Today I gave a lecture at Kings College London for a Womens Mental health conference. Yesterday whilst in meditation I had an idea to write a letter that would be given to each of the 180 attendees individually. I share this letter below.
Originally published 26th January 2016
My Dear SISTER (despite the address to sisters in the original letter, I hope it can be a universal message for anyone who reads it)
Life will have its ups and down, you may have your hurts, anxieties, depression, anger and even rage, you may feel lonely, isolated and like there is no place in this world for you … but don’t ever forget that YOU are a beautiful person. YOU are intelligent, YOU are worthy and YOU are a valuable part of humanity. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. You may still have a wondering little girl inside- keep her close- through her you will find your way. Play, be creative in your own way. Stay in tune with nature. Take conscious breaths and find a way to still your mind in a world that can feel like ephemeral entropy. When you feel awful, touch a tree, hug someone you love, burn some incense, observe nature, watch a candle, recite a name of Allah that resonates in that moment, have a warm drink- soothe yourself. List 5 things you are grateful for. Breathe. Move your body. Stretch. Staying stiff/tense/in freeze mode doesn’t help flow. Stillness on the other hand, well, that can be peaceful.
When you’re scared, you’re afraid, even terrified, frightened put your hand on your heart and tell yourself gently it’s going to be ok. Breathe. Talk to someone. Get help. It’s ok.
You may have been failed by others throughout life, you may have faced abuse, injustice of many kinds and you may still. It is not okay what you have been through or may go through but arm yourself with self compassion and love. You deserve it. If no one else is giving it to you- you absolutely need it- give it to yourself. Someone one somewhere in this world does love you and is probably making Dua for you- trust in that.
People will criticise you- don’t listen to it. They are probably insecure and making themselves feel better by pushing others down. No one has the right to criticise you. Trust yourself, believe in yourself and your intuition. You are the expert on your life. No one else can tell you what is right for you.
You might have feelings of despair, of anger, of jealousy, of envy, you may even be one who criticises others but ask yourself why. Why do I feel this way? What hurt me to cause me to feel this way? Did someone hurt me somewhere along the way- make me feel inadequate?
What you will loose of yourself by engaging in these feelings will be far greater than imaginable. What you will find in yourself if you can step back and not let them over take you will be mastery of your soul. Feelings are natural accept them but don’t act on the negative and destructive ones. If you are struggling get help immediately. Don’t wait til it escalates. There is no shame in seeking support. If anything it is a beautiful act of compassion and humanity on both the part of the seeker and the one blessed enough to be in a position to give in that moment. It is sad this idea has been lost and its all about so called standing on your own / individualism/ and a false sense of pride/ worry about stigma/ judgement.
Accept others and don’t judge anyone. You haven’t lived in their heart for a moment and they not in yours. May be they need to do their own work and healing too. Give everyone the benefit of doubt. In order to avoid fights step back ask the other person what has made them feel that way. This can be hard and very painful. It is natural to want to defend yourself. Defence turns to attack before we even notice. Arm yourself with compassion.
If you want to do something and feel you don’t /cant / haven’t got the confidence… DO IT ANYWAY! If you really want something set your intentions right and go for it. Don’t listen to that niggly negative voice telling you you can’t. Most probably it is someone else’s voice and for them it was someone else’s voice too and it becomes part of us. Now is the time to break that – encourage yourself. Why not? Encourage others too. It is only when we do it for the higher purpose /greater good with God in mind that it won’t matter what anyone thinks, whether we will fail or not because we are not doing it for praise, for status, for affirmation from others, for success of any kind. That is when things will flow in your life.
Wish for others what you would want for yourself. This will free you when you actualise it- truly genuinely mean it -when you don’t even need to talk about it. It is just there. When we only want things for our self and to be better than others it is because we feel insecure inside. Insecurity is based on fear. Ask yourself what am I afraid of? Often it is the feeling I am not good enough/ won’t be loved as much/ want to be number one. You are though. You are number one. Everyone is and that’s okay. That’s what at core everyone desires to be loved to feel secure. Get help if you need. Liberate yourself.
You may feel unloved, you may desire or desperately need attention. Sometimes this will be in the form of a potential companion- make sure you don’t allow your insecurities to let you settle for less than you deserve. You are one of a kind- no one ever before was you or will be – you are a rare diamond, your soul crafted by Allah. You deserve the best. You deserve someone who has worked on themselves emotionally and psychologically as well as physically (health wise) and is willing to work with you to create the next generation in a meaningful way. Women are often told to settle/accept but you can set the standard for what you want. Break the mould. Love yourself like you deserve to be loved even though you may not feel like it. You will attract the best only when you feel you deserve it.
When we don’t feel like we deserve the best or to be loved it may be that for whatever reason we did not receive it as a child or have not felt it. It happens to many but that is life’s circumstances and not you. You still deserve the best and when there is no one to love you- you love you! Why not?
You may look in the mirror and find it hard or not like what you see. Again- what do you see and what has shaped this view of you? If you looked at your own eyes as a new born baby what would you feel? Perhaps some love warmth, compassion, hope, joy? Feel that now. You are still that you – just because you may have physically aged, because your parents, friends, society may have projected various things on to you, you may have done things you regret, others may have made you hate you but that doesn’t take away from who you are. It may take some pruning but you are there. Your eyes haven’t changed. Love you- love YOURSELF.
Always always be truthful to yourself and others. Nothing less. There is something beautiful about seeking truth and standing for truth. You may feel vulnerable but there is something so powerful and insightful so tender and connecting about being true and vulnerable. Most people fear this. Do it with confidence- fear will fall when you truly believe in yourself.
However hard and painful, stressful and despairing it gets, even in the suffering, searing, excruciating, dark pain and brokenness you feel, remind yourself It is going to be ok. It is. Get help. Be gentle on yourself. Don’t criticise and be harsh on yourself or others. It hurts because your body and mind are screaming some thing is not right. Ask for help, reach out. You deserve better, even if you do not believe it right now. Use your energies more wisely. Fill yourself with goodness- attend to yourself. It is okay -that’s not selfish. Working on healing yourself is not selfish- it’s a necessity for you and for society. When you are okay those around you will be okay. Every day do a round of gratitude. Especially when you are panicked. Take deep breaths and think of a few things you are grateful for. Affirm yourself every day.
Be you- ask yourself who am I deep down and who do I want to be- not so much the what I want to be but who- what kind of qualities do I want to see in me?
People will let you down, you will be devastated but you will come through it. You absolutely will. Trust in your capacity to heal. Don’t be fooled by the glamour of life. Create your own sense of beauty. Find like minded fellow souls and create connections and build communities. We need to come together more than anything - to feel held by a community, but only we can create the spaces and places we need. When you don’t feel you can do something or your confidence is low or you are just unsure- whatever it may be- ask yourself “if not now? When?” don’t take for granted - time. If not now, when? This letter would not have been with you if I did not ask myself the same :)
When in times of need and or despair these Duas (supplications) can really help:
رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ
“My Lord! Truly, I am in need of whatever good that you bestow on me.” [28:24] Dua of Musa a.s
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَداً
“Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself, and facilitate for us our affair in the right way.”[18:10]
أَنِّي مَسَّنِي الضُّرُّ وَأَنْتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ
“Verily, distress has seized me, and You are the Most Merciful of all who show mercy.”[21:83] Dua of Ayyub a.s when in pain
لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنتُ مِنْ الظَّالِمِينَ
“There is no God but You, Glorified be You! Truly, I have been of the dzalimun (wrongdoers).”
حَسْبُنَا اللَّهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ
“Allah is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of Affairs.”[3:173]
May you find the healing you need. May you have the courage and strength to face the difficult battles in life and may you find joy in little moments and ask for help when you need it. God be with you.
Love and prayers
P.S (I took this picture in Jerusalem in 2013 walking down a hill and was amazed to find this beautiful plant had grown through tarmac- a wondeful image - I felt apt for this post!)