Research shows that there is a strong correlation between meditation and reduced stress levels along with a myriad of other health benefits.  Also, many cultures with rich spiritual histories incorporate regular meditation as a lifestyle staple. 

So why do so many of us find it difficult to jump on the meditation bandwagon?

I think skeptics who haven’t found meditation to be as amazing in real life as research claims may actually be onto something.  In fact, I fault most western forms of meditation for one fundamental reason:

If you’ve been told to focus on nothing while meditating, then I think you’ve been taught all wrong.

In the Islamic faith, clearing your thoughts through meditation is simply a means to an end and not the end itself.  When we clear our thoughts of everything in this world, we do it with the sole purpose of enabling ourselves to then fill our hearts with remembrance and celebration of the Divine.  In fact, the term used for Islamic-style meditation—practiced for centuries—is “dhikr,” which actually means “remembrance” in Arabic.  We don’t meditate to clear our thoughts and help us focus; we clear our thoughts and enable ourselves to focus in order to remember what is important (or rather, Who is important).

Can you see how this is fundamentally different than what you've been taught?

If meditation has come across as meaningless to you, it just may be because your awakening soul needs more.  We are not only four-dimensional beings (with time being the fourth dimension); we have spirits inside of us that long to go home to our Creator.  If this sounds like something that resonates with your own intuition, you may want to tweak your meditation routine and give it another shot.

I challenge you to test a couple of Islamic forms of meditation:

  1. First, find a quiet space and commit to not speaking to anyone or engaging in anything for a set period of time (say, twenty minutes).  Then, start calming yourself down, clearing your thoughts, and focusing on your breathing.  With every single breath you inhale (through your nose, preferably), practice uttering the words: “There is no deity worthy of my worship except for God.”  Yes, this is the Muslim testimony of faith and yes; I am recommending that you practice it. 

    You see, by asserting that there is none worthy of your worship except for our Beautiful Creator, you are literally freeing your soul from the shackles of this world.  Slave to money?  No more.  Feeling addicted to food?  Not a captive to that either.   In an abusive relationship?  That individual doesn’t own you; you belong to God.  Nothing and no one in this world deserves your servitude—this is an honor you keep reserved only for the Creator.

    Now, with every breath we exhale, we affirm the Message of the Prophets—so I would say, “Mohammad is His final Messenger” (peace and blessings upon him).  This brings our focus back to our life example.  This reminds me of my dedication to the human being that I possess the most love for inside of my weary heart—the Prophet Mohammad, peace and blessings upon him, taught me how to find God.  This is a gift no amount of gratitude can make up for.  If you have a difficult time with the exhaling affirmation because of your own religious practices, I would recommend you start by imagining the words, “And I accept God’s Messengers and their Messages” to begin with. 

    It is easy for floods of worldly thoughts to enter your mind while you are meditating. This is normal and it is the ego rearing its ugly head.  Kill it.  Imagine with every inhale and exhale and with every word that you utter—even if you whisper them silently or don’t use your voice at all—that there is a sin being eradicated from your heart and light is filling its space.  With every word, you are illuminating your own spirit.  The old you is being forgiven, and the new you is being filled with light.

    There are Muslim students who do this particular meditation as a prerequisite every single day in order to maintain their “teachability” with scholars such as Shaikh Hussain Abdul Sattar in Chicago.  Others may do this irregularly for that added sense of spirituality. 
  2. The second kind of meditation I want you to try goes like so: find a quiet place and begin to clear your thoughts in order to utter the phrase, “Sanctify God and praise Him; Sanctify God the Almighty” (in Arabic, “Sub7an Allah wa bi7amdih; Sub7an Allah al-3adheem”).  The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) taught that these words are light on the tongue but heavy on the scale of deeds.  Simple, right?

    However, the key to reaping the maximum benefits of this meditation is to carry it on indefinitely.  After focusing for however long it takes, you are supposed to begin to engage the world again—but keep your heart focused on these words and on the repetition of these words.  As you go through your day, the praise of the Divine should be what weighs down the most heavily inside of your heart, and none of the actions and regular stressors of your day should affect your spiritual standing with Him.

Can you imagine that there are humans who exist on earth and every moment they are aware of, they spend engaging in the praise of the Divine?  Doesn’t that put us to shame?  And doesn’t that put every so-called meditation “pro” out there who emphasizes the worldly benefits of calming the mind down without paying any concern to spiritual growth to shame?  There is no way that I can emphasize enough the point of this article: Meditation is a means to an end, and the end is not a silenced mind.  The end is a mind that has reunited with its Creator, and removing distraction is only a step in the path to finding Home.

Have you ever felt that the way you have been taught to meditate has left you feeling empty inside?  Are you interested in trying either of these meditation tricks out?  If so, let us know in the comments below!  I would love to hear your feedback.