Oh, Those Emotional Roller Coasters

Dedicated to anyone who likes roller coasters and metaphors.

IMG_6577

The function of a roller coaster is to make you forget the world for a few minutes as your body is taken on an exhilarating adventure meters higher in the air than you are accustomed to. Not only do you approach cloud #9 physically, but you do so mentally as well. The thrilling sensation created by the exciting anticipation of being suddenly rotated around a circular track with the physics of centripetal force has your emotions at maximum intensity.


Now I just described one of my favorite amusement rides: the physical roller coaster.

But what do people mean when they say they are on an emotional roller coaster? Well, I cannot speak on their behalf, but I can certainly speak on mine.

In a physical roller coaster, things are simple.

  • There is a starting location, and an end location.
  • There is a set timing for how long each ride will last.
  • Because there is a designated person controlling the ride, you can be assured that you’ll get by in one piece,
  • Get all the way through,

And all you must do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

Emotional roller coasters are a little more complicated.

Whereas a flux of various emotions are experienced on the physical ride – suspense, excitement, fear, joy, and so forth – they are all validated, expected, and hence most warmly welcomed as the norm.

But life often puts you in circumstances that you cannot see what the end result looks like, situations that you do not know how long your nerves must be put to the test, and something seems to go seriously wrong along this metaphorical ride…


You see, in an emotional roller coaster, you are not taken on a complete 360 degree turn; at least not in one swift shot. No no, you are rotated at most 180 degrees from the bottom so that you are now upside down. There is no human controlling this so the “ride” is halted midway for an indefinite period of time. Here you are, just hanging upside down as the blood rushes to your head, and you simply cannot ignore what you can’t stop thinking about.

You realize you’re experiencing a range of complicated emotions, and the more you try to rationalize them, the more sophisticatedly complex they become.


In these awkward circumstances, it can be hard to know how to feel and remain in an internally balanced state. The only way to do this is to remind yourself, for your own sake, that although there isn’t a human controlling this whirlwind of a ride, this is all part of a plan from the Best of all Planners.

Once this fact is internalized, it is easier to accept the fact that you’re going to be left hanging upside down, midway on this circular metaphysical track, until you learn to trust in your Creator and His wisdom.

Brace yourself to be content for whatever is to come next.

Oh, those emotional roller coasters. Might as well learn to enjoy the ride while I’m on it.

Gears

And Allah knows best.

-A.S.

Advertisements

Leash For My Heart

Staircase Break

I found myself musing this week over the state of my heart when it wanders off.

Sometimes I’m on something I can only liken to a spiritual high. Not the highest, surely… but it is close to what I imagine bliss to feel like. There’s simply nothing that is able to shake me away from this tranquility, happiness and love.

But sometimes it’s not that magical. You wake up and all you can think about is the one topic, the one subject, that you know you shouldn’t even be stressing about… because it’s not in your control. You’ve done all you can do, and what’s left on your part is tawakkul. (Oh, that powerful one word: tawakkul… you’d think it would be as easy to carry out as it is to write.)

The heart is a wondrous thing, it can be pulled in such extremely opposite directions that I often wish I had some sort of mystical leash that I can wrap around it.

(Here, little hearty… come back here! You’ll hurt yourself.)

But sadly, these useful leashes do not exist.

Or do they?

Rope of God

I love metaphors because it gives me an opportunity to reflect deeply on them as my imagination runs wild. Since what popped out instantly to me in this verse is the idea of rope of God, I allowed my thoughts to leap across mountains & fly through the clouds, until something settled and made a little sense in my consciousness.

(Please be aware I am representing no opinions here but my own. And I am not a scholar of any sort.)

What if we were all people stuck at the bottom of a pitt, needing to be rescued? The presence of the rope alone will not benefit you – you must take action, grab the rope and climb it.

Good grip? Still not enough; you have to hold firmly with conviction. You must hold on to it with certainty, without ignorance or blind faith. You may not see what is at the other end of the rope, but you are confident it’s a way out. To do it half-heartedly and without passion is very dangerous; slipping off the rope is always there as a risk, if you don’t believe with all your might that holding on is worth it.

The rope of God”.  

Could the rope be the combination of the Qur’an & the Sunnah? Islam is inward and outward. If you don’t act while knowing something is the truth, you simply won’t benefit and will continue to wallow in your own self-pity. You’ll be stuck at the bottom of the pitt with the rope dangling down to you, but if you don’t have faith that what you have leads you to the Light, to tranquility & bliss, why would you bother holding onto the rope and climbing it to possible disappointment, gaining nothing more than blisters along the way?

Islam is not something you can have blind faith in. Sure, there are certain metaphysical matters you may need to take a leap of faith – with the understanding that humans are souls that are trapped in physical bodies, and thus, we do not and cannot perceive all. Yet we are given enough to see, to observe, and to contemplate whether Islam’s final Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) is truly a sign from God, and is truly a mercy to mankind. It turns out, for me at least, he is. Grabbing onto that rope is suddenly a means to an end, and not the end goal itself.

Now suppose you are at the bottom of a pitt of hopelessness, but your dilemma is not faith-related. Rather, it is something worldly… your career is going downhill. You are overwhelmed with a million things you have committed to with very little time on your hands. Relationship problems. Health declining. Self-esteem. And much more…

The heart may wander off far away from you seeking reassurance to these things, and the biggest problem is, without control over your heart, you know it’s getting even more lost and in despair. All you can think is how useful it would be to have a rope around it… and drag it back where it should be… Where heart agrees with mind…

That rope. The rope of tawakkul. Are you finding it? Look for it, but remember that it may not only be dangling before your eyes, but it might even be inside of you.

Inward and outward. Hope also comes from within yourself.

Bouquet

And Allah knows Best.

A.S.

Water Is Patient

f27

~ “Water does not resist. Water flows.

When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress.

Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.

Water is patient.

Dripping water can wear away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water.”

(Margaret Atwood)

From a Niche to a Rib Cage

*All references from Nouman Ali Khan.

You may be familiar with this mesmerizing verse of the Quran:Image

Let’s break it down, shall we?

First off, I am a visual person so I needed to draw out what I was hearing from this RIS2013 talk. Sadly, my notes look like a bunch of scribbled words all over the place, so I’ll reveal it at the end of the post when you can easily look at it and know exactly what all the scribbles mean.

Nouman Ali Khan starts off by explaining in detail what the basic translation of the ayah is; then he proceeds to make a fascinating connection that will leave you breathless with amazement! (Stay tuned.)

~

  • “The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp”

Never forget that God cannot be explained or understood fully through a human’s mind… He is much too Great, Glory to He, for our limited minds to comprehend Him. Nonetheless, in His mercy, He knows that those who love Him strive to know Him, and gives us examples to help us relate to the reality of things. 

Like a niche“: A niche is an arch-like spacing in a wall to allow for a lamp to be placed within it. The shape of the niche is constructed such to allow for light placed within it to spread outwards. Here is a visually appealing example of a niche with a lamp inside it:

Image

  • “the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star”

It’s nothing new that the lamp should be made of glass… but for the glass to be shimmering and luminous like a pearly white star, even before a flame is lit up inside of it? Hmm! So the lamp itself, flameless, is almost lighting up on its own. It’s pearly white, clean, pure.

*Note: the word used for lamp in the Quran is ‘misbaah’, which comes from the root word ‘subh’. ‘Subh’ means dawn, but it can also mean to be alert and awakened (“asbe7!”)

  • “star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west”

Now note: the lamp is inside a niche, which is inside a building. Yet Allah tells us in this example that the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree; trees are outside. Blessed things are from outside this world. This lamp is indoors, yet its source comes from outdoors… interesting point to keep in mind.

Image

Note:

the word used in the Quran for oil is ‘zayt’,

which comes from the word of olive oil,

‘zayt zaytoon’.

  • “whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire”

Not only is the glass itself seemingly glowing without a flame, but so is the oil without the spark! Two sources of luminous matter interacting… what results in…

“Light upon light.”

and we know that

“Allah guides to His light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is Knowing of all things.”

And now to blow your minds away. (Metaphorically speaking, that is.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a moment to look at my scribbles below: they should make some sense now.

Image

Prepare for a paradigm shift.

Look within yourself.

You have a rib cage. Inside the rib cage is the heart. Inside the heart is the ruh (or spirit).

Picture this:

  • RIB CAGE = niche
  • HEART = lamp
  • FUEL = ruh

Mind = blown!

Just as a niche’s purpose is to spread light outwards, so is our duty to spread our inner light out.

Just as the lamp is clean and shimmery, so is the heart initially at the time of birth; clean, flawless and bright.

Just as an unkempt lamp will get dusty with time, so does a heart rusty with sins or consistent in refraining from doing any good for the soul.

Just as the lamp is lit from the oil of a blessed tree, so are you, an ordinary earthly human being, lit up by something otherworldly, an outside source… by God Himself…

And just as the oil is initially luminous and blessed, so is your ruh… because it comes straight from Allah SWT. It is your essence, and if you do not actively keep a spark near it to light up your and others’ surroundings, then your inner light is of no benefit.

“The believer and his heart is necessary for dark times… What’s the point of a lamp if it doesn’t light its surroundings?” (Nouman Ali Khan)

Light upon light: the light of your ruh, and the light of Revelation.

May Allah guide us all to His light!

Image

-A.S.