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#2 In the chair

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

This past week, I saw my first clients.

Being in the therapist’s chair felt entirely natural and comfortable for me. What was the most challenging part was remembering all of the logistics involved with the session: handing out and going through the informed consent process with the client, getting the documents signed, keeping my eye on the clock to time the session (while hoping the client didn’t notice), remembering to discuss new things that the client could try until the next session, collecting the payment and issuing a receipt and then, after the client left, refining the session notes as soon as I could before forgetting important points.

Aside from the filing and photocopying, as well of other logistical things, I can certainly say that I enjoyed my first real experiences in counselling. I had been so worried about what I would say, or how I would honour my theoretical orientation(s) to couselling, but once the session was underway, I found myself relaxing; indeed, it became more important for me to focus on building rapport with the client, and validating their experiences as much as I could.

The crazy thing, however, is that for the past week or so, I’ve had the flu. I’m still amazed that I was able to get through the sessions while feeling, to put it lightly, miserable. As I’m still getting back to health, I realized the importance of personal health when conducting therapy. The healthier I feel, the more that I can be emotionally available for the client.

I also have had a handful of supervision hours so far; I was matched with my supervisor due to our approaches to therapy. I’ve already benefited so much from her wisdom and advice. She has a really calm demeanour, and is the first person I’ve ever met who literally thinks before they speak. She isn’t afraid of silence, which has drawn my attention to certain things about myself.

Apart from the practicum placement, I have two papers due this month, an online component to complete, and a new course that I’ll be starting next month, iA, which may or may not have pre-course assignments.

I keep telling myself that one day, all of this will be very worth it. InshaAllah it will!

P.S. Call it Qadr, but my office happens to have a calendar featuring Islamic architecture from around the world. You can only imagine how I felt when I walked in the first day and saw “Allah” and “Muhammad” in Arabic staring back at me. Everywhere I go, His remembrance remains present :)!

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah

happy birthday

Seeking to Better – For 4 Years!

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

I truly can’t believe it.

If this site, Seeking to Better, was a child, it’d be turning 4 today!

Creating and maintaining a blog has truly been a special process for me. Looking back at some of my older posts, I can literally see the ways in which my writing style and voice has grown over these past four years.

I’m amazed at the fact that I was able to keep something up, consistently, for four full years. I pray to be rewarded for every person that my words touched and any worldview that I may have influenced for the better, iA.

I can’t help but extend my gratitude to those who have supported my writing and blog from the very beginning! Through this blog, I was able to make actual connections and friendships with people I otherwise may not have known!

When I look back at my posts, there are some that incite fond memories for me, and others that automatically make me turn them into drafts. Not because I don’t like them, or anything. But because I’ve grown out of them. I don’t connect with the writing anymore.

With this blog, I’ve tried to be authentic as possible. Everything from beginning each post with the phrase “In the name of God, Praise be to God and Blessings and Peace be Upon Muhammad” and ending with, “And Allah (God) knows best”. This has been an important reminder for me to keep my intentions straight during  each writing process.

My blog has been about giving voice to my spiritual side, a side which often goes neglected and marginalized in many of us. I’ve had people from all walks of life and faith backgrounds read my posts, and for that, I’m grateful.

This blog has also been a reminder to myself. A vessel of advice that I must first drink from before offering to others. I often find myself going over old posts with beginner’s eyes, and benefiting from my own words, subhanAllah.

I pray that I’ve reached the goals that I made in my first ever post.

I’m not sure where this writing will go, but for now I celebrate how far it has come – I invite you to celebrate with me!

And Allah (SWT) knows best.

~ ubah

notebooks

#1 The time is nearing!

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

SubhanAllah.

What was once a dream is now slowly unfurling into a reality. God willing, in a few weeks, I will begin my training as a therapist/counsellor/psychotherapist (I’ll likely use these terms interchangeably). Not only that, but my placement will be at a centre which treats individuals in a holistic manner; spirituality, as well as relational, existential and feminist and social justice perspectives are integrated into the therapeutic experience. A few years ago, I would’ve never thought possible that I would have the opportunity to practice therapy in such an eclectic way. Such perspectives line up closely with my own personal theories on healing and the human experience. Indeed, to ignore the realm of spiritual healing would be an opportunity wasted (IMO)! Of course, discussions of spirituality would be initiated by the client; my job would be to create a safe, accepting and open space for them to explore their personal spiritual dimension.

What an honour it is to be a Muslimah doing this work! Indeed, given that I’m also a POC, I am a rare breed in such a specialized niche of therapy. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have the pleasure of integrating Islam into my reflective and academic papers; who would’ve thought that I would have the opportunity to grow in my deen within an academic context? Even now, I am working on a paper exploring the links between modern psychotherapy and the history of therapy in (and within) Islam. How many of us know of the likes of Al Kindi, At-Tabari, Al-Razi, Al-Ghazali and of course, Ibn Sina (RA) and their contributions to the sciences, spirituality and healing through and by the deen of Islam? I find myself proud to present such a unique perspective into a setting where primarily, Western perspectives of therapy reign supreme.

At the same time, however, I must admit – I’m a bit nervous. I find myself mentally rehearsing the informed consent monologue and trying to find experiences of countertransference in my life so that I may be better prepared in the therapy room. I’m trying to find my counsellor identity, beginning with my theoretical orientation (and the readings required to gain a decent footing). I’m going to need to play with my camera and do mock sessions alone so that my session recordings go smoothly, iA. I’ll have to schedule salah between clients, and create a strong habit of recording and storing documents. I can’t help but wonder if I could successfully pull off a suicide intervention, or find (therapeutic) things to say when the client wants me to make the first move. What if I get discriminated for wearing the hijab – or the colour of my skin – by a client? How do I find the strength to move forward and address such salient issues, while still being professional and providing the best of care for my client?

In all honesty, something deep within tells me that the answers will present themselves when the time comes. I find myself calmed and reassured by reminding myself that it is Allah (SWT) who put me on this path for reasons known to Him. It is He who has blessed me with the honour of hearing the stories of pain, joy and suffering of those previously unbeknownst to me. Of having the ability to connect with my fellow human being and ultimately, help them help themselves.

I come in to the start of my practice with humility; this is a privilege. One that I hope will not only serve others, the Ummah and myself, but ultimately, Allah (SWT). Imagine having the pleasure to spend your time making a living by promoting the healing and growth of another person while so much suffering and pain exists in the world? I’ll never know what I did to deserve this blessing, but I accept the challenge, iA.

“Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter. And whoever covers (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will cover (his faults) for him in the world and the Hereafter. And Allah is engaged in helping the worshipper as long as the worshipper is engaged in helping his brother.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Alhamdulillah! Stay tuned for more entries during my journey, iA!

And Allah knows best,

~ ubah

(Image: Michael Davies)

What 2015 Taught Me

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

A blast from the past: Here’s what 2013 and 2014 taught me.

_________________________________________

I know, I know. I’ve gone completely AWOL. Actually, I’ve spent most of my time journaling my experiences as opposed to writing on here. I miss writing on my site, however there have been so many thoughts and feelings that I’ve experienced which could be best expressed through free flow writing as opposed to blogging. Nonetheless, following my end-of-the-year tradition of self-reflection (for the 3rd year in a row!), here are some lessons that 2015 has left me with. I hope you find them beneficial!

  1. One of the most empowering things that a female in the 21st century could do for herself is to become educated and become financially independent (including debt-free!). These two things require privilege and resources; take advantage if you have been blessed with such opportunities (especially while you’re young!)
  2. Mindful-self compassion is an amazing coping strategy.
  3. Grad school, and the ability to study something that I’m passionate about, has been such an amazing experience. I look forward to beginning my therapist training in the new year, iA!
  4. Personal-development is so important. As is getting to know yourself outside of attachments to people, places and things.
  5. Our parents won’t be with us forever. Enjoy every little moment.
  6. Sacredness is not only found in great acts or towering buildings, but in the mundane, day-to-day modalities of existence. Finding as much pleasure in a cup of coffee as I would at a major event or gathering has been such a game-changer for me.
  7. Life (for me, at this moment at least) is not about striving for happiness, for happiness is temporary. Life is about cultivating contentment which, in my experience this year, has been the byproduct of gratitude. Make “Alhamdulillah” a large part of your vocabulary, and watch for shifts in your levels of contentment. It’s amazing.
  8. Celebrating other’s happiness and successes is such a beautiful feeling.
  9. Self-awareness is critical.
  10. Sometimes learning takes a while to sink in.
  11. Beginner’s eyes.
  12. Listen to your gut and emotions. What is your body telling you that your brain is trying to rationalize?
  13. The more one learns – especially about the deen – the higher her standards are. There is something so freeing about knowing your rights and having the courage to exercise them.
  14. The quality of my day is largely determined by how much or how little Qur’an I have read and/or reflected on.
  15. Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
  16. Mental health should be considered holistically.
  17. Trauma can be healed. Healing is possible.
  18. Some friends are more like family.
  19. Toxic people, whether they recognize their toxicity or not, are best kept at a distance or removed from your life if they are taking a seriously negative toll on your own well-being. Don’t be afraid of setting boundaries – and sticking to them.
  20. Religiosity is not just something you wear. It’s how you are. Especially to those who are vulnerable and can bring you no harm or fortune.
  21. Travelling alone is awesome.
  22. It’s okay to be unapologetically comfortable with where you are in life.
  23. Compromising (or throwing away) your personal morals, values, goals and dreams for any person (especially the first one) that walks into your life is a recipe for disaster and a potential indicator of deeper psychological and emotional issues that should be explored. Maybe 2016 is your year of personal understanding and renewal?
  24. There are SO many things we take for granted in life. Cultivating mindful gratitude in your day to day experiences is such a game-changer.
  25. Being aware of the multifaceted aspects of my identity has led to new depths of self-understanding.
  26. As women, we are conditioned to accept certain roles and responsibilities solely due to our genders. Challenging these expectations by daring to pave my own path this year has been so incredibly rewarding and confidence-building!
  27. Yes, the Muslim community needs help. I’ve seen this first-hand after 2 years of extensive experience working with varies members of the community. Our youth need mentors, as do our elders. Many people are silently suffering – what are you doing to make a change?
  28. Reading and books are such a beautiful gift. I’m obsessed with my kindle e-reader and being able to read wherever and whenever I want to without being bogged down by heavy books has been fantastic! (although, nothing can replace actual books ;) ). An awesome book that I read this year is called, If The Oceans Were Ink by Carla Power.
  29. Colour, clothing, patterns, makeup, scents, fabrics, and more can make a huge difference in the way you feel about yourself. I had fun this year exploring my personal style and how I might express myself from within an Islamic framework.
  30. Essential oils are awesome.
  31. Vitamins and minerals are important – get your levels checked.
  32. I know less than I think I know.
  33. Journaling (consistently) is a worthwhile pursuit.
  34. The world is suffering; what are you doing to contribute to it’s healing? (A question that I frequently ask myself)
  35. When you are busy living life and having actual experiences, social media sharing becomes a non-priority.
  36. Everyone that enters your life has something to teach you about yourself.
  37. Checking your privilege constantly is so, so important.
  38. Sharing your experiences and pain with those whom you feel safe around can be a powerful healing experience.
  39. Shame is debilitating, and understanding how it operates in your life is a huge step towards personal healing. Thank you, Brené Brown.
  40. This quote sums up my experience this year: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling. I printed out and taped this quote to my journal months ago. In many ways, 2015 felt like rock bottom. But from those depths, I have felt myself soaring into new places – emotionally, physically and spiritually.

That’s all I can think of for now! I pray that the new year is an opportunity for rejuvenation and growth for us all. Let’s make it about more than new year’s resolutions – but new year’s evolutions! Let’s make 2016 about actually living life instead of putting life on hold in hopes for something more; this quote sums this idea up well:

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Feel free to share your reflections, goals or any thing else below! :)

And Allah knows best,

~ ubah

peakok

Building the Fortress, Finding My Beloved

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

How amazing can people be?

They can be so kind and so good to you. They can shower you with their love and embrace you with compliments and beautiful gestures.

People can also be the opposite of amazing, that we know. Yet where my focus has been is on the divine fortress which both encompasses and protects in a way that no person could even imagine. It simultaneously surrounds you with complete acceptance while blocking out rejection. Within the walls of this fortress, you find yourself.

For me, this fortress is a metaphor for my yearning to develop a real relationship with my Creator. By real, I mean something that goes beyond meaningless utterances of reverence and soulless acts of devotion. Something raw…something ugly. Something that looks like a woman of God drenched in her shortcomings, sin and longing for the Divine.

For so long, the awareness that God knew everything about me – all of me – was something that evoked within me a deep shame. What people could never imagine, God knew. What people could never understand, God encompassed. The masks I wore, and occasionally still wear, melted into their real forms before God. Mirages that were only real to the human eye but could never fool the Divine, who saw all.

And then I decided to jump headfirst into the most loving relationship I could find. Jumping headfirst meant releasing the shame and knowing that God’s mercy encompassed my self-judgements. That my shame was rooted not in God’s inability to forgive me, but my inability to forgive myself. That my shame could never be lifted by any delight nor any man. That only God could carry me as I struggled to carry my burdens.

After the jump, I found myself swimming in a pool of light. A light that has continued to illuminate the darkest corners of my heart and the gloomiest moments in my life.

Within this fortress, I struggle not with fears of abandonment and disloyalty, but rejoice in an infinite love that both fills and completes me. With God, my insecurities are moot. What use are insecurities when your Beloved knows what distresses your soul? When your pains and fears exist only with His permission? When your faults are but a testament to the humanity in which you were created? When your most intimate thoughts and desires are known to Him before they manifest?

What better companion than the Lord of the universe and the celestial bodies which inhabit it? Of the wind and mountains and crystal-like drops of rain? Of the heavens and the laughing child? Of the pen that writes and the eyes that weep?

What better abode than the fortress of the Divine?

How amazing is the love of your Beloved?

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah

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She.

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

It was only fitting for me to share this beautiful piece. I pray it resonates and heals for you. Thank you to the author who wrote this.

she’s the girl who says she’s fine, even when she’s not.
the one who you turn to for advice, but never has anyone herself.
crying alone, how does she manage to conceal her hurt?
waking everyday, with
a broken heart,
a smile
still on her face.
she says “I’m fine”
but she’s not,
deep down,
screaming,
in her mind she’s saying no.
the sweetest girl,
empathising with others, taking on everyone’s pain but her own.
hiding it from the world,
going crazy,
praying that it doesn’t show,
she’s not okay, but she’ll always say she is.
waiting for someone that’ll understand,
her struggles,
her pain,
her,
everything she hides,
crying alone, how does she manage to conceal her hurt?
waking everyday, with
a broken heart,
a smile
still on her face
the strongest girl, but broken
still pretending,
still laughing, but crying inside,
praying that it doesn’t show,
she’s not okay, but she’ll always say she is
even with a room filled with people,
a world full of billions,
she still feels all alone
she says she’s fine, she needs nothing
but she’s waiting,
waiting for it all to change.

She’s not okay, but she’ll always always say she is..

* I wrote this poem because I know there are many people in this world who are sad, broken hearted, or even feeling depressed that may relate to this post.
People who feel like no one really understands them, their struggles and what they’re dealing with.
I wanted to touch up on this subject, because I know that within our communities and cultures, depression is not something many like to discuss and talk about. The topic is somewhat taboo and unspoken of which makes people feel like they can’t express themselves and their problems because they feel as if no one can realate or even understand them for that matter.
I’m here to say, to whatever lovely reader stumbles upon my page and ends up reading this post, to whoever relates to this post,
Don’t feel disheartened or as if you have no one in this world, do not despair and lose hope. 

As your sister in Islam, I want to say that I am always here for anyone who needs advice or just a shoulder to cry on (a virtual one lol) I know it’s hard going through obstacles in life and not having anyone to turn to. I promise that I will always give you a sincere and honest response. As the hadeeth by the prophet ‘alayhi salaatu wa salaam goes, “I rather walk with my brother in his time of need than I stay secluded in the mosque for a month.” And always remember to “love for my brother what I love myself.”

I pray for everyone happiness and contentment in all their affairs. 🌸💕

Until my next post wa salaamu alayk wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatu.

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah

Source: She.

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a (haiku) poem: next stop, procrastination station

بسم الله و الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

On this beautiful day of ‘Arafah, I sit in the company of my Mac, research journal articles, text books and a wish to be finished already. But I am grateful! Such is the life of a grad student – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

My paper is on the intersections of my racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds and the implications on my professional ethical practice as a therapist. Pretty neat stuff!

On another note, here’s a haiku:

I make a stop at

“Procrastination Station”.

Now, back to this essay.

And Allah (SWT) knows best,

~ ubah ;)