We have had a series of incredible conversations centered on autonomy for our 4th annual Muslim Women’s Day, but Manal Omar’s conversation on building resilience through finding joy and pleasure was insightful in a whole new way!
The founder and CEO of a wellness organization called “Across Red Lines,” Manal has built a safe space where Muslim women can learn to comprehend and harness their energies and ability to lead through the wisdom provided to us from the Quran and Sunnah, as well as the many Muslim women pioneers that have shaped Islamic history.
According to the website, the idea is to help women understand themselves through “body knowledge” and to “take inventory of their past experiences” which can then inform how they navigate the world with resilience. The programming at “Across Red Lines” helps “empower women to tap into the transformative power of their feminine energy so that they can access their full potential as vehicles for social change within their communities.”
In Muslim Girl’s transformative Facebook Live with Manal we were introduced to the idea that to build resilience in a place of crisis, we need to be able to find what brings us pleasure. Here are the main lessons from the chat, centered around simple yet effective tools to invite joy and pleasure into our lives.
1. Start with Gratitude
This does NOT mean gratitude from a place of guilt or comparison. The type of gratitude that Manal is invoking applies directly to you. It’s not about guilting and shaming yourself for what you have versus what others have. So rather than telling yourself you should be grateful because you have use of all your limbs, the endearing example Manal invokes is, “I love my pillow because it supports me and keeps me comfortable.” The key is to stay within, and take note of what brings a smile to your face in your own space.
2. The Closure Principle
This method of summoning joy capitalizes on closure. When we finish a project, there is a flood of joy that comes with that accomplishment. The idea is to capitalize on that. Now, our mind tends to jump straight to massive projects, but really, this applies to the simplest of accomplishments. Perhaps there is a drawer that you use as a dumping ground. Just the act of organizing and fixing that offers a huge sense of accomplishment and joy. Something as simple as that will flood your system with positivity, making you feel empowered and joyful.
3. Helper’s High Is a Vibe
Acts of service will ensure a flood of dopamine as well. Once again, it doesn’t have to be something too dramatic or overwhelming. Something as simple as making a list of people you’d like to touch base with daily will benefit you in terms of feeling connected and offering a dopamine high.
4. Build Your Tribe
It really is that simple. Build your tribe. Our power, particularly that of women, is in the collective. It’s found in the circular, not the linear. We need to ensure that we build that tribe of support as a feedback group, even if it is a small group of two or three. Identify people who have the same core values as you do. In the end, we human beings are not meant to be isolated.
5. Find Your Daily Pleasure Routine
What is that one small thing you do for yourself that brings you joy and laughter? What is your daily pleasure routine? Is it that you love to apply lip gloss? For one of the women in Manal’s seminar, it was that she decided she was going to start each morning by winking and smiling at herself in the mirror, just to offer her a sense of connection. This would lead her to laugh, leading her husband to ask her why she was laughing. when she told him what she was doing, it became an inside joke amongst them, with him winking at her before work every morning. And just like that, her little pleasure routine had fueled more joy.
6. Contemplation Play Is the Way
So the idea behind this concept is that contemplating life doesn’t need to be a heavy intellectual exercise. It can be light and playful. The example offered by Manal was that she plays a game called “Embrace and Release” with her nieces and nephews. For this game, they would identify a word they wish to release, such as anger, or jealousy, and then they would draw the word and decorate it. Then they would talk about why that was their word, and why they wish to release that word, following which they would rip up the word and release it. Then, they would do the same thing with a word they want to embrace, and hang that word up. Contemplation doesn’t have to be heavy. It can center around play.
A final lesson to be noted is the fact whilst some ideologies suggest that in times of crisis we need to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and sacrifice more and work harder, we know that the only way to build resilience is by finding joy. Suffering and sacrifice isn’t what creates change, or builds resilience. Joy does. Joy and pleasure are non-negotiable in the face of crisis.