For the approximately 1.6 Billion Muslims around the world, this is the Holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims abstain from food and drink from sun up to sun down for 30 days. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam – the others are Faith, Prayer, Charity, and the Pilgrimage to Mecca. This year I’ve been journaling a little every morning after Sehri (the morning meal) and I thought it would be fun to share with you some reflections I’ve made from fasting in Ramadan, now that we are finally in the home stretch.
For me the hardest part about fasting isn’t the lack of food and water, but the mental challenges that go with it. First of all just waking up at the crack of dawn to eat before fasting all day shakes me out of my normal routine. I notice all of my mindless habits, like snacking to procrastinate dealing with something, or snacking out of boredom, or sadness, or happiness (I snack a lot). The point is I am forced to become much more aware and intentional in my actions.
On the same note, I’ve noticed my mental attitude has a direct effect on how easy or difficult fasting is for me. If I go about my day begrudgingly fasting, in victim mode thinking about how hard it is, I will really struggle. If I do it with positive intention, and a goal of getting stronger spiritually, it honestly becomes a pleasure. It has taken me years to get to this stage where I can actually enjoy and find pleasure in fasting. Knowing that ultimately I am the one in control of how I feel, is incredibly empowering. This mind over matter attitude could improve so many other aspects of my life – fitness, work, relationships, money, everything.
One of the things I struggle with most while fasting is trying not to lose my temper, and avoiding negativity and gossip. The other day my kids were driving me up the wall but I was so wiped out from fasting I didn’t even have the energy to yell at them so I took some deep breaths and turned on a podcast I liked and just immersed myself in other stuff. What happened after that was they eventually stopped doing whatever it was that made me crazy, (like they always do) and I didn’t have to go in to full on psycho mom mode, which is something that I always regret later. Gossip is also something that is so hard to avoid, but I’ve learned when I keep quiet and don’t add any fuel to the fire, the people gossiping with me usually lose interest and change the subject.
After the initial excitement of Ramadan wears off and it’s just day after day of sitting with myself, slightly weaker trying to be as productive as possible (and failing miserably), this is the hardest time for me. It forces me to humble myself and slow down, when my ego just wants to keep achieving. My ego is constantly being challenged this month, when I’m not able to distract myself with food and drink for long stretches, I find myself feeling uncomfortable, emotional, and vulnerable. Learning to sit with myself and feel all the feelings gives me the space to really work on myself and become more conscious.
I first heard the statement ‘you consume much more than food’ a while ago from Deepak Chopra but it really set in the other day while I was fasting. Eating is just one of the many things we consume. Everything you see, hear, touch, or smell, you are consuming. When I’m focusing on consuming things that will raise my spiritual vibration like laughing with my friends or family, praying, mediating, or taking a walk outside feeling the warm sunshine or smelling the flowers – I feel way more ‘full’ in every sense of the word.
I’m definitely looking forward to going back to enjoying all of life’s indulgences again soon – but this month of Ramadan has given me a lot of gifts I will hold on to forever.