Source: The Muslim Sunrise, the very first Muslim quarterly of North America: The Muslim Sunrise, Spring 2018 volume
By Rabia Salim
As a parent and now a teacher, a term that I have come across a lot in the classroom over the last five years is mindfulness, and it makes me think of yoga and meditation. I first came across yoga in high school in a ladies group in the UK, and even then it was seen as a beneficial practice mentally and physically. Many instructors have walked through the doors of my children’s Montessori classroom and given the children a quick class in making animal shapes with their body. They would practice breathing techniques, and, my favorite, silence!
The main reason I chose to write an article about spiritualism with my brush with yoga is that mindfulness is a definite buzzword in the realm of education and psychology these days.
Very briefly, I recently read that certain social behaviors have the same effect as cocaine on our brains; for example, sugar consumption (1) and smartphone use (2). These learned behaviors make the brain light up with pleasure, and the effect is addictive, we reach for our phones or a sugary snack when this dopamine in our brains starts to dip. Although drugs have a greater negative effect on the body than sugar, this is still an important point. Mindfulness and meditation allow a person to be present, with all the pain and suffering, or anguish that is part of the nature of existence for a human. Those feelings are allowed to flow through the body and allows it to pass and move on to a positive human state, whereas addictive behaviors try to block any negativity completely, making a human, in my opinion into a trained rat.
For example, in the Holy Qur’an talks about peace and still during prayer time (3), “It is all peace till the rising of the dawn.” The peace mentioned here is about the mental peace that believers feel even in the midst of hardships. Peace during Prayer allows all feelings to flow and ebb. In Islam, there are five formal Prayers in one day, and each Prayer lasts about ten minutes. Nowadays recent research is enlightened with the benefits of mindful meditation. The Prayer prescribed in Islam provides that effect of meditation also.
There are parallels between organized religion and spiritualism, but there has been an overall decline in people with particular religious affiliation (4). People’s internet use correlates with an open religious affiliation, but they are still open to many different spiritual practices. And as I mentioned earlier, in psychology and education, even in corporate fields, spiritualism is a term that people are extremely aware of. For example, in psychology, mindfulness is seen as crucial in helping people with anxiety and
depression as the practice of this can fight off stress. In education, teachers are seeing its benefits for children. In the primary school, I worked at last year, a minute of silence did the trick to calm children’s excitability. However, it works even better when the techniques are consistent and frequent, so we would share our work with the parents too, to make it worthwhile. In the corporate world, like Google, there was an article in 2013 about why employees of Google were meditating (5), and the reasons were all positive effects on well-being. The effect was more resilient, focused and emotionally intelligent individuals. Emotional intelligence helps people form stronger relationships with people and to understand their colleague’s motives, a giant plus in the workplace!
In a Muslim Times article, Dr. Zia Shah also quotes this spirituality and that there is less affiliation to organized religion, yet, the search for spirituality is real, and some populations are more open to discover the benefits of meditation. (6) This population is the young Millennials, and they would use it as a means to gain spirituality and happiness of mind. The article suggests that chanting scriptures, like the Qur’an, as well as philosophers’ sayings, or mantras as in some traditions, is another useful meditative
practice. Indeed the Islamic five daily Prayers, at ten minutes per Prayer repeats Arabic phrases from the Holy Qur’an and it is like meditation in my experience. It has the benefit of being highly spiritual as well because the focal point is God.
Read further on page 18 of this volume: The Muslim Sunrise, Spring 2018 volume