June 11, 2018

My Reasons for Feeling Uncomfortable with my Religion

June 11, 2018

My Reasons for Feeling Uncomfortable with my Religion


Photo by Ryan Holloway 
Ramadan. It's the ninth month of the Hijri Calendar (Islamic Calendar) where Muslims around the world observe the practice of fasting from sunrise to sunset. It was believed that it was during this month that the Holy book, Qur'an was revealed to the final Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). A form of charity, compassion, empathy is doubled more so if acted upon this month because it is also believed to be one of the holiest months of the year.

It's the last week of Ramadan this week and I — am just going to say it without judgement — have only fasted once in my 24 years on this earth. That's right. I'm one of those "Chicken Nugget" Muslims who don't fast. And the reasons why? Well, let me break it down for you.

Disclaimer: This is my own honest truth, so it doesn't mean that it's the same for those who don't practice. Their reasons could be completely different. These reasons are my own. If at any point you feel anger or uncomfortable with this post, you're most welcome to close this page. No judgement from my end. 

Where it all started

When I was growing up, I was taught the Islamic religion. As a child, I used to pray at least weekly when my cousins would come over for some bonding, and we would pray together. It was a sort of bonding that is a distant memory that I only remember through flashing scenes and photographs from the past. But I think it was just a month or a few months in, and I stopped praying altogether.

At the age of around 11 years old, I decided to fast for the first time. I was going to a Philippine School and everyone already assumes that I'm fasting, so, one day I thought, might as well do it. I lasted the whole day successfully without a drop of water. I remember the exact time I broke it for the first time, I was at an ice skating rink, and I took a sip of coke to mark the end of my fast for the day. I remember feeling proud of myself. But preteen life got in the way and I didn't complete the whole Ramadan. 

Around that time, my mom came to me after school and asked me to pray with her. Dragging my feet to wash up and do Wudu, I pulled myself together, partly read the prayers from a piece of paper, bowed my head to the stone, and prayed. At the time I remember feeling nervous and awkward, but I was grateful that it was just my mom and me in the room. I prayed I think twice more after that, and then never again for another 12 years. 

As a child, I was taught the religion, but it wasn't forced upon me. My Dad would come up to me and ask if I wanted to pray and I would suddenly get nervous and mumble something that sounds like a "No, no thank you." The only practising Muslims in our family is my Dad and my little brother. And during Ramadan or Prayer time, it can get awkward because I'm not doing it when I felt like I should but I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do. Confusing ha? 

My aunts and uncles would ask me why I don't pray, why I don't fast, and they would remind me that it's a must to be on the right end during Judgment Day. I felt demeaned, uncomfortable, judged, and shamed. I'm not a very knowledgeable Muslim and often times, I even get judged for my lack of knowledge. "You're a Muslim, and you don't know this?" It's sad, but I wasn't forced into the religion. And I'm so grateful that my family didn't push like others do to their kids. I'm grateful that their priority for their offspring is happiness. 

So why? Why don't I just do all of these things I won't feel nervous and judged?

Where I am now


Religion as a whole is comforting yet overwhelmingly uncomfortable.  Ironic isn't it? And, at some point, I accept it because it brings me nervous peace, and on the other, it confuses me.

Last Ramadan I felt pushed by a force to pray—pushed by a force as in I felt compelled to do it. I don't know how but my heart felt heavy and weird and the only thought that kept coming was to pray. — But I didn't know how to because it had been 12 years since I did it. And praying in Islam is more than just kneeling, there's a whole routine to it. Since I didn't know how I asked my Dad to teach me. I puckered up the courage to ask him, and it was... well, my heart felt a little lighter. 

That night, my mom gave me the old paper I used to read out from that last time I prayed, and later on, my brother laid out his mat (I, my scarf because I didn't have a mat), did the routine, and then when it was all over, my chest felt like it was going to fall. The next thing I knew, I was crying. I didn't know why. But I could only assume that it was a release of pressure I was feeling in my chest that needed to be let go. 

Since then, I stopped my practice once again.

This brings me here. At the age of 24 and still not comfortable practising Islam, why?

Nervous Peace

I mentioned just up there that I felt a nervous peace when I accept Islam. I feel nervous and anxious, yet at peace with the teachings. I accept it, and I say a few words from the Qur'an that makes me feel good and loved. But there are times when it feels like I'm doing it just to please others when I should've been doing it to feel at peace wholly for myself and for God. There are times when I want to practice and feel the same peace that my Dad feels when he prays, but I just can't. My chest grows heavy and I find myself backing away slowly in fear. Why? That's a bonus reason I have yet to uncover. 

Judgment


Honestly, I know I shouldn't feel this way but, I can't help but feel judged if I practice it. From over 12 years of not even praying or fasting, I have this fear of society giving me the stink eye. "Oh, now she's doing it. After all these years. " And that I might be doing the whole practice wrong and embarrass myself, so I hide. (Fear of embarrassment 101). It's all in my head but my pride and fear are overwhelming and the tensions I feel isn't a welcoming one. 

My Own Peace

During those 12 years, I found a place where my spirit can run free. New Age Spirituality (also known as, agnostic zone). It's a place that I found through yoga and meditation. No not Buddhism or Hinduism, although they're both I find peaceful at times. Though in this kind of spirituality, I felt no judgement when I thought I was doing things wrong, I felt no nervous peace, and I felt no pressure to practice it. I would sit on my meditation pillow and let my monkey mind wander around for a while. There were no boundaries or walls. I feel welcomed and open to this spirituality and energy. I feel at home. 


So those are my few reasons why. If you've made it this far, thank you for reading a part of my story all the way. I hope this opens your eyes a little bit to find your own peace with The All Mighty / The Universe / The Divine / God or however you refer to the Higher Power. 

I wrote this mostly for myself to find my own peace during this last week of Ramadan and the feeling of judgement from my family and friends (that is mostly just in my head). There are a lot of pride and my own kind of judgement that I need to let go of to fully release that nervous peace I feel from Islam at times and I wanted you all to know that if you're feeling this way too, you're not alone. We're in this together! 

I found a part of my peace tonight, I hope you did too! 

Give love, 
Always,
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June 4, 2018

There are Miracles and There are Downward Spirals

June 4, 2018

There are Miracles and There are Downward Spirals

Photo by JC Gellidon

Last year, I flew to Kuwait for the first time for a Toastmasters Workshop and had a disturbing experience. It was my second time travelling alone, and although it was another leap, it flew out of hand. I'm not going to go into details about that trip since that's another story to tell, but I will tell you this, there were tears, a cloud of negativity, blood stains, cramps, and anxiety attacks. It was a tough trip that I am ironically grateful that happened in a country that looked like home—legit, with flat houses, sand, sea, and dates trees which makes a typical gulf island. And this year, I had to fly back to Kuwait this May for another Toastmasters Conference, and this time, I flew with the intention of changing my perception of the country.

I had never felt so determined to do something as vague as changing my perception of a country. I mean, how can you actually force that to happen? You have a bad experience and it's out of your control, right? Nope. I had it all wrong.

I put my intention forward and surrender to your guidance and path.

I remember praying and praying, and I never thought that my prayers would be answered, but it was. For the most part. 

It's Nobody's Fault

The toughest part when I travel for these events with my friends is my fear of being left alone, and that was one of the reasons why my first trip to Kuwait blew up. I was so focused on my fear of being left alone that my negativity shadowed my perception towards what I should've actually been looking at. It was the people who were there yet didn't know what to do with me as I sulked in silence and tried to keep my tears at bay. And it wasn't their fault that they didn't know what to do neither is it my fault for feeling that way. Blame doesn't do good to any of us in the end, so it's no one's fault, it's just what happened, and that's that. 

I Spiralled

The Conference was a two-day event, and Day 1 went fantastically well with miracles that I'm so grateful and proud of. I met terrific people, passed on the love, kept my smiles up, and continued to ask for guidance towards more love. It was a day literally filled with miracles that my heart will never forget. 

Since Day 1 surrounded with good intentions and love, I expected Day 2 to go just the same, but I spiralled. I saw something that made me overthink my entire reason for being there, and I felt left out and unwanted. It was a bad kind of spiral that left me crying in my hotel room unable to even attend the second day of the conference. (To point out, I did pay for this event, but it wasn't a requirement for me to attend). So what did I do? 

I prayed for a guide out, took a bath, meditated, cried some more. It made me feel a bit better but all I wanted at the moment was to go home and be in my own space. It was an anxiety attack and a broken heart. This May trip blew my mind with how powerful the universe can get and how one single bad thought or emotion can diminish such power. I was lucky to have family there with me to hold me and shush me while I cried from my hotel room to the flight back to Bahrain. 

Just Feel It

This was another tough trip that I don't regret, but I'm rather proud of. I changed my perception of Kuwait and found it's beauty, and most of all, I learned such a valuable lesson. When my anxiety kicked in I didn't push it away, although I wanted it to go as soon as possible, I know that pushing it away only pulls more of it to me, so I felt it, cried, came to terms with my clouded thoughts and emotions until I felt better. 

When you feel something you don't like, don't push it away, welcome it.

I realised that when you're feeling emotional about a situation, retreat to a safe space and come to terms with it. Pushing it away only locks it up into a place that is bound to get overflown. One day a cake you're baking comes out burnt, and you'll cry over that for hours when instead you're actually crying over all that pent-up feelings you've been keeping. So, don't be afraid to feel what you're feeling.

It's been a few weeks since the trip and if I were to keep my what I was feeling inside, I wouldn't feel the freedom I feel right now. It's magical!

Here are some highlights of the trip that I'm proud of:
  • I helped a friend at the airport, and she called me a Godsend. She's just a bright light that friend.
  • The landing was so smooth that I barely felt it (I'm scared of flying)
  • I got upgraded to a suite! Hell's yes it was huge! (Symphony Style Hotel)
  • Received excellent service and free ice cream from Scoop a Cone
  • Sank in and fell asleep in a king-sized bed
  • Took the most relaxing bath meditation
  • My makeup and outfit were on point
  • Puckered up the courage to speak to someone whom I felt resentful towards and we became fast friends. 
  • I realised how supportive my family can actually be 
  • But most importantly, whenever my anxiety and negative nancy brain takes over, I somehow always managed to get distracted enough to forget about it or find myself colouring or practising calligraphy to calm my nerves down. Mostly.

The glory in changing your perspective on something is empowering. It feels like a weight has been lifted and the world is brighter. And feeling those negative feelings rather than pushing and locking it up is a relieving challenge. I'm so ready to go back to Kuwait when I need to. Come at me anxiety, let me feel ya!

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading this experience. I wanted to share something like this with the hopes that maybe one of my amazing anonymous readers would take something from it.

Give love, 
Always!
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