In our busy and noisy world, many people forget how to look within and become agents of inspiration and change. By expressing from the heart, even the things we consider impossible can finally become possible. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen sit down with Ibrahim Sharkas to discover how letting out all the emotions and thoughts deep within the heart is key in achieving peace and unity in a world too focused on not-enoughness, political disputes, religious differences, and the need for instantaneous results. They also discuss how gravitating towards the arts, which is the primary way of expressing oneself, must focus on stewardship and giving birth to an impactful output rather than becoming obsessed with feedback and prominence.
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Ibrahim Sharkas On How Expressing From The Heart Can Change The World
In researching and going down the rabbit hole of finding out about our guest, I stumbled upon a compelling article on Medium that caught my attention and piqued my interest. I want to dive into this episode by reading a tiny bit of this article that hit me in a wonderful way. The beginning of the article starts by saying, “Does this sound familiar? Every Sunday before the workweek starts, your anxiety is over the roof and you can feel the onset of a panic attack creeping up. You hate your job, it’s making you absolutely miserable, and you know that if you leave, find someplace else, you’ll end up hating that too because you have no fucking clue what you want to do in life. The daily grind chews you up and spits you out that every night you’d feel the urge to cry in the fetal position, wishing that some way, somehow, it all comes to an end so that you’d finally be free. I see you, I hear you, and I fully understand even more than you think.” This is the beginning of a compelling article from our guest, Ibrahim Sharkas, How I Controlled The Voice In My head and Found Self-Help That Actually Worked.
Ibrahim, the payoff of this article, I was like, “What is this simple, stupid trick he’s talking? I want to know how to shift this feeling in my gut, this dread.” In this article, you said its expression. I thought, “Expression. Interesting.” I want to start there with you. What is it about the idea of expression that can unlock more freedom, joyfulness, and help us escape this trap you described brilliantly in this article? Tell us about expression and why it’s important.
It’s ironic enough. The short little answer is sometimes when I write I forget certain things that I’ve written. Thanks for bringing that up. I appreciate that. There’s a short answer and a long answer towards that. The short answer is in my life, personally, anytime that I find myself stuck where I’m not expressing, I become depressed. Knowing that and being aware of me, personally, my stance on certain things that are being unsaid, I want to find a healthy way to express it and share it.
The long-winded answer to that is within my life, based on the highs and the lows, I can see a trajectory and a pattern. That pattern is when I’m feeling love and I express that love to a community, to the people, places, and things that I love, a lot of times, things go in a fluid way. In the moments where I find myself feeling stuck and the moments that I find myself even feeling alone and I don’t share that with the same level of courage that I would share a high, I don’t find and discover resolve. I stay stuck and alone. That’s where I come from that. Expression, especially expression from the heart, is one of the most important things that all of us can do on a day-to-day basis.
How do we start to practice that? When you say speaking from the heart and learning to express ourselves, we hear a lot of buzzwords. We hear a lot on social media about authenticity. We see the word vulnerability or realness coming up a lot. If we’ve been in a mode in our lives of quelling that inner voice or that inner expression or some people say, “Your throat chakra is closed.” We hear a lot of different versions of this or maybe through different traumas we’ve experienced. We don’t feel a level of safety with expressing ourselves. When you talk about speaking from the heart, it resonates with me. It’s important for me to process things fully before I express them because I don’t want to misspeak. Sometimes I’ve observed myself in life telling people what I think they want to hear so they’ll leave me alone. This idea of training ourselves or practicing speaking from the heart, where do we even begin with that conversation if it’s something we’re not even used to or if that language is foreign to us?
I would say it starts off with what I said during that short answer and it’s that A word, awareness. With awareness, comes the courage in my life at least. I’m speaking subjectively. The more that I found myself being aware of how I’m feeling, the more that I found myself being aware of my external circumstances as consciously attuned to as possible. One thing you’re going to notice for me is I try to stray away as much as possible from these fluffy words that a lot of times you can see across the board being shouted throughout social media. I truly do believe that with awareness can come a state of expression. Of course, that whole processing aspect that happens within our lives, there’s going to be a time where we’re processing things internally before sharing it and saying it.I don't feel love 24/7. Click To Tweet
That article that I wrote on Medium took maybe 18, 19, maybe even 20 years to come out of me. It took a while for that aspect to be processed. The interesting thing is throughout the time of it being processed, throughout that time that it had been cooking and boiling inside of me, I became aware, time and time again, based on certain situations, of not enjoying my job, not being in alignment with my purpose. It took time. Once that awareness built up and conscious of it, the expression came out, and then that was able to serve, hopefully, one other person that is going through or is trotting through the same circumstances that I was at one point.
One thing that I immediately noticed about you when I became aware of your work was in every photo that I’ve seen of you, there seems to be this joyful radiance that emanates from within. It’s something that you feel when you meet someone for the first time. We haven’t met face to face yet but there seems to be this immediate hit for me of radiance and joyfulness that comes from you. I’m not sure if that’s true. I’m sure you have challenges, struggles, and grief like most humans on this planet who are not ascended masters or avatars. It feels to me like there’s a lot of love, joy, and a certain energy that comes from within you. My curiosity is if that is something that you feel was something that’s been with you naturally since a child, that’s my perception of you, or if it’s something that you have practiced a need to cultivate of radiating joy, getting into a sense of peace and contentment. It’s something that I feel from you. I’m curious if that resonates and if that’s something you have to actively work on to cultivate within yourself.
First and foremost, I have to say thank you for seeing that within me. I appreciate it. Hopefully, one day, we can meet once this whole pandemic is over. I would love that. I want to start by acknowledging it in this way. One, if you can see a level of radiance, love, and light within me, then that same frequency, that same resonance truly lies within you too. That’s the divinity, more so of a reflection that we see within each other. I’ve had ebb and flows throughout my life. I’ll be the first person to tell you I don’t experience love 24/7, 365. There are moments in time where I feel sad, anxious, the highs and lows, the whole cocktail of life so to speak.
There is a level of daily practice at least that I’ve instilled personally within my life. If there’s one thing I love talking about, that is love. There are four key characteristics that I find myself trying to practice every single day that put me into the position or maybe metamorphosis me being this person that I am and it is understanding how love fits within me and my life. The second thing is humility. What can I do every single day to practice humility and every single step that I take may it be bestowed with a level of humble resonance? Another thing is awareness. How can I be more aware of my feelings? How can I be more aware of my surroundings, community, people, places, and things? The last thing comes down to self-regulation.
I enjoy making rugs as an example. I love knitting rugs and learning more about rugs. Maybe that’s a passion. Let me be a little bit more aware of what makes me enjoy that. Is it the color? Is it the history behind it? The more that I start practicing some things at that level at such a rudimentary level, a lot more joy, a lot more love comes in with the activity. Involving patience is one of the biggest things. I still fumble twenty times a day with learning more about patience and how to bestow that in my life. It’s these certain key characteristics. Quite frankly, a lot of these keys gravitated me towards the path of what I’m studying to decode and understand, how can we feel these things? What makes us feel these things? If we think we’ve never felt this before, how can we instill it and build that muscle within ourselves?
You have such a comforting presence. After you’ve shared that and talked a little bit about what you’re studying, I know that you have this topic of exploration around traditional therapy potentially causing more pain than serving people. I’m interested in that. I’m curious, do you consider anything that you shared as part of traditional therapy or part of non-traditional therapy?
Everything that I say, take it for a grain of salt. It’s completely subjective. It’s from my perception of my understanding. Do I think it’s traditional? I’m coming to terms with yes. At a certain point in life, the ever-evolving research, the ever-evolving discoveries that are happening within the space of psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry, was originally founded at its core with trying to understand one’s mind. If we take it from more of a mystic and historic tradition, depending on the person you want to look into, almost decoding aspects of one’s soul or identifying what soul is within humanity, the study of the psyche, fully.
Is it traditional where a lot of therapists are talking about love, humility, awareness, self-regulation, vulnerability? I’m seeing more people wanting to discover that and wanting to discuss it and do clinical trials and clinical research or research in a hole to see what we can do to add value to that. Is it traditional? Yes. Is it practiced all the time? Not really, based on my awareness and my perception. For me, a lot of the things that I choose to consciously dive into based on research comes down to things that are considered almost alternative within the therapeutic space.
I love aspects of medicine. It’s amazing and stellar. There’s a lesson that stuck with me at one point in my life where I left pretty much the first year of my Master’s before jumping into it again. I had no clue what to do. I sold every single belonging that I had out in Arizona to move back home in New Jersey without a clue of what to do. Long story short, one guy that owned this amazing farm out in Vermont studies Chinese and Tibetan medicine. I was fascinated with his outlook on Tibetan medicine. I still carry that within the practice that I’m doing in psychology. It’s blending two sides of the same coin.
Tibetan medicine it’s fundamentally founded on this notion. It’s to take things that are more preventative care and also combining the wisdom of immediate emergency care. How can we take aspects of psychiatric medicine and blending it with topics of love, resilience, and even humility? How can we unfold both rather than relying on one? Is it traditional? Yes and no. Wholeheartedly, it should be blended in both. It’s the same coin, no matter what, in my perspective.With patience, humility, and a level of awareness, it doesn't have to be as hard as we… Click To Tweet
Diving into your studies, Ibrahim, your expertise, and the things that you are passionate about, psychology, spirituality, humanities, psychology, religious studies, it brings up something for me which I’ve read interviews with different theologians and different scientists. On a macro level, it seems that for a lot of people the idea of God, spirit, universe, and the idea of science and the scientific method are somehow separate. They’re diametrically opposed. They’re part of this duality consciousness that seems to pervade our reality here.
In reading certain interviews with scientists, religious scholars, or theologians, many of them as they go down that rabbit hole of their studies, the scientists found that as they went down into the subatomic level, the level of the stuff that maybe makes up the fabric of the universe, they realize that “God” is in the details. These scientists, having a revelation that God and science are the same. Religion and science don’t have to be separated. I’m curious about your studies, philosophy, and your outlook on spirituality, science, and the intersection of those two things. For people who still feel that maybe those are dualistic approaches to life, the benefit of perhaps melding those two approaches together and seeing how they mirror one another.
That is a great question that people have spent Millennia, decades, years, and many moments in time trying to delve into and understand. The paper that I’m completing is pretty much on that, it’s understanding spirituality outside the scope of religious study and how it can fit into humanity. It’s completely subjective. Everybody is going to have their take on what spirituality is. I’ve personally found the past years of my life wanting to see and understand is there more than life? Is there more than this reality? Interestingly, you say delving into the depths of one’s consciousness.
With spirituality, I take it as a holistic approach. I try to fit in the things that were echoed within, quite frankly, more westernized Abrahamic religions and even far Eastern traditions and try to regulate how can I fit that into my life? I don’t necessarily take things at face value. If you see and study mythos or if anybody who’s reading ever studied Greek myths and Greek philosophy, I try to take those stories and apply the essence of what these individuals are doing, the essence of one’s actions and not necessarily things on the face value. Through operating in life that way, I’ve been able to understand the people that crossed my path slightly differently than if I had a strict restriction towards one’s religious path for me in my life. That level of openness truly allowed me to build bridges that I can cross with people of different ethnicities, cultures, religions. I hope this level of spirit within myself can cross over to truly build unity across the board in a multitude of communities in our lives.
Speaking of unity, there has been a lot of chaos. From a perspective, there has been a lot of disruption and interruption on the scale of the “political level.” I do not want to ever dive into politics too deep because I’m not an expert at that whatsoever. I truly feel if we can holistically understand the sacred arts of what spirituality was intended to do and not embody the stories and implement and regurgitate the stories that we find in religious scripture, theology, in mythos, quite frankly, then we can embody the actions. We can embody the morality and the ethics that some prophets, Yogis, ascended masters have only alluded to.
If we can continue to resonate that level of elevation within society, I have nothing but an open heart a level of love. Operating out of that resonance truly can only see unity happen across the board at a global level and that is my hope. I hope one day, whether it’s me or whether it’s somebody else who’s investigating spirituality theology and the healing of humanity and how we each other can heal can allude to that and understand it from that scope. Understanding the sheer excellence in the beauty of unity and unity alone.
That’s incredibly important. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the need for unity. Sometimes I wonder like, “Will we achieve that?” Another question for both of you is, what exactly your definitions are of unity? What do you think that we can accomplish in our lifetimes? I suppose the word can mean different things. We are capable of many things and huge things. Given the state of the country in the world, it sometimes feels like in the distant future, if at all, that will feel that sense of unity.
When I was growing up, I remember how everybody would talk about wanting world peace and it felt cliché. As I got older, I thought, “I don’t know about world peace per se.” My newer definition of world peace is unity, but I don’t know if I will see that within my lifetime given that we can’t even get on the same page with the pandemic. Each country is a little bit different with their approach, each state, each city. There are many people with different opinions, feelings, experiences, and education. It doesn’t evoke a depressed or hopeless feeling within me, but it’s more like a question mark. It’s like, “Will we witness a major feeling of unity in the next 70-plus years?”
I’ll chime in. I would love to hear Jason’s perspective on that as well. I believe it fully. I truly believe that it can happen instantly if we consciously choose to embody what that looks like within our own lives. For me, love, unity, a depth of interconnection truly can happen if we, within our heart of hearts, can embody that resonance and operate from that day-to-day. Yes, certain external factors can shift. Yes, there can be disagreements and arguments on the outside. Yes, there can be almost like a level of a boiling point that happens prior to even dialog being at face.
We all truly have the tools to embody what unity can look like internally. If we express that fully and resonate with every single step that we take, we can make that happen. Years ago, I wrote a poem. I love poetry because it’s almost like an art form. Ask me to paint you a picture, I’ll probably struggle with some markers, paint, and stuff like that, but if you stick a blank page in front of me, my favorite art form is poetic expression. It’s always been something that I’ve loved. It’s been an expression that I like to share.
There was one thing that I wrote. It talks about unity, but it also talks more about unconditional love, and that is an ingredient. It’s part of the recipe to have unity, and it goes like this. “Unconditional love, I entered through that. In deep gratitude for you showing me love. Through actions that came beyond words, you place this sacred jewel within my heart with no intention to receive it back. You placed this sacred jewel within my heart to teach me how to become it, to love. That which goes far beyond any precious stone, yet effortlessly revolves like rings.”
The caveat, if we have the awareness and the tools to be able to self regulate that, we truly have the tools if we want almost instantaneously imprint a depth of connection between every single soul, and body that is conscious. Sometimes if we want to go down the rabbit hole, unconscious to a certain extent to have a depth of connection to map out unity like it’s never been before experience within our lifetimes.With patience we can arrive in peace instead of fragments. Click To Tweet
It is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for that, Ibrahim. I remember you sharing something about being a rug maker, and immediately, it tied back to your poetry book, The Threads That Weave the Universe. It’s a stunning cover. I want to get my hands on this because I’m a huge fan of poetry. What you shared with us was absolutely beautiful and resonant. You talked about giving this gift with no expectation of a return. When we talk about unity in this context, one of the things that perhaps might get in the way, and I’m sure there’s a lot of things, is we have this idea of not-enoughness.
This illusion of scarcity gets broadcast by media, certain corporate entities, and maybe governments. There’s not enough money, resources, oil, or food. There are almost 8 billion people and there’s not enough for everyone. The more that I look into what is available in terms of our food supply, water, air, and these seemingly finite resources that I don’t know that it’s a matter of not-enoughness as much as it is a matter of distributing it. Making sure that people’s basic needs are absolutely met.
For me, one of the things that might get in the way of people shifting into this oneness, in this unity consciousness is shifting out of the mentality of not-enoughness. “I have to hoard things, money and resources. I have to accumulate enough so that I feel a sense of safety and security, even if it is at the expense of my brother or my sister next to me not feeling safe and their needs not being met.”
My question goes into, how do we shift into a sense of, “When my brother, sister, and fellow human are taken care of and their needs are met, then I can trust that mine will be also.” I feel like there’s a general scarcity mentality, fear, and lack of trust that will be provided for that leads people to act out of fear, be violent, and hoard things. I’m always thinking about how do we shift into a mentality of sharing, abundance, generosity, knowing there’s enough, and out of the illusion of scarcity?
I love going full circle in the conversations I have with people. If we’re at a coffee shop, it’ll absolutely be full circle and keep spinning in that resonance. For me, what I found to work in my life is by doing good, spreading joy, sharing love, not hoarding, not being greedy, and/or not being stingy about not sharing this gold. This brief moment of essence with everybody else and the people’s paths that I personally cross.
If we try every single day to do one good action, one good deed, whether it’s found in a book, making another person smile, moving a stone that’s in the middle of the road or outside of the road. If we all deeply practice miniature minute steps within our life, this world would bloom. It would blossom in such an effortless way. Will it happen overnight? Most likely not. Will we personally, individually sense a change coming faster than something happening within the next 24 hours? Absolutely. It’s subjective. It’s that experience within ourselves.
A big thing that I try to embody is to do good every single day. If I have the opportunity to wake up, share or connect, or make someone’s day a little bit better than where it was before, I feel a level of completeness and wholeness within my life. Anytime within my existence that I lived skewered from that vantage point and that perspective, things didn’t fall as effortlessly together as they have in my life. Anytime that I’m living adjacent to that, things don’t work out personally for me.
We can totally relate to that. It’s wonderful to have conversations like this to be reminded. You touched upon the presence of poetry in your life. I love that because I used to be into poetry when I was younger. I was in poetry clubs in school and used to enjoy that process. Reflecting on your love for poetry is like, “How did that disappear from my life? Why did I put the pause button on it?” I don’t feel super called to it. My creativity gets expressed in different ways and sometimes, I get into writing. It’s interesting for you because you said that poetry helped you rediscover the art of forgiving yourself. I’m fascinated by that. Jason, I’m curious about you. Are you doing poetry and do you use it for healing reasons like forgiving yourself, or using any form of art for forgiveness?
My lens on that is songwriting. I have found that for me, I personally perceive songwriting as a form of poetry. I look back at the songs I’ve written, some of the songs that I’ve written that have never been released, and some of the songs that are in my journals that are just sitting there. It’s this interesting conversation because I do feel that writing for me in general, expression through the written word is something that I’ve always been enamored with ever since I was a young child. I started reading and writing at a young age.
Expression through word and writing has been something that I’ve had a lifelong love affair with. In terms of the style of writing we’re talking about with poetry and my version of that writing songs, there is a therapeutic aspect. The thing that I sit with sometimes is when I observe my ego or my small self that there’s the therapy of doing the action, the songs in my journal, and the songs that I sing to myself and that I feel better as a result of expressing. There’s a barrier that I feel quite often with, “We don’t know if we want to share this with other people because this song might just be for you.”
Is it? Is that me being stingy? Am I not sharing this song because I’m afraid of being judged? Am I afraid that may be the level of healing or resonance I feel from playing and singing the song, other people might be indifferent or worse, hate it? A hurdle that I’m overcoming as a sidebar to this conversation is with my writing, specifically my songwriting. Overcoming my resistance to sharing it because it’s this conversation of, “Is the song for me and my healing process, or is it meant to be shared with others?” I still feel stuck in that limbo state with some of my creative expressions.
One, I have to allude to the whole songwriting process. That is an art. I am not musically in tuned but music is an art form. If anything, I would say it’s such a divine art form as many different things from clay making and rug weaving to people who do graffiti-like murals. It’s such an intense, beautiful art. Whether emotions being expressed, energies being channeled, or divinity being channeled in its own way and its own right, it’s such a beautiful process. Keep doing it, keep making it, and keep sharing it when you feel called to share it.
For me, personally, with poetry, I remember when the first time that I wrote something, I felt uncomfortable sharing it. I was like, “I don’t want this to be judged. I don’t want my ego to be hurt or harmed in any way. I can’t do it. I’m uncomfortable with it.” I just bit the bullet. Honestly, I use Blurb. I use something completely online and I share it with a group in a community. It was received by some and some people didn’t receive it the way that maybe I expected it to be received and that was okay.
For me, I came from the point of saying this, if it can make the difference of the world to just one person, then the world itself has shifted and changed to a degree. Whether it’s read by millions, read by one or even read by none to the point where like you, Jason, there are poems that I have stories that I write in a journal that I’ve never shared with anybody and it’s just there. I had a therapeutic action of getting that out and releasing it from me. Within my own mental health and my own well being, it totally helped.What I found in ‘me’ resides in ‘we.' Click To Tweet
You mentioned the word expectation. This is something that I have danced with so much around my creative life. Something we talk a lot about here on the show in terms of our mental health is initiating something in the world and doing our best to practice the releasing of expectation and outcome. It’s something that I still wrestle with, in the sense of putting my heart and soul into a creative expression, and then watching this childlike part of myself want to release it, and then having this posture of, “Did you like it? I put a lot of energy, love, and heart, and years into this. I hope you like it. If you don’t, I might feel a little bit crushed. I’m scared to admit that. I am still attached to your opinion and the outcome of this thing.”
I’m realizing how much that part of my psyche still exists and also how much it gets in the way of me enjoying releasing something creatively into the world. It’s almost like, in a way, a metaphor, a begging bowl of like, “I’d love your acknowledgment and I’d love your feedback. Please tell me I’m a good singer. Please tell me I’m a good songwriter.” I’m realizing that is a part of my healing journey and a part of my growing self-awareness of how often that perspective or posture inserts itself in my life, but also wanting to free myself from it. I don’t want to create with the expectation of a specific result or a specific reaction from people.
I’m trying to practice more creating for the sake of something wanting to come through me. I have no idea what this is going to do in the world. I have no idea if this will be a “success” or sell or people will enjoy it. I’m not even sure if I’ll enjoy it. That’s a whole another conversation, too, about artistry and free expression. “What if it’s something that just wants to come through me and the point is not whether I even like it or anyone else likes it? Maybe it’s something that wants to be birthed into life and released.” That’s one thing that I’m sitting with. “Do I even have to like it?”
A part of me wants to yell and scream in joy for you, Jason because you didn’t just drop gold, you dropped Fort Knox. If there was a button where I can play that for you. You expressed something so important. Creating for the sake of just creation. In that process, personally, what I found when I’m in full resonance with what you said, whatever is being crafted and being created divinely serves a level of service beyond anything. I can’t even comprehend it. I remember when the book first came out. One person who picked it up and read it, read it to her husband that was in the process of passing away. He aged and he was older living in the Northwestern US, either in Portland or Seattle or around that region.
He had such a diminished level of comprehension. Honestly, at one point, I didn’t even value it. I just exerted it, wrote it, and put it out there. It shifted something in his relationship with himself with her. I had zero intention and zero expectation that this work, these words are going to impact this one person in Northwestern US that’s facing XYZ that’s going to shift his level of consciousness to a degree. It can be love, question, or examine a part of his life. I had no clue. It’s absolutely gold. It’s amazing. Create and craft when you feel like you want to create and craft to birth something out into this world. The beauty is maybe 2 years, 20 years, 100 years, 1,000 years from now, somebody will be building something else upon what was birth based on that sake of creation that you put out into this world.
It’s rich and I mean that in all ways in this sense of not being identified with the things we create. It’s a thing that Whitney and I talked about, too. This concept of almost ownership or identification with material things, whether that’s a book or a song we write or anything we’re birthing into the world, or even in conscious languaging of, “That’s my house. That’s my car. I own that thing.” One thing I’ve been sitting with and meditating on in terms of my relationship to creation and material objects is I don’t feel like I own anything.
I know we’re in a context of the world where people have copyright over songs, books, and creative ideas. If I keep zooming out, I start to realize, “If this thing came through me, do I even own it?” That seems to be such an odd conversation I keep having with myself. If anything, my vehicle, house, companion animals, girlfriend, and loved ones, I feel like I’m perhaps the temporary caretaker and steward of things.
This idea of ownership, to me, is a tricky concept for me moving forward because I don’t know that I want to be aligned with “owning” anything. Moreover, I don’t know that language even feels appropriate for me in my life to think that I own anything. If Jason as a concept in this physical body is going to go away, then what I “own” I will no longer own at some point. The idea of being a caretaker or a steward of creativity, objects, material, or things seems to be more in alignment for me than thinking I’m an owner or things are “mine.”
For me in my life, when I come to a place of understanding and seeing that labeling myself as a steward for whatever is coming through me and for what I’m adding value to or giving my energy towards comes with a level of responsibility, be it moral and be it ethical of how I operate throughout life. I’m with you on that. I don’t even own much, to be honest with you. I’m going to leave this world wholeheartedly with however shape I came into this world. I came in it with nothing, not that much. I was a blank slate when I came to this world and I most likely graciously and divinely hope that I leave in the same fashion as light as I came in.
Years ago, I remember leafing through the newspaper when I was living with my mom in Detroit and there was an article celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. There was a photo in this article in the newspaper of his possessions when he passed and left his body. It was something like fifteen possessions. It might have been a pen and a notebook, his sandals, and a few garments. In this photo frame, I remember it hit me. This was in my early twenties. I was like, “This man exited this reality with something like fifteen possessions. Something he could fit into a knapsack or a backpack.”
In this emerging conversation, a thing that Whitney and I are big fanatics of is the minimalist movement and shedding these material objects or material possessions. That in the Marie Kondo universe may not spark joy or things that don’t bring us a lasting sense of joyfulness, peace or fulfillment. It’s interesting you bring that up, Ibrahim because I flashed on that Gandhi image of that photo of his possessions after he passed and thought, “If I come down to this idea of minimalism,” and not for the sake of trying to prove my spiritual asceticism of, “Look at everyone. Look at how few things I can live with. Aren’t I grand? Aren’t I this spiritually ascended person? I only have fifteen things.”
I’m being mindful of not engaging with minimalism in that sense, but more so I feel like when I free myself of weight, density, and being responsible for things that aren’t necessarily bringing me joyfulness or fulfillment, I feel freer. It also in this conversation brings up this idea of, “Am I doing things because I genuinely want to liberate myself and enjoy the feeling of feeling lighter and freer?” I’ve done this certainly in my life, posturing to show people how spiritual I am. It can be a fine line sometimes and also sometimes, a chasm.
A hundred percent there is a fine line there, too. It’s amazing that you alluded to that image of Gandhi. It comes down to these four tenants that if I’m in alignment within my own life, personally, I find things to be a little bit lighter, as the way that you’re alluding. At least I’m closing my eyes when you were talking and I’m trying to imagine what it would look like to have a knapsack of just fifteen core possessions for one to live with. For me in my life, if there are rules and tenants that I follow, it comes down to four key things. Those are love, humility, awareness, and self-regulation.
With awareness, I can see and sense if I’m ever crossing that fine line or not. Granted, sometimes that subjectivity and the perception thereof, I may not even be aware fully if I am stepping or not, but I can do my best to see if I can move through it properly. Humility and love are important in that case for me, which you’ll always hear me echo of love as much as humanly possible but having love for oneself beyond any material possessions has helped me navigate the ebb and flow of life. I also mesh well with that whole minimalistic lifestyle. I’m trying to be attuned to it and trying to be a little bit lighter every day. That’s the goal.
You mentioned self-love and one of the things that I feel self-love potentially falls into is that category of the buzzwords we mentioned, vulnerability authenticity. At the core, what is your perception of self-love? This goes for both of you. Whitney, I would love for you if you feel compelled to jump in. Beyond this intellectualizing of self-love, which sometimes because of social media, it’s to take a luxurious bath, treat yourself to a chocolate bar, sit on the couch and watch your favorite Netflix show.
There’s nothing wrong with those activities but I do feel that self-love has become this amorphous acquiesce thing, that on a practical level, I’m curious what it means to you. How do you practice it? If you’re a human being that grew up in, say, a family, or a society that didn’t even teach you what that meant to love yourself? I feel that’s the case for so many people I know. It seems like this bizarre intellectual concept that people don’t even know how to practice or even start to feel it. Even hearing it, I still wonder sometimes, “How do I love myself more?”
It is interesting because we get so many mixed messages and maybe it’s all these different definitions and perhaps it’s also influenced by capitalism encouraging us to feel less worthy, less loved, and always wanting more. We talked so often about the not-enoughness, and how that’s often used to manipulate us to do things to spend money. Not enoughness is often part of love. It’s like, “I don’t feel enough for myself so I struggle to love myself. I don’t feel enough so I struggled to be in relationships. I don’t feel anyone could love me, because I don’t even love myself,” and all those confusing things.
We go on this endless journey to fix ourselves by buying things, researching, or constantly looking outside of ourselves coming back to that part and that’s probably part of the appeal of minimalism. It’s like, “I don’t need stuff to feel love.” My basic human state is to feel love. You have to strip away, but sometimes the process of stripping away is also learning and being exposed to new thought processes and that’s one of the core reasons we do this show and have guests on like this conversation. We get to learn and rethink things over and over again, and see if that resonates with who we are at our core.
I totally see that and I know self-love is one of those things that’s being floated around nowadays, as one of those power words online. In my life, I had to take many moments in time to understand what love is to me. To this day, I have not defined it. I don’t know what it is or how to put a definition on it. I’ve known people trying to assess it from a biochemical standpoint, within our bodies. I’ve read tons of philosophers and poets like Rumi shout to the top of his lungs, and through words on poems of love, especially towards his teacher Shams Tabrizi. I still don’t know what it is, however, I do know the feeling of what love is for me in my life.
Anytime that I begin to sense and allude to an activity that I’m doing, whether that is my job my day-to-day of cleaning up something that I was supposed to fix, or do something that I was supposed to do. I do my best to bring in that sensation, that feeling inside to the things that I have to do externally and outside. That’s the easiest way I can break it down and it does require at least for me, it continuously does require patience to decode it and understand it, to have a sense of what that feeling is. I remember a while ago, I wrote down something and it was this, “If you have the patience to count the number of stars in the sky, multiply that number by infinity, and you may come close to love’s endless supply.”
I truly feel that at the depths of who we are, we have a sense of love. We have this sense of beauty within ourselves. Sometimes it may take a little bit of patience for it to externalize in its own way and it may be almost near impossible to define it fully for us but I know without a shadow of a doubt, we felt blips of it, we felt moments in time of what that should be. If we can carry that over and cross it over to sitting on a couch watching Netflix, taking a warm bubble bath at night, to riding a bike to playing music and shredding on a guitar, to doing a show like this and interacting with amazing human beings. If we can bring that resonance towards it, I truly feel this life coming to the thing that we spoke about on unity, I truly think that it would come about and sprout almost instantaneously, may be based on our perception, but it’ll definitely come sooner than later.
One thing you brought up, Ibrahim is awareness and this idea that we can have a pretty immediate perspective shift or maybe even a shift in our hearts. It’s interesting you bring this up because so often I have fallen into some belief systems that change and growth and transformational work. I’m not even sure what to call the umbrella of what we’re even discussing now. The exploration of our humanity and existence perhaps that change, growth, evolution and transformation is this long and hard-fought arduous process that requires years and decades of study, work, experimentation, letting go and letting ourselves be destroyed and rising from the ashes like the Phoenix, and I suppose all of these other tropes.
It’s interesting because in multiple points in our conversation with the three of us, you’ve brought this idea of conscious awareness creating the potential for an immediate shift and immediate change. It flies against some of this subconscious belief system that I’m now speaking out of, “I thought it’s got to be hard and this thing I’ve got to fight for. I’ll shed all these layers like a snake for all these years, and finally, I’ll feel transformed.” Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way at all. Maybe that’s a limiting belief system that I and perhaps other people have been carrying around doing this work of spirit and transformation.The truth of the matter is that we are all that we see. Click To Tweet
It can be effortless. When change happens and change shifts, sometimes when we experience it, the time has a sense of fading away. We don’t even realize the amount. I personally don’t even realize the amount of time that it took to get from point A to point B and that alludes to a level of effortlessness. We are, fortunately, unfortunately, living in an era where things are becoming more on the tonality and I would like the frequency of instant gratification where everything is literally that it’s instantaneous, from ordering meals to wanting change and wanting shifts. We want things now.
When I say effortless, that doesn’t necessarily mean the work doesn’t have to be done. I’m coming to terms with this a lot of alternative therapies, therapy in itself, a lot of this spiritual and foundational work that happens within multitude of domains is unworking. It’s unworking, these thoughts that things have to be difficult, super strenuous, and hard to come into. Effort is required, yes, but sometimes it doesn’t have to be as harsh and as abrasive as we alluded to. That’s where the effortlessness comes in. It can be gentle.
We can approach it in a gentle way but with patience with humility and with that level of awareness, we can gauge it and sense that it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it out to be. Bringing that level of gentleness, that’s our responsibility and my responsibility within my life. I hope everybody examines and tries to embody a little bit more softness in the steps, a little bit more of gentleness even delving into a curiosity of oneself. It’s that simple to me.
Curiosity is such a fundamental thing in terms of, for me, at least moving beyond fear. When I feel in a lot of aspects of my life that I’m potentially afraid to explore something or try something new or move out of my comfort zone, as we talk about discomfort and exploration here on the podcast a lot. This is interesting. I’ve always felt drawn to the energy of cats. The cat kingdom. Big cats, small cats, medium cats, cats of all sizes.
Did you see the cat on his Instagram is what I’m wondering?
No, I didn’t.
Was that your neighbor cat, Ibrahim? Is that right? It’s the neighborhood cat or something, but it’s so incredibly cute.
Yes, it is the friendliest cat and the universe and like you Jason, I am totally drawn to that same level of energy big time.
There’s this thing with cats. I was working with a shaman a couple of years ago, talking about fear and a lot of the things that were coming up for me in different spiritual experiences I was having. He said, “Be like a cat.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You love cats.” We were talking about it. We have this mutual love for cats, the shaman, and I. He said, “Instead of being afraid, what if you can trade your fear for curiosity.” I thought, “That’s a big and a huge pivot.” Maybe it’s one of the reasons that I’ve been drawn to cat energy my entire life. I’ve had cats since I came out of the womb.Expression from the heart is one of the most important things all of us can do on a day-to-day basis. Click To Tweet
I’ve had cats my entire life. That sense of not only playfulness they have but curiosity. I’m so glad you brought that word up, Ibrahim because it’s something that is a potent reminder for me. We had an episode where I was sharing with Whitney a lot of my fears around growth, experiments, money, and taking certain risks in my life. I have a house full of cats. I have five animals here at the house so I get daily reminders and curiosity. Replacing curiosity and substituting it where we feel fear, that’s something I want to keep practicing and I’m glad that resonates with you, too.
On this note, I love that patience is part of this conversation because patience is such an important thing for all of us to practice. Sometimes the answers to us are revealed with time and sometimes we have to have patience when we feel fear.
Patience is one of those catalysts that is required when one is on the path of self-discovery of diving in to understand who we fundamentally are. It’s not that instantaneous whirls without a shadow of a doubt. Patience is a key to open that door, at least that I’ve been finding within my own life personally.
I have been wrestling with cultivating more patience my entire life. It has been something that even as a child, I would feel such an extremely potent sense of wanting things to happen right now and it’s something in my own healing work, transformation and spiritual practice. I’ve dug into why I have felt this entire life? I bring up Freddie Mercury because he’s my favorite singer the Queen song, “I want it now. I want it now.” It’s this sense of, “I don’t know my entire life. Why can’t it happen right now? Of course, it can happen now. Why are we waiting? Why is everyone standing around what is going on?” As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that this sense of impatience I’ve had was from a perception that time was always running out.
We go back to the not enoughness conversation. There’s not enough time. Time’s running out. We have a finite amount of time. Why aren’t things getting done quicker? Why aren’t we ending racism? Why are we transitioning to fully electric cars? Why are we throwing up solar panels on everything? Why is there so much fighting? Why is everyone angry at each other? Like, “Come on, let’s go through it.” Realizing that, people are at the stage of conscious awareness that they’re at.
A thing that has helped me be more compassionate and gentle with myself and also with others, especially when I start to feel impatient. When I start to get frustrated or impatient with myself or other people, the metaphor I like to use is walking up to a newborn baby or an infant and being like, “Why aren’t you walking yet? What’s wrong with you? You should start walking. What gives? Start walking.” Realizing that in terms of our consciousness, growth, and awareness, we can’t scream at ourselves or scream at others of why we’re “not walking yet.” We’re at our path and the stage of evolution in the pace of our journey that we’re at. Reminding myself of that helps me be more gentle with myself and also extends gentleness and compassion to others when I start to get frustrated or impatient.
I totally can understand and relate to sometimes that frustration where we can take a look, from our own perspective, to see a lot of wrongs in ices within our world. Alluding to what I was discussing, regarding that love, doing a podcast like this and if there’s one other person, one human being that reads now and it changes their outlook on life, that other person can change somebody else’s life by his or her own actions.
I completely resonate with you, Jason sometimes I want things, “This should change now. This should happen instantaneously. We should be converting to all electric. Why aren’t we doing things like that? Factory farming is not good. It’s not a good thing. Why don’t we change this and why can’t we start to make this happen now sooner than later?” However, what I’ve noticed personally in my life and I can be wrong, prior to the change and to these magnitude mental shifts happening, we must have a dialogue. We must be in a space where we can have a conversation.
Give our all, open our hearts and pour out from our hearts to get to a point where we can arrive in peace, and not fragmented pieces. We’re stepping, each and every single one of us, I guarantee this, we’re all going to arrive and end up in the same place collectively together wherever that place maybe. Alluding to the same thing, my hope is with patience.
We have the aptitude to not arrive in fragmented pieces, but in a state of peace. I truly do think it comes into play with actions that we do every single day. From doing an episode like this, to having a conversation with somebody in your phonebook that you haven’t had a conversation with probably in years. Also, to make somebody’s day a little bit different and shifting maybe their perspective to a degree to one that is a little bit lighter and less abrasive. It does take patience, but it is absolutely possible.If we all deeply practice minute steps within our life, this world would bloom. Click To Tweet
I love your spirit of, if I may hopefulness. One thing that I struggle with sometimes is feeling like I lose my faith in humanity or rather lose my faith in life. One thing that I try and remind myself of is this philosophy, I suppose that I have, even underneath the times that I lose faith. Life is so vast. It’s like everything in the entire universe they say we’re made out of stardust, and we are one with all that is and I do believe that. Other times when I feel I lose faith or I lose my ability to trust in life and the processes of life unfolding, the concept of infinity and the concept of the universe in the vastness of all of this is too much for me to even comprehend.
I want to acknowledge your spirit, Ibrahim. As we started this episode, you bring a level of joy, openness, love, and heartfulness to the things that you do. It’s been an absolute pleasure to dive deeper into your perspectives, your life philosophy, the gold nuggets that you’ve dropped throughout this episode. You’re the person I would want to have on speed dial on my phone. Do you get that from your friends? Do you have friends who are like, “Ibrahim, I’m struggling. Help me. Throw me a line here?”
Yes, I do, and again, from that place of service, no matter what, I will always be there for anybody unless I’m sleeping. I am a very deep sleeper but no matter what, I am always open to any of my friends that hit me up on speed dial 24/7 outside of my sleep schedule.
We are not giving out Ibrahim’s direct number on this episode. Explore, purchase and support him through his wonderful book called The Threads That Weave the Universe. He poured his soul into these poems. If you have felt his heart in this episode, there’s no doubt you will feel his heart in these beautiful expressions in this book. I’m going to get myself a copy because feeling your heartfulness, Ibrahim, and your creativity and your perspective, I certainly want to dive into more of your creative work.
For you dear reader, pick yourself a book from Ibrahim and dive deeper into his creativity and his expression. If you want to reach out to us, we are also on all of the social media networks @Wellevatr and you can always shoot us a direct email to myself and Whitney it’s [email protected]. With that, Ibrahim it’s been such an incredible pleasure sharing in this energy in going deep and opening our hearts here. I want to thank you so much for being a guest with us.
Likewise, I truly am grateful for both of you and if I may, can I end this with a poem based on what we talked about?
No way. Poems. We don’t allow those on our show. How dare you?
I would love to end it on that note to all of you.
Please share it.If you have the patience to count the stars in the sky and multiply them by infinity, you may come close to love's endless supply. Click To Tweet
This is in resonance with our entire conversation so I’m going to go from here, “I’ve been searching for you all my life, traveling by the day and scouring through the night. Went to the mountains and the ocean side, all to find out you were hidden inside. For I am a vessel of truth forever shall it be. What I found in me eternally resides in we. Oh, seeker of Truth. Please never forget. This sacred treasure was placed in you before we even met. As this universe whirls in a holy dance, let go of your ego and fall in love in this ethereal trance. The thread that weaves is surely you and me but the truth of the matter is that we are all that we see. My love, protect this truth so it shall always be as the nectar in the hive delicately protected by the bee. This truth is ours and older than the seven seas. If you want to find God, remember that we are all the key.”
Thank you so much.
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- Ibrahim Sharkas – LinkedIn
- How I Controlled The Voice In My head and Found Self-Help That Actually Worked – Medium article
- The Threads That Weave the Universe
- Instagram – Ibrahim’s cat photo
- @Wellevatr – Instagram
- [email protected]
About Ibrahim Sharkas
Ibrahim Sharkas is a student of psychology, spiritual studies, and humanities. Completing his undergraduate degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Religious Studies at Arizona State University, his passion for understanding the functionality of the mind and human spirit has been etched in academics and connecting with beings on the path of inner development.
He’s currently completing his Masters (L7) in Positive Psychology in the United Kingdom, focusing his research on exploring spirituality and its emphasis on humanity.
Ibrahim has published three books with his latest release, The Threads That Weave The Universe, that tie his studies weaved through poetry.
Over the next few years he’ll be primarily focusing on working with clients 1-on-1 and group in a therapeutic atmosphere, research and write papers that add insight within the scope of academics (primarily Religion, Humanities, and Psychology), as well as continually develop his grassroots movement, Daily Drop of Love, to a large scale Non-Profit Organization. https://www.ibrahimsharkas.com, https://www.dailydropoflove.com.
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