Usually at prayer time an inner battle commences. It is me, alone, against a very well trained enemy. My stomach gets tight, my head tingles and I feel paralyzed. This is not a battle to be lost so if you are anything like me you will need to arm yourself with skills and techniques to overcome this strong opponent. Fighting is 90% mental. Sure you need to train your body to be strong and quick, but if you get in that ring unprepared you will face a loss. Trust me. If you think that you can beat an opponent that has been training for thousands of years without having prepared yourself mentally, you are wrong my friend. Because prayer is such an important part of our identity as Muslims, we must all make it a priority and take measures to protect it and be steadfast. When I first came to Islam, prayer was peaceful and comfortable, it was a part of my day that I looked forward to but as the years have passed it has become somewhat burdensome. SubhanAllah! This is never how we should look at the prayer. The prayer is a gift that we should give ourselves. Five times a day we can take some time out and clear our heads from everything else that is going on around us and just relax. The prayer helps us to calm down and return our focus to what is truly important. Missing prayers only contributes to the stress and will only cause more mental breaks; causing a cycle of paralysing stress and missed prayers.
“THEM: I feel like I’m in a constant battle with myself. ME: Well I hope you win.” ~Lyfe Guru
As stress heightens we move from functioning in the cortex to the limbic system in our brain, and in turn, we become less able to physically and mentally function and get through various challenges. In other words our motor skills and response becomes less accute. It is a psychological implication that is preventing you from achieving your goal or winning your match. The limbic system is your emotional brain and the cortex is the part of our brain that functions when we are using reason and thought. The cortex is a part of your brain that you can call upon previous training or lessons to put a plan into action. When athletes are performing in the cortex they will call this “the Zone.” When you are in “the Zone” you have full function of your body and mind. It is like you have heightened awareness and you become sharp and move like a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. When you have gone from the cortex to the limbic system, however, it is almost impossible to get back. This is how most fights are lost; it is a failure to mentally withstand stress.
“Here is the natural instinct and here is control, you are to combine the two in harmony. If you have one to the extreme you will be very unscientific. If you go to the other extreme you will become a mechanical man, no longer a human being. The ideal is unnatural naturalness or natural unnaturalness.” ~Bruce Lee
There are various techniques that can be used to tap into peak mental and emotional states at any moment that will help you fight at your fullest potential. One of which is “anchoring,” which is similar to Pavlov’s dog in Classical Conditioning. That is to say that you set an anchor to the emotional response you want. To do this you must first get into the emotional state you want to recall. For peace, you vividly imagine a time when you were ultra-calm or peaceful. Try to visualize everything: what happened, what you felt, saw, smelt and heard. Get your body and mind worked up and really feel the emotion, remembering and visualizing that ultra-peaceful state. When you are in the peak state you have to do something unique (like Pavlov ringing the bell) snap your fingers or clap your hands; anything that will be your anchor. Repeat the action various times in order to deeply set the anchor. The stronger you set the anchor the better it will be for you when you use it. After you have done this several times test the anchor. Forget about what you were just feeling and hit the anchor, chances are you will feel the emotion come back. If it was a slight feeling then your anchor needs to be set deeper so that every time you do that unique action you will get the response you wanted. This is a great technique you can use anytime you feel stressed out. Just hit the anchor to get that emotional response making it easier for you to be calm and capable of fulfilling any challenge you may face.
Moving beyond yourself can be a great challenge sometimes but in terms of prayer and other fard actions it is imperative to do so. Tapping into peak mental and emotional states at any moment can help you fight to your fullest potential and in turn help you reach your goals. You can use the anchoring technique to calm yourself down and let yourself focus on what needs to be accomplished. There are a plethora of other technique’s for you to choose from, so do not feel as though this is your only option. Jabir reported: The Prophet (SWS) said, “Between faith and unbelief is abandoning the prayer.” [Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Book of Faith, Number 2618, Sahih] So stop this cycle of perpetual stress and get your head into the game. When we can master ourselves and in turn master the prayer, inchaAllah, it will open the door to many other great things in our life. Our tension about having missed prayers and the need to make up prayers will fall away and we can focus on other aspects of our life that we wish to change. Furthermore, in doing so you will be acting in accordance of what Allah subhanua ta’ala has commanded and in turn truly submitting to the One most worthy of our time, love and trust. In doing so, we can become successful in this world and in the hereafter inchaAllah.