It is clear that there is a growing trend of mindfulness extending beyond spiritual communities and into mainstream culture. How do we understand mindfulness from within the Islamic tradition? Is there a place for it in Islam? Is there an Islamic version of mindfulness?
Listen to the audio or read the text below:
At first when you hear this term "mindful" you think 'full of mind'. The last thing we need is to be more in our minds. We're already so locked into this thinking consciousness where we define ourselves by our thoughts. You could think "well, I don't want to be 'full of mind' I'm already stuck in my thoughts." But really mindfulness is about being conscious. It's about slowing down. It's a contemplative way of being. It's not really about being more connected to thoughts in the sense of identifying with the mind. It's not necessarily about thinking, but meta-thinking: thinking about thinking. It's slowing down and being conscious of what you think and what you do. The core of mindfulness is about being present. And this concept of being present is absolutely an Islamic principle. It's something that we find in the Islamic tradition and is a key factor in everything from ibadah (worship) to akhlaq (manners). Presence is indeed a very islamic principle.
However, this term mindfulness can tend to shift our awareness from the reality of the self, which is a much more holistic picture than what we have come to conceive of as ourselves in contemporary times. To a certain extent the entire modern world has been influenced by the Cartesian assertion, "I think therefore I am". It's taken root in society where people over identify with their thoughts. So that people's entire notion of self is about what and how they think and everything related to the self is based in the mind. And this in particular is really not an Islamic concept.
If growth and mastery of self are your goals then you should occupy yourself with the business of discovering your faults and weaknesses of character. How else will you know what you need to work on in yourself if you are not aware of where specifically the focus of the work needs to be applied? You can’t fix something if you don’t first discover where the problems lie and what then needs to be fixed. Thus, it would not benefit you to avoid the ugly parts of yourself as these are the key signals pointing out areas where growth is needed.
As the old saying goes, “When you fall of your horse, dust yourself off and get back on”. This is something that we must do frequently. You’ll never fully master every aspect of your life. There is always something that we are struggling to come to terms with, perfecting, or just attempting to keep in line. You may know very well what you need to do or what your goal is in achieving a certain objective or state of mind, but maintaining that objective is challenging. We have days and even just moments when we’re on and things are working out. We recognize what we need to do and we feel like we’re making strides toward our goals. Sometimes if we’re lucky we experience long stretches of this. But it is inevitable that eventually we lose our ground and we fall back to old ways, old habits or behavior patterns from the past. When this happens, don’t let it consume you and make you feel like you’ve failed. Just dust yourself off and get back on.
I wanted to post this link to an article by Yasmin Mogahed titled "Why Do People Have to Leave Each Other". It discusses the pitfalls of attaching ourselves to people and outcomes and why it is so important to have a sustainable source for filling the void inside rather than those that we so often tend to rely on. Here is the link : http://www.yasminmogahed.com/2011/11/13/why-do-people-have-to-leave-each-other/