In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Continuing on the remembrance of God – I went back recently and added the phrase above (in the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful) to my old posts. It is something I should have done from the beginning of starting this blog, but for me was implicit. As I’ve learned from many teachers, saying bismillah arahman araheem explicitly whether through writing or speaking is an important habit and combined with the right intention (intending what you do is for the sake of God) can turn even the most mundane action into a blessed act. I often catch myself dizzy from the busy nature of life these days; loosing the heavy meaning behind saying this beautiful phase before beginning each action. For example, let me reflect on typing up a blog posting. If I truly think about the meaning of this short phrase in relation to this act I’m completing, I should realize the miraculous nature of the ability to produce a blog in the first place. Why? Well, the fact is that every action we complete is only by the Will of God. I can’t type unless God Wills me to, and I can’t formulate my ideas and turn them into a blog posting without the Will of God. The tiny movements my fingers make as I stroke each key…God’s Will. Every action we take is only possible by the Will of God for He is truly in charge of everything…everything. If I think beyond the basic action of typing a blog post and look under the surface, I also realize the miraculous nature of human beings. The intracite systems at work just to produce ideas, forumlate them into something cohesive, and then translating them into a medium by typing onto a computer keyboard also created by another human being by the Will of God. Now that’s heavy…for one small act. When you really start reflecting, it’s impossible not to remember God in all that you see.
A few months ago after listening to a lecture by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf I started altering my subway riding habits. I no longer buried myself in my phone, reading the latest news, e-mails, and checking my Blackberry the entire ride. I still do that, but I limit myself. If I have my headphones on, I’m listening to a lecture by Shaykh Hamza, Shaykh Faraz, Imam Zaid, Shaykh Yahyha etc. And when I’m not listening to a lecture, I’m observing. I’m trying to be more present in my ride, reflecting and remember God. Admiring the beautiful design of human life…and immense diversity. When I quiet my mind from the 300 mph it is usually functioning on concurrently thinking about work for the day, what to cook for dinner, what bill to pay, who I forgot to call back etc. I can really see beauty in the most unlikely places. Little gestures of gratitude and charity people do for each other. The beautiful act of just talking to a stranger and making them smile. The laughter of children. It is…amazing. That stuffy, long, I can’t wait to get off of this thing subway ride, suddenly is not just bearable, but something I look forward to. And when I catch myself getting impatient because a train is late, or the fact that someone is being way too loud on their cellphone next to me I try to harness a connection with God and remember Him. I try to “unplug.”
Another way I’ve tried to alter my commuting habits and time throughout the day is based on advice Imam Zaid gave at the RIS Knowledge Retreat I attended this past year. He suggested that every morning when you step outside before rushing to your car to drive to work, to stop, look at the sky, your surroundings, nature…take it in and say subhan Allah (translated sometimes as Transcendent is God or Glorious is God). But not just say Subhan Allah for the fun of it, say it and mean it. Realize what you are looking at, the beauty of nature. When I started doing this, I broke my morning routine of rushing out the door forgetting my focus for the day – to worship God and strive to know God. Remembering God is a critical piece of that worship, and a critical tool for getting to know Him. I’m also now trying to remember this advice whenever I leave my work building, for example to go run and get lunch, an errand, or to travel to another building for a meeting. When you start to intersperse purposeful moments of remembering God in your routine life, you’ll never want to go back. When I forget these small habits I’ve been trying to incorporate into my life, I miss them. I feel disorganized, destabilized, disoriented…detached. If I’ve found anything effective in my life trying to implement this practice and ensure my heart is connected to remembering God, it’s done in baby steps. Small additions are sustainable, and more likely to become permanent habits. The next step after this new action becomes a habit, is keeping your heart connected to that action. In sum, “unplug” from your current frame and connect to the most rewarding frame of mind…remembering God.
For more information on the benefits of saying bismillah see: http://allahcentric.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/bismillah/