2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year that has pushed many of us to our limits. Cherishing what we have has never been more important. ⁣It's a perfect time to harness the power of gratitude and embed it in our daily routines. As the New Year approaches, it’s an opportunity to focus on what’s important, what perhaps needs to be more important and what can be cast aside!

A third of resolutions don’t make it beyond January. More often than not it’s because they’re not the right resolutions. So how does one make the right resolutions?

Fortunately there’s a wonderful blueprint to approaching New Year’s Resolutions to be found at the epicentre of the Islamic spiritual calendar. The Nights of Destiny in Ramadan form the chronological launchpad for many of our pledges, promises and plans to ourselves and to Allah. 

Essential to the success of the process is to focus on core areas that constitute the tapestry of our lives.

So here are seven steps to help make resolutions for 2021 that have a greater chance of sticking.

Getting the balance right

In today’s world, it’s a sign of strength to go against the grain and challenge the status quo. The temptation is to consume every form of media we are bombarded with in order to keep up or even ahead of the curve. But what impact does this unconscious behaviour have on our life goals or even our mental health?

At times, when we look at what others are putting out in the world, we can feel frustrated at our perception of what we have managed to achieve or create. Does it ever feel as though other people are more able to produce something new where you struggle? In reality, the assumption is probably unfounded. The frustration of being stuck in a rut or not being able to afford yourself time away from the desk to gain clarity of thought is a true luxury in our current era.

 "When a creative artist is fatigued it is often from too much inflow, not too much outflow.— Julia Cameron 

When we are generating new ideas, output or even the promise of something new on the horizon, our brain spends less time comparing ourselves with others and discourages us from wasting time on things that hold us back.

Try calculating your own input to output ratio and see if it affects patterns in your daily life. Be generous with what you’ve learned and be sure to pass on and teach what you have learned along the way.

Finding meaning whilst avoiding melting

The recent heatwave in the UK has given many of us here pause for thought and provided an opportunity for introspection and reflection (whilst avoiding melting in the midday heat). Our response to the incessant heat certainly tests our resolve and patience in novel ways. The same world also looks remarkably different through the shimmering hot haze.

This shifting of perspectives reminded me of a favourite thought-provoking book ‘When You Hear Hoofbeats, Think of a Zebra’ by Shems Friedlander. His extensive travels combined with a profound understanding of the spiritual dimension of Islam render him a most able guide towards the elusive domain of self-knowledge.
 "Whosoever knows himself knows his Lord."

The title of the book neatly encapsulates its aims; our total immersion in the dunya has conditioned us to imagine horses when thinking of hoofbeats. Friedlander’s objective is to encourage the reader to see things in a different manner – akin to lateral thinking, but exercising the heart and not the mind.

What's Your Why?

 "The purpose of life is a life of purpose." - Robert Byrne

Here at Jeem we aim to inspire peace, purpose and productivity. The three are exquisitely connected but pose a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma: which one to focus on first?

We strongly feel that taking a step back to focus on purpose is the key to peace and productivity.

Regularly revisiting our personal WHY re-invigorates and has the power to make the mundane meaningful. Adding intention to anything and everything potentially converts it into devotion and worship. A sense of purpose becomes the building block, the cornerstone, the foundation of all subsequent actions.

Are we ready to look in the mirror?

 "Allah loves those who place their trust in Him." - Qur'an (3:159)

Last week we reflected upon the Hajj and overcoming negative thoughts. This week we take a closer look at perhaps the most powerful of tales from the Hajj backstory - the call to sacrifice Prophet Ismail.

We're all familiar with the vividly portrayed qur'anic story of Prophet Ibrahim facing the ultimate test of faith by being instructed to sacrifice his son. His acceptance of the divine decree coupled with Prophet Ismail's readiness to obey provide two standout examples of reliance upon Allah - tawakkul - in action.

The Hajj serves to strip away the ego and attachments and awakens the heart. Prophet Ibrahim's test was a manifestation of this: to relinquish attachment to everything he held dear other than Allah.

We too have the opportunity to use this blessed time in the holy month of Dhul Hijjah to introspect and examine our own attachments. 

Hurling pebbles at ourselves...

 "Don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff." - Richard Carlson

Last week we reflected upon the Hajj being an awesome opportunity to learn to see the glass as half-full through perceived trials and challenges. This week we take a closer look at one of the most symbolic rituals of the pilgrimage - the stoning of Satan.

Ostensibly the act reflects the ordeal of Prophet Ibrahim as he was dissuaded from carrying out the ultimate sacrifice of his son, Prophet Ismail. The ritual is intense. I vividly recall the hustle and bustle, the noise and the passion on display as pilgrims pelt a representation of the devil.

I remember the words of our group leader who had encouraged us the night before to think of something we regretted or were remorseful over or that we wished to replace within ourselves with each pebble collected. In a sense, the hurling of the pebbles the following day thus represented the stoning of the devil within, the nafs al-ammarah and represented a choice to replace negativity with proactive positivity.

Hajj: Helping us to see the glass half-full

 "Surely with hardship comes ease." - Qur'an (94:6)

Last week we reflected upon the Hajj being a multi-sensory experience and a stepping stone towards developing the skill of 3D gratitude. This week we turn to the pilgrimage again as students looking towards a teacher. The subject this time is hardship, specifically dealing with adversity.

The origin story of the Hajj, featuring Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail and Lady Hajra is steeped in ordeals and breath-taking challenges. It's no surprise that so many of the rituals hark back to these three individuals. Their behaviour in tough times provides plenty of practical wisdom and inspiration.

Bottling up the spiritual essence of Hajj to make our lives more fragrant

 "If you are grateful I will give you more." - Qur'an (14:7)

The first of a weekly 4-part blog series reflecting on the Hajj (pilgrimage) in the lead up to Eid al-Adha. Despite being unable to physically participate in the rituals in these unprecedented times, how can we bottle up some of its spiritual essence to make our lives more fragrant?

This life is essentially a journey from Allah to Allah and a stripping back of the ego. The Hajj serves a concentrated crash course in both. Yet the lessons gleaned from Hajj live on long after completing that final tawaf.

The process of reliving, re-inhabiting and stepping back into powerful memories as if we were there again is a life-changing way to be express gratitude. We call it 3D gratitude as it enhances the 1D process of lip-service as well as the 2D process of heartfelt thanks to a total sensory embodiment of thankfulness.