My dear, beautiful Black readers. There are times when as a writer, I know my words may not be enough. I don’t want to write about how much I care for you all, how much I stand with your cause and why I believe Black lives matter (because they do point blank. If you’re questioning the humanity of another human, you’re the problem) and blog about my feelings. This isn’t about me and it will never be. I’m a bleached blonde Palestinian who looks and passes for “white” until the slightest part of my culture comes out of me (pretty much all the time because y’all know how Palestinian I am 👀🇵🇸). For this reason, I felt uncomfortable writing because I want to use my blog to genuinely help and I didn’t know how. Until now.
This morning, I was watching a video by thevillageauntie (Angelica Lindsey-Ali) explaining why she is refusing speaking engagements by non-Black Muslims to “educate” others on anti-Blackness in our communities. She’s right. We’re closest to our community and we have the most influence. She also spoke about how tired she is, how anxious she is, how fighting anti-Blackness affecting her relationship with her children, etc. As she was talking, I realised that I have tips from my own personal journey on how to calm the anxious mind, how to regulate thought, tackle self esteem, powerful duas, etc. I want to share them all with you.
Before anything, please follow thevillageauntie’s example and say no. When it feels tiring, say no. Those with genuine intentions will understand. Those without are obviously coming with narcissistic intentions. If they wanted to help you, they would care for you first.
To fellow non-Black Muslims, this isn’t the time for me to address us. I know a lot of us have lost friends and family during this as their true colours show, have had awakenings to bias, have to deal with moving past anxiety to speak, etc. I’ll talk to us later, in a different post; I promise. My intention is to not burden my Black readers in something I’ve written for them. All I will say right now is watch the video I linked above and be mindful. Check on your Black friends, tell them you love them, pray for them and ask what you can do for THEM. Be sustainable and mindful that the fight against racism doesn’t stop when the hashtags stop trending.
Enough rambling. Let me get started. I am not a therapist and I am not a yoga teacher, nor am I a Muslim scholar. I am a writer, a learner reiki healer (inshallah will be licensed when Covid-19 is over), a Muslim and a yogi and I am making this list from my independent study, advice from various mentors and personal experience.
Quientening intrusive thoughts with feeling
Once upon a time, I used to suppress my feelings. My thoughts used to run through my mind at what seemed like the speed of light. I used to feel overwhelmed, scared and helpless. I felt trapped in my own thoughts and I felt like they controlled me because I couldn’t catch them, let alone control them. Until I learned this one thing: thoughts are meant to be felt, not controlled.
What underscores your thoughts are your feelings that you have not processed. I encourage you to ask yourself how you feel at that moment. Don’t fight with your thoughts, because they are a part of you, but connect with yourself on a deeper level by asking yourself how you feel. What you’ll find is your thoughts and feelings aren’t as separate as you think and you identifying those feelings and trying to work through them will always quieten those thoughts. Have compassion for your feelings. Meditate on the child within that feels those feelings (I covered this + a guided meditation here).
Breathing is core. When you focus on your breath, you’re focusing on the energy that is connecting your body to your soul, thus keeping you alive. Being in-tune with your feelings and breathing are foundations of mindfulness, which is why I put them both first. In my breathing practice, I was taught that to enter a state of relaxation, you need to breathe into your belly (diaphragmatic breathing) and generally your exhalation needs to be longer than your inhalation. There are some breathing techniques I learned as I went along and here they are:
4-7-8 technique: Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, out for 8 seconds. Repeat as long as you want (I do it for around 2 minutes)
Box breathing: This technique is where you breathe in, hold and out for the same amount of seconds for relieving anxiety and lowering stress levels. Some people do 3-3-3, whereas others do 4-4-4.
2-3-4 technique: Breathe in for 2 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, out for 4 seconds. A smaller version of 4-7-8 but it’s still effective and maybe even more if you want to work your way up to breathing deep
Kapalabhati: A pretty advanced yogic breathing technique, but I love it! This cleanses your lungs, releases toxins, purifies your blood, warms your body, clears your mind and you get a bit of an ab workout 😝! This warms your body so don’t do on the first 3-4 days of your menses, if you have high blood pressurem pregnant or have heart problems. I want you to read about it properly before doing it (Chopra Centre has a good guide and clear instructions) but essentially, you take deep inhales and explosive exhales.
Nostril breathing: In kundalini yoga, I was taught that the left nostril is the feminine nostril that you breathe through for calming properties (stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system) and the right nostril is the masculine nostril that energises you (stimulates the sympathetic nervous system).
You can either do left nostril breathing by blocking your right nostril and breathing deeply through your left nostril (usually in for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds but the longer the counts the more effective). You can also do alternative nostril breathing which is breathe in through your left nostril, out through your right nostril, in through your right nostril and out through your left nostril, then in through the left, etc.
PS: You don’t need to block your nostril through sticking your finger inside! Just pinch the outside of your thumb or index finger on the outside of your nostril.
Affirmations are very important because they rewire your brain! One of my favourite things to do is to listen to affirmations instead of music when I’m tidying up my room by going on YouTube. You can go on Pintrest to find a list of affirmations, or you can make them yourself! Here’s how:
- Identify how you’re feeling and what your consistent negative thoughts are
- Write them down (I am helpless, I have to do everything or I will be a bad activist)
- Write counter statements (I am powerful, I am allowed boundaries for the sake of my mental health and they make me a better activist)
It may feel like you’re lying to yourself or you’re being oblivious to the situation at hand, but you’re not. You’re rewiring yourself from within as you change the world. You’re creating a safe space inside your mind where you listen to yourself, connect with your breath, address your feelings and unlearning toxic messages you were fed during childhood. Do not use affirmations to hide your feelings. Use them as you feel your feelings so you can raise your self esteem and tap into a healthier emotional space.
Using yoga to calm the mind and body
Yoga poses are amazing for everyone! Each pose is good for your mind, body and spirit and has a different effect on you. Here are some relaxing poses that you can search and try:
- Child’s pose
- Downward facing dog
- Forward fold
- Sphinx pose
- Cow face pose
- Reclined eagle pose
- Lotus pose (the lotus mudra can be done as well by sitting in easy pose and breathing deep)
Kundalini yoga meditations
Some people are not okay with chanting, and that’s okay. This is a comprehensive list for everyone regardless of their religion so take what you want and disregard what you don’t. I know many Muslim kundalini yogis who don’t chant and others who do and others who prefer to find the meaning of the chant before chanting. I’ll be linking the full meditation and summarising it.
To open, strengthen and heal the heart centre. You put your hands in a lotus mudra and you chant, or breathe deep.
This meditation brings a total mental balance to the individual. Your thumb touches your index finger as you chant sa (birth), middle finger as you chant ta (life), ring finger as you chant na (death), little finger as you chant ma (rebirth). You do this at different volumes explained in the link above. You can follow a guides on YouTube that sings, whispers and is silent with you to guide you.
This meditation is said to help with creativity. You sit in easy pose with your hand touching your baby finger and chant the sa-re-sa-sa mantra. Again, you can find the mantra on YouTube or Spotify and chant with it. Usually done for 11 minutes.
I am Muslim, so I will put some duas. I’ll paste them in Arabic, transliterate and translate so anyone can use these powerful prayers.
اللَّهُمَّ اِنِّىْ اَسْىَلُكَ الْفَوْزَ فِى الْقَضَآءِ وَ نُزُلَالشُّهَدَآءِ وَعَيْشَ السُّعَدَآءِ وَ مُرَافَقَةَ الاَنْبِيآءِ وَ النَّصْرَ عَلَى الاَعْدَآءِ اِنَّكَ سَمِيْعَ الدُّعَآءِ
Allahumma inni as’alukal fauza fil qadaai’, wa nuzul-ash-shuhadaai’, wa aiyshaslua’daa’i, wa murafaqatal-ambiyaai’, wannasara alalaadaai’, innaka sammaiiud’dua
God, I ask You for success concerning my destiny, and feast with the martyr, and enjoyment with fortunate people, and the companionship of believers, and victory over my enemies. Only you can answer my prayer.
الَّهُمَّ اسْتُرْ عاوْرَتِىْ وَ امِنْ رَوْعَتْىْ
Allahummastur ‘auraati wa aamin ru’aati
Allah, cover my faults, and change my fear into peace
رَبَّنَا لا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّلَمِنَ وَ نَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَفِرِيْنَ
Rabbana la taj’alna fitnatan-llil qaumidh-dhalimeen, wa najjinna bi-rahmatika minal-qawmil-Kafireen
Lord, do not make me a trial for the wrongdoing people, and deliver me by Your Mercy from the oppression of disbelievers.
اللهم اهدني صرة المستقيم للوصولي
Allahuma ihdeeni seerat al-mustaqim la wusuli
Allah guide me to the straight path to my destination
اللهُمَّ لا سَهْلَ إلا مَا جَعَلتَهُ سَهْلا وَ أنتَ تَجْعَلُ الحزْنَ إذا شِئْتَ سَهْلا
Allahuma la sahla illa ma ja’altahu sahla, wa ‘anta taj-alul hazna idha shi’ta sahla
Allah, nothing is easy except what You have made easy. If You wish, You can make the difficult easy.
بِسْم الله وتوكلت على الله ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله
Bismillah wa tawakkaltu a’la Allah wa la hawla wa la quta illa billah
In the name of Allah, I trust in Allah’s plan, there is no might, nor power, except for Allah
“Just for today”
A principle we are taught in reiki, where we set an intention and choose to live in peace for today. The human mind responds better when you have short term aims, so if you aim to be at peace “just for today”, your brain digests it better. It also helps you to practice living with intention, which is SO unbelievably important! I’ll write something in depth on this later and I’ll link here once it’s ready so you don’t have to keep checking back.
Here are the five reiki principles to live by (gratitude is very important because it takes you out of anxiety and puts you into the present moment):
Just for today I will not worry.
Just for today I will not be angry.
Just for today I will do my work honestly.
Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings.
Just for today I will be kind to my neighbour and every living thing.
That’s all so far, I’m open to questions and more suggestions. Please tell me what you want from me and what I can do to support you. I’m all ears.
Love you all so much!!!