Often when we promise ourselves we will carry on a task, one that will somehow improve our development, relationships or productivity, we find ourselves slouching back. Suddenly a long list of excuses pops, ranging from our inability to ‘not being in the right mood’.
Weirdly enough we convince ourselves that it’s not a good idea, or it’s not the right time to do it, while assuring our conscience we will be doing it at a later time. This is usually how procrastination works. The key phrase here is ‘we convince ourselves’ or we submit to the whispers of Shaytan.
How does the Blank Mind Technique work?
The purpose of this technique is to silence those negative chatter we hear as we are about to entertain positive habits.
It can be used in several situations; today we’ll learn how to use it to enhance our productivity.
How do we use it?
1. Spot the action as it takes place
There’s no obstacle heavier to lift than the ones in the mind. When we recognize the situations or the thoughts that trigger us to delay the action we need to perform, we will be on our way to overcome them.
It may range from doing the house chores, reading a report for work, waking up for tahajjud, or starting to exercise.
2. Describe it in detail
When we dig up and recognize the thoughts that cause us to delay an action, it becomes easier for us to open our eyes and acknowledge how foolish our ‘reasons’ are.
For example you decided to start praying two raka’at of duha each prayer. Alhamdulillah, it’s mid-morning, and you’re about to keep your word and go make wudhu to pray…but then you start thinking: the water’s too cold, you’re too tired, you don’t have time, you won’t be able to keep it up.
All nonsense with which the devil enjoys stealing rewards from you. How can two raka’a be heavy on us? Or do we think that we are pious enough to make it to Jannah without them? Would we really risk having our scale of bad deeds outweight our scaleof deeds, and be sent to the Hell Fire? How can two raka’s make us waste time? How long does it take to finish them? Approximately two to four minutes. If we think we have not even that small amount of time to dedicate to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) then we need to double check our faith, our schedule, and our priorities. Or perhaps we were not aware of the virtues of those two raka’a. And when you are made to believe you won’t be able to keep up the habit, remember death. How can we be sure that this won’t be our last prayer, our last sujood? How do you know you will have another day in which you can repent and worship our Creator as He deserves?
3. Detach yourself from it
Imagine yourself hearing a conversation between two people you don’t know. They are having a quarrel and you see them as they are getting excited, raising their voices and insulting each other. You don’t know either of them and the topic they are talking about doesn’t touch you personally. You might be interested or curious about it but still it doesn’t stir any intense feeling. As a good Muslim you might even try to cool them down, but it will be difficult for you to restore harmony between them if you yourself are emotionally involved in the argument.
Take out any personal feelings: maybe it is fear, doubt, anger, depression or plain laziness. Write down the internal monologue you heard internally that made you postpone something. Revive it as you were watching a film or reading a fiction story, treat them as someone else’s thoughts.
Analyze them but don’t let them bother you. Watch them as you would watch trains arriving and leaving from a busy station. Imagine someone pious or dear to you, or a Sahabi were reading those reasons. Wouldn’t you feel ashamed or regret for having refrained to do a noble action for such lowly thoughts? Combining this with the “Fast Forward Technique” will enhance its success.
4.Think of the action you want to carry out for 5 seconds
Visualize it as mini steps that you need to perform. Stop thinking any further and actually take those actions. When we hear the inner chatter, regard them as a stranger’s thought. Acknowledge them, but carry on with your action.
Keep a small note and a pen always by your side while you’re working or next to your bed. Make sure you jot down all the excuses that your mind brings forth as if you’re hearing something at the radio.
For example, if you need to prepare for an exam, but keep on being distracted by your roommate, think of how you could regain your focus. See yourself heading to the library. Then without thinking about it twice put on your shoes, takes your books and walk to the door. By the moment you are in the library you’ll find your concentration back. Thumbs up for you.
5. Say to yourself: “This is so easy, so simple, watch me as I do it”
It’s here that you usually achieve a “blank mind”, there’s nothing in your mind for a few seconds as you begin performing what you set yourself to do.
That temporary silent mind will be soon filled with thoughts about the good task you wanted to accomplish, your ideas will be shifted to “How can I best execute it?” instead of “Do I really want to do it?”.
It’s amazing how many times you find that it’s really so simple once we leave out all the attachment we associated to our thoughts. Realize how trivial those reasons are, laugh at it, forget the content of those disempowering thoughts. Now it’s up to you to establish the habit and carry it out for 15 days!
When should we use this technique?
Now! Take a pen and a paper and target what have you been delaying. Plan where and when you want to do it (if not this very moment).
Write all the reasons that prevented you from achieving it in the past. Ponder whether the task is really worth doing; would you feel better after doing it? Will it help you gain a higher place in the Hereafter? If the answer is yes, then free yourself from the negative thoughts. Tear apart the notes on the piece of paper and throw them into the garbage, they can’t stop you now.
The sense of happiness, achievement and freedom that comes out of these small daily actions is priceless, what are you waiting for? Try it for yourself and experience it!
About the Author:
Sister Jihan Anwar is a university student and a journalist working at the National Yemen Newspaper