What is Reflection?Reflection has been a buzzword in personal development for a long time now, and something that we advocate for passionately here at The Dua Journal, but what does it actually mean to reflect?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines reflection as a “consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.”
In personal development the general term reflection can be used to mean a variety of actions that often involve mindfulness, introspection, thinking, or even emptying the mind of thoughts like in some meditation practices. Some of these actions include: mindfulness practices, goal tracking, various types of meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, reflection on a specific subject, i.e. nature, and practicing gratitude.
Here at The Dua Journal we focus in on a couple of those aspects of reflection in order to help you create space for a more intentional life and relationship with Islam and Allah.
The practices that we emphasize in our journals are from three main areas:
- Introspection/intentional living through the “One thing I could improve upon…” and “One thing I learned today... “ sections.
- Goal tracking through taking time daily to write down your iman goal.
- Conscious gratitude through the “Things I am grateful for…” and “Today’s happy moments were…” sections.
In addition to using reflection as a tool for personal development, we also focus on using reflection to better our relationship with Allah and our connection to our deen. We achieve this mainly through mindful du’a and focusing on our progress with iman goals such as salah and Qur’an.
Why reflect?Yes, it is pretty easy to go through life on autopilot.
Many may ask, why bother with reflection? At best it just takes too much time out of my day where I could be doing other things. At worst reflecting on ourselves and our lives can bring up some pretty uncomfortable realizations and emotions.
Yes, it takes time. Yes, it can get uncomfortable. Yes, it does take work. Often, taking that first step can be one of the most difficult parts of regular reflection.
However, your quality of life will be greatly improved by doing the work involved in reflection. Some of the benefits include learning from past mistakes and making improvements, increased chance of success in goals, better perspective, increased happiness/contentment (in the case of gratitude practices), and even new creative ideas.
Plus, even our deen encourages us to reflect. There are so many ahadith and ayat of the Qur’an that mention the practice of reflection, but we will share only a couple of the most pertinent ones below:
“Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], "Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” (Surah Ali Imran, 191)
“And on the earth are signs for the certain [in faith], and in yourselves. Then will you not see?” (Surah adh-Dhariyat, 20-21)
And in the famous hadith of Umar ibn al-Khattab he says, “Take stock of yourselves before you are brought to account; weigh yourselves before you are weighed, for that will make the Reckoning easier for you tomorrow [...]”
These verses encourage us to reflect on ourselves, our actions, and the signs of Allah in world around us. It is also useful for us to reflect on verses of the Qur’an or hadith and really look into their meanings and explanation, as they can help us navigate through all aspects of our lives - the ups, the downs, our actions, our relationships, our spirituality, and our personal development.
In reflecting in this way, we can gain increased concentration in salah, deeper understanding of our deen and the world around us, and increased iman and tawakkul (trust) in Allah.
So, now that you’ve decided that reflection might be beneficial for you, how do you get started?
1.Start simple.Don’t try to take on everything from the start. Once you’ve decided that you would like to build a reflection practice, choose one or two ways of incorporating reflection into your day (journaling, meditation, gratitude, etc.) that you feel might work for you.
Keep your routines simple to begin with. Start by just taking out a couple of minutes on your chosen days of the week to reflect using one of the methods already mentions. You can begin to build it up over time as you find what works best for you and what you are most comfortable with.
2.Try different things.Don’t feel stuck with one type of reflection practice! While it is best to start simple with only one or two things, if you feel that those things aren’t working for you, you can begin to try and experiment with other things.
For example, if your started out journaling every day and you find that it just doesn’t feel right try switching to another format for reflecting like quiet meditation or short walks in nature.
Some people express themselves better in writing, so perhaps journaling (The Dua Journal, free writing, journal prompts) is for them. Some of us need to get out of our heads and into our bodies, so we may want to try different breathing and mindfulness practices. Still more people may need a little prompting to begin with, so they may try a guided meditation.
If you process information more easily through speech, make sure you can schedule time with someone trusted to talk things through. If you prefer thinking things through, you can begin by trying a meditation that involves just sitting quietly.
As you try different things, you can begin to get a feeling for what works for you and what doesn’t, and from there you can begin to mix and match and modify practices so that they fit your needs.
3.Insert it into your routine.There are so many different forms of reflection practices; there are meditations that last 30 minutes, filling out a journal page that lasts five minutes, and everything in between. The diversity in time commitment makes it easy to tailor something to your own schedule so that you can fit it in as often as you choose.
Create a routine around your reflection, and schedule it into your life in a way that works for you and your commitments. Maybe that looks like meditation once a week, or maybe it looks like writing in your The Dua Journal every night.
Another way you can incorporate a reflection practice into your routine is to stack it with another habit that you already have. For example, if you exercise once a day, you can keep your journal or any other materials you need for your reflection practice near your exercise spot. After you finish your work out, devote a few minutes to your reflection practice, every time.
Scheduling around other habitual parts of you day can help you to stay consistent while you are working on forming a new reflection habit.
Whatever it looks like for you, as you stick with it, it will eventually turn into a habit that is just part of your week, in shaa Allah.
4.Get back up.While you should strive to be as consistent as possible, you will probably not hit your goals every single time. What is important is to get back up after you slip! Don’t let a lapse in your daily journaling practice turn into weeks, or a moment of forgetfulness turn into a habit.
Reflection can be intimidating, however, it is a practice you can shape to your convenience and comfort. No matter how you choose to create your reflection practice you will see the benefit and change. The key is to find what you enjoy and stick with it.
Through a steady reflection practice, you will learn about yourself and be able to not only improve your life here in this dunya, but be able to grow your connection with Allah and improve your life in the akhirah.