Opinion: The centre of mass, the human body and spirituality


Rumana Ashraf, USA

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One of the most important qualities to exhibit and grow are the attributes of strength and balance. The two attributes parallel each other when in sync, and support each other in creating a harmonious relationship within the body. 

Imagine the body as a scale. The anatomy of the human body in all aspects is a perfect image of strength and balance. Both legs hold the weight of our upper body and maintain our centre of gravity as we shift through positions. Both shoulders balance each other and support the active motions our body goes through when moving. During times of difficulty and hardship, the number of stressors that we are forced to take on can be overwhelming. It is important to understand that during such times, prioritisation is key. 

In the study of physics, the point at which there is equal distribution of weight on either side of an object is called the centre of mass. For example, when attempting to balance a pencil on one finger requires an individual to find the right spot on the pencil to balance it from. It can often take several tries but eventually, a position is located on the place on the pencil where the individual can place their finger under to hold it steady without any additional support. This position on the pencil where its balance is met is called the centre of mass

Every object has a centre of mass, from a singular pencil to every living organism; there is a physical point at which balance is achieved and maintained. As the human body moves, the centre of mass shifts to balance out the change in position. In a standing position, the centre of mass is located near the upper region of the hip bones. 

In the human body, the core’s main function is to stabilise the body’s trunk while our arms and legs shift. It provides for stability and control as the body moves. Having a strong core is essential for maintaining the integrity and support of the rest of the body. When a shift in position happens, the core of our body adjusts to the movement and stabilises our body to accommodate the change. 

In the same way, can the soul of a human be considered the core of the body? As important as it is to ensure that physical needs such as food, water, shelter, money and safety are met, it is just as equally important to ensure that the spiritual side of the body is also alive and well-lit. Just as a fire cannot burn without wood, the physical body cannot function without a spiritual soul. To bring about true inner peace, one must first bring about synchronisation between the two halves that make them whole. 

Living a life without an internal spirit of faith is the equivalence of a lantern with no fire. The glass itself may be there, and the fuel may be present, but it is hollow and has nothing to fill it with but emptiness. In the same way, fire fills a lantern with light and warmth, does the spiritual self of an individual fill the body with a sense of peace, passion, and an overall feeling of life and breath. Just as the soul cannot exist without the body, the body cannot exist without the soul. For self-healing and inner peace, both halves of the body must be fed and tended to. When one half begins to feel empty, the other begins to hollow as well and eventually barren into the darkness that can only be refilled when both are in harmony with each other once again. 

The Holy Quran says:

اَللّٰهُ نُوۡرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ؕ مَثَلُ نُوۡرِهٖ كَمِشۡكٰوةٍ فِيۡهَا مِصۡبَاحٌ ؕ اَلۡمِصۡبَاحُ فِيۡ زُجَاجَةٍ ؕ اَلزُّجَاجَةُ كَاَنَّهَا كَوۡكَبٌ دُرِّيٌّ يُّوۡقَدُ مِنۡ شَجَرَةٍ مُّبٰرَكَةٍ زَيۡتُوۡنَةٍ لَّا شَرۡقِيَّةٍ وَّ لَا غَرۡبِيَّةٍ ۙ يَّكَادُ زَيۡتُهَا يُضِيۡٓءُ وَ لَوۡ لَمۡ تَمۡسَسۡهُ نَارٌ ؕ نُوۡرٌ عَلٰي نُوۡرٍ ؕ يَهۡدِي اللّٰهُ لِنُوۡرِهٖ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ ؕ وَ يَضۡرِبُ اللّٰهُ الۡاَمۡثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ ؕ وَ اللّٰهُ بِكُلِّ شَيۡءٍ عَلِيۡمٌ

“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a [lustrous] niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from a blessed tree – an olive – neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah knows all things full well.” (Surah al-Nur, Ch.24: V.36) 

There are things that we can do physically to help our spiritual state. According to the Holy Prophetsa,the spiritual effect of praying five times a day has the same effect as if one was to bathe one’s physical body five times a day. Hypothetically, if a person did bathe five times a day, would there be any filth left on them? Certainly not. In the same way, water cleanses the body, prayer affects the soul. The Promised Messiahas also explained in regard to this matter that “anyone who desires to develop an inner state of purity must also be physically clean as well.” 

There are times when one can feel exhausted from the constant challenges of life, and the effort it takes to keep everything in order. However, it is important to remember that Allah the Almighty has intended for us to struggle, and constantly tests our stability and vigour with the constant push and pull of both halves. This is when strength and balance are key. Remembering that these attributes are the qualities to maintain true stability is essential for managing the lifelong stressors, challenges and obstacles that we are intended to face. Keeping in mind that Allah the Almighty knows the pain, dedication and passion of every heart makes it easier to bear the weight of life and all that comes with it. 

A helpful exercise to do is to prioritise stressors and their significance in your life. Out of all the challenges in your life, what are the two that are the most important to you? When choosing, be sure that one weight is worldly related, and the other faith-related. In this way, as explained before, can the body truly attain inner peace and successfully manage challenges. Stressors, represented metaphorically, are to weights in life. It is important to understand that the body only has a certain carrying capacity and that overwhelming it with too many weights evidently can have detrimental effects on an individual’s mental and physical well-being. These weights can be in the form of unmet goals, people, values, or anything that is of great significance to you and holds meaning in your life. Using this method of identifying one weight per shoulder encourages the body to maintain balance while carrying it. 

For example, two weights (goals) can be an individual’s desire to obtain their degree and reciting the Holy Quran every day. Another example can be taking care of your family and giving sadaqa and charity consistently. A final example can be paying off your student loans and praying nawafil every day. Keep in mind that with different age groups come different priorities and goals. 

Just as the centre of mass of an object requires balanced positioning and weight distribution, so does the human body need an equal spread of stressors and priorities in life to stand and functionally operate. 

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