“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” – Maya Angelou
The Islamic new year, or Maal Hijrah *, made its grand entrance at sunset yesterday, and however it is we’d welcomed it, what remains the same is that we have an entire year to fill and live up.
I wrote these intentions at the beginning of 2016, of which I’d ushered in in a state of quiet meditation and finding my center, alone in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. As I sought to make peace with whatever I was going through then, I looked for clarity for the path forward. It has become clear to me how essential intentions are for the makings of a meaningful year.
The Messenger of Allah said: “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. ” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim] **
The past 9 months have been an interesting journey, with much growth, setbacks, and beautiful memories. If anything, I’ve learnt that things will most definitely not go all as planned and curveballs are going to be aplenty. In times of joy and celebration, we need to learn to be present and in the moment, no matter how fleeting it may be, and try to etch it into the recesses of our heart. In times of uncertainty and chaos, we are not defined by our circumstances but how we rise within the circumstance we’re in. So as we start this new year, here are 6 intentions I’m going to hold on to for the year.
1) Be fully present
I want to live life being completely in the moment – physically, emotionally and mentally.
I have beaten myself up for things I’ve done in the past, and stressed myself over plans for the future, and I forget to respect the experience I am currently being placed through.
Being fully present means committing to something completely, engaging with the people in front of me, being conscious of and embracing my feelings (no matter how intense, how wonderful, or how painful they are) and respecting the moments as the lessons and opportunities that they are.
I will be mindful and remain where I am, and live life fully present.
2) Let go and let God
I am a sucker for control. In all situations, I needed to know what is going to happen, what to expect, and the reasons behind every single thing. Naturally, it just doesn’t work that way, and some things are just beyond control and comprehension.
I’ve been working on it, and so far, I’ve gotten myself to the other end of the spectrum where I throw all caution to the wind and go full-force crazy spontaneous (as seen in my many questionable decisions while travelling and in my relationships), and now am slowly starting to get a sense of equilibrium.
I’m going to learn to relax, to do my best in whatever capacity that I am in, and to fully surrender to God whatever comes after. Verily, whatever happens is always for the benefit of the believer, so I’m going to take heart in that.
3) Respond, not react
I can be storm of emotions, passions and temper, and I have realised that when I react on whatever I am feeling in the moment, the outcome isn’t always pleasant. Unsurprisingly, this concerns the people I’m most close to and care about, for the simple reason that I tend to let my guard down around them. Yet these are also the people whose relationships I treasure, and more often than not, reacting has caused people to be unhappy and make the situation worse.
Reacting is a gut decision based on fear and insecurities, and may often not be the most rational or smart thing to do. Responding, on the other hand, is a more conscious and rational act of taking the situation in, and deciding the best course of action based on grounded values such as reason, compassion, cooperation.
Here’s to taking the time to be more conscious of my response, and to work towards maintaining better relationships in this new year.
4) Be a blessing
God has blessed all of us with different talents, skills and callings in life, and when we are all aware of this and give from a place of love and compassion, my what a world this would be!
We are given much not to be greedy or to hoard all things for ourselves, but to give, and to give well. There is always an opportunity to bless others, and verily, the more we bless others, He will open more doors for us to carry out His will.
There are so many things I hope to do in this new year, but most of all, I just hope to be a blessing to everyone I meet, be it in big or small ways.
5) Pick my battles well
Choosing the battles to invest your effort in is so important, because really, there’s no point in sweating on the small stuff.
“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”
Do I really want to compare myself to that other person? Is it really important to prove my point at this moment? Am I sure I want to get into a fight about such a petty matter? What’s most important here?
This cannot be any more timely. It’s about treating myself with the same level of kindness and compassion that I give others, and to understand that I am important and worthy of love too. As a giver, I need to set boundaries, because takers rarely do, and because I cannot give from an empty vessel.
So much has been said about how adding self-care into one’s daily routine reduces stress, decreases the chance of mental and physical ailment, increases productivity, and inspires feelings of happiness. By giving ourselves a daily dose of compassion, we’re able to approach our work and relationships with a clear, happy mind, thus allowing the cycle of positivity to continue.
Self-care could look a lot like taking the time to journal and detox in the morning, setting and sticking to a cut-off time at work where I pack and leave to do other things (Oh, fellow teachers, you understand this, don’t you?), treating myself to a solo date once a week, going off on solo trips every term break, or whatever it is that makes me happy.
Bonus 7): Put Allah first
It has been an incredible year of growth and opportunities, of falling down and rising again, and a crazy rollercoaster ride of emotions. A new year has just begun and these are my intentions for the year.
What are yours? 🙂
Kullu a’am wa anti bi kheir. [May you be well throughout the year.] May Allah bless our year ahead with iman and taqwa, and may we always be under His love and barakah always.
Good reads for:
* Maal Hijrah is the start of the Muslim calendar year which was introduced by the Caliph Umar, the second Caliph after the passing of the Prophet. Hijrah literally means migration, and and celebrates Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Makkah to Madinah. It is a time for a new beginning, a change from bad to good and a chance to re-evaluate one’s life and direction.
** Full hadith:
The Messenger of Allah said: “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. So the one whose ‘hijrah’ (migration) was to Allah and His Messenger, then his ‘hijrah’ was to Allah and His Messenger. And the one whose ‘hijrah’ was for the world to gain from it, or a woman to marry her, then his ‘hijrah’ was for what he made ‘hijrah’ for.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]