The Art of Being

“In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask others how they’re doing, you ask in Arabic, ‘how is your haal?’ In reality, we ask, ‘How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?’Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart.”

—Omid Safi in On Being with Krista Tippett (9/16/2017).

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Omid Safi, Director of Duke University Islamic Studies Center, often writes a column on Thursdays for On Being. He is teaching us to be more intentional about relationships rather than simply making lists and completing tasks and assignments. My usual greeting to start a conversation is, “How are you doing?” The word doing implies that I am interested in what you are doing, while I actually want to know how you are being—how we can stay connected in this relationship and learn to live together as humans being rather than humans doing.

Maybe at some point I can say, “How is your heart?” for that sharing is what will make the most difference in allowing us to be in relationship. Being implies that we live in the present moment; and it is in the present moment that we connect. My experience is that making eye contact establishes us in the present. If I can hold your hand, we are making physical contact in the present moment.

Can we also transfer this understanding to our relationship to God? Instead of starting our prayers with our to-do list for God and expecting God to give us a to-do list as well, can we open prayers with “God, how is your heart? Show me your heart and open up my heart to you.”