Had a splendid time at #tslsuperbigonselflove tea party last Sunday… Alhamdulillah for the opportunity to interact with fellow sisters and exchange thoughts about self love and what it truly means to ‘take care’ of ourselves. It was an honour to be sharing alongside such inspirational ladies – I admire Nisa for being true to herself and her gorgeous illustrations which scream “Muslim women represent!”, Sha for her passion in advocating mindful and healthy living, and Aida for her ability to #justdoit (or #gojer, as we Malays call it) in organizing this entire event in such a short span of time and for just being the amazing human being that she is. We shared what we think about self love and how we can cultivate it in our lives through different perspectives.
Here’s what I shared during the session.
Cultivating Self Love Through Reading
When people talk about self care or self love, the first few things that come to mind would probably be activities like doing yoga, cooking, traveling, gardening… but not writing or reading. When really, they are probably the simplest and most accessible activities yet also the most powerful for our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It doesn’t take much – all we need is paper, pen, some time and an active mind.
The benefits of these activities are aplenty; it is therapeutic, it makes you more focused, more reflective, more creative, allows you to regain control… just to name a few. I won’t delve into the details because I’m sure you can google up the benefits. Instead, I’ll share more on the how – how can we cultivate self love through reading books?
We all know the importance of a balanced diet when it comes to consuming food. Similarly, as a Muslim, it is important for us to have a balanced diet in our consumption of reading materials. There are 2 kinds of reading that I personally believe we need to engage ourselves in:
- General reading
- Islamic reading
General reading consists of academic reading and any reading materials that you are interested in; anything ranging from fiction, non-fiction, poetry, self-help, etc. Islamic reading would consist of all the books that remind us of our living purpose in life, which is is to worship Allah (swt). Whatever we consume affects the way we think and who we are as a person, so reading is definitely not an exercise that should be taken lightly.
Sometimes I wish more people would view reading as more than just a hobby; it’s really a necessity for anyone who is blessed with literacy. It’s survival. Silly example here, but it should be our cigarette. We should all be addicted to it. We should be fuelled to dedicate a certain amount of time daily to read as it is the first commandment of Allah, received by our Prophet (saws) in the first revelation delivered by Angel Jibreel. Reading, and reading purposefully, should thus be the essential ingredient to a meaningful, fulfilling and productive life.
For a list of books to recommend, you may check out my Books tab. Will add more soon. Or yknow, you can visit your local bookshops and browse for yourselves for some good reads to satiate your hunger for knowledge.
Cultivating Self Love Through Writing
There are 4 types of writing which we can include in our self care routine:
1. Morning Pages
Morning Pages is a stream of consciousness writing that’s to be done in the mornings, preferably after subuh prayers and before breakfast. Instead of reaching out for your phone and scrolling through your Facebook/Instagram, exercise disconnection and soak in the morning instead by writing on a piece of paper. The important thing about this exercise is to NOT be rigid. Break all the grammar rules if you want. Just write whatever that’s in your head. The point of this exercise is to release all your clogged up thoughts and set your focus right before you start your day. (I didn’t talk about this during the session, it’s a new point I’m sharing in this post.)
2. Gratitude Diary
You can keep a Gratitude Diary to note down at least 3 to 5 things things you are thankful for, at the end of each day. It doesn’t have to only be the big things like graduating from school or getting a job; sometimes it’s the littlest things like successfully whipping up a tasty dinner for the family or having the energy to get your errands done that you need to be more thankful for. Do this regularly before bedtime – it takes less than 5 minutes, trust me – and you will find yourself becoming a more contented person who complains less and appreciates more. Keeping a Gratitude Diary allows you to keep tabs on every little blessing He has bestowed upon us and which we often overlook because we’re being too busy envying the blessings and tests Allah has given to others.
And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.'” [Qur’an, 14:7]
As Allah had promised us in Surah Ibrahim, He will indeed increase us in all that is good for us, if only we express our gratitude constantly towards Him. This daily exercise will insyaAllah aid us towards becoming a people of optimism and full of light; a people of Alhamdulillah!
Poetry gives shape to your thoughts and it is an excellent medium to make sense out of things that does not make sense to you. It is essentially an outlet to purge your emotions, and writing poems out of your negative emotions especially has a cathartic effect and you will instantly feel lighter. I know that some people might feel intimidated whenever they hear the mention of ‘poetry’, thinking that it has to rhyme or be of a certain Shakespearean standard, but that’s not the point of it at all. The kinds of writing I’m suggesting here is a writing therapy for yourself, and yourself only. You write to express, not to impress. No one’s gonna know what you write except you and Allah. So just let it go and write whatever it is that is bothering you in a form of a poem – you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually write and how much lighter you feel after spilling your feelings in ink.
4. Qur’an Journal
This is a rather recent writing exercise I have been engaging myself with since the start of this blessed month of Qur’an. Basically, the Qur’an Journal is a journal we keep to document our thoughts and reflections about a certain ayah or passage in the Qur’an and relating it to our personal life. The steps to it are simple: Read and recite the particular ayah or passage in the Qur’an which you resonate with and want to reflect on → Write down notes in your journal as you study that ayah or passage in depth to understand the context and what Allah means when He mentioned it in the Qur’an (I recommend bayyinah.tv, or any other trusty scholars or books you can find on the exegesis of the Qur’an) → Reflect on what you have just learnt → Write a short reflection or an essay, if you will, in your journal after you have reflected, linking it to a personal experience, and how that ayah or passage helped to bring light to your situation and lifted you from darkness and into light. The rationale for this Qur’anic journaling activity is to build a stronger personal connection with Allah’s book. So it’s Read → Write → Reflect → Write. This exercise can be done in the mornings or whenever you have a break.
I hope these suggestions will be of benefit to anyone out there who might need it. Note that this is written from a perspective of someone who finds solace in words; perhaps you have your own ways of practising self care which are equally as beneficial and you would like to share? If you do, let me know what they are!
TLDR; it’s important to love yourself the best way you know how and to always keep Al-Wadud, The Loving, in the equation whenever you practise self love 🙂