For a long time I carried around this notion with me that spirituality is something separate from real life. I though that I cannot actively be spiritual and engage with the 'real world' at the same time. It was largely because of the way I was exposed to religion as a child. I was told that being close to God entailed doing 'abc' thing 'x' number of times. That you had to always do certain things and avoid doing other things to achieve some sort of spiritual high. When viewed from this frame, for the child me it seemed like I had to make two spheres- my spiritual sphere and my 'real life' sphere. And that at each moment I had to choose one over the other.
Some conversations with dear friends and family, quiet reflections of the Qur' an, and the blessing of travel led to certain realizations that made me reconsider how I view my relationship with The Divine. I now look forward to a spirituality that arises out of just ' being'. What does that mean? I mean an ' organic' relationship with God that arises predominantly out of reflecting on the many signs we see around us. These reflections lead to gratefulness and an overwhelming love for the Creator, which in turn makes you *want* to do that which He loves. So instead of doing things mechanically and waiting for something to just 'click', this approach makes you engage more intimately with the world around to get closer to the Divine. Because God does not isolate places where He can be found.
When reading the Qur' an, I constantly get the same message. The seeker is told to look around at this beautiful and chaotic world that we inhabit and reflect. (S)he is asked to reflect on the many things taken for granted- the sky, fluffy clouds, rain pouring down onto dry earth which then nourishes seeds that pierce the earth and reach for the sky in this beautiful, life-giving cycle. Then there are mountains placed firmly onto the earth, shadows shifting shape....
But life has become such that we are mercilessly cutting off our ties from what is real and becoming shells of what we could be, what we should be. Our reality now exists in pixels and is lived out in static screens. The outside world has become something we now consider as an 'escape' instead of our only reality. A spectacle we reserve for our weekends and family holidays. Perhaps that explains why most people don't take seriously the very real threat that climate change poses to the only world we know.
Earlier today I sat outside on the verandah and read a chapter from the Qur'an, An-Nahl- The Bee. I found myself overwhelmed as I kept reading verse after verse asking me to pause and reflect on the many wonders around me. "He has made mountains stand firm on the earth, to prevent its shaking under you, and rivers and paths so you may find your way, and landmarks and starts to guide people" and more such verses asking me to reflect on our shadows, on the fact that we have places that give us shade, how we have clothing that protects us from heat and cold and the other elements of nature... These are small things that we overlook in our every day hustle and bustle.
I looked out and saw how the coconut trees swayed elegantly against the rain andd wind, how the birds chirped once the rain stopped, and how beautiful and clear everything appeared aftewards. In those few minutes of reflection I found myself feeling much more closer to God than I have felt while doing xyz ritual. I am not saying we should stop with 'action-oriented' worship, no not at all. I think we should simply reconsider the closeness to divinity that comes with just being.
A few years back I visited Germany with my parents. We were at the Olympia Park in Munich, enjoying a crisp autumn day. We strolled past trees decked in leaves every shade of orange you can imagine, crossed a bridge over a gushing stream and reached a lovely pond with ducks in it. It was time for Asr so we found a quiet spot under a shady tree. I cannot describe the incredible tranquillity I experienced in that short prayer. When I went down in sajdah and placed my forehead on the dewy grass I felt one with the earth. A profound moment where everything fell into place and there was sukoon (peace) in the heart. I believe it's because all my senses came together to glorify the Divine. The feeling of wet grass on skin, breathing in the earthiness of the ground beneath, listening to the chirping birds- all these made me feel closer to God just by ' being' there in that moment. I found my happy place. And I continue to find different happy places each time I decide to drop down the walls I have created around me and pause to be mindful of where I am. It doesn't take much, next time you are on the way to work, playing with your kids in the park, or just sipping tea out in your garden, just be there and Just There.