Over the past week, I took 2 days “time-out” time, away from everything to really take a step back from the tornado of life and critically decide how to move forward.
It was such a beneficial experience, that I couldn’t wait to tell the world about it, and I published the 5 minute Friday weekly naseeha regarding this experience. This post is truly to elaborate on this exercise so that you can make the most of Time-out!
What is it?
Time-out or also known as “solitude” is a simple activity of withdrawing yourself from day to day social circles for some time on your own. Sometimes timeout is an obligation upon the person, if the people in his/her social circle are of those who lead him/her to sins or away from the pleasure of Allah. Other times, it’s simply the first step to a life of constant self-development.
My first reply to “Why would you need to sit on your own?” is “Why wouldn’t you?”. It’s amazing how our “constantly plugged, always online, always with people” lifestyle has taken away one of the oldest tradition in our Islamic history and other civilisations as well. Ask yourself: “When was the last time you were alone?” I mean truly alone! No Internet, No iPod, No TV, no Phone Call/SMS, no people. Just you & Allah. I don’t think any of us have had such an experience, but can you imagine it?
Did you ever wonder if there was a purpose behind Prophet Muhammad’s solitude in the Mountain of Light in the Cave of Heraa BEFORE he received revelation? Did you ever wonder about the the purpose we’re encouraged to do i’tikaaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan? I read somewhere – can’t remember anymore where – that solitude is the first step to spiritual ascension. If you want to stay closer to Allah, you need to start taking time out and be alone with Him.
How is it done?
Preparation before the Journey
The next question is how do you do it? how can you have a truly beneficial time-out. I’ve alluded to some ideas/tools in the weekly naseeha, here they are again with some extra points.
Firstly, you need to make a conscious decision of allocating some time out time for yourself & prepare for it; Inform those near you from family and close friends that you’re planning this journey and explain the reasons for them. Decide whether you’ll go on an actual journey (a trip to a different part of town, city, country) or if you’ll simply be locking yourself in your room/garden/mosque for some timeout time.
Decide how long will it be; I would recommend a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 3 days in order to be balanced in everything else. Remember, timeout is not a selfish endeavour for you to “pamper” yourself and just “run away from everything”, it’s a thought provoking critical exercise for you to be a better person. Your family/friends should notice an “improvement” in you as a person when you come back.
The next step is to ensure you have the right tools for it. Leave any distractions behind: Laptops, iPods, DVD players, even books/magazines which don’t benefit. Just take the essential: a Journal to write your thoughts, a dictaphone if you don’t like writing and prefer recording your thoughts, lots of Pens, A copy of the Quran (along with its translation) as your ultimate guide in this journey, and perhaps 1 powerful and beneficial book you really want to contemplate on, e.g. A Book of Hadeeth, Seerah, some of the well-known thought-provoking classical Islamic books that truly open up new insights for your life…etc.
During the journey,
Observe yourself. Notice yourself when you’re happy, notice yourself when you’re anxious/sad. Think about the thought process that goes through your mind to trigger these thoughts. Record your thoughts/write them down.
Review your life: Review aspect of your life. You can use the lifewheel to help and observe the 8 slices of life and on a scale of 1-10 how well developed you’re in each one. The parts you’re now well-developed, think of action plans, things you can do immediately when you come back and short/term, and long-term goals. Look at your health, your family life, your career, your Islam, your community work.
Pandora’s box: Assessing everything in your life makes you dig really deep to things which you’ve hidden or never speak about; some people will find this painful to do and would rather not do it, but my advice here is to try and “plough” through them and resolve them within. The aim here is not to open the pandora’s box of past mistakes/nightmares, but simply resolve things you have “kept inside” and never had a chance to look back at them so that you can move on with your life. The question you’re asking is not “What went wrong?” rather it’s “What can I do about it now?”. Taking action should be the key word.
Action, Action, Action
Make sure that all your thoughts result into action and are not simply ideas/thoughts with no actionable outcome. And an action needs to specific; claiming that “I’ll start pray tahajjud from now on” is not an action statement but a goal. An action statement would be a series of physical steps you can take once you get home that help you achieve your goal.
With your thoughts in your journal/dictaphone, and the actions clearly specified. It’s time to enjoy the rest of your time in time-out and prepare for the journey home. You’ll be surprised how much you miss your home and miss your family/friends when you’re away even for a short while. Make sure you let those who are close to you know what you’ve learnt so that they help you get closer to your life of self-development.
Even once in a lifetime, the above time-out can be beneficial, but doing it constantly whenever you feel trapped and not sure how to move ahead in your life is a very beneficial thing. Remember, one of the most important positives of time-out is to help you self-develop, and as ProductiveMuslims, we don’t just self-develop, but we self-develop ourselves into a life dedicated for the sake of Allah inshaAllah.
And Allah knows best.