Learning to love the journey(DW #810)

Self-growth, as we have been saying, is a journey rather than a destination. This means that we will never actually reach our highest potential.
It makes sense then, to start enjoying the journey rather than focus only on the destination.
The journey, of course, is not always comfortable.
In fact, our highest or infinite potential exists right OUTSIDE of our comfort zone - in the middle of our DISCOMFORT ZONE. Rather inconvenient!!
However, once we have made peace with this fact, we can stop wasting precious energy in wanting to get rid of the discomfort. And get comfortable in the discomfort zone.
The good news, though, is that we are programmed to only feel a deep, true sense of happiness, meaning and flourishing when we are striving on the journey and in the discomfort zone.  
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The journey and the destination(DW #809)

Today let us further emphasise the point that self-growth is a journey rather than a destination. It is a journey that ends at the same time as our time on this planet.
Some of us may be thinking: "But, that’s such a very long time. Surely, I will get to a stage where I have figured it out and will not have to keep trying so hard."
As our children would say: LOLZ (translation: its funny that you think that because no that will not happen)


We will (inshallah) have many enlightened moments, times when we are proud of the way we behaved in a particular situation and are pleased with how far we have come.
And we will also have times when we think that we have not progressed at all.
In other words, there will never be a time when we don’t have to do the work, to keep practicing our virtues and living our values. And keep coming back to them when we veer off track.


If we are serious about living our best selves and actualizing our...
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The pursuit and the practice(DW #808)

The quest and the pursuit of living our full potential can easily be misunderstood as chasing an ideal, chasing perfection, as trying to reach a distant shore.


There is a big problem with this: perfection is not a possibility for human beings. Perfection only belongs to the Creator, not to creation. No matter how hard we try, we will N.E.V.E.R achieve perfection. No matter how enlightened or self aware we become, we will have bad days. There will be days when we will "burn our bagels", say things we regret and not do things that we know are good for us.
If we set our sights on the distant shores of perfection, we are setting ourselves up for failure. If we consider self development as a project, we will not get there.
What is achievable by human beings, is the practice of excellence, of living with virtue right now, of doing our best IN THIS MOMENT.


This is all that is possible, all that we have, and that is enough.
So think...
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Our purpose on this planet(DW #807)

After the "The Big Three in Greek Philosophy", Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Stoicism became one of the most influential philosophies of the Roman world and has continued to influence many of history’s greatest minds.
The Stoic philosophers (so called because Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school used to teach under a column or "stoa" around 300 BC) believed that the central work of human beings was to live up to their true selves.
Here’s how Seneca, one of the main Stoics, puts it:
"Man’s ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he is born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy—that he live in accordance with his own nature."
Marcus Aurelius, another Stoic Philosopher (and Roman Emperor a hundred years after Nero), said something very similar in his classic Meditations"Everything - a horse, a vine - is created for some duty... For what task, then, were you yourself...
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Ancient roots of the concept of excellence and...(DW# 806)

The quest to live up to human potential has been an aspiration of human beings since time immemorial. Philosophical and spiritual traditions have emphasized the pursuit of living up to our full potential as the central work of human beings.
The Ancient Greeks for example, aspired to live with Arete, meaning excellence in all things. The term Arete also meant "moral virtue". This notion of excellence was also tied to the notion of fulfillment of purposeor function: in other words, living with Aretesignified the act of living up to one's full potential. To live with Aretemeant to strive to achieve your highest human potential: to be the best soldier, scholar, politician or craftsman that you could possibly be.

It is interesting that for the Ancient Greeks, as well as for most other cultures (up to the modern age, that is) the pursuit of excellence was always tied to virtue and morality. Achievement and success were closely linked to good...

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Keep the flow going(DW# 805)

ihsan mindfulness quran Sep 25, 2020
Yesterday, we discussed how the Creator has done Ihsan on the human being by making him in the best of makes, full of potential and it is his work to live up to this potential.

The Quran also reminds us that the obligation extends to include others in the bounties that we have been granted.
In Sura Qassas (the stories), we are reminded:
and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you [Holy Quran 28:77].
This is part of a longer verse where people are advising Korah, a very wealthy and arrogant man, to not be arrogant, to use his wealth for good and to do act with Ihsantowards others just as God has acted with Ihsantowards him.


The verse reminds us that sometimes Allah gives man some great bounties much beyond his own needs so that he can pass them forward. That the gifts and bounties that we have been freely granted well beyond our own efforts are not to stop with us but in fact to be used in the service of humanity. That we are in fact...
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Human potential(DW#804)

The one who acts with Ihsan is called a muhsin (the one who does excellent things, beautiful things, acts with excellence, virtue and grace).
In the Quran, we are told that He, God is the first Muhsin, that He is Ahsanul Khaliqeen, the best of creators, and that He is the one


Who made good everything that He has created  [Holy Quran 32:7]


So God’s doing the beautiful began with creation itself, the crowing glory of creation is the human being, made in God’s most beautiful form.


In Sura Teen [The Fig], the Quran says:


Truly We created man in the most beautiful stature[Holy Quran 95:4]
Scholars remind us that this verse is one of the most emphatic affirmations of humanity’s exalted status, before which the angels were ordered to bow down. God declares in 38: 72:


I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit.
Here man is taken to mean all of humanity, male and female, believer and...
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Difference between Adl and Ihsan(DW#803)

ihsan quran selfgrowth Sep 23, 2020
To summarize our discussions over the last couple of days, while Adl(justice) is the foundation of social interaction, Ihsan means to go above and beyond the basic requirements of justice and to act with beauty, kindness, virtue and grace towards other beings.


In a social context, we know that we deal with imperfect human beings. People that we interact with have flaws and they make mistakes . . . and if we dealt with everyone only on the basis of justice, things would become quite difficult for everyone. We would be forever demanding rights and making sure that things are exactly fair.
So Allah orders us to deal with grace, to overlook and forgive, and to resist retaliating with an eye for an eye.
In a tradition, Ali (as) says: "Justice is achieved once you provide people with their due rights, and kindness is applied when you go beyond this and do them a favour."
Let us use examples of two professions which are currently going above and beyond their...
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What is Ihsan(DW# 802)

ihsan mindfulness quran Sep 22, 2020
Yesterday we started our discussion on verse 16:90 of the Quran where it says:
Indeed Allah enjoins justice (Adl) and kindness (Ihsanand generosity towards relatives, and He forbids indecency, wrong, and aggression. He advises you, so that you may take admonition.
Yesterday we talked about the first injunction in this verse, which was that of Adlor justice, a foundation of a healthy family and society.
Today, let us explore second injunction of the verse, that of Ihsan.
The Arabic word Ihsanis rather challenging to translate into English. It is derived from the root word h-s-n which appears almost 200 times in the Quran in many derived forms. Some of these are ahsana ("does good"), ahsanu ("is best"),  husnan ("good") and al muhsineen ("the good doers").


The word Ihsanis a verb which means to do or to establish what is good and beautiful. It is often translated as virtue or excellence but one...
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The pursuit and practice of Ihsan(DW#801)

behaviour ihsan quran Sep 21, 2020
This year for the Muharram lectures, we focused our discussions on "The Pursuit and Practice of Ihsan". Over the next several weeks, I will be sharing some insights and wisdom from these discussions, many of which never made it to the lectures!

As always, our focus will be on commonalities, universal values and ethics which are shared by different faiths and cultures. We will also inshallah explore similar concepts in other traditions and throughout history with the aim of understanding that (conscious and enlightened) human beings throughout history have aimed towards the pursuit and practice of excellence and virtue.
The Quranic verse which we chose as our focusing theme is from Sura Nahl, chapter 16 of the Holy Quran (The Bee) where it says:
Indeed Allah enjoins justice (Adl) and kindness (Ihsan) and generosity towards relatives, and He forbids indecency, wrong, and aggression. He advises you, so that you may take admonition.[Holy Quran 16:90]
It is...
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