“Eating mindfully” can be done with a small item of food or snack to concentrate on it
Essential Spirituality: An Islamic Perspective
Essential Spirituality: The 7 PracticesEssential Spirituality: The 7 Practices
to Awaken Heart and Mindto Awaken Heart and Mind
An Islamic perspectiveAn Islamic perspective
Presentation byPresentation by
Amina InloesAmina Inloes
• Multi-faith approach
• Practical exercises (long-term)
• A word from the author (video clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPPAWNL8CTs)
• “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so take it
even from the polytheist, because you are more
deserving of it.” – Imam ‘Ali (A)
• Today’s approach
– Introduction to each topic
– Do selected exercises
– Note down ideas for the future
– Critical analysis
I. Transform your Motivation: Reduce
Craving and Find Your Soul’s Desire
• “Free yourself from greed, for greed is itself an
impoverishment.” – the Prophet (S)
• “Asceticism (zuhd) is not that you should not own anything,
but that nothing should own you.” – Imam ‘Ali (A)
• “All you want is to be happy. All your desires, whatever
they may be, are of longing for happiness…Desire by itself
is not wrong…It is the choices you make that are wrong.
To imagine that some little thing—food, carnal desires,
power, fame—will make you happy is to deceive oneself.
Only something as vast and deep as your real self can make
you truly and lastingly happy.” – Hindu approach
I. The wrong path to happiness?
• Everyone wants to be happy, but most of us
have mistaken ideas about what makes us happy.
• Once we have escaped poverty, material gain
only makes people marginally happier.
• Satisfaction isn’t so much about getting what you
want as wanting what you have.
• “The richest among you is the one who is not
entrapped by greed…the miser is the poorest of
all.” – Prophet (S)
• Mulla Nasruddin story
• Desire is wanting; attachment is a
compulsive necessity. Unfulfilled desires
produce little impact; unfulfilled attachments
yield frustration and pain.
• “The Soul that is attached to anything,
however much good there may be in it, will
not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For
whether it be a strong wire rope or a
slender and delicate thread that holds the
bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast;
for, until the cord be broken the bird
cannot fly. So the soul held by the bonds of
human affections, however slight they may
be, cannot, while they last make its way to
God.” – Christian quotation
• Happiness lies not in feeding and fueling our
attachments, but in reducing and
• Do we need attachments to motivate
I. Desire vs. attachment
I. Exercises to remove attachment
1. Consider a worldly attachment.
2. Focus on it – recognize pain as
feedback. How much pain are you
willing to tolerate for it?
3. Examine the experience of craving –
what does it feel like? (Physically?
4. What beliefs are underlying it? (“I’ll
die if anyone finds out.” “I’ll be a
failure without it.”) Now that you
are aware of those beliefs, can you
II. Cultivate emotional wisdom: heal your
heart and learn to love
• “The most thankful of you towards Allah is the one
who is most thankful towards people.” – Imam al-
• “No sooner do two brethren-in-faith meet than the
better of them is the one who loves the other
more.” – Imam al-Sadiq (A)
• “It is well known that emotions of the soul affect
the body and produce great, significant and wide-
ranging changes in the state of health. Emotions of
the soul should be watched, regularly examined, and
kept well balanced.” – Maimonides (Musa b.
Maymun, twelfth-century Jewish sage)
II. Emotions and the world around us
• Our emotions color how we see the world
• We can influence our emotions to reduce painful feelings such as
fear and anger; to foster helpful attitudes such as gratitude and
generosity; to cultivate positive emotions such as love and
• Addictive or self-serving love versus mature love: “One of the
great tragedies of our times is that our culture has confused love
with addiction…Mature love is based more on sufficiency and
wholeness than on deficiency and fear. But fear-based
infatuation and craving for affection are so common and fill so
much of the media that we sometimes assume this is all that love
• Wrong actions and negativity usually come from fear and
II. Exercises to reduce fear and anger
•For now: Think of something you fear (mildly).
– Note the sensations that you feel. Where is it located? Is the actual
sensation as bad as what you fear?
– Does the fear go away when you concentrate on it?
•For later: Do what you fear
“Do not fear anything except your sins.” – Imam ‘Ali (A)
– Consider something you are angry with. Now consider your own
– Think of people who are loving and kind. How does it affect your mood?
•For later: give the person you are angry at a gift.
“Who do you imagine to be strong or powerful? It is the one who
masters himself/herself while angry.” – the Prophet (S)
The story of a woman whose two-year-old daughter fell and faced possible paralysis
II. Exercises to cultivate love and gratitude
• For now:
– Recall two or three helpful people. How have they helped? How do you feel?
– Recall two or three loving people. What qualifies make them kind and loving?
– Consider qualities of mind you would like to give others and thereby enjoy
• For later:
– Before eating, thank Allah and also all the people who participated in the
production of the food
– For a fixed period of time (such as an hour or a day), try to think of a reason to
feel grateful to everyone you meet
“If you feel hatred toward someone, that hate boomerangs back and scorches
your own mind. On the other hand, if you offer love to someone, that love
first fills and heals your mind.”
III. Live ethically: feel good by doing good
• “[A wise person] is good to people who are
good. She is also good to people who are not
good. This is true goodness.” – Lao Tsu
• “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your gain, and
your neighbour’s loss as your own loss.” -
III. The cost of unethical living
• Unethical behaviour is self-perpetuating because
it not only springs from destructive states of
mind but also strengthens them; what we do,
• “It’s hard to sit and meditate after a day of lying,
cheating and hurting people.”
• What is ethical living?
– “Actions are according to….” – the Prophet (S)
– Speech and action
– Ethics versus ritualism
III. Exercises in ethical living
1.Reflect on your good deeds
2.Consider an act you are unhappy about and how to try to
fix it. Commit to doing that in a specific time period.
1.Tell the truth for a day (including avoiding lying by
omission). If you lie or feel tempted to lie, notice the fear or
attachment that triggered it, and what you learned from it.
What did you gain from telling the truth?
2.Give up gossip. Suggestion: only say about someone what
you have said to them or what you would be willing to say
IV. Concentrate and calm your mind
• Visualization exercise
• Western psychology has concluded that people
cannot concentrate or control their minds;
world religions emphasize this
• Concentration in prayer: should we focus on
what happens during the prayer, or outside the
• Technological, lifestyle, and physiological aspects
IV. Exercises to develop concentration
•Contemplative prayer (i.e. prayer that is not a
request or a dialogue) and focus on the name of
– Allow whatever emotions are present to surface,
painful or positive
•For one day, commit to doing one thing at a time
•“Transform daily activities into sacred rituals”
•Transform interruptions (such as telephone calls)
into wakeup calls
Exercise in contemplative prayer: Du‘a al-Nur
In the name of Allah, the light,
In the name of Allah, the light, the light,
In the name of Allah, the light over light,
In the name of Allah, who is He who manages
In the name of Allah who created light from
Praise be to Allah who created light from light,
and sent down light on Mount Tur, in between
the inscribed book, in the parchment unrolled,
by a measure, well-determined, on the Prophet,
the giver of glad tidings.
Praise be to Allah; it is He who is remembered
with the highest of the high attributes, who is
known to be the most glorious.
In joy and happiness, in sorrow and distress, He
(alone) is thankfully praised.
Blessings of Allah be on our master,
Muhammad, and on his pure children.