Thriving as a Muslim Professional – Talk for sBIMA conference for Doctors in Training

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Tarek Kareem Harris

Channel: Tarek Kareem Harris

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Episode Transcript

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Assalamu alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh, and blessings be upon our Prophet and his family. And may this task I undertake be of benefit to all as intended, finding the people who need to hear it and causing harm to none.

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I've made this video for you because making media and writing books is what I do most of the time now. Besides which it is Tuesday at the moment, and I've adopted a rule that unless I'm scheduled for a work shift my Sundays off or family time alone, it's a rule that helps me to be available to all parts of life, which I talk about in my research and publications on high performance and well being if you want to know more. So on with the talk in Sharla. My name is Derrick Harris, and I'm a neuro psychiatrist. I qualified around 25 years ago and trained in Oxford and Edinburgh. I first started with surgical training, and then went into cardiac surgery and loved those fields for their

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impact and physical challenge. But after a while, I realized that I was really fascinated with how half of our patients would come in with heart attacks when they received some bad news or faced some kind of terrible stress. How could such an abstract thing cause such a physical outcome? I tend to neuroscience and found my true calling and move to psychiatry,

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a field which has been seen as a soft option in the past, but in the last 25 years or so has boomed in terms of the technology and science behind it, we can actually delineate the mind in the same way that we delineated the heart and other organs in the 1940s and 1950s. About the work I do now, I was raised in Africa, and I'm lucky to have been a longtime friend of Mufti mink, and after being ill for a time and seeking to add further meaning and demand to my life. With his help, I started writing and making media for all Muslims to benefit from what we know in medicine. This duty can and should be part of your Outlook, too. I discovered it rather late on but the more you think about

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everyday issues such as conflicts, interpersonal emotions, managing other people, and so on, the better you will be as a doctor, and the more use you will be to the Muslims in your life, who want to get a full view of real medical issues from someone they trust. My work now is found on Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, all over the place really. Because it's written by a doctor, I suppose it will be of particular help to you and informative as well. I believe the work will help you to perform with clarity of belief, strength of personal purpose and gentle, strong individual Muslim identity. And these are three things which make a medical career actually more fulfilled. Because a life in

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medicine can challenge you and can to a certain extent hijack your well being and your identity if you don't pay attention to what truly makes you tick, so to speak, I'll talk about that a bit more. And knowing about these things will tangibly further your career. As I will show you this talk will be brief. And I would prefer to give you an example of a few things in depth that rather than a cursory skim over the whole area of mental performance and well being. So I'll talk about these issues in turn. Firstly, there'll be model of personal growth, clarity of belief, strength of personal purpose and a gentle but strong Muslim identity. Secondly, reflection, emotional

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intelligence and high mental performance. And thirdly, look at Salah as an actual mindful lived experience, and one which enhances well being. So let's start with this picture. The first thing to look at when understanding your own mind. And the way you function is this model here. It's the tripartite model of the Muslim mind. It's drawn with strong reference to Islamic texts and scientific knowledge. As you can see, there's three parts here. The knifes is the rough equivalent of your ego. But in Islamic tradition, the knifes is something which we share with all animals and all living things. It is emotional, it is impulsive, it lives according to impressions and feelings

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rather than actual facts and figures. It can take over the rest of your mind if you if you let it and our job as Muslims is to work with it to defy its extremes so that we don't end up doing rash or impulsive things, but to also listen to it and work with it when it's giving us useful messages. The intellect is the part that you use for your knowledge and for improving your skills or technical ability in anything, whether you're learning how to be a better surgeon or the rules of what causes pulmonary edema. And the heart is if you like an arbiter between the two

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It is where we are truly judged by Allah, what is written in your heart is really testimony to the kind of person in terms of your character, and your beliefs and the way in which you present yourself to the world and interact with it. The second part is the idea of wellbeing. What does that really mean? And why is it important? Well, if you understand this particular picture, you will be able to sort of guide yourself towards a life that is fulfilled and content.

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I will discuss the different parts of well being in more detail in my books, but as a as an overview. The idea is that there's five components, right. So you've got autonomy, competence, relatedness, a sense of purpose, and a sense of joy. Of those, the ones that are worth focusing here are the sense of higher purpose,

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which can put you in a little bit of conflict with your medical career, but which you need to resolve. as Muslims, our higher purpose is to exist to please Allah and to do those things which make us worthy as human beings being there for our family, and what have you. The medical career has a slightly different aim, which is to be of use to people who are in the course of your work, that's fine, except it leaves you sometimes with the impression that that is all that makes life worthy. And then you become prone to overworking and giving your all to your career at the expense of things which matter equally, if not more. So keep that in mind.

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Doctors in Islam have never claimed religious authority in the way that happened in the Western tradition, and were allowed to be at fault and be more collaborative. And Surprise, surprise that is what is actually happening in modern medicine. we regard our career as second to our main aims, those of pleasing Allah in the places that matter our own faith, our care for the people we love. But how do we advance our careers? Well, we use things like emotional intelligence and self awareness. A Stanford study on professional advancement found that in the corporate hierarchy, technical proficiency only accounted for around 25% of the contribution to someone's promotion and

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elevation. The remaining 75% was from interpersonal skills, and situational awareness, which includes to a large extent things like emotional intelligence, you will be entering a workplace, which has always been and will continue to be unconsciously biased towards the racial and religious outlook, which are not necessarily your own. If you feel something in your water about being passed over or ignored because of who you are, you don't ignore it, you let that feeling exist, but you don't let it dominate your emotions to anger you.

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You have ways of working around those issues in a way that's sympathetic, and people will realize your value for what it truly is. And you certainly don't have to work twice as hard as the white people just to prove yourself, as you will frequently hear from your non Western peers. That is not the way forward because it's just a route to overwork and resentment. So, here are the principles of reflection and advancement in terms of managing your own psyche and your interpersonal relationships. First is acceptance of emotions as temporary and acceptance of your limitations as a person. Allah knows fully well about your issues and what you face. Allah only expects you to try

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your best. Allah doesn't reward you for getting fantastic results, or he's not interested in your failures. As long as you just do your reasonable best. Don't overdo work at the expense of your loved ones. And whilst you're a student, don't neglect the supports that have brought you to where you are. call home regularly enhance your relationships with your parents, your brothers and your sisters. Otherwise, what will happen is you'll soon become as far as they're concerned, our distant doctor person who never sees us, and this might upset them but more importantly or equally importantly, it will deteriorate your own well being in the way that you won't know or realize until

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it's too late. Secondly, take to understanding others emotions, at work and at home and understand how to present yourself at work in a way that is professional and not tied to overly expressing your individuality in a way that comes across as too quirky or too different. And I'm not saying hide yourself, but it is the Islamic way to keep a boundary about who we are and to stick to the rules of the job. Learn how to read other people learn how to comfort them and bring them to your opinion.

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influence, to help them to become wise, you do things which they are receptive to. And there's clues to that if we look at the triangle again, realize that this is how people actually communicate. So if they're speaking in an emotional way, or about such things as loyalty, or they're being paranoid about something, then that's the knifes at work. If they're presenting just facts and figures in trying to convince you as to the data, or to the rationale for some treatment, that's the majority of academic medicine, then that is the intellect at work. But to truly persuade people if you are presenting to them, or certainly if you're trying to convince a patient to take a treatment, you

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need to be above and beyond both of these things, taking them all into considerations. Your heart is the way that you can read the situation, taking your messages from the knifes and understanding what the person is going to receive when you talk to them. And you can then couch your messages, closing them in the language of enough so the intellect to appear and actually be of greater influence to people around you. The more you break this down, and my books and media will describe how this really works. The further you will get and the more satisfactory you will feel your career is and your home life for that matter. Thirdly, look at your personal strengths and individuality. Allah

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made us all different for a reason. And even though you've embarked on a medical career, there'll be questions you have about you know what specialty you want to work in, and what would make you interested in one versus another. And there are ways in which you can break this down to help yourself. There's a model which I sometimes describe, which is a four part model of the things you like doing the things you're good at what the world needs and what you can get paid for. And putting these together will help to splay out your particular preferences and decide a course of career choice for you. But in addition to that, focusing on your personal strengths, involves taking on

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things like reflection, as a daily and a regular practice. Now it happens to be that reflection and mindfulness are quite trendy at the moment. But in actual fact, they've always been part of the core essence of Islam. After all, the prophet himself meditated for some 23 years in the cave of Hira, where he received the Quran itself, we don't have direct record of how he actually did what he did. And that's a gift, because we are left to find our own way to connect to Allah. And we have to reflect. Allah tells us repeatedly that those who reflect those who go above and beyond the merely mechanical or rope, things are much more blessed in his eyes, because those are the people of true

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thought of the close philosophy of Islam, reflecting in a deep way, or to meditate, or any such things, but how do we actually do it? Well, there's a few traditions and a few practices, which can make this quite a practical experience rather than becoming like a Zen monk or whatever. And I've described those again on my media and books for those who are interested.

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There is the sort of quite pronounced Sufi tradition of merkabah, which is a specific meditative practice. And then it's down to just daily mindfulness exercises, which really map more closely onto the idea of Vicar, what does it really mean? And how does one, get that sense of awareness of godliness around you to the point where you are taking on the characteristics of a person who really pleases Allah. So qualities which are desirable, like being merciful and forgiving, and being gentle, but strong and assertive, you will be taught endless courses and little snippets on how to be more assertive or manage conflict and what have you. And those are all very good, but we have a

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place where we can derive those things from a sinful wise source. And essentially what I'm saying is, these are the things that you can keep and guide and develop for yourself in your own heart. As a very quick exercise, let's take a clue from the word itself. You know that the knifes itself referring to your ego and mapping on to the space of the brain in terms of its emotional centers and drives such as hunger, aggression, victory, conflict, and what have you? Well, knifes itself means breathing or breath in Arabic. And it also means moment, as in moment of time, and this is an extremely wise and very powerful clue. The functions of breathing are only being really discovered

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in the last few years in how powerfully it regulates emotion. And there's neuroscience which we've known for a while, which maps onto this such as

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bagels stimulation and feedback, which can enhance mood, drop blood pressure and resolve issues like anger and impulsivity, where words and pills don't do enough. So a good practice perhaps, is to just do slow breathing. And I use something called the 510 10 five method, which is very straightforward exercise, which is useful before or during anything which is troubling you before in during a work shift or after a work shift, just this alone will confer a sense of calm and engagement with the task without that sort of friable brittle anxiety that tends to plague a doctor's life so much. Let's move to the idea of Salah, and I talk about it here because Salah is something which we do

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every day anyway, there is no judgment here. And I'm here to tell you that partly, it's not quite your fault, that we've all come to see Salah as a duty, which is just for the benefit of Allah to please him something we have to do something we skived off from his kids, or in taraweeh. And it's a battle to get yourself to Salah all the time. Well, whatever level you are at, I guarantee you that you will find solace many times easier. And it will be a beneficial experience for your sense of well being and indeed your mental performance. There's a few studies which I talked about on my blog, which looked at people who pray Salah with a mindful deeply meditative approach. And pre and

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post ETS show that these people were significantly calmer. And pre and post cognitive tests show that those who praise allow with this sort of mindset improved in both their concentration, their reduction in level of errors, and we're able to be more nimble in tests called task switching tests. So remember that Salah was a deeply meditative experience, even in the prophets time, you do the mechanical stuff, but that is really just a framework which enhances your experience of Salah as something which is connecting you to Allah every day, five times a day and it is at his invitation. He believes it will benefit you so much that he demands you do it five times a day. So let's find

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the clue in that because everything he tells us is really for our benefit, when we please Allah, we are doing something which he actually told us was intended to benefit us. So I'll move to an extract from a couple of my sort of instructional media onsala because I think they're well placed here. And as something that you can implement today, which will help you today. There is no better thing than improving your approach to salah and getting more out of it. You will please both yourself and Allah.

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So let's sum up the 10 A's to begin with in this picture. They are intern anticipation

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anticipating the experience of the law properly. acknowledgement being alert to the reality of a lot and preparation for Salah agenda, having an agenda for how you're going to mentally approach the salah and engage in conversation with a law clerk bringing forth your finest character to display doing Salah

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appreciation, appreciating and showing gratitude for things both before and during Salah acceptance, accepting admitting and submitting yourself during Salah asking, asking for the right things and in the right way.

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Auto sensing and auto sensory experience where you are in touch with your body and slowing down the major functions to bring yourself to a state of calmness, amazement, and all experiencing all of Allah and His creation. And finally, adding to the experience by being with other people when you pray Salah. So let's take these things one by one.

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anticipation works by imagining Salah to be a place that is very special. You need to imagine Salah as a place that you have a privileged access to a bit like a sanctuary or a very expensive retreat. After all, how many retreats offer you a direct line to God. If you think about it this way, it seems odd how ordinary with regard to law in daily life. Supposing you had a dignitary visiting and you had an audience with them. How would you feel? How would you anticipate the day going? You'd be choosing your best clothes, be on your best behavior. You try not to say anything foolish. Think of Salah as a similar experience. The closest you're going to get to Allah on earth is when you are in

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Salah. An exclusive audience with the creation of all my

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And it should really create a sense of anticipatory excitement. Allah actually is really looking forward to seeing you. He regards you very positively. He respects you, and he treasures you. Everybody wants to be with somebody who regards them positively, anticipate that sense of being received by a very, very important entity who loves being around you.

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alertness is a state where you increase the sense of how you feel that Allah is around you, when you acknowledge yourself in the here and now. The world around you is a gift. Allah is written large everywhere around you. He is closer to you than your jugular vein, the creator of all mankind is waiting for you to speak to him. Be alert to that.

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The third a is agenda. And that means to prepare for the things that you're going to speak to a lot about, not only the surah, but in terms of your attitude and your expectations for how you're going to converse with your maker. Allah likes you to talk. Speak to him, what's bothering you? what's worrying you? What are you pleased about? What do you want to thank me for? What do you appreciate what's going on?

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Allah has given you the keys to heaven, and you are opening the door when you're praying salah and he's actually demanding that you go there demanding this holiday. The next a is o'clock. It's considering how you conduct yourself in Salah. Again, if you are going to meet a king or queen, you would be at your best behavior, you would regard yourself as being on show, try to show your nicest character.

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Allah loves it when you try to be the finest bit of yourself. And why not try this specifically, when you are addressing him in Salah. The fifth day is appreciation. Gratitude is so important in mental health. When you appreciate things, for example, you appreciate the fact that you have the opportunity to praise Allah. Yes, it is necessary and mandatory, but you're praying because you are so grateful that you're alive and you have all the things you have in your life. All the difficulties you have in life are opportunities for you to grow. Be grateful that this is the best life you could have. Because you have actually asked Allah, please make my life the best for me, and

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the best outcomes for those I love.

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The sixth a is acceptance, submission and admission. When you accept and submit to Allah, you are living out the meaning of the word Muslim, somebody who has achieved peace through submission. Islam itself is invested in this idea of confession, admission and acceptance. When you accept things, as I've said, many times, you make peace with the things you can't change, you acknowledge your faults, and you know that Allah sees them. He's not expecting you to overcome the things that you simply cannot, he will not let you go through difficulties you can't bear. So you can only be thankful and accepting of the lot that you do have.

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I hope inshallah, you're really getting a sense of how this is meant to work. So I hope you enjoyed or found that little segment useful. It's not complete. But it is a snippet of stuff that is freely available on my media channels, and is described in much more detail in my books, and other media. But I'll leave you with this idea to be complete as a doctor, bring your own identity to it. And don't let the career determine your welfare and how you spend your time. Give yourself to your job, but do better by working smarter with self awareness and emotional intelligence and Islamic awareness as your allies. I'm aware that this is a brief talk, but you have the consolation of being

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able to contact me specifically. Here's my email address and I always welcome inquiries from fellow medics. I advise you to look at the books share the media and gain the benefit from the work that Mufti and I are doing this. And if you want to contribute to my mental health access mission, which is eventually hoping to give all of my work to muslimeen for free of charge, which we're working towards inshallah over the next two to five years. I mean, what I want the light I mean, please do direct your questions and comments to me at my email, and I hope you have a beautiful remainder of conference, and that you take all the setbacks and victories that you face in life in your stride.

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May Allah bring you enjoyment and fulfillment in your life as a Muslim medic was Salam