Your Natural Belonging

What if you could look at your life through the eyes of love?

What if you could consider, seriously consider, that there are many things in your life waiting for your attention – the yellow flowers, the way the sunlight kisses the white wall, the unread book, the silent comfort of rinsing the dishes, the echo of your neighbour’s laugh. What if God placed them there deliberately for you to enjoy? How would that change how you feel about yourself, about the value of your happiness and and the naturalness of your belonging? 

You say it’s selfish to think like that, that there is too much suffering to live like that, in rapture, with an open heart.

I say, why hurt yourself more by denying the goodness in your life, by letting a harsh voice rule your tender soul? Why not let gentle murmurs of love and belonging pass unobstructed into the river of your strained endurance? Tell me, what joyful exuberance would be released into the stale, brown stream?

Like a hidden flower you are desperately waiting for the sun to trick you into the wild audacity of blooming. But you don’t see, oh worthy one, how you are clenching the stem of your own growth, obstructing the life-giving flow that would easily nourish you into a relaxed belonging and contentment. Understandably and oh so humanly, you are afraid of empty hands and a broken heart. And so you hold back. And so you tense and hide.
But confound it! Let your heart be broken into a thousand pieces and see how easily tears of joy come to you when a bird presents itself. All these are gifts, all these wonders need you here. Tell me how you see the world when you can allow the thought that another creature’s beauty was meant for you?

Will I Ever Be Happy Again?

Healing from heartbreak

Nothing is urgent. You have time to figure it all out.

Dear friend,

If you are not being honest with yourself in some way, if you stay in a place that’s bad for you, that is harming your soul, there will always be a reckoning. We can postpone it, but we can’t escape it forever. It’s scary, it’s heartbreaking, it’s here, slumbering, waiting for us to see the truth.

You’ve had your heart broken. Grief is good, grief is honest. It’s better than living in an illusion and recycling the same old, harmful patterns. Grief is an opportunity to change, to come back to yourself and listen. For a while, do nothing but listen. Your body needs you, desperately needs you to see the truth. You were harming yourself by staying. You are more than this relationship. You are lonely because you are estranged from yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely understandable. You have done the very human thing of grabbing all your painful emotions and memories and asking someone else to hold them for a while. So you can breathe, so you can feel safe. So you can belong.

Yet somehow handing this kind of power to someone else only offered you temporary relief. Sometimes they would understand, other times they would criticise you or appear indifferent. The understanding felt good, but it only deepened your hunger for love.
Sometimes they would move away from you, distant and cold, and you would panic. You needed them to regulate you, to help you calm yourself.

Now they are gone and you feel anything but calm. You feel lost, alone, desperate, miserable. You need them in your life to feel okay. All this is very normal. You are not weird or wrong for feeling this way. Your barrier between the alive, raw world and yourself is gone. Your distraction from the state of your life is gone. It’s right there, you can see it, and it hurts. You can see how afraid you are to live, to try new things, to stick with them. You compare your own messy life to how other people seemingly have it together and you feel like such a failure. How will anyone ever love you? How will you ever feel happy again?

These are good questions. The future might look bleak. Don’t worry though about that big chunk of life that you envision in your mind as “the future”. Just think about how you can make today a little better. Crying is good. Screaming in your pillow is good. Not wanting to go outside is good. Grabbing a pen and paper afterwards and writing a love letter to the person you lost is good. Crying is good. Watching a movie to distract yourself from the pain is good. Everything has its time and place. What can you do for yourself today? How can you show yourself that you have faith? Faith in your own strength. In the fierceness of life. Faith that each day will bring something good, even if it’s just the relief you feel after a good cry. After a while you might start to see that the only question that really matters is: how can I show myself that I’m worthy of love? How can I be brave and allow myself to trust that I know what makes me feel alive and happy? How can I forgive myself for the stumbles on the road? How can I open my mind and my heart to my full self?

Dear friend, of course I’m jumping way ahead of myself. You are feeling lonely and broken. You desperately want someone to tell you that you will get back together, that you won’t have to live alone. You would rather skip this business of having to carry everything by yourself. You really, really love him/her and it hurts to breathe. I know. It’s okay, totally okay to feel that. Can you take a few deep breaths? Can you trust me when I say that it’s not so important whether you get back together or not right this instant? Can you breathe a little deeper still? That’s the only thing you need to know right now: there is time to figure it all out. It’s going to be okay even if you don’t contact him/her today. There is time to breathe, to cry, to watch a good movie, to read a book, to take a walk. You are not alone. Life will always carry you, it will not let you fall. Trust me, there is time.

Now that you know this, what is the next right thing you can do for yourself?

Healing is

Healing is

taking all the time you need to recover, to discover all your buried feelings and desires.
to not rush into decisions out of fear,
to not delay on decisions out of fear.
to give yourself space and stretches of time where nothing has to happen,
where you can just sit and listen to the silence.
Let your emotions go through you,
I know they can be very scary.
The panic, the hurt, the fear and despair.
But do you remember the feeling of relief when the sun appears proudly
after a whole day of rain, and brightens up the whole room?
That’s how joy will return to you when you face those scary feelings
and give them room.
Some days you’ll desperately want to distract yourself
and that’s okay too.

Healing is
taking responsibility for the things you can change,
believing that you can change,
that nothing is hopeless,
that there might be a brighter future ahead.

Healing is
being okay with not being okay all the time.
crying when you need to.
putting yourself first
saying goodbye



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The first rays of this golden light

There is a grace in nature
which heals the broken-hearted
by the gentle rays of the morning sun,
the melodic swaying of the trees,
an overdose of beauty which fills
the heart with awe and tenderness
for the power which tries so hard
to please us all.

It’s only far away from the bustling cities
and utilitarian traces of humanity
that I can feel the cosmos wishing us well.
It’s only there that I can begin to feel
at ease again.

Morning in all its golden glory is
the most precious time of day.
It’s God whispering to us that we
matter so much to her that she created the sun
for us, and she created winter
so that the first rays of this golden light
would delight us forever.

This, of course, is a questionable thought
which only fresh mornings such as these
can possibly justify.

Time is Precious

It is very important to not give in, to not give up on your precious time.
Your job might steal many hours of your day, but you must not let them win.
Who? The people around you who never want to do more than necessary,
who dissuade you whenever you want to do more.
Do more.
You have a soul,
you used to be little once, starry-eyed and full of dreams.
What happened to that little girl?
Did she sigh and disappear?
Did you protect her fiercely, telling her she had the right to dream?
Which talents do you have? Be honest, be determined.
You must not let the old bitter people win.

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If You are Not Part of The Solution, You’re Part of The Problem

So apparently a lot of people these days have an opinion on Islam. Because they follow the media and have read a Qur’an verse here and there, they consider themselves experts and spout their intolerant, hateful opinions as if what they say has any value to contribute. It’s always “amusing” (although not really) to discover the extent of their ignorance when questioned.

So yes, everybody has a right to their opinion these days, but if you can’t prove that your opinion is a genuinely informed one rather than your intolerance, self-righteousness and “there-is only-one-truth-and-that -is-my-own” worldview masquerading as substance, then I don’t want to hear it. You are part of the problem of violence, intolerance and extremism the world is facing today and I’m more interested in people who are part of the solution.

So what is an informed opinion? If you answer the following questions in the negative, you have more reading and research to do, I’m afraid.

  • Have you read the Qur’an front to cover? Have you compared different translations? (Because of course you are aware that reading a translation is reading an interpretation and that’s why Muslims only consider that you have read the Qur’an when you have read the Arabic original.)
  • Have you read Fazlur Rahman’s Major Themes of the Qur’an?
  • Have you read an (objective!!) book on the biography of Muhammad and the historical context of the Qur’an?
  • Have you talked to an actual Muslim and listened with an open mind to what he/she has to say about his/her faith?
  • Do you know what tafsīr is? (Dare I ask, have you read some?)
  • Do you know the sources Islamic fiqh or law is based on? Are you aware that it’s based on more than the Qur’an alone?
  • Are you aware that there is an enormous ḥadīth corpus or narrations about the Prophet’s life that inform Muslims about how the Qur’an should be interpreted? Do you know how Muslims separate authentic narrations from weak ones?

I better stop here before I become too demanding. I think it’s clear that most people who have very strong opinions on the subject can’t even answer ‘yes’ to one bullet point and that is tragic. It’s tragic because terrorist organisations like IS want people to be misinformed, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, so they can use this growing enmity between them for their own selfish purposes. The more hostile the Western countries treat Muslims, the more they can convince some of those banished Muslims to join their ranks. If you think you are opposing IS by hating Islam and ignorantly slandering it, you are very sadly mistaken. You are playing right into their hands.

Gethsemane

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe
the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,
maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

– Mary Oliver, Thirst

Is stepping outside of your comfort zone a luxury?

3ff3f9fd5ff3e9ddcbb837c4ee803140Ah, the comfort zone. The place you are not supposed to hang out much of the time if you want to be happy, or so internet quotes and motivational articles claim. You are supposed to take risks and explore new territory, not sit at home and keep on doing the same things you’ve been doing since forever.
I feel very ambivalent towards this notion of stepping outside of your comfort zone. First, it implies that you actually have a comfort zone, meaning you live in a country where there is peace, financial security and food enough for everyone. Second, that this comfort zone has become so tedious and permanent that you now need to step outside of it or die of boredom and stagnation. Which makes the whole concept a motivational speech for spoiled people. Yes, I said it. We all need to think more about how much we have to be grateful for, because the majority of the world population wish they could be in your place, in your boring and oh-so-routine comfort zone with the I-phone and cable tv.
Not only that, but if you’ve been a victim of any kind of trauma, suffer anxiety attacks, are highly sensitive or feel profoundly unsafe in the world for whatever reason, you might actually welcome the idea of an anxiety-neutral place where you feel completely at home, where nothing changes and “where your uncertainty, scarcity and vulnerability are minimized” (definition of Brené Brown). Why can’t we have that place to go to and take shelter? Why are we almost shamed into having to go outside of it and live an extraordinary life? What if I want to be ordinary and justwell, safe? What if my ordinary life is already more than I ever expected to have?

I realise it’s probably a question of how you define your comfort zone. But if we use a bit of logic here, the moment your comfort zone becomes uncomfortable, for example by staying in an abusive relationship or a job you absolutely despise because you think the unknown might be worse, is the place you are at still your comfort zone or does your comfort zone actually lie outside the life you are currently living? Surely these situations would give anyone a lot of anxiety and other painful emotions which are usually not included in the definition of what a comfort zone is.

I’m most certainly not against people challenging themselves or working hard to achieve a certain goal. But do you really need to quit your job to write that novel? Do you really have to burn all your bridges in order to start a new business? Do you really have to invest all your money and take such a big risk? You can have your passion, but not that dangerous sense of entitlement. In a world where people get cancer, die of starvation, are violently tortured, murdered, bullied and enslaved (and not because they are thinking negative thoughts) you are not owed success or an income to live on just by taking a huge risk. It might happen, yes. And if it does, good for you. But be smart and have a safety net, that seems like the most loving thing to do for yourself to me. And above all, remember that if you are safe, healthy, have enough food and clean water and a roof over your head, you are already blessed beyond measure. Never, ever forget that.

I cannot endure one moment without You

My Beloved,
By Your leave and unceasing attention
my  heart continues to beat.
I cannot endure one moment without You.
You are my hope, my saviour.
There is only You to turn to.
How exalted are You, how infinite and
far-reaching Your glory.
I love You with all my heart.
How rich is Your beauty, how heavy
and all-encompassing Your mercy.
Words cannot describe Your majesty.

I believe in You, in Your power, wisdom,
fierce and gentle love.
You sustain me and I’m grateful.
My Lord, only You can heal my wounds
and grant me the safety and connection
I so desperately seek.
I turn to You with all my heart.
Please save me from my despair and depression.
Let me know love and belonging.
If you do not help me, love me and forgive me
I will certainly be among the lost.
Help me to bloom and thrive, dear God. Please
help me to be happy & grateful and to do
good in the world.

Amīn.

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The Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

– Mary Oliver, Thirst