By (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. Qur’an (103:1-3)
Lately, I have been feeling an emptiness in my heart. I have been feeling kind of lost. Like, what am I doing with my life? Is this really the best way to live my life? Have I made the right decisions? What will be my future?
To be honest, I am tired of thinking so much, and I am tired of asking myself these questions. But I can’t help it. And I get stressed out all the time.
Fortunately, Qur’an offers some guidance on what to do in this situation. According to Surat al-Asr, I feel this way either because:
- I don’t have faith;
- I don’t do righteous deeds;
- I am not in a relationship where the other person and I can teach each other about Truth;
- I am not in a relationship where the other person and I can teach each other about Patience and Constancy; or,
- Any combination of the above.
And indeed, I am really not doing much these days in God’s eyes. I think I have faith, but my actions don’t tell the same story. I don’t really do any righteous deeds, and I am not in any relationship whatsoever. I don’t even have friends anymore.
I guess the first thing I should start working on is faith. Having faith means trusting God’s knowledge of what is best for me. And God tells us that our purpose in life is to worship Him and Him alone, so that’s what I should do.
But even though worshiping God sounds simple, it’s actually not. In Islam, worshiping God doesn’t just mean believing with your heart; it means doing what pleases God, like doing the daily prayers, respecting others, being generous, continually making progress in one’s knowledge etc.—generally, acting as if God is watching you all the time. It’s a lot of work. For example, the five daily prayers are a constant practice for self-discipline, and a physical reminder to put God as our priority in daily lives.
What’s the best way to accomplish these goals? After many years of trial and error, although I haven’t succeeded yet, I think the key lies in “living in the moment”: When working, work. When sleeping, sleep. Connect the mind completely to the body, and one may accomplish a lot and not even feel tired.
But it’s really difficult to simply live in the moment all the time. What makes human beings different, after all, is that we have extremely active and wandering minds.
One solution, I suppose, is to fill my schedule completely with work and studies. I’ve found that when I work, I actually do live in the moment. Studying is harder and requires a lot of self-discipline, but when I really force myself to concentrate, I can get in a state of flow which indicates that I have successfully synchronized my mind and body.
I can also try to “meditate” which I interpret as trying to think of nothing at all. That would probably help with my insomnia.
I like the idea of writing, too. I’ve found that when I write, I empty out my worries temporarily, which helps me with whatever I do in the rest of my day.
So here is my tentative action plan and what will hopefully follow: work/study/meditate/write a lot –> live in the moment–>accomplish goals for worshiping God–>in doing so, become a faithful Muslim–>do righteous deeds and develop relationships where the other person and I can teach each other about truth and patience–>not feel lost/empty.
Other Thoughts: Mind/Body relationship in animals, human beings, and angels
Rocks and water and other natural matter don’t have a mind (or just a proto-mind). Animals have minds, but in animals, the mind is directly attached to the body, so animals are always living in the moment, it seems. In human beings, we have a very active mind, and it’s not attached to the body; the mind travels back and forward in time while the body is stuck at one slice of time. As a result, our mind is constantly out of sync with the body.
What’s the next stage for us? If animals unconsciously synchronize bodies and minds, and human beings unconsciously misalign bodies and minds, then the wise human beings will perhaps be able to consciously synchronize bodies and minds.
And when we get really good, perhaps we’ll just return to the innocent state of animals, but with complete consciousness. That almost sounds like angels, actually. And angels are the perfect worshipers of God.