No, I am not Muslim and I do not practice Islam, but I do not believe that to matter. I am human, as are you - who finds yourself reading my words in this moment. I maintain the belief that we are spiritual beings experiencing human existence. I hold onto the truth that there is more than brings us together, than divides us. Societies have created labels to define, categorize and separate us. Perhaps, in our human state, we did this originally as a means of survival -- I do not know -- but I do know that definitions placed on one person or another seem to have increased, not only in number of definitions, but also in importance (to me this is silly and not based on love, which is the foundation that I chose for my journey now). So, I fasted in solidarity with my Muslim brothers and sisters. My dad and I both participated in fasting from sunrise to sundown -- this is something that a large majority of Muslims do during the entire month of Ramadan.
Now, I have a confession to make. I did not fast properly, as I drank two glasses of water throughout the day and chewed gum. I did not know that chewing gum was not allowed while fasting, but must confess that I did know that drinking water was something to abstain from. -- I found myself developing quite the headache come mid afternoon and as a nanny at work, I felt it best to drink water. I read an article after fasting, written by a Muslim gentleman titled -- Ramadan 2017: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask -- It was in this article that I learned that gum is not to be chewed even or the fast is broken. I also learned from those that lead EnjoinGood Inc. that the act of fasting, which begins at sunrise, begins much earlier than I first thought - it begins at 3:30 a.m. when prayers begin. It is during the time when prayers are said that people fast. I did do this correctly, but not in the same way, as I learned after participating in a solidarity fast, that those who fast for Ramadan do. When fasting for Ramadan, persons begin their day before the sun is up, before the act of fasting is to begin with a large, protein-filled meal. After this, many return to bed for a couple more hours of sleep. My father and I had our last meal before fasting at 6 pm the night prior, so perhaps our pains of hunger were a bit more than others - I do not know - but that is not what it is about.
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast, without it I find myself feeling lethargic and a bit impatient sometimes (if I am to be completely honest!). So, when I awoke on the day that I fasted, I felt a tinge of grumpiness creeping up on me, as I thought about how I could not eat breakfast or indulge in my morning coffee that day. When I became aware of this thought, I realized that I was being a genuine participant in the act of fasting if I was going to be bitter about what I could not have, but wanted. I thought even, well it's just coffee - I can get away with that, but I knew that would break the fast, so I withheld. I found that my energy levels were lower that day and that my thoughts were less hectic. As the day continued, I just felt that my whole Being, my body, mind and spirit fell into a sense of calm. I thought much of those who fast for the entire month of Ramadan and the spirit of community that must come from this shared experience - the article above, speaks to this, in a way that I did not completely expect - as the author wrote that many look forward to the act of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
We live indulgent lives, many of us, whether we feel that way or not -- that is the main reflection that I left that day with. I woke up thinking "I need a cup of coffee". I can attest to the fact that I did not and do not need the morning cup of coffee, sorry Dunks, but I can make it without the stop. We need water, we need sustenance to survive, all of this is true. Much of what I find myself and others defining as a need, is in fact, a want. There is nothing wrong with wants, that is not what I am saying here -- but it is important for us to be able to distinguish between our needs and wants. Humans need connection for developmental, emotional and spiritual growth. Humans need water and sustenance for physical development and well being. Humans need rest so the body may restore from the day's activities... much past this, the things we need are more so wants than anything else.
To go without for a period of time, especially by choice is a humbling experience. It provides space for reflection. Whenever something we are used to having in our routine is cut out for a moment, space for all else that is there is created so that more attention may be given to it. To go without, without a choice in the matter, is what millions do each day. I have not had to do this in my life, so I cannot speak to the experience, but I can only imagine that a greater appreciation for all that is there is created. When I traveled to India in 2010, a country that I miss dearly, I found myself immersed in a village of people who lived off the Earth. Their homes were made from tarps found around in trash piles or donated to the village. Many of the children were bare, except for a colorful piece of string wrapped around their midsection so that they were not completely nude. The majority went without shoes . All ate food sparingly, when it was available. And yet, despite all this, I was immersed in the most giving village of persons that I have met in my entire life! Each day when we arrived to build homes, alongside the villagers, they greeted us with coconuts they cut from the trees and necklaces they made from local flowers. It was humbling, emotional and nothing short of incredibly beautiful. They are who I hope to someday be -- a person who is appreciative for all I have, who wants what I have, who needs no more than what is necessary, who gives without reservation. I will admit, I do not find it easy, always. I worry about finances at times, I wonder how I can give, when I am striving to earn more... and yet, I remember those who had what appeared to be nothing in a material sense and yet had more than I may ever have in regard to their level of appreciation and willingness to give to others. Fasting for Ramadan reminded me of this colorful, love-filled village in Pondicherry, India, it reminded me of just how much I do have, of how much more I have to give etc...
I believe it can do us all a bit of good, to give without from time to time, to let go of the comforts of life to help those less fortunate than ourselves, to sit in reflection, to just Be present more with the journey we are on and less connected to the journey of earning and buying. Peace and Blessings to all and to my Muslim brothers and sisters, thank you - participating in the tradition of fasting opened my eyes and heart.
A spiritual being on a physical journey, striving to make a positive impact on this world through my actions and loving intention. I believe that we are all capable of greatness, it is how we channel this great energy that matters... I choose to express it in the name of -- peace and love.