Thursday, November 15, 2012

Carne e osso / Mindfulness

As salaam alaikum,

I'm on a string of three nights. Three nights at the beginning of the block, three nights at the end. It's not bad. I admitted three patients last night, none of them particularly sick. We'll see who of them is still here.

I'm drowsy. I'm status post Benadryl to help me sleep the five hours that I did, and I've been napping intermittently since. I slept for 15 hours yesterday and the night proceeding, together, so that usually explains why I'm not able to get the full 7 hours in the next day. I'm sleepy and its the perfect mindset for a ritual de mis piernas type of exercise, Neruda style. I'm in bed, my own body, carne e osso, is before me. No one else to regard it but me. The pale of my winter-coloring skin, the fat of my thigh, the bend of my knee is all there before me. And there's nothing magical about this moment. I'm just a woman in her pajamas, looking at her body, a body that is not so remarkable, not so much unlike any woman else's.

And I reflected on how life, for me, has slowly lost its mystical nature, and in a way has been reduced to the very carnal, very temporal nature of my own body, my own legs. It's like spiritual atrophy, and I'm not sure I like it.

Have I been much more emotionally stable because of it? Absolutely. But did I take that stability in exchange for my sense of wonder and awe at the transcendental nature of life? Not intentionally.

It all started when I attempted mindfulness, something that was not a new concept to me as I begun residency but something that was reinforced by one of our faculty members. Mindfulness. Living one day, or even one moment, at a time. Recognizing things for what they are. They are what they are, essentially. If you're having a bad day, it's just a bad day. There are bad days and good days in life. Don't whip yourself into a frenzy, thinking about the significance of this bad, or beating yourself up for not being happy all the time. Happiness at all times is not a characteristic of life. Tristeza não tem fim, felicidade sim, though not exactly. Both are temporal, both wax and wane as a matter of life. Live in the moment, don't stress too much about the future...not next year, not next block, not tomorrow, not even next shift.

Living so much in the moment has driven so many of my decisions in the last five months. It's been transformative and has led me to a place of emotional stability that I have not previously known. I'm no longer beating myself up if things feel too hard, if I have a bad day, or anything else. I no longer presume my own fundamental insufficiency as a human being is at the bottom of my bad days...or that my own prowess is responsible for my good days. Life is ebb and tide. I love obstetrics, but there were days of the rotation where I was fine not delivering another baby, ever. Doesn't mean I don't have what it means I was tired, I was under a lot of stress, and it's okay to feel that way.

I used to live life so differently. Not only was my eye constantly to tomorrow, the next block, the next year, my eye was fixed on the Hereafter. My life was constantly projected out to some place I never was. Future career, future husband, future children, future self. I was rarely cognizant of who I was in the moment.

And if I stopped to notice, I would have been more aware of who I actually am right now and what I actually want, now. Not who I believe I should be, for which my current self is never enough. My should be self was the image on which I based everything I wanted, everything I wanted in the future. But maybe, just maybe, I was never meant to be this image of future self.

Maybe the point of it all is that I should take what I've been blessed with and work with what I have.

Mindfulness does not have to be the antithesis of spirituality. My first passes with it were that way, though. I'm not sure why.

I guess it's because my version of spirituality, as much as I decried it, was unbalanced between the now and the Hereafter. In my spiritual vision, we weren't gifted now for nothing. Now is not simply a trial or a temptation. There's a lot of now that matters for our creation of self, a self that, yes, will transcend this time, space, this carne e osso, this ritual de mis piernas, all of these limited dimensions.

So how will mindfulness instruct my spirituality?

I live in the moment. I live right now, in today. I pray every day, for what is now, for what is in front of me, for what I am most capable of sensing and experiencing. I cannot sense my future or my final destination. I pray for guidance and protection each day. I pray for continued mercy each day. I do concern myself with the Hereafter, but no longer how my future self can attain it. I focus on what I can do, in each and every day, to elevate my own soul.

Mindfulness, I think, will actually revamp my spirituality. Mindfulness, I think, is better than my former mysticism, of a world where there was a mysterious and hidden balance of acts and consequences, of intended and predetermined pathways drawn out, and we're just along for the ride, sometimes able to find the deeper meaning in our everyday, in our path. I still believe that this is true, but it doesn't behoove me to think this way. It's very anxiety provoking when every interaction, every event in life has some sort of spiritual, cosmic meaning that is making me into who I am supposed to be. By the grace of God, I will become who I am supposed to be.

But in being so farsighted, I miss out on the little things, the little deeds of each day. The little ways I can be a better person.

And eis que chega mindfulness. I am living right now. I submit to God right now. Instead of thinking how I can submit better tomorrow, or in the future, and stressing about how I'll get there, and propping myself against other invisible entities, like community and future husband, to get me to that sweet spot, how can I submit right now? Because right now is what I have. I never have tomorrow, not only because it's not guaranteed, but because it is not yet tomorrow. Tomorrow is a nebulous thing and is the reason why we can procrastinate so much, because there is always another tomorrow.

I have right now. For me, submitting is being in all ways a better human being to myself and those around me. There are very little ways I can do this each day that I ignore because I live too far into the big picture, into an ideal that I will, in fact, fail to realizing if I don't live where God placed me. In the body He placed me, in the time and space He placed me, in the context.

When I embraced mindfulness, I let go of a woman I will never be and embraced the woman that I am. And I'm being real with myself in a way I never have. And I'm reconstructing a religious and spiritual paradigm that works for me, that is still compatible with praying in jammah but is altogether particular to me.

The spiritual realm reenters my life but is no longer synonymous with the self-oppressive paradigm it used to be. The self limiting. I'm my only liable limitation. No one else makes me an inivisble Muslimah but myself. I am so blessed to be my only limitation. Not everyone is so free.

I know who I am, I know who I ain't. And I'd never be satisfied with just being carne e osso. Living in now is an awesome exercise, but it doesn't take away my belief in the dimension that exists outside of space and time, making my now irrelevant when I'm able to transcend these limits upon my separation from this body.


  1. "When I embraced mindfulness, I let go of a woman I will never be and embraced the woman that I am."

    I think I might need to try this mindfulness thing... It sounds like a less spiritual version of Tawwakul...

    It's funny how we go through different phases of trying to understand what we mean, what life means, how to keep all of that for making us crazy.

    I'm in this phase of just laughing so I don't cry... that isn't working out too much. Thanks for giving me something to mull over.

    1. I realized (late) that mindfulness is verrryyy secular, so I had to create a spiritual paradigm for it. As a Muslim, I feel like we never live for just now...not for the dunya. We are always cognizant of the hereafter and striving, and at least for me, this always meant future actions...

      It is very painful to live in the future when you aren't there...but I realize that my spirituality, dhikr, striving...doesn't have to be so dependent on the future. It's not exactly living each day as if it's my last, each day because it is, because I am human and my perception is limited to this, and my opportunity to be my best is here, because here is where I most tangibly exist...

      Prayer can transcend, and that's where I'll put the future...let me be a believer now, and strive to be better now, and remember God now...