On Reining in the Imagination
This Ramadan, I have made the commitment to live less in my head and more in the world. I don’t know how effective it will be, whether it will change the core of who I am. Maybe it will the spiritual equivalent of plastic surgery. I hope not. I hope it will be a healthy transformation, or at least a healthy balance between the two ways of being.
When you have a rich inner life, spirituality can come to you so easily. Constant worship during Laylat al-Qadr? Hours on end, sitting quietly by yourself, thinking about something greater than this world and everything in it? Reading verse after verse of the Quran, marvelling at its nuances and the multiple ways you can read them? Bring it on! I was born to do this!
Yet, feeling that way is is precisely why I need a change, why I need to evolve and develop my worldly side as well. I need to do something that for me is far more difficult: excelling in my professional program of study, networking, finding meaningful work, and paving the way to financial independence (Insh’Allah).
It is impossible to stop living in my head, so I can only decrease it. I do so by waiting until a set, allotted period of time to have unfettered dreams. Now, instead of letting myself retreat into my mind whenever the impulse strikes me, I resist and I wait. When the time comes, I set the timer, reach for a pillow, bury my face in it, and become oblivious to my surroundings, lost in the ecstasy whose sharp intense sweetness only increases when confined this way. Ah, yes, there is a silver lining, at least.
Who needs drugs? It’s quite a thing God has given us, imagination, the ability to be in sheer bliss when our surroundings and circumstances are not ideal. Yet, when unreined, it can be detrimental. It makes one wake up after years of dreaming and wonder what they have been doing, wonder whether they really have enacted shukr by making use of the opportunities given to them in this world. Or whether they have squandered this gift by using it to compulsively take the edge off of awful reactions incited by the real world.
It’s a new and pretty scary beginning. I already miss my old self, but there’s no going back now. I can only press forward.