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How "Not" to Meditate by Eilaf Farajalla

It’s amazing how little I know about meditation. You would think that getting an early start would be advantageous in some way. The Muslim prayer, Salah, or “connection” in its literal translation is literally that, meditating. Like most Muslim parents, mine started me off early, at the ripe old age of 7 years old. They were following the Prophet’s directive, who taught that children should be encouraged to pray before turning to 10. Most parents find this easy to do; we see our parents praying as kids and we are excited when we are invited, because it means that we get to be taken seriously. We, too, are required to stand very still, listen to the recitation and feel very important for a moment or two. We too get to bask in the aura of the Divine, return to the human world, rested, refreshed and with a halo on our heads.

Prayer had been the only constant in my life, regardless of where I was or where I went.

So what happened? Why did I stop praying? When did I lose my faith? Did I, in retrospect, lose faith? Or had I simply forgotten where I put it?

22 years after I went pro, I had doubts.

The thick curly letters reading right to left, embossed in gold, fragrant with the musk accompanied every wish as I sent to the Divine. And for years, that was enough. What happened? What happened to me? What happened to my method? Was it not perfect? Passed down for a thousand years along with Scheherazade and her Thousand and One Nights in a time-tested oral tradition that connected little old me to the soul of Makkah and to the Prophet himself.

Meditation almost feels like a negotiation with time. A confession. Or rather an admission of guilt to our not so savory relationship with time. That it’s happening. That it’s leaving. That our lives are ending. And that we still don’t know why we are here and if what we have done is meaningful, or worthwhile or enough to justify our existence.

For the longest time, prayer times were Aladdin’s lamp for me, whispered into the floor, I rubbed and rubbed on the lamp, waiting for the genie to come out, to grant me my three thousand wishes (adjusted for inflation, of course). Now I know better. Now I know that meditation is not where we come to see things as we want them to be but where we come to accept (or at least try to accept) things as they are.

So much of spirituality is in the undoing, we fall apart only to come back together in more composite and more beautiful ways. As I renegotiate my meditation space, and as I continue to negotiate with time, one wonders if any of this matters at all: If meditation is where we quiet the mind so that the soul can speak, then what do we do if the soul asks impossible questions?

Listen to a recitation from the Quran by Eilaf.


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