There are days when everything seems to be going wrong. Sometimes it feels like life is spinning out of control and you don’t know whether you’re coming or going. Chaos isn’t something you can predict, except maybe that it’s bound to visit you now and again. Even the most organized of people get thrown wild cards and a lot depends on how we deal with unpredictable circumstances. One way that is useful is to maintain a calm center. Your inner life must be stable even if the world appears to be falling apart. What are some practical steps you can take to help you achieve a calm center?
The more things you can make consistent by way of habit in your life, the more stable your life will feel. These things should be easily achieved and not entirely bound to a certain set of circumstances. In other words, you should be able to carry out these habits even when most of what is normal for you now falls out of sync. Some good habits could include things like regular prayers, regular fasting, regularly giving charity, regularly reading books, regularly going for walks or doing exercise etc. It doesn’t matter, for example, that you’ve just lost your job if your central stabilizing habit is prayer. Develop a habit that will help ground in throughout life’s ups and downs.
One of the greatest killers of a truly fulfilling life is ingratitude. We look at people whom we think are better off than ourselves and we wish that we could’ve had what they have. Those people in turn look at others who have more than them and wish the same. Gratitude is a hard act to do when it’s not really present in your heart.One way we can train ourselves to be grateful is to look at people who have less than we have. That’s not difficult to do considering that 10% of human beings live off of 90% of the world’s resources. If you live in a house, and have running water- that’s more than most people have. You can take it to the next level and look at all the people who have disabilities. Start feeling grateful for being able to hear, see, smell, touch, walk, or any combination of those things if one is lacking. Show gratitude for the people that are in your life that all love and care about you. Be grateful to your parents for raising you, or relatives that all helped in that endeavour, your friends that support you and people in general who provide you with so much. Before something as simple as a piece of paper gets to you, it involves the labor of possibly a hundred people. First, a tree was being dutifully looked after by a farmer, and perhaps a few farm workers. Second, it was cut down and taken to be processed by factory workers. It was then refined before being packaged. It was trucked, then shipped to your region. It was then in some procurement facility before it reached the supermarket where it was dutifully packed on the shelf. Finally, it arrived on your desk. Be grateful for that piece of paper.
Often, the act of giving is seen as something that takes away from you. Afterall, if I give something away, I no longer have it. It’s only seen that way because what you receive is intangible. Giving actually enriches your life spiritually a lot more than receiving. Make a habit of giving and of serving others. To be of service to others is a stabilizing factor in people’s lives who live that way. You’ll find people who have almost no material possessions are very satisfied in their lives because they spend it in service of others. Giving isn’t about ‘helping’ others as much as it is helping yourself. In Islam, giving charity is called “purification of wealth” and is seen as the right of the recipient. Meaning, you aren’t doing anyone any favors by giving or serving. Actually, it’s an opportunity for you to enrich your spiritual life.
Often the hardest things in life are also the most rewarding. It’s hard and incredibly painful for a woman to give birth to a child, and yet it is also one of the most fulfilling experiences for most women. It’s hard to grind everyday for a family, and yet countless men do it everyday. It’s hard to maintain a truly disciplined life, but it’s the only way anyone can achieve any level of success in the world. Hence, when difficulties come your way, trust the process. It’s very likely that God is improving your inner condition. The Prophet Ayyub (Job) was tested with severe illness. He lost all of his wives, except one, and many of his children. In the ordeal, he remained steadfast in his convictions until God alleviated his suffering. It’s a lesson for us. Even though things are going very badly, there’s always a greater purpose that is beyond your or my comprehension. The best thing to do is to remain steadfast and trust in God.