Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim,
Has this happened to you? You’re at work you’re thinking of the time you’ll be back home in front of the TV. While in front of the TV, you’re thinking of what’s there to eat and whether you should go out or not, and while you’re having your delicious meal, you’re thinking of the tasks you need to complete the next morning at work! We’re always thinking of some past or future event while the present moment passes us by. We fail to savour the present moment, which amounts to passing life by without living it.
Now think of a moment when you were so engrossed in what you were doing, whether reading a very interesting article, or listening to Quran recitation, or just day-dreaming, you were so much into it that you forgot your lunch, or didn’t hear a word of what others were saying around you. That is termed by some psychologist as the state of Flow. It is, according to Sonja Lyobomirsky, author of the How of Happiness, ‘a state of intense absorption and involvement in the present moment.’ She also said, ‘when in flow, people report feeling strong and efficacious – at the peak of their abilities – alert, in control and completely unselfconscious. They do the activity for the sheer sake of doing it.’
Another psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi, interviewed some dedicated artist who experienced the state of flow while painting. These artist found the act of painting itself rewarding, and not the painting itself, or the money they would get after selling it. The conclusion is that flow is a happiness generating state. It doesn’t matter through which activity you get into this state, the key is to get there frequently and regularly.
How to Get into Flow
There are some things to keep in mind while attempting this. Firstly, the activity needs to be challenging to our capacities, and at the same time, not too difficult. Being challenging is important because if it’s too easy we’ll get bored with it. On the other hand, if the activity is too difficult, we’ll be overstressed and feel discouraged. Secondly, we can experience flow with one activity for a short time only, if that there is no change in it. That is, to continue enjoying flow in a certain activity, there needs to be variation, the challenge needs to be stepped up once we get used to it. That means we will keep learning and growing.
Thirdly, flow can be introduced into almost any activity, if we learn to value that activity, give meaning and significance to it. A study on hospital cleaning crew showed that there were two distinct groups among them. The first clearly disliked their job, thought it as mean labor work. The second group saw their work as significant, necessary for the wellbeing of the patients. The latter group strove to work harder, and went beyond their allocated jobs to do more.
Introduce Flow in Your Salah
Keeping all that it mind, let us turn to the most significant activity in our life – salah. Can we experience the state of flow in salah? In fact, flow sounds very much like khushu’, and so learning how to be in the state of flow can actually enhance our experience of khushu’ in salah, in sha Allah, turning our prayers into the happiest and most absorbing moments in our life.
How can we apply these points to improve our prayers?
- Bring newness into our prayers: We can always keep our prayers fresh by constantly learning new duas and surahs to use in it. This will make sure we don’t get bored by parroting the same things again and again, and also bring change in it.
- Read about the benefits and importance of prayer
- Learn the meanings of what we’re saying in our prayers. This will increase the value we give to it, and also make it easy to strive for flow.
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