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by Dr. Marwa Assar 

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What the Ocean Teaches Us About Coping with the Waves & Pains of Life

I want to tell you about something that many of us do when we go through painful experiences and struggles, that only worsens and exacerbates the difficulty we are experiencing! I came to realize this through reflecting upon the ocean and a struggle that people face at times when swimming. 🌊


In the ocean, there is a phenomenon that occurs known as a rip current which can be very dangerous for swimmers. It is known to be the cause of about 100 drownings a year. Swimmers often are unaware of the current because the waves don't signal any major disturbing changes. But the current is there, internally, even though the waves are crashing at the shore as they usually do, giving the illusion that everything is fine.


But inside this ocean, there is a current so strong that it is pulling water from the shore many yards into the sea. A person will be pulled so forcefully until they find themselves in deep waters unable to free themselves from the grip of this current. One can only feel complete powerlessness and panic in this situation when you realize that there is something happening to you all of a sudden that you do not understand nor can you free yourself from it.


So what do people usually do in such a situation? They fight and fight hard against this disturbance that their minds can't comprehend. That is what we usually do when our mind cannot logically find a solution to something. We simply cannot accept it, so we push our mind to think again, fight again, resist the test, because we are not okay with not having an answer. But it is the fight we put up when we can't free ourselves from our test that hurts us the most. It is the fight we put up that blinds us from the message and the solution.

In fact, contrary to most beliefs, it is NOT the rip current itself that causes people to drown. People often drown as a result of the immense fatigue they experience from the battle they were just fighting. And life guards who are trained at tackling such phenomenons in the ocean advise swimmers to not waste their energy escaping this current only to be dragged back in. Instead of escaping towards the shore, swimmers are advised to swim parallel to the shore.


As one is swimming parallel, he or she is neither escaping the current nor are they being consumed by it. They feel its presence but are not confined by all its traps. Their goal is safety, the shore, and eventually they will get there, but not as quickly and not as how they planned. But only when we stop escaping and fighting does God open our hearts to see new roads and pathways that the mind could not comprehend and see.


Painful experiences are part of life, and thinking otherwise or fighting that reality can hurt us. Whether it's a wave that knocks us down, a current that pulls us in many different directions, or a storm that shakes our security, recognize that the fight you put up is what can hurt you the most. The fight is what leaves us feeling like we are drowning in our emotions and struggles, and only when we stop resisting and settle into the discomfort of not having a solution or an immediate way to feel better, can we truly succeed and survive the test.

Remember, our experiences can shake us, challenge us, hurt us,and cause us pain, but the way we respond and react determines whether that pain will turn into suffering, or if it will become a means to our relief and what we were meant to gain through the struggle. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.


"God does not burden a soul more than it can bear."

(Quran, 2:286)



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"Educating the Mind Without Educating the Heart, is No Education at All."

~Aristotle 

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About the Author:


Dr. Marwa Assar is a psychologist, educator, and founder of The H.O.M.E

Institute.  She is dedicated to providing psycho-spiritual education and empowerment through an Islamic psychological lens. Click here to learn more about Dr. Marwa and her work. 

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