I sat cross-legged on the floor, poised and aligned, exhaling as I made room for the words that were about to position its new-found place in my psyche. Eyes rested shut, and hair drawn back behind my shoulders, I uttered my intention to myself and kept repeating it until I landed on the page that was seemingly written just for my observation. It was only right, for a book titled Intention, Sincerity and Truthfulness, that any confinement was unwelcome, and the Giver of Breath favoured a breathing space for the myriad teachings that would only unfold at the sound of a ripened heart.
I landed on a page and started to read. Inhale. The story that greeted me was one of a dialogue which included a man named Abu ‘Ubayd, who had declined a man’s request to accompany him on a pilgrimage because he lacked the intention. When asked why, he told: “I intended to finish [tilling] this soil by tonight. I feared going on pilgrimage with him for his sake would have exposed me to God’s aversion, since I may have introduced into an act [devoted to] God something other than God.”
Sincerity in one’s intentions in the face of a soul-stirring journey, a pilgrimage, was the underlying message here. Were Abu ‘Ubayd to accept the man’s request and accompany him on this occasion, he would have done a disservice to his initial intention; he was compelled to reconfigure his heart’s-desire to match this new calling. We subconsciously set intentions when we mindfully attend to daily responsibilities; how we actively choose to utilise our time in our work, the goals we strive to achieve, dedicating quality time with those we hold dear to our heart. On a macrocosmic level, we are all on a form of pilgrimage as we navigate through life.
We are all longing for ‘home’ or our fitrah, our “original disposition” or “innate nature”.
Pilgrimage is a sacred journey; one that a pilgrim endures a deep spiritual transformation while demonstrating sincerity and humility in one’s relationship with the most High. Harvesting this story, it was made clear to me that knowledge is the seed, action its sowing, and that watering is sincerity.
It is through reason that we act, and action requires sincerity.
I meditated on the scripture as something sacred; the words felt like small revelations made personal to me, but I was only warming up. Dopamine took charge, and I longed for more. So I set out for another round, and then another, each time echoing my intention upon releasing the anchor. It should be noted that I’d never visited this book before; there were no bookmarks, no folded pages, no crease in its spine, no tatters or defects. It was as clear and intact as the prayer that fell from my lips as I approached it. My disposition led me to believe I had collected my lesson from the story of Abu ‘Ubayd, however, what followed took me by surprise.
Every time I opened the book I’d happen to fall on the same page, giving me the same reminder on intention. I became driven to recollect what it means to practice intentionality, dwelling on the word intention in Arabic, niyyah, which literally means “to head towards a place different from where you are now”, or “intending an action”.
In the same way Prophets communicate with human beings, nature communicates with us. We resemble the seasons as we observe a world cycling through patterns, phases and stages of transition. As the seasons come full circle congruous with the earth’s clock in its 365 days, we too resemble the earth’s natural rhythms in our temperament, thinking ability, and emotional availability.
The pilgrim can only find solace in the success of his devotional act determined that he assumed mental preparation in anticipation of his journey. In the way that metal must first be purified and refined in order to bend it and shape it into its new function, there is an onus placed on us as human beings: we too must alight upon purification and a refinement within ourselves as a form of spiritual alchemy. Thereon, one may devise sincerity in renewed intentions in the circumstance that an internal maturation has transpired.
We are not, in simple terms, human beings navigating life’s course distinct from earth’s natural seasonal transitions, we are beings experiencing the seasons at core within our own selves.
During the cold winter months, most of us spend our time hibernating, reflecting, and bracing ourselves for the recoup that follows. With winter following autumn, a period of preparation as we learn to let go of things like the leaves falling from a tree, winter is the season where we experience challenges and “setbacks” in our lives. It can feel like a cold and lonely time – which is why we see the term “cuffing season” bouncing around as a reminder to us singletons of our loneliness. We may be dealing with storms in our life which creates fear and anxiety for us, however we need periods of winter in our lives. These winter times equip us with valuable learning and understanding. We gain the most character-shifting lessons through challenges and difficulties in life, which effectively cultivate appreciation and gratitude for all our riches. Without periods of winter, without the cleansing power of the rain that nourishes new life, and the strong winds that rattle our senses, we can take for granted all of the goodness that we experience.
By observing nature’s rhythms, we see that the winter marks an ideal basis to plant the seed of sincere intention to then create a hospitable space for cultivation and manifestation to bloom.
As Spring draws closer, trees breathe life and flaunt its leaves, plants rise up to meet the radiance of its Source, and flower buds bloom in all its grace bearing gifts for our exhibition. As poet Gerard De Nerval, a major figure in French romanticism, conveys elegantly, “Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature”. Spring is a season in our life which nurtures a feeling of welcome change as we, in like manner, enter a state of rebirth and renewal. This natural transition contrives a connective bridge between the seemingly simple events in our daily lives and the greater universal ones. One can view this as an interlace between micro and macro levels of existence.
Clouded thoughts dissipate like the clouds in the sky as one seeks to actively stimulate his innermost desire to bounce back this Spring. Even flowers do not bloom without the permission of its Creator. Therefore an action coming into formation becomes energised by the heart’s desire. Intention is a learned human faculty which symbolically manifests human activity in a more specific and deliberate way. Once the mental groundwork is established in that one seeks the intention of an action before the action itself then the goodwill bear fruits given that is what you intend. It is the nature or condition of your mind that will determine the outcome of your desires and intentions.
We tend to face certain lessons time and time again: whether that might be falling upon the same page of a book three times consecutively, revisiting repetitive behavioural patterns in our relationships, or the day-to-day trials or obstacles we face and continue to overlook its deeper transformative imprint.
We are all, in essence, pilgrims on a meaningful journey into our own beliefs as we demystify lessons, blessings and trials that blend the physical and the spiritual into a unified experience. We often dismiss the importance of renewing our intentions and channeling our vision towards a straight and narrow objective. Through this channelling and filtering, one becomes less fluid in idle occupation and more intentional and focused.
Sincerity means the absence of ostentation and ostentation appears in subtle ways.
Therefore sincerity requires constant vigilance.
This can be translated to how a lack of sincerity impacts one’s servanthood in faith, or practicing Oneness (Tawhid), which then permeates outwardly in the way we approach day-to-day activities. Practicing sincerity is difficult because to be sincere means that the soul cannot have a share in it; the heart’s inclination cannot be split in two or more as it is with most (worldly) motives. We learn from this that with all things in rotation, repetition, renewal and rebirth, in the physical world, human beings must consciously renew the sincerity of their intentions.
When we are mindful in the way that we create new beginnings for ourselves, we become aware that life cannot be “controlled” at a conscious level, only we control the outset by means of sincere intention. Shed old skin, patterns and behaviours that no longer serve you along with the winter puffer coats and scarves to make room for action. It’s the time to create an actionable plan, not a vague one. It’s the time to outwardly project what it is you want to achieve this year, and break it down into achievable steps.
Set the intention to bloom this spring.
Written by Marwa Koker
Edited by Yasmina Allouche
My name is Marwa, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief at ‘OUM, a health and wellbeing platform that explores the concept of ‘Motherland’ and roots in ancient remedy. I am a writer and producer and I like to write about philosophy, culture, and identity. Instagram: @maruakii or @oumnaturals