With hardship, comes ease

When life suddenly takes a course that wasn’t foreseen, how do we react? When the unthinkable happens, do we crumble and fall or do we rise like a phoenix from the ashes and face the challenges that life presents with a renewed spirit?

Upon reflection, I feel that in recent years, challenges seem to have become ever more present in my life; challenges that seemed to have increased in intensity. The feeling of intense heart ache, pain and loss enveloped my being in a way I had never envisaged.  To be bombarded with a plethora of emotions, yet wear a ‘mask of normality’ to face the external world is a facade that many of us are familiar with.

Sometimes, I feel like saying – I am but a weak mortal, please, no more – but then, is that me attaching negative labels, to excuse the need to wallow in my sorrow? ‘But I’m human!’ I hear myself say, wanting to release tears with the thought these may relieve the burden in my heart.   Yet, when I close my eyes and connect with my Lord, I see a smiling face; I feel I am being held. I still have the need to allow my tears to flow, yet these tears have within them appreciation for the love I feel from my Lord.

Needing to wallow, to face the negative emotions is very much needed to enable healing to take place. This results in acceptance – the hardest phase, leading to release.  This process, I have realised is not linear – it can zigzag with days when feeling low is inevitable.  During this period, I received a lot of positive communication through messages, social media and books –  it was very uplifting. However, It was during one of these ‘low’ days, that I was presented with a verse from the Qur’an, ‘with every hardship, comes ease,’ which I considered communication from my Lord. I pondered upon this verse and realised how much ‘ease’ I had been presented with during my difficulties: family and friends who made the challenges more manageable; health and employment, prayer and contemplation all contributed to the ‘ease’ I felt.

It’s all matter of perspective that alters our perception of a situation. What we focus on is what becomes. We can choose to succumb to the ‘difficulties’ of a situation or begin to clamber out of the darkness, upwards, through gratitude and reflection. It is with these tools, that we become strengthened, resilient and renewed.  View the situation as a lesson – learn, be grateful and move on.  What did that teach me? What do I need to alter?  What is the best way forward?

It is when we are placed in situations of adversity that the heart and mind is able to grow and evolve – to put into practice all that we have learnt. I feel Earth is like boot camp.  We have been placed here to learn lessons, to improve and evolve to our former being – the being that that the Lord created.   The being to whom the angels bowed; the being to whom was bestowed the knowledge of the names of everything (Qur’an 2:34 2:31) It is this level of evolution that we should aim to attain.

Learn, reflect and allow yourself to evolve into the best version of you.

The Secrets of Sound

What is it about music, about  sounds that can have such an impact on on our mood, feelings and even health?

Today, as the adhaan (pronounced azaan) – Muslim call to prayer, was being recited, I really listened to it, and then again, with my eyes closed and I felt the impact the words, the sound and the vibration had on me.  I felt immediately lifted; my mind was in an instant state of meditation and my heart felt elevated.  The peace I felt that radiated from my heart can only be described as pure love, as reverence.

I recalled a clip I had seen about the impact different sounds had on our mind and body related to the frequency the sound emitted.  The frequency of the adhaan is 432hz – a healing tone, where as other, modern music has a frequency of 440hz, which studies have shown as having a negative impact on the water (we are two thirds water) in our body.   After researching this further, I discovered that music/sounds based on 432Hz transmit beneficial healing.  The greatest composers, Verdi, Mozart, based their music on 432 Hz.   This frequency resonates with nature, the universe and healing, which is probably why I was able to instantly access a meditative state.  Modern day instruments are standardised to 440Hz – but who decided this? There are a lot of conspiracy theories about this, hmmmmm. Why not 432Hz, which is more harmonious with the universe and nature…?

Music is sound, which creates waves that vibrate at a certain frequency.  The vibration created by different sounds or words can have a significant impact on the body and the mind. Following the teachings of Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi – my spiritual teacher – mediation always followed zikr or repetition of sacred words: ‘yaheyyo yakayyum’ (The Ever Living, The Self Subsisting) These I have recited for decades but it seems only now that the repetition of these words  seems to have a greater inner impact on my heart and mind; as I listened to this zikr I could feel myself immersed in an immediate meditative state; but it was different; the top of my head was tingling; my heart and mind felt connected as one, synchronised and I was fully absorbed in this wonderful state.

I feel sacred words like Aum/Om (which also  vibrates at a frequency of 432 Hz), like ‘ya’heyyo ya’kayyum’ as well as many others, creates a vibration, which resonates with the universe, the unseen world and creates oneness.  At the moment I feel connected, which is a rather wonderful deep feeling that is difficult to describe in words.   The utterance of sacred words and sounds has an amplification effect on the heart and mind like no other.

Over a decade ago, I experienced miraculous healing for a condition which could only have been corrected by surgery.  After listening to Surah Rehman (from the Qur’an) for a number of days, in a meditative state, the hernia I had, disappeared –  my doctor was astonished and couldn’t explain this.  I believe, the vibration of those words healed me.

There is so much more about sound and vibration; from binaural beats and sound baths to the sacred solfeggio tones – dating back to John the Baptist. They are all about the vibration and energy they stimulate within us to heal, cleanse and uplift so we can explore the inner realms of the heart.


Time is of the essence

Do we really not have the TIME? Is life REALLY that busy? Time, our most precious commodity, that we always seem to say we don’t have enough of. ‘I’m too busy,’  ‘I don’t have the time’.

As a teacher, a previously stressed out teacher, I used to tell myself that I didn’t have the time.  I would start early, finish late and then work from home.  The one gift I felt I didn’t have enough of was ‘time’.  Time to switch off, time to relax, time for myself, my family and my home.  All I had time for was work, stress, and more work.  Before I knew it, the lack of time for myself had taken over, resulting in mandatory time off – with stress and anxiety.

Unfortunately, it took my mind and body to malfunction drastically before I realised I needed to take out time for myself. My mental health was affected and Crohns – which for me was aggravated by stress – also decided to rear its ugly head to the surface.   I think I saw taking time out as non-essential, a luxury – which it most definitely is not.  There was almost an element of guilt if I took time out for myself – my distorted thinking at the time.  It was during this time, that I revisited previous learning and experiences and re-started my journey to improve my mental wellbeing.

Taking time out for yourself isn’t a luxury – it’s essential for health; just as essential as eating and drinking. It’s a preventative measure for preserving your mental and physical wellbeing.  It’s only when I began to take time out for myself – just 10 minutes twice a day to meditate that I realised the importance of it for my wellbeing and everything changed. This not only affected my mental wellbeing but encompassed my physical health too and not a symptom of Crohns remained in sight – and I don’t mean being in remission – I had been there before (with medication) but this was different; I felt restored to my former healthier self and continue to feel so to this day.

I started to work in more challenging environments with an increased work load – but I had time.  Time to do everything to a high standard – I am a perfectionist after all! Time off for myself resulted in more time for me – How was that possible? I didn’t procrastinate, I didn’t stress or overthink – like I used to.  Instead, I was more productive, resilient, creative and content. I managed to do everything more efficiently.

At the moment, my life is busier than ever! I still teach, have my business and have started a new community venture – life is busier than ever but I always take time out for myself.

The difference now is that I prioritise my wellbeing and  thus, take time out for myself.  Making time has resulted in more time because I get things done! Get things done,somehow, more efficiently and it feels fabulous!

Take time out for yourself – 10 minutes twice a day and feel your life change…


The ‘S’ Word

The warmth of the sun felt wonderful this morning whilst meditating in the garden.  As I completed my mediation, my eyes fell upon an ant on the ground.  This lonely ant scuttled speedily in all directions.  It was relentless!  Scuttling from one spot to another, without stopping for a breath. It almost seemed a little lost and confused.  This reminded me of a time when I felt lost, suffering from stress and anxiety and was thankful to how different my life is now.

The ‘S’ word seems to have become all too common. ‘I’m stressed!   That’s stressful! ’ are words we tend to use far too often.  Unfortunately in today’s society, we seem to be faced with challenging situations and find it difficult to cope whether that is because of work, health, relationships, or money pressures.  I too, was in that category and found it very difficult to escape the negative spiral of my thoughts that encompassed my mind like a helpless fly in a tangled web.

Stress is a normal state only when our brain perceives a situation of threat or danger. When this happens, our brain stimulates the part of the brain that is responsible for survival and shuts off anything that isn’t needed including the cortex – part of the brain responsible for higher order thinking. There is an increase in heart rate, breathing and blood pressure ready for our body to fight or flee.  Stress hormones are released which results in a surge of energy in preparation of a response to the threat.   However, our brains are now responding in the same way to non–life threatening situations: pressure of work relationships, and lifestyle are resulting in our hormones wreaking havoc on both our bodies and minds.

The impact of chronic stress is humongous!  You can suffer from: insomnia, fatigue, irritability, increased blood pressure, palpitations, headaches and a lowered immune system – so we feel physically ill!   Because of the constant fatigue, our brain tries to replenish the lost energy by craving carbs! That’s where comfort eating comes in! Our brain function is actually minimalised so we struggle to function effectively, or to make complex decisions.  Stress reduces creativity, memory and motivation so we end up spending longer on tasks and just don’t seem to achieve the result we desire.  Stress affects our brain and body at a cellular level causing mass destruction.

We feel stressed, yet we don’t make changes.  We feel the impact, yet we carry on allowing stress to harm us! Don’t just plod on to the point of a breakdown.

And how does it all start? One negative thought leading to another and another…

Don’t allow the ‘S’ word to take over.

Be aware of the impact of stress and MAKE POSITIVE CHANGES!

To worry or not to worry – that is the question!

Worrying – we all seem to do it and accept it as ‘normal’ behaviour.  But is it? Is it really normal to worry?  I used to worry a humongous amount.  Worry about lesson observations, about my health, not having enough money, time or sleep! Situations haven’t changed but my mind set has, my perception has. I don’t worry anymore or if I do, it’s a minuscule amount. It has almost become a forgotten habit! And I’ve never felt better!

What is worry?  Worry is the distress we feel around an anticipated or specific situation.  We create a story, a narrative around a single situation and blow it out of proportion.  We then apply this distorted thinking to more situations and it becomes a hard wired thought process. Worrying never alters a situation – just our minds!  Research suggests worrying leads to an increase in size of the amygdala or fear centre (not good) and reduces the mass in the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher order thinking (definitely not good).

I recently attended an informal celebration event.  Some guests were running literally four minutes late! The host, worried out of her mind, was ringing these late guests (family of hers) and began to worry even more when they didn’t answer their phones – ‘Why aren’t they answering? What’s happened to them?   What if….’  I was utterly shocked at the extent of her worry – it had unfortunately taken over her.  As a result of this constant worrying, her health was beginning to suffer and symptoms were manifesting physically.  This got me thinking. We worry so much about needless things to the point of mental exhaustion and physical detriment, yet we carry on!

However, this can be reversed as research has demonstrated – through the simplicity of mindfulness. Mindful activities allow us to tame the wild horse of our thoughts.  Our thinking is brought back to the present moment thus allowing the mind to redirect it’s thinking to the calmness of what we are doing at that moment. That could be breathing, eating, movement or meditating.  It really works wonders! But you have to try it REGULARLY for it to be effective.

Give it a go.  Close your eyes and just focus on your breath.   Breathe in and out, without altering your breath, without judgement, become aware of the sensations. Continue this for a few minutes.  Yes, it really is that simple!

Try it and feel the blissful mind that I feel…