Three Lessons from the Holy City

I have to admit that I have been putting this story for a while since our visit to the Holy City, Mecca, last December. But, today’s casual chat with a friend at work urged me to pen the thoughts down before I lose these insights. My intention is really to share the three powerful lessons with hope they may facilitate you to find your own AHA moment from something simple in life.

For those who may not be familiar of the Umrah rituals (or mini Hajj / pilgrimage for the Muslims), Tawaf is one of the pillars and mandatory ritual as part of the Umrah. This involves circling the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise, which seems to be quite simple on the surface – yet the flash of insights from that ritual are not that trivial (at least to me).

Lesson 1: There will be always relief – ALLOW things to unfold once you set the intention

Given the big crowd at the end of the year, I had some hesitation whether we could even have the opportunity to do the Tawaf comfortably. Even the kids openly expressed their “anxiety” before we arrived in Mecca – to which I acknowledged openly and also encouraged them to set the intention and hold a prayer to make it bearable.

We were lucky to arrive from Madinah around 10pm and started our ritual soon after. However, the crowd did not seem to subside even at midnight. Somehow, in that 2 hour window, we stuck together as a family (and as a group with the rest of the group members who are travelling with us), and somehow the 7 rounds seem to be smooth and bearable.

What was the secret?

Later only I realized that since we had set the intention that there will always be relief, we tend to see “empty spaces” (or relief) during the Tawaf. It is not any easier but the intention helped us recognize the opportunity more clearly and seize it. This just validated some of our life experiences where sometimes help seemingly come from unexpected sources – when we really set the intention and believe that God (or Universe for some) will help us. And the key is really to allow help to come.

Lesson 2: Once set in motion, let go of the outcome

On my third Tawaf a few days later, I decided that I would not worry about how long I will take to complete the 7 rounds (and this was done at noon, when it was hot and between lunch time). For an A-type person who always keep tab on KPI and timing, it was actually not an easy decision to make for myself. But I decided I am going to have fun experimenting this and see how it will turn out when I am focused on the process, but not the outcome (i.e how fast can I complete it).

It turned to be a powerful lesson on trusting the process.

The moment I let go of the outcome, I was more focused on the ritual and was more at ease. There was no expectation of when I would finish it and gave me a breather to just pace my speed and to focus on the prayers during the ritual.

This remains the hardest to implement in real-life, I admit. It did give me a glimpse of peace if I learn to focus on the task at hand, without clinging onto my own set of expectations.

Lesson 3: Your journey is yours, don’t worry about other people’s journey. It is not yours to worry.

By far, this is the most powerful insight from this ritual. You can imagine that it is very easy to get triggered when you are being pushed constantly (and sometimes for no apparent reason) in the big crowd while circling the Kaaba.

As part of the spiritual and mental preparation before this ritual, I had reminded myself that this is something that I need to learn – learning not to judge and learning to focus on my own journey.

As a result of this, my strategy was to imagine that everyone had the same good intention in this ritual and that I can choose to focus on my own reaction and behavior. It does not mean I condone to his / her untoward behavior, but I became very aware of my own feeling and quickly let the judgement pass -of course, for practical purposes, I would just step aside and let the ‘storm’ pass. (No pun intended! :))

Boy, that made the whole ritual much more peaceful. So, reminder to myself now that I am back in the daily grind – there will be storms created by other people, but let them pass and not perturb your own peace. We are capable of creating our own inner sanctuary when we focus on our journey.

To my friends who are planning for Umrah this year, may your ibadah be blessed!

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