I begin my learning log expressing my gratitude for such a great opportunity of the Bush fellowship to begin a journey of self-discovery and growth that perhaps wouldn't have been possible without this time, space, and resources.
As I began my sabbatical I had a lot of anxiety around it, not know what to expect, afraid of the silence, and coming to grips with my own shortcomings in a way that the busyness wouldn't allow. I realized many things during this period of time. Firstly, I would rather be busy than not, I feel more at peace when I'm active in the work that I'm passionate about, and unburden myself with those things that I'm not. I'd slipped into a state of being perpetually scattered, which has contributed to my anxiety and uneasiness about my work. The inability to prioritize and say "NO" to that next "great idea" was/is a major challenge for me. I say is because I know enough to know that it's an ongoing challenge. Secondly, I need to broaden my skills and put into practice a value that I've always claimed, "being open to learning new things". Somewhere along the line that idea has been seen as a luxury that I could not afford because I couldn't find the time to do it. I realized that I need to keep up with the new ways that people are experiencing faith, the use of technology, and the creation of safe space. Lastly, the sabbatical did show me that I need time away for much needed R & R, without feeling guilty about that. For some reason I haven't done enough around self-care. Not that I didn't think it was important, I believe it was because I didn't feel that I was always deserving of those "breaks in the action". I don't quite know what that is about, I'm not a person suffering from low self-esteem or self-efficacy, perhaps its setting such high expectation and not feeling like I'm achieving them and therefore not being worthy of it. The jury is still out on this but is has caused me many problems in my work and it must change....and I'm determined to do so!
My learning has begun to lead to activity during my fellowship that I'm praying will bring about positive results in my works going forward. The writing class I took at The Loft has really encouraged me to get my thoughts out of my head and on paper by "free writing" which afforded me the opportunity to be unfiltered and let the ideas flow. I learned to give myself permission not to try to edit as I wrote, or have an idea fully processed before putting it on paper, both of which was a great burden to my writing previously. I have begun journaling more frequently, and even taken to twitter to get out ideas and quotes, I have a modest following of 259 to date. Facebook is another venue that I share ideas and get real time feedback on a number of ideas and concepts, I hope to do more of this, as well as short video messages, to help develop narratives for Muslims Americans who want to make positive contribution to society.
Opportunities to speak to Muslim groups and to the general public are steady. I've recently spent a weekend lecturing in Kansas City; and I'm currently teaching a five part series on Islam and Multi-faith dialogue at the University of St. Thomas. I'm honored to speak on behalf of the Bush Foundation at the event for the Center for Social Impact on November 12th at Macalester College, addressing social entrepreneurship from a faith based perspective. Over the next few months I will host a number of groups at Masjid AnNur from universities, high schools, and other faith-based organizations who want to gain a better understanding of Islam in general, and in America more specifically. I've always have a practice to record my lectures, but haven't done the best job of making them available to the public. I've learned that if I'm going to be successful in addressing issues related to Islam, I must capture these opportunities and bring on someone to help me get the message out. Self-promotion has always been an obstacle for me, balancing the desire to get out an authentic message of Islam and establishing myself as a "brand". But after some consultation with a couple of speaker’s bureaus I intend to venture into this arena. I have to say that my experience at the PopTech conference in Camden Maine was tremendously insightful for me and a great learning opportunity, I received much encouragement to approach my work in different way...pushing the envelope.
Lastly, I've begun the work of establishing a Muslim Leaders Council of MN to create a venue where building relationships, and the sharing of ideas and resources can happen on a regular basis. This has not come without its share of challenges! Multiple efforts like this have occurred in the past, but have been largely unsuccessful due to it being overly structured and a focus on which entity would lead. After a couple of meetings, it has become quite apparent that relationship building must take place in order to gain, and in some cases rebuild trust between organizations and leaders. I truly believe that such a council would open the way to a more cohesive Muslim community in Minnesota and allow us to effectively address the numerous challenges facing Muslim families and organizations. In my role as facilitator, I realized the importance of balancing my efforts to serve the interests of the group, while offering my perspectives and opinions on critical matters. We must find an effective means of mediation when issues arise between leaders, the lack of such a process in the past has led to small matters becoming very divisive to the detriment of these efforts.
In conclusion, there has been quite a bit of learning in the first six months of my fellowship both personal and professional, I'm looking forward to the next six months of growth.