18 Ramadan 2012: Life Starts …

For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be. – John Connolly

… at birth, no pun intended of course!

There is a small link between today’s post and yesterday’s in respect to how a friend can emerge as a mentor / coach. A friend of ours said: ‘When I thought back in my life I always saw that I would eventually be involved with xxx’. That immediately rang a bell in our head as we discover with you the way to sustainable inner peace. Not that we didn’t hear such statements before, but we believe that words are just like signs, they emerge when they are most needed or relevant.

The bottom-line is that statements like life starts after college, or life starts at 30, or life starts at 50, are simply not true. Life starts when we are born, and the reality is that the average life span on earth is 71 years*, and to say that life starts any time after we are born is depreciating and disconnecting a life that is closely linked and connected … from day 1.

So we ask on this blessed night, let us re-connect (narrow down) our lives again and think back as far as we can remember, what did we like to do? What did we want to do when we grow up? Who did we like to be around? What were our words like? However, instead of focusing on the functions, skills, qualities or “titles”, may be we should search for a sphere (broad) we were naturally inclined to. Was it the sphere of people? Was it the sphere of improvement? Was it the sphere of happiness? Was it the sphere of helping others? Was it the sphere of reflection? Was it the sphere of communication? Was it the sphere of discovery?

May god bless us all with clarity in order to identify how best we can achieve our life purpose within our ‘sphere of comfort’ using the skills and talents that we have.

* (UN Stat Division, Dec 2011)
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17 Ramadan 2012: Teach Me

Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher. – Japanese Proverb

With a mentor, inner peace is a reality. Without a mentor, one feels alone with no one to turn to as a supportive, independent yet critical presence that uplifts and motivates.

There are many different kinds of mentors or coaches. First of all, some may be alive and some not. Yes … they may not be with us today but have left behind knowledge that gives us the right support we seek. Secondly, mentors may be consciously chosen or naturally occurring as in the case of friends or colleagues who touch our hearts and give us advice that is golden. Thirdly, one mentor cannot do it all, instead, mentors cover specific spheres in one’s life based on their experiences. Finally, and most importantly, all (both mentor and mentee) must have an intention that is nothing but to teach and learn respectively.

As we write this post, we wanted to acknowledge our Prophet Mohammad PBUH and all other Prophets including Abraham, Jesus, and Moses, for being awesome mentors through their stories. We also wanted to acknowledge all other teachers and mentors who have given us wise, critical and/or harsh words that set us straight on the path to sustainable inner peace.

The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. – Alvin Toffler

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction. – John C. Crosby

Mentor: Someone whose hindsight can become your foresight. – Anonymous

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15 Ramadan 2012: Gold

Renounce the world and Allah (god) will love you, and renounce what people possess and people will love you. – Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessings Upon Him)*

Fifteen days since the start of Ramadan 2012 and our search for sustainable inner peace continues.

Let’s admit it, we cannot and do not want to, live in isolation. We live with families, neighbors, colleagues and society in general and it is of natural human disposition to want to be loved by others. However, people dynamics can sway one so far away from inner peace that only isolation could help dissect confusion. Yes, we have discussed people’s kindness, their stories, their positive influence, but there is also a dark side, so we were wondering, how could we win both life and life hereafter while at the same time be loved by others? In other words, and in the spirit of the Olympics and London 2012, to win gold?

The quote above was the key to our reflection. The official translation uses the word renounce and we wanted to know more. We found that renounce here would signify a state where one voluntarily gives up or turns away from loving or wanting control of that which is with people either in material possessions or personal traits. In other words, letting go of jealousy and envy. Granted, we are not talking about how to (nor should we want to) be popular and ‘friends’ with everyone for that also leads to confusion and shallow relationships. However, if we didn’t care about what people had, we guess that we wouldn’t care to enter into competition with them, and competition is what creates disharmony and discomfort with both oneself and others.

We ask god on this blessed night to bless us with the satisfaction to compete with our own selves and if we compete with others, compete on the basis of doing good and getting closer to god and accept, after hard work, that which is preordained to us.

* Hadith #31 of Imam An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths. Quote is PBUH’s answer to: “A man came to the prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah (god), direct me to an act which, if I do it, [will cause] Allah to love me and people to love me.”
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9 Ramadan 2012: Hammer Away

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working. – Unknown 

… it’s not easy, we admit it but we must also admit that it is the only way. When it seems like we have tried every way to accomplish a goal or find an out to a tough situation or we simply can’t “breathe” anymore, we must try to find the small speck of hope in our hearts that will move us forward and help keep us hammering away until, maybe … just maybe, it is the right nail that will keep us elevated.

Thankfully, we believe that our lives are logical. As we face challenges and situations that need decisions, we believe that there is only one tool available, reliance on god which is defined as ‘consistently taking the necessary and available steps to achieve a goal or resolve an issue and subsequently, putting trust in god and putting affairs in his hands for the outcome’. We are thankful for it because otherwise, we may continue to feel down and lazy blaming destiny without taking any steps or we would take on unnecessary personal blame and responsibility for an outcome that does not immediately resolve an issue.

We dedicate this blog for both of us to set a vision and keep going, keep pressing and keep our chin up for we never know when all things will fit in place and we never know what great times are awaiting us. This is true and this is real and we leave you with this …

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge

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4 Ramadan 2012: Purity

A clean heart is a free heart – Mother Teresa

Having asked god to help us see the truth irrespective of our ideals in last night’s entry, we couldn’t skip over what we understand is a critical factor in making this happen, a state of purity, that is, in the heart.

As we go through life observing, listening and reflecting, we find that the need to have a pure heart comes up time and time again especially when our state of “inner peace” is shaken. This is because without purity, one cannot put aside ideals and self-built restrictive boundaries that are as a result of unexposed and unresolved “diseases” in our hearts ranging from hypocrisy, arrogance, jealousy, insecurity, etc…

We heard a scholar recently say that the way god answers our prayers when we seek specific character virtues is by exposing us to situations that force us to identify the current state of that virtue in our hearts forcing us to rectify and grow. On this blessed night, within the blessed month’s third of mercy, we ask god to mercifully give us the capability to identify diseases of our hearts, purify them and continue cleansing them until we acquire a set of good virtues.

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1 Ramadan 2012: On your mark, get set … BRAKE!

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Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Last year, we started on a path of discovery to understand what Ramadan 2011 was all about, and our reflections highlighted that it was all about:
individual motivation and improvement,
to reach societal elevation and advancement,
to instill compassion, kindness and justice in all of humanity.
This year, we aimed to start in a similar fashion, however, our heart continued to push us in the opposite direction. Instead of a path of discovery, we found ourselves leaning towards stopping, reflecting, and searching for an answer.
In Ramadan 2012, we want sustainability … or at least the possibility of sustainable inner peace.
I hope that I will be as light to your hearts in Ramadan 2012 as you are to mine.
Salam … PEACE … be upon you and I wish you a Ramadan Kareem, a Ramadan Mubarak and a Ramadan of Light !

Ramadan 29: Individual … Society … Humanity

As we say goodbye to Ramadan 2011, we wanted to express how blessed and humbled we feel that god gave us the strength and the opportunity to share our sincere thoughts with you.

To us, and as we reflected on all posts, Ramadan 2011 was about …

individual motivation and improvement,

to reach societal elevation and advancement,

to instill compassion, kindness and justice in all of humanity.

Eid Mubarak to all of you and until next time inshallah (god willing), we leave you with this thought:

“Do not rejoice the pain and suffering of others, no matter what the form or the case may be, for life is a circle and you never know the dice you will be dealt with. Instead, do your best, support fairness and justice, and depend on the almighty who does not forget.”

Ramadan 18: From the Bottom Up

Verily, We will not change the destiny of a people until they begin to change themselves. – Surah Al-Ra’ad

Does change come from the top down or from the bottom up?

Today’s thought starts from a simple statement from the blessed quran that makes things VERY clear … to change the state of being as a society is an individual process before society, i.e. the bottom up. Actually, this can be applied to any group / individual setting: company / employee, family / relative, team / member, etc…

Don’t get us wrong, we do not advocate that one ignore the external environment. In fact, we believe that one should always look and study the external environment and identify ways to improve it while in parallel, looking within ourselves for improvement for two reasons, A) be the improvement we want to see collectively in our environments, and, B) prepare ourselves for when change in the external environment does take place.

A sidenote however is that this does not only apply in the positive sense, it applies in the negative sense as well. We have heard of organisations once considered ‘happy and effective’ turn a year or two down the road into ‘damaging and beaurucratic’ organisations primarily driven by employees; their attitudes, their values, their ethics and capabilities.

Think about your experiences at the different group / individual levels, have you seen external improvement without individual improvement?

Ramadan 17: What is Right?

God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless. – Chester W. Nimitz

We wondered today about why some refuse to defend what is right or at least acknowledge it? We concluded that it was due to fear, fear of isolation, poverty, etc… ironically, history has shown that after much difficulty and tribulation, those who stick to the truth and to what is right are blessed with strength, love from others and more importantly, love from god.

In our thought process, what we found to be more difficult was knowing what is right to begin with. This, we have found, is becoming more difficult as we are surrounded by lots of “in-betweens”. So we asked, how would we know? We believe gut feel could be one of them. Yes, gut feel. Human beings naturally have this ability to ‘smell’ something that is not right. So we wonder, maybe we should listen to our gut, do research to gain knowledge, and then stay firm.

Another matter that came up was that we cannot stick to what is ‘right’ unless we witness what is wrong, or we are close to it, or have access to information about it since we could mistakenly judge matters and do more harm than good.

Finally, we found that sticking for what is right is best done through consistency, calmness and open-mindedness. Yes, calmness is very important as it is one of the ways to persevere and remain patient until the truth wins. So ultimately, sticking to what is right involves peace within one’s self.

Ramadan 8: Focus Focus Focus

When Ramadan 2011 was confirmed for Monday August 1st, we felt that people were rejoicing more than any other year as if exhaling after holding in a deep breath for the past 8 months. The world has been surrounded by so much negativity lately and it felt like people found solace, hope and relief in Ramadan. Unfortunately, negative news continues. Ramadan is a beautiful and peaceful month and all the challenges associated with it are only here for our benefit to reflect, become stronger and connect with our creator.

Having said that, Ramadan and its objectives have not changed and hence, we must focus focus focus on the aims of the month, on our prayers, on our duaa, on our charity and on helping and connecting with others. So, we wanted to share and summarise some ideas we picked up from people around us and emails that have been passed along in terms of daily recommended actions or guidance with the hope that together, we achieve our objective of leaving Ramadan stronger, more knowledgeable and at peace.

Daily:

1) Morning and evening sayings/prayers, tasbeeh x 100, istighfar (forgiveness) x 100

2) Renew our Ramadan intention seeking god’s forgiveness, mercy and blessings

3) Carry out the five daily required prayers on time and read quran as much as possible

4) Dedicate prayers (duaa) to at least three aspects of our lives we would like to change (for life and life hereafter)

5) Charity even if $1 a day and consider more charity if one did something that was not in the spirit of Ramadan, e.g. gossipping or lying etc… 

Guidance:

1) Seek facts, authenticity, goodness and value in everything

2) Eat as healthy as possible and encouraging family members and friends to do the same

3) Ensure that the annual zakat has been paid (compulsory annual 2.5% charity on one year old liquid assets)

4) Seek opportunities where we can learn from and share our knowledge with others

5) Limit anger, gossip and bad judgement on others

6) Connect with family and friends whom we have not spoken to in a while

7) Limit watching or reading the news …Nothing will happen to us except that which is preordained