An Adventure in Mastering Yourself Part Two: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Greetings friends! Continuing my reflections on what year one of my masters has taught me ( post one is here), a key lesson of this year has been that if you want to create change, you need a realistic map of how to get there.

It’s taken a while to learn this. Before I moved, I wondered about where and with whom I was going to live, what classes I was going to take, the number of books I could possibly fit into my suitcase, Toronto’s weather, whether I would make any friends, what life would be like without daily sightings of mountains.. you name it, it was on the radar of things that I thought and prayed about every day. In the midst of  my uncertainty and questions, I saw a Bollywood film that I felt was the universe speaking to me through celluloid, and it seemed like song sequences in the film that showed the heroine initially nervous to explore her city but fifteen minutes later happily cooking, exploring new neighbourhoods and fulfilling her writerly dreams, could possibly describe my life in Toronto. Though nervous, I too would become Super Shagufta, a person who easily mastered all the things I previously found difficult.

And while in many ways that’s been true, because this year has been the loveliest and most interesting year I’ve ever had, as a principle it doesn’t work.Recently I was at a two day course about Islamic law as it pertains to daily living, and the instructor pointed out near the end of the class that simply knowing something is a good thing to do or an area you need improvement is not sufficient to actually bring that change about. At the time he was speaking about keeping in touch with your extended family and friends, and he noted that if you weren’t very good at keeping in touch before, you wouldn’t walk away from the class with new habits unless you made a plan about how to incorporate those goals into your day. In any area of your life, once you’ve identified areas that need work, what is necessary is to make a plan about how you’re going to implement those changes. (So in the example above, he suggested making a plan of all the people you want to keep in contact with that you haven’t spoken to in a while, and then scheduling weekly calls into your calendar to end that distance).

Super simple lesson, but his words really resonated. At the beginning of each term I made ambitious lists of all the things that I find difficult, (whether making time for the gym, being less introverted or mustering up more enthusiasm for the kitchen) and then in my spare time I naturally gravitated to things that I love, whether public lectures, or theatre, or reading or long chats over tea, and didn’t really think about how things I didn’t naturally like would become part of the fabric of my life. Because the list was so long it was overwhelming, but making an action plan and picking one or two priorities at a time would have made more sense.

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