little easier? Practice acceptance of where you are right now. Say these words out loud: “I am accepting how things are right now. I am accepting my current stage, just as it is.” Acceptance will bring a sense of relief.
The next step is to find new things to focus our attention on. Think about what you are now good at, something that perhaps you weren’t a master of when you were younger, and find something that utilises those skills. Focusing our attention towards something productive will make this stage of life as equally rewarding as the ones before.
I hope that you will find my tips helpful in developing a deeper appreciation for life. I hope that we will all find a sense of peace and fulfilment through every stage of life, insha Allah. My very best wishes to you on your continuing journey.
Sayeda Habib works with sisters to inspire them to find solutions to everyday problems and to change their lives for the better. If you want to get in touch with Sayeda, log on to www.makelifehappen.com, call +44(0)207 402 0786 or email Sayeda@makelifehappen.com.