Yanny or Laurel

The latest internet craze has been an audio clip where certain people hear the word “Yanny” and others hear “Laurel”. Sound pretty different right? It seems impossible that in a group of people, some may here one or the other but that is the reality.

I first listened to the clip last week and realized I was team “Yanny”. A few days later I listened to the same clip and heard “Laurel”. I was convinced I had listened to two different clips but I hadn’t. My certainty was thwarted by a scientific explanation on different sound frequencies resulting in hearing either Yanny or Laurel. Regardless of the science behind this phenomenon, there was a powerful lesson in what we perceive to know about this world.

And that is that we truly don’t know anything about this world. Even the things we seemingly know for sure, we don’t necessarily always have the full picture. As many dots as we may connect to render any level of explanation and understanding about the events that occur in our life will always fall short of the true reality. And that’s because only Allah has full knowledge of the full reality. Even when we are completely certain about something, there are levels of something’s reality that may not be apparent to us.

Realizing our conclusions and realities fall short of true reality can be a restricting thought. Why expend mental and emotional energy to trust certain realities if those very same realities are subject to change. The idea isn’t to stop ourselves from making the conclusions – the idea is to realize that those conclusions may change no matter how certain we are. And you can either allow the change of those personal realities to define your internal state or you can place the change in realities within the realm of spirituality. In other words, let go and let God.

Things are often not what they seem. Things are too often not what they seem. So don’t let any reality give you a sense of certainty. Have certainty in Allah and realize that this life is really only a medium of changing certainties. Our hearts often attach to our certainty and when we let our certainty revolve around our perception and understanding of the world around us, we subject ourselves to pain. Instead, attach your heart to something Greater and far more Stable.

Think – Connect – Reflect – I’m not saying to not do these things. In fact it’s very important to do these things. But don’t put your entire emotional state into the things you deduce. Allow your conclusions to fail, not because you failed at understanding something but because we weren’t created to understand the full realities behind everything around us.

How to make the most out of this Ramadan

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan has a strange way of appearing suddenly even though you’ve known about it for months. When it starts, you feel pleasantly surprised but all of a sudden unprepared for the goals you lightly thought of in the weeks prior. Everyone around you gets into the spirit and you find yourself spirited as well.

Whether you set lofty goals beforehand or you haven’t set any goals at all, try to make to most out of this Ramadan by doing the following,

  1. Realize that this month is for you, at your own speed, and for your own betterment. Treat Ramadan daily as opposed to monthly. In other words, Ramadan is a combination of days of fasting and worship rather than partaking in a month of fasting and worship. There is a difference. I say this because by the time this post comes out, you will be on your 3rd (or 2nd) day of fasting and possibly already feeling behind on the lofty goals you have set for the month of Ramadan. Forget the monthly goals, seek the daily ones.
  2. Reflect on the negative sentiments you have. Sadness, anger, despair, etc. Reflect on these because Shaiytaan isn’t inspiring these negative thoughts into you anymore. These thoughts are the fruits from the seeds Shaiytaan has planted and this month is your opportunity to rip them out. Don’t feel disheartened or unworthy for simply thinking or feeling these thoughts – be patient with yourself and conquer them.
  3. Read more Quran. If you didn’t read, read an ayah per day. If you read an ayah per day, read 10. If you’re at 10, read a page. Just do more than what you did before even if it’s slight. Quran washes your heart. Even if you don’t understand the meaning, it cleanses your soul. If you chose to read with meaning, then it enters the realm of your mind and further deeper into your heart. Just read more.

There are tons of things you could be doing for Ramadan and these are just a few. This month is yours for the taking. Go all the way!

Rooh Afza’s bottoms up!

My Own-goal

I was playing soccer one day with some friends on a crisp autumn morning. At one point, my team was defending a corner kick which basically meant the opposing team gets a free kick from the corner of the field to try and set someone up on their team to score a goal. My task was defensive – to make sure the ball didn’t end up in the goal. As the corner kick soared through the air, I found it coming straight for me. My sole purpose and focus was to make sure the ball DID NOT go into the goal. I jumped, swung my head to head the ball out, and ended up hitting the ball with the back of my head and straight into the goal.

Yikes.

Focus is typically linear – but the result can sometimes manifest the exact opposite. I focused so much on hitting the ball away that I ended up hitting the ball backwards. Just like you can study extensively for an exam and receive an A or you can study extensively for an exam and still fail. It’s frustrating because that fact makes you second guess your motivation. Why even study? Why jump to head the ball if I could potentially mess this up?

Baseball is a great example. You can swing at a ball with the best swing in the world (and yes, there are very detailed mechanics into how you swing a bat), and completely miss the ball. You were focused. You knew what to do. You did it right. But the ball and your bat didn’t connect. On the flip side, you can do everything right with your swing and knock a ball out of the park.

But you can’t even hit the ball if you don’t swing.

You’re going to fail at times at the thing you wanted and focused on the most. You’re going to fail in the worst possible scenario and it will feel devastating. Not only that, your failure (which you focused on so deeply to avoid) will define your life for some time. The own-goal I committed in my soccer game defined the game because we were losing until our team scored again.

But you will fail always if you decide to give up. You’ll feel worthless, alone, isolated, and confused because you thought the worst feeling was failure but it’s not. It’s the feeling you feel when you know it won’t get better because you don’t have the heart to try anymore.

Failure is part of life. Own goals, strike-outs, mistakes – they are the shadows that make life prominent. They provide perspective the same way the darkness of a shadow does to a picture. But it’s important to continue to strive after failure even when you feel like your biggest enemy.

The best batting advice anyone ever gave me was to forget all the mechanics and just go out there and have fun. And that goes for life like it goes for batting. Mechanics are important but so is relaxation.

Life sucks and it’s all your fault sometimes. Who cares? Don’t let any level of failure permeate into changing the person you perceive yourself to be. You are all the great qualities you have ever attained and failure doesn’t take anything away from those.

If you get back on the horse you could fall again, but if you never get back on you’ll never go anywhere.

The Painting

Imagine your life as a painting. A creation that is completely your own that encompasses the many complexities of your thoughts, emotions, fears, anxieties, goals, dreams, aspirations, etc. Every stroke, every paint color, every brush unique to the presence of your life and soul on this earth. Growing up, I didn’t understand why life became unbearably difficult at times. I didn’t understand why God would withhold something that would make you happy. Why would God not let me paint what I wanted to paint? When difficult times came, it seemed like my painting just stood there with nothing new to show even though I really wanted to add what I believed was necessary and best for my life. It was confusing and difficult.

There were days I would wake up and the only good thing to happen to me that day was so insignificant compared to the many things going wrong around me. It felt unbearable at times. It felt dark. Then I thought about how painters create such intricate masterpieces and it dawned on me why God took away my paint brush at times.

My wife and I attended a painting class one day. I was a bit nervous given my mediocre artistic abilities, but confident in enjoying a pleasant evening with my wife. We sat in the front near our instructor who proceeded to go step by step through the painting we were to paint. The drawing was a silouhette of a tree in the evening with pink and red leaves. Our first instruction was to literally paint a large white circle – which was a task even I could handle. Immediately after we painted a light blue circle around our first white circle – and then a darker blue circle around the light blue circle until our entire canvas was filled with paint. At that point, we waited for the paint to dry and went to go grab snacks. After about 10 minutes, we were instructed to draw our tree with our branches before having to wait again before drawing the leaves and the stars in the sky.

I think that’s life. I think we sometimes want to draw various leaves in our lives before we even have a background. Or sometimes we want to draw leaves when the paint from the background is still wet. God withholds the brush from us because we aren’t meant to paint there at that given time. And this is manifested in the dark times we encounter when things go wrong in our lives. It can be frustrating but also a blessing in disguise. What we think would be best wouldn’t be best for our overall painting.Perhaps it isn’t the right time. Perhaps it isn’t the right color.

At the end of our painting class, we were to add small silver dots to represent the stars. In the grand scheme of things, the amount of paint we had to use to create the stars was very small, but the overall picture was that much more enhanced because of it. So when only one seemingly insignificant good thing is happening in your life in a sea of heartache, know that it’s still an important part of a bigger picture that will enhance your life that much more. And if it seems that nothing is going right in your life, then know that God is just allowing your paint to dry for you to paint only the very best for your life.

Your life’s painting is enormous. If paint is wet somewhere in your life preventing you from painting what you want, look around at other phases of your life that may be dry and see how you can paint into that. Your life will never be all wet paint at once. You just have the have the courage and trust in God to look away from painting where you want at any given time. In actuality, God may take away your paintbrush not to prevent you from painting – but to teach you the patience it takes to create beauty in your life.

“So endure patiently, with a beautiful patience” [70:5]

Indeed, Allah is the best of Painters.