As well as the government offices that teach patience in the Middle East, there are also the five daily prayers. Wherever you are in the Arab world, each prayer will cause some kind of change in pace as many people down tools and take off to observe the prayer. The interruption to life may be as simple as not being able to get hold of colleagues because they have gone to the Mosque or in the case of the Friday prayer here in Doha, most places being closed for some of the day. As a self-confessed Ms. Busy it was challenging for me in the beginning to have to shift off schedule or sit and take frequent breaks when I could see so many things to be done. Over time, though I came to see the value of slowing down the pace. Now I believe the pace of life we are trained to be accustomed to in places like the UK is far too much for anyone to keep up and stay well and balanced. It feels unnatural to me now.
Here in Doha the pace can also be hectic at times. Much of it is self-inflicted; the result of ingrained habits of doing and expecting too much both of ourselves and those around us. We sit in traffic to collect yet more groceries even if we have food still uneaten in the house. We take kids to clubs after school when we are struggling to spend enough time together at home as a result of all the homework and take home work tasks the family already has. Some of these habits are global, affecting all cultures. Others are those we pack up and carry with us even when we say we are in search of a better life. Most of this doing and expecting others to be doing is for nothing of any true lasting value to us. We have just convinced ourselves, as a result of our perspectives on life that they matter more than they really do.
Over time I’ve learned that a few minutes out of the day to pray is not such a bad thing after all. Even for those who don’t use that time for praying, it’s necessary to take a few deeps breaths, connect with that something higher or reflect on what the heck this life is all about. Being in a country where people stop to pray five times a day, has had a profound effect on my spirituality and it shines a spotlight on the things that you value the most as well as how holistic or balanced our lives really are.
While the degree to which we are open varies from one traveler to another, most of us by default have an open mind. Sometimes it’s one of the reasons we leave our home countries. After years of living somewhere and feeling that we don’t fit in because our ideas, thoughts, values, dreams and goals are just a little outside of the box, we take off in search of places we can be ourselves or to answer the questions we have about ourselves and the world. What becomes apparent from travelling, is that in life we can be in physical paradise but in mental chaos.
Sometimes, we may not agree with everything from another culture and the way they do things. We may not believe in their religion or want to adopt their traditions or practices, but for sure we can adjust something somewhere to create more of a balance in our lives. For me I’ve learned that much of the stress we experience in our lives is in chasing things such as success and financial security.
There’s a model in the world adhered to by many as if it’s a religion from a God they are sure exists. That model demands us to be perfect in every area of our lives. We make lists of commandments that should lead us to success in everything from work to parenting and relationships. We chase money as if it has and always will be here and sacrifice the things that really matter to us in pursuit of careers that will end eventually. We also sacrifice our health to build bank balances that economists, who may know more than us on the matter, pretty much agree will one day likely be gone. Through all of our rushing around and chasing a better life, we fail to see that paradise is mostly in our minds.
The biggest lesson I have learned in terms of spirituality and religion since travelling to Doha is that peace is always within our reach. We don’t need a new country or new people to learn, give or get love. This is what all religions have always told us. It’s within us and limitless. We just have to tap into it. All religions and belief systems also share the belief that love is the greatest treasures we must seek to maintain and share throughout our lives. It’s not the love of fairy tales, but the true love for ourselves and others. It’s a love that goes beyond our families and our romantic connections. One that grows to include more people, from more places, with more differences.
The real love of all people is one that transcends religion, race and all other boundaries, real and imagined. It elevates us and all of our interactions to a different level. These are the main things to take away from their message, no matter what religion or not we choose. Even if we don’t stop to pray five times a day, we can stop to reflect on what life is really all about. Just the act alone is a great way to stay balanced in this chaotic world. In my next post I will reflect on learning, life and culture shock whilst travelling.