Over the past few days, I’ve done 9 of the 10 prayers I was supposed up to do. To make up for the one I missed, I doubled up on an evening prayer.
So far the most powerful prayer times are the Fajr and Isha’a, the pre-dawn and post-sunset prayers.
The Fajr is a nice way to start off your day. At the end of the prescribed motions, you are supposed to add a personal prayer to God. I’ve been asking God to help me approach my day with humility and to give me courage to follow His will.
Isha’a is great because it offers you the opportunity to reflect on the day and vow to do better the next.
Now, when I pray to God, I’m fully aware I might be praying to no-one, but the action is still worthwhile. I found that because I ask for the strength to be more humble in my prayers, I pay more attention during the day to negative and arrogant thoughts.
I started reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam and it is surprisingly well written.
In chapter three, the author describes the Islamic model of self-development called “The Three-Fold Journey.”
This model suggests that our soul inner nature, or fitrah, is in a struggle to move through the stages of the Three-Fold Journey.
The first stage is The Animal Self. This is the stage that starts at birth and the part of us that seeks out pleasure and selfish desires.
The second stage is The Accusing Self, where we begin to ask the big questions of life. Why am I here? What’s it all for? Is what I’m doing right?
The third stage is The Restful Self, when we learn to de-prioritize worldliness and begins to integrate higher values into their lives. It is marked a sense of complete peace and tranquility.
Modern culture appeals to our animal nature. As proof, you just need to watch TV for an hour and watch all the commercials. Sex, money, gluttony, and prestige are the focus of most commercials.
The more clever commercials appeal to our restful nature. There is a Zillow commercial that shows a soldier and his family being reunited in a new house they purchased. The company wants to associate the peace and beauty of family with their product.
I believe I’m firmly in the accusing self stage.
“…after this second stage has been entered and we realize through our heart and mind that we need God and wholesome values, we can now try to mold our life according to His universal way. We become less attached to the life of this world, more introspective and less irritable and stressed.”
Many of my peers are in the second stage as well. They have this nagging sense of dissatisfaction that suggests they should be doing more with their lives.
The problem is that we keep looking to things that appeal to our animal self for answers.
For example, even though I know I want more from life than money and prestige, I read one article about Goldman Sachs and I immediately wanted to work there. If only I had more money and a prestigious job, I would find the answers I’m looking for. I would achieve peace and tranquility.
I know this is false, and yet, I can’t help but fantasizing about it on occasion.
So how can we stop bouncing back and forth between the animal self and the accusing self, and graduate to the restful self?
I believe the answer lies in practice. If our pursuit of progress is limited to simply thinking about the bigger questions, we can only get so far.
What kind of practice? I suspect the best practices are offered by religion, as they have developed over thousands of years and they are in the business of living rich and meaningful lives.
On the surface, these practices may seem incomprehensible or nonsensical, but I believe there is a hidden wisdom that can only be attained by doing them, which is why I started this project.
Perhaps there are other ways to move on to the restful self, but I’m going to stick with Salat for the next few weeks and see what happens.