Peaceful Prostration

As I lower myself in prostration, blood rushes to my temples. Inhale. I rest my forehead on the carpeted floor as I relax into the posture. Exhale. Uttering prayers in Arabic, I cannot help but to imagine other activities that have helped achieve this state of self-awareness… of complete calm. I can hear the gentle whoosh of blood gently beating in my temples as it does when we float under the surface of a swimming pool. In that moment, the eyes are closed, as we swim in a chlorine bliss, drowning out the sound of children’s joyous squeals… or volleyballs pattering against the surface. Hair floats about our bodies, just as weightless as the body. It is only so long that the lungs can hold in the oxygen that flows to the brain. Rise to the surface whenever you’re ready to return to reality. Gasping for breath, we blink several times until we can gain clear sight of our surroundings. A man lowers himself into a jacuzzi, a little boy runs the perimeter of the pool, eventually joining his friends. It is almost as though the world looks clearer than before we ducked our heads underwater… as if the surface represented a division between a painful reality and the weightlessness of a worry-free mind. But perhaps the two ideas don’t have to be separate. I can carry the calm of the underwater realm into reality, always remembering to re-fill my lungs with oxygen. Let that peace flow through your temples as you walk the earth.

I rise from prostration and eventually conclude the prayer. I turn my head to the right, and then to the left, greeting the angels on each shoulder. “Aslamualaikum wa Rahmatullah.” As I observe the prayer area, I adopt a new perspective of my surroundings. I can juggle the myriad stresses leading up to the mid-terms period because I have found balance. But I realize that my pursuit of a balanced life-style manifests itself in diverse activities that have supported my well-being for years.

When I was in high school, I found strength through the sport of running.

During my transition to an adolescent, I found peace through yoga and meditation.

And for the majority of my lifetime, prayer has been my solace during times of hardship and of ease.

I can trust that if I hold my breath underwater to drown out sound, I will always come back up. Air pressure forces the body to rise.

Inhale…

2, 3, 4.

Dip your head beneath the surface.

Exhale…

2, 3, 4.

And rise again.

Verily, after every hardship comes ease (Qur’an 94:5).

 

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“The sane shift about in their seats. The ill remain seated.”

Writer’s Note: This creative short-story was inspired by the following quote: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” In the United States, it is intriguing to observe various power dynamics: teacher-student relationships, presidential elections, parental authority, and more. This piece makes a bold statement about power: we must use our voices and our minds to act against those who abuse their power.

“The sane shift about in their seats. The ill remain seated.”

The floor rumbles with the footsteps of dignitaries and casual attendees alike, as guests flood the room. “How are we all doing today? Can I get you all something to drink?” I go from table to table, repeating a waitress’ script until my tongue runs dry. “Be a darling and bring me a glass of water,” a woman orders, dressed in a navy blue gown. The walls echo with chatter about the upcoming presentation.

As I shift my gaze, I feel the aura of a powerful man who appears onstage. The attendees drop their silverware abruptly and rush to the auditorium seats. Anticipation fills our lungs like helium fills a balloon. It’s not long before the rubber snaps.

“Welcome, everyone!” The man’s voice echoes for several seconds. The audience roars with applause. Light and sound coalesce, and attendees clap wildly.  Every ounce of attention is directed on the presenter’s words. As I peer about the room, I gaze at my dirty apron and realize I am the only one not applauding. I readjust myself in my seat, as if to help me fit the mold of an insider—someone who pledges allegiance to powerful ideas before careful evaluation.

The presenter quickly presents his innovation, making clear that the product is a “life-changing miracle.” I watch as their mouths and eyes widen in awe. Their faces glow in dim lights, like the faces of children in the lights of firetrucks. A rhythmic beat begins to play. “What is that sound,” I wonder. The heart is a drumbeat against the walls of my chest. “A hypnosis track!” People begin to scramble, their backs curling as they turn away from the stage. The man begins to mutter abruptly. You will buy my product. You will submit. You are in my control. Now slowly, drop your head. Sleep. He continues to repeat his words. Heads begin to fall, mouths close, consciousness shifts to an altered state. The hypnosis track grows louder. I imagine running. The voice of reason crumbles under the weight of fear. Faces blacken, as audience members resist their altered stage of consciousness. The voice is silent but the mind shouts. It’s too damn late to resist. You’re already a puppet to a company that you blindly support. The sane continue to shift about in their seats. The ill have no choice but to remain seated. “You will submit. You are in my control. Sleep now,” the man quickly mumbles. The ill fall deeper and deeper into hypnosis.

Logic begins to break through the barrier of fear. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. I muster the courage to face the stage and run. My heart jumps inside my chest, as I rush past countless hypnotized individuals. The door is within arm’s reach. I can see the light. Stop! In my peripheral vision, I can see the man extending his hand toward me. His lips curl into a grin, as I stare at the ground. Time is still.

A choice weighs over the room. A choice between a powerful man and the targeted. Thousands of people in the room pledge their allegiance not to the man but to illusive power. To false hope. They are his puppets, unable to reverse their decision to submit to him. His arm is still extended in my direction. Should I trade the voice of reason for blind submission? In a split second, the decision is made. His hand is extended, but I turn my back on him. I turn my back on illusive power… on false hope.