The Desire to Know Myself

We’re pleased to share a guest post from Sherif El Herraoui, who describes himself as a bipolar Orthopedic surgeon/Osteopath in training, and a Writer/Storyteller in a love/hate relationship with Cairo and everything else. In his post, Sherif shares with us his unwavering desire to discover himself and unearth those buried layers of the soul.

In early 2014, I was going through what I called an existential crisis, although some said it was merely a grounding problem. Regardless of terminologies, I felt completely lost and even got diagnosed with clinical depression. Instead of being medicated, I decided to start writing – after a four year hiatus – and joined a creative writing workshop. I thought being amongst other fellow writers who think alike would help me feel balanced and welcomed. And they truly have helped me beyond my imagination.

In one of our meetings, the discussion shifted to the realm of dreams: keeping a dream diary, receiving messages from the subconscious, and a whole lot of other dream-related issues that had never crossed my mind. I had never remembered my dreams or even realized it was possible for me. I knew some people who could, but thought it was just a gift I didn’t have. Nonetheless, I accepted the challenge of my fellow writers to write down and send over my first written dream by our next meeting.

I got a tiny notebook and a pencil to start a dream diary and laid them on my bedside table. With the help of Google, I found some articles about techniques to remember my dreams. I even got a white noise app and a before bed meditation app on my phone to help me set the mood and everything else I stumbled upon in my search. And by the end of the week, I remembered my first dream after waking up and wrote it down.

The whole process was a thrill to me during that difficult time of my life, so I just kept recording my dreams and substituted the little notebook with another app that shows me dream patterns after a while; patterns of dominant colors, recurring themes and emotions and people appearing in my dreams. Comparing my dream diary to my journal has led me to the discovery of a whole different dimension of myself I had not met before: my subconscious.

I enjoy getting to know my likes and dislikes, destroying the limiting beliefs one after the other, experiencing new aspects of life and accepting the challenges it offers. And it all started by the knowledge that there is more to me than I had already thought and an ongoing desire to observe and raise questions about myself and the world and learn more about it all even if I don’t reach definite answers. Nothing is finite.

This introduction to my subconscious ignited the desire inside of me to learn more about myself and embark on a self-discovery journey which has not yet reached its final destination and may never end, but  my journey has definitely  take me to some very interesting spots and I am enjoying the ride.

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A Prayer for Starting Over

Here is a prayer for those of us who are starting over now, or who know someone who is. Feel free to make any adjustments to the prayer as you and your faith deem necessary, and feel free to send us your prayers too!

Dear Spirit of Wisdom,

Starting over is really hard.
I had a dream, a plan, a hope, a relationship,
but not it is gone–now I must begin again to find my own way.

In these confusing times let me find wisdom,
in my faith, in those who support me, and in myself.

As I struggle to press forward,
help me find strength and perseverance.

As I am healing the wounds of loss,
let me find comfort and care.

This journey is fresh and new,
and so I pray to find some joy,
in starting over.

Amen.

Afraid Of Liking Loneliness Too Much

 Last week Author in Chief, Jenni Taylor, wrote a post about not being afraid to be alone. Today, our guest post from Nermine Mohamed focuses on fear of liking loneliness too much. Nermine is a Muslim from what she calls “the huge, crowded and contradictory city of Cairo”, although today she is living in Germany. In her post, Nermine shares her wisdom on loving herself while having fears she might be alone too much.

Loneliness is one of the greatest fears of our era. People commit suicide, settle for less, and throw themselves in unhappy relationships just to give themselves the illusion of conquering loneliness. On the other hand, some people are not afraid of loneliness and it is quite hard for them to picture their life with others in it. So, there are actually two sides of this coin: the fear of loneliness and the fear of too much solitude.

I was once a people person. I loved to be around people all the time. It made me feel safe. It made me feel protected. People gave me a sense of identity, a sense of worthiness. I’m no longer that person.

Now, I know who I am and I won’t be afraid to say that I love and enjoy my own company. I never get bored when I’m alone. I think clearly in solitude. I like the sound of my own breathing; I find it soothing; it unlocks my mind; it unwinds my soul. I stopped giving justifications for my thoughts, beliefs or worldviews.

I’m happy with what I’ve become, yet I cannot help but feeling afraid. Yes, I’m afraid of this drastic and ultimate independence and lonesomeness and where it will lead me. Although lots of people fear loneliness, for me it is easy to be alone. It is safe and trouble-free. But is this the way things should be? Are not we made into this world to help one another grow and thrive?

I keep pondering the reasons why I turned into this lonesome soul… There are probably many reasons and fears still buried in my unconscious mind that took part in reshaping who I am. But I know the fear of being rejected, or being caste-out just because I think differently caused me to change. Maybe it is also the intense mental pain I feel when I try so hard to make myself understood and miserably fail at it. Maybe it is my need to justify myself to the expectations of others, no matter how unfair or unreasonable they might be.

Yes, it is healthy to learn to love our own company. Loneliness can make us appreciate good company more; it can unleash our creative nature and make us learn about ourselves in an unusual way. It can help us explore our capabilities, potentials, new talents, and new sides of our personality. It can enrich our soul and make us better people.

Yet, loneliness can also lead to a dingy path and that’s what I dread. I’m afraid too much loneliness might taint my soul and obscure my vision. I’m afraid I’ve been deluding myself thinking that I do not need anyone, because I do need other people. My life can’t be full without others who actually give it meaning and sense.

We cannot go it alone all the time, the road can be long, tiresome and full of stumbles and that’s why we need company; we need people to help us back up when we fall, to slow us down when we go too far, to put us back on the right path when we are lost and confused.

I’m not afraid of loneliness, but I am afraid of liking loneliness just a little bit too much.

I think it is good not to fear our own company, but now I also know that as much as I like my own solo song, every now and then I have to let in some other tunes and just listen to the sound of it all together. Only then I will surprise myself, only when I find harmony in the most unexpected of places, only when I am not afraid to listen to more than my own voice…

Awakening to the Unity of Grief on Easter

 

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“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll” –Psalm 56:8 NIV

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is the first Easter that I won’t call my grandmother. I won’t update her on the sermon I heard, or tell her about which language I said the Our Father. I won’t describe the city I am in, the old church I found, or the breathtaking celebration of Easter I discovered. After years of celebrating Easter all over the globe, this year I will tell my Easter story to no one.

Except, I am not alone in my loneliness. Holidays after losing a loved one are always the hardest. The pain of their absence is keenly felt when we see their empty chair at the decorated table, their empty pew at high mass, the empty entry in our contact log.  This is the part of humanity that becomes general, global, universal. Whether it is Passover or Easter, Eid al-Fitr or Holi, the missing presence of a lost loved one is palpable.

As some point most spiritual quests must deal with death, with loss, with grief. In this way, we as humans are united. Not one of us can live forever, not one of us can avoid loss. As we grieve we must awaken to new possibilities, new life. As we celebrate holidays, we must awaken to our unity despite our differences.

This year as I awaken to a glorious Easter morning, as I attend a beautiful Easter mass in an ancient church, I will grieve the loss of my grandmother, and that grief will unite me with strangers I haven’t met yet, and I will find me someone new with whom I can share my Easter story.

When God Took my Breath Away

As we wind down this month’s theme of breath, we hear again from Michelle Willett who shares with us her encounter with God in Ireland. She shares with us the wisdom she encountered one day when God left her breathless.

I’ve had my breath taken away from me numerous times–a first kiss, a never-ending mountain range, a mewing kitten. But there’s only been one time where my breath has  been taken in a religious sense.  It was this past summer that I visited Ireland for the first time, a country that I had fallen in love with as soon as I stepped off the plane. I was in the town of Cobh, where the Titanic had last seen land before heading off on its perilous journey. I walked around the sites, saw the memorials, and I finished my journey by climbing up the small hill to the local church, which looked out onto the sea.

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After walking into the church, I realized I was completely alone. I had never been alone in any house of worship before, and it was a powerful feeling.  The statues, at the angels, the saints, the forms of God I was always skeptical of, took my breath away in a way I cannot describe, nor fully comprehend.

I found myself simply sitting at a pew and absorbing  the echoing silence around me for over an hour. There was just something about being alone in there, with nothing but myself, a breathing, shivering mass of humanity; there was something about all the stone, glass, and echoes of worshippers come and gone that got to me.

I had never truly believed in a god before; I wanted to believe I wasn’t alone but I just didn’t. Sitting there in that church, I was alone, but I had never felt less so. I couldn’t seem to leave–clearly God and I had some things to talk about. And talk we did, about  all the things I had never allowed myself to think and all the things I wished I could fix, both within myself and for those around me. We talked about how I could find and appreciate God in my own way, and how I could fill my own place in the world.

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Suddenly a middle-aged couple from Northern Ireland entered the church. The woman strolled down the center aisle for quite a while before spotting me, on my knees, with  tear stained cheeks , staring at the rows of saint and angels above me.  She gave me a small nod of understanding before moving on. Right then, I knew I was free to go.

I’ve never experienced such a powerful moment before in my life. But I don’t intend to let another twenty-four years pass by without letting God take my breath away again.