I roll the window down and tap my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel as I silently coax the traffic light to turn green. I watch the cars zoom by. My eyes are on the road, but my mind is elsewhere, running through my to-do list for the evening. The light turns green. “Finally,” I mutter to myself. I press hard on the accelerator and turn left wondering how much time was wasted at that intersection. It is only then that I get a glimpse of the sky.
For the first time that day, I slow down. I physically take my foot off the accelerator, and I wipe my mind clean of all of the incessant reminders and futile thoughts. I am mesmerised. A few dark clouds are scattered across a sky of red, orange, and yellow ribbons. I am reminded of Allah’s (SWT) power and mercy, of the beauty in all His creations, of the gifts He has provided. As I continue driving down that long and winding road I glance back up periodically, intrigued that a vibrant sky could transform my tense errand run into a tranquil dhikr session.
Take a moment to consider where your thoughts take you each day, during prayer, while running errands, at work, or in those precious moments before you fall asleep. How much of your time is spent consumed with the frustrations and pains of yesterday or the concerns of tomorrow? I once heard someone say that we need to put the “being” back into ‘human being’ – sound advice even from an Islamic perspective! Several verses of the Qur’an encourage us to engage in mindful reflection:
• The likeness of the life of the present is as the rain which We send down from the skies: by its mingling arises the produce of the earth which provides food for men and animals…Thus do We explain the Signs in detail for those who reflect (Yunus: 24).
• Those who remember Allah, the Most High, standing, sitting and whilst reclining on their sides and who think about the creation of the heavens and the earth, [They say] O our Lord, You have not created this in vain” (Aali-Imran: 191).
• And among His Signs is this: that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: verily in that are Signs for those who reflect” (Ar-Rum: 21).
These verses highlight the importance of awareness. When we are conscious of our surroundings, we are in a position to reflect on the everyday wonders around us. But how can we maintain this consciousness or mindfulness while absorbed in our daily routines?
A useful technique is to identify your personal spiritual soft spots and use them to facilitate spiritual reflection. That afternoon on the road I realised that the sky is my spiritual soft spot. Whether it is a colourful sunset, a clear-blue horizon, a dark ominous cloud, or a bright sunny day, the sky often captures my attention and urges me closer to my Creator.
We all have spiritual soft spots – things that succeed each and every time in bringing us closer to Allah (SWT) through mindful reflection. It may be a surah, your local park, a dua, your prayer mat, a photo of the Ka’aba, your child’s laugh, the feeling of a cool breeze on your face, your masjid, or the memory of a lost loved one. Find your spiritual soft spots and use them to build strength when you are weak, to draw you back towards Islam when you go astray, and to usher in peace when surrounded by chaos. My spiritual soft spots are the sky and Surah-Rahman. What are yours?
Jenna Evans graduated from the University of Toronto in 2014 with a PhD in Health Services Research. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation where she enjoys conducting research on how to improve the coordination and quality of health care.