by Safia Lamrani in Lifestyle on 18th April, 2023
Personally, I have struggled with implementing everyday ways to pause. With a finite source of willpower, finding stillness often gets left to the bottom of the priority list. Instead, focus is given to sticking to a fitness regime, managing freelance work, deadlines, and day-to-day adult life.
Nowadays, taking time for ourselves, pausing, and finding peace can be tricky to do without the crippling feeling of guilt that we aren’t being productive enough. This is down to many factors, differing for each individual. So, if more pauses are needed, how can we create those? If we are so focused on achieving the next goal and not stopping to take in the present moment, how can we truly be aware of our intentions, check in with ourselves, and make sure we are advocating for a barakah filled lifestyle?
According to a study by ciphr, one out of fourteen adults feel stressed every single day (1). Women are also shown to experience stress more frequently than men, feeling stressed on average ten days a month, whereas men average seven. So, with so many women feeling stressed; finding habitual ways of increasing peace and implementing pauses feels essential. Not everyone can make that spa weekend retreat happen, or indeed want that, and therefore everyday practices are invaluable.
One of the fundamental teachings in Islam is peace, surely this extends to an inner peace too? Stress manifests differently in everyone, just as the causations differ. There is no one size fits all cure.
I reached out to various Muslim women from many walks of life, to see what their advice was, and what myriad of peaceful practices I could try. I discovered several methods of finding peace and hope that there are elements to inspire and motivate others.
First, I spoke with Amina, a young Physiotherapist working fulltime in the NHS,
“As many are aware, working in the NHS in its current climate comes with many challenges and pressures which means it’s even more vital to find avenues in which we can regulate and calm ourselves outside of work.”
Amina’s first step is to have ‘an outlet’ to express this: whether this is talking to her partner, friends, journaling or catering to her creative side with painting classes. Having an awareness of our stresses and finding a way to let them out, rather than ignoring them, is important. Amina also shared the importance of her deen in grounding her:
“My faith has always been a constant anchor throughout life’s challenges and having that relationship with God and referring to the Qur’an and Sunnah is a very key part of how I find my peace.”
An Ayah which comes to mind is:
“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Qur’an 2:153)
Being patient and reminding ourselves that Allah is with us certainly provides comfort and alleviates some of the stresses that can make us feel alone. Sherine Chalhie, an Actress, Writer, Voice Artist, and Life & Creative Coach, shared a similar sentiment.
“I have a ritualistic practice of connecting with my creator through five daily contact prayers. Whatever I’m busy doing during the day, this gives me the stillness and calmness to get out of my head and feed my soul.”
Sherine also advised routine as being important:
“I also have a solid morning routine. As soon as I wake up I thank God for being alive and having another day on earth to live my best life. I burn some incense, preferably paolo santo sticks, while I make my coffee. I gotta start my day right with some caffeine. Don’t need it, but I love it. Then a gratitude list to God, 3 pages of journalling or a brain dump, 5 or 10 minute meditation, workout 4 times a week, reading and vibrating to be in a highly energetic and abundant state. I also try not to touch my phone for the first hour of my day. I want to be present, not reactive. This is my favorite part of the day because I get to connect with myself.”
These recommendations certainly inspired me to want to start my day more present – I find that practicing gratitude is a great way to do this and taking a moment to really thank God, Alhamdulillah. I started listing reasons to be grateful each morning and it has allowed me to start my day with clearer intentions and in a place of stillness and peace. My next hope was to find moments to check in throughout the day to come back to this place.
Content & Marketing Manager and new mum to a 7 month old, Zeina Ramadan, shared with me some of her methods for checking in throughout the day. Her simple and yet effective methods struck home for me:
“When it comes to finding stillness, my practices are very basic and lack creativity; I simply clean the house. In the first few weeks of being a mom I cleaned the house intensively; it’s a simple yet effective coping mechanism that runs in my family. Instead of resisting it, I have embraced it and gradually incorporated other healthy practices.”
There is a large amount of science behind this methodology, that your external space reflects your inner state. A clean and tidy home leads to positive emotions such as a sense of calm and well-being. I tried tidying my desk after reading Zeina’s words and the lack of clutter certainly helped me feel more orderly. I didn’t quite desire to tackle the kitchen though. Finding pause and peace embodies itself differently for everyone – whilst for some the idea of cleaning feels like another task, for others it provides a much-needed breath and sense of control. Zeina’s second recommendation furthers the idea of movement being peaceful, rather than just sitting still:
“As I became more active and mobile, I started to take advantage of London’s amazing green spaces and make it a point to go for a walk every day, even on days where I don’t feel like it.”
London is full of green spaces (2), my favorite being Alexandra Palace with its views of London’s skyscrapers. Walking without the intention to get somewhere, but just strolling and taking in the surroundings, helps clear my head. I find that an increase in physical activity and blood flow helps reach greater mental calm.
Needing physical activity to feel mentally at peace is not a unique notion. Maslaha are a UK-based charity working to tackle the conditions that create inequalities for Muslim and marginalized communities. They partnered with British Fencing to create Muslim Girls Fence (MGF): a program that aims to facilitate spaces for Muslim girls and women, as well as improving their physical health, mental health and overall wellbeing.
This continued to shine a light on the many differing ways to find peace, as well as increasing my awareness of communities out there. It also reminded me that my moments of peace and calm didn’t always have to be alone.
I spoke with Sahra, head of delivery at Maslaha, who shared with me a beautiful insight:
“I try to live by Omid Safi’s teaching when I find myself being swept up in the chaos of daily life – to remember that ‘we are human beings, not human doings’. Allow yourself to embrace the moments of stillness and bouts of boredom that life has to offer. Let rest be your escapism.”
This resonated. We can have autonomy over the chaos of daily life, and choose to take a step outside of it. I never valued feeling bored, and now I find that I can enjoy it.
As someone who enjoys sport, I was keen to learn more about MGF and how that could be an opportunity to destress and find peace. One of their fencers, Niha, shared:
“Whilst I haven’t been able to spend as much time fencing as I would like, the few times I have been not only proved how easy it often is to cultivate feelings of sisterhood simply by creating space for it, but also how pivotal this can be for your mental and physical health. Knowing I have the option to join when I am able to, and no pressure to fence when I can’t, has helped to reinforce this as a safe space for me.”
Being in an environment that allows engagement at your own pace removes the pressure that group activities can sometimes come with.
Pressure is unfortunately unavoidable in most lives. The more intense this becomes, the more crucial it is to find inner peace. Houda, Actress and mother of four embodies this and provides an inspiring outlook:
“I tend to find peace in the most chaotic times in my life, like the eye of the storm, the more out of control my life gets the more Zen I become. If I can’t control something then there is no point worrying about it”
Houda also recommended a book she considered to be life changing, ‘The Power Of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, which after seeing how Houda manages to balance so much and still find moments of calm, I am keen to read.
I plan to implement the different practices kindly shared with me by these women, seeing how so many different methods can lead to a shared sense of peace certainly felt encouraging.
The final method I want to share is one I have been using frequently due to its simplicity and accessibility. This comes from Sara, a public sector consultant:
“When feeling stressed or busy with work, it’s very simple but I love to just look up. I am very fortunate that my desk is placed right in front of a window, and it’s a big enough window to see a big portion of the sky. Whenever I look up and see the clouds, or the blue sky, or even when it’s a really windy day and all I see is a white sky, it just gives me a lot of peace and reminds me that I’m not just confined to my screen, or my desk, or office. I am reminded that I am part of such a bigger world out there. That gives me a lot of peace.”
This sentiment ties together so many of the pieces of advice I learnt – that we are part of something so much bigger and from time to time should remind ourselves of that. There are so many different ways of finding peace and stillness, and each individual may lean towards different approaches on different days. The one commonality between all of these is thanking God, practicing closeness to our faith. This all starts with taking a moment to breathe.
Safia Lamrani is a British / Moroccan actor and writer based in London. Her work often explores her mixed race identity and the cultural nuances that come with that. Safia has a BA in English Literature and MA in Acting. Safia is the co-founder of Pistachio Theatre company, performs spoken word and has recently written for Dardishi, Morocco World News, Foyer Magazine. IG @safia_lamrani and www.safialamrani.com