For me, Ramadan has slowly morphed into a sustainable relationship with eating for the first time in my life. I no longer hold tightly to the times of Ramadan’s eating and fasting, for I wanted to experiment with what I felt Spirit was inviting me to see. Here’s some of what I have learned to date:
1. My typical, small-self response to the world is TO GRASP. I am constantly grasping. I am constantly running ahead of the present moment; when will that colleague call me back—don’t they realize how many other things are contingent on their response? Do I have time to squeeze in one more errand before I drive home? If I eat the rest of this bag of Doritos, at least I can say I finished ONE THING today…
But Ramadan has helped me again and again to touch the simplicity of the moment with the requirement to not grasp for food during a fast. The words “my soul feels lean” come to mind as a way to describe the grace-filled experience of fasting…especially when you use Listerine as needed throughout the day to get the nasty taste out of your mouth. A transcending peacefulness usually comes over me at some point in the day (although there can be strong moments of resistance that come before that peace!)
(Addendum on breaking a fast: Ramadan has taught me that I cannot eat one small piece of chocolate and think that I will be able to stop. Ha! For me, cocoa stimulates the sugar craving par excellence! I will need another season of Ramadan to explore this craziness more carefully!)
2. My typical, small-self slips easily into mindlessness. It takes effort and intentionality to not get carried constantly into one’s own inner dramas. Re-playing moments of pleasure or conflict over and over in my head while driving, feeling the emotion of a conversation as if the emotion DEFINED me, finishing my Jimmy John sandwich and realizing I didn’t really taste much beyond the first bite…
But Ramadan has been a vehicle to bring me back to the sanity of becoming more conscious or aware. I now have a guideline I use every day: if you cannot take the time to consciously eat something, then you cannot eat it now. Wait until you can eat it without having to multi-task. OUCH! Last night I had had enough of the week, and I just wanted to grab a filet-o-fish on my way to pick up my weekly share of food from my local CSA organic farm. (I know, I know. Fast food and organic, LeAnn?…I live by the philosophy of “baby steps”).
However, I know from Ramadan that my brain’s hunger signals can be ignored for quite some time with no harm to myself, and so I ignored McDonald’s happy yellow arches. I rolled down the car window, turned off the radio (a favorite way of “grasping” for comfort and mindlessness while listening to music from the 80s), and paid attention to the green all around me. Then, after slowly loading up my car with fresh produce from the farm, and feeling my blood pressure significantly lower, I stopped at the little nature path I’ve recently discovered out on Hayes Rd.
I still hadn’t eaten a thing, mind you, but I started walking and smelling the green and hearing the green and touching it in the gorgeously delicate weeds growing magnificently…without any required work, input, planning, or direction from me—-and I suddenly burst into tears. I was finally back home to my own soul. And it was in giving honor to my hunger, rather than satiating it, that led me there.
3. My typical, small-self doesn’t like to stop to pray. I’m not sure why, since I always feel better after I do, but it generally is something I feel I squeeze in (kind of like formal exercise). But my prayer time in morning and evening has become so rich in the past few weeks, and something I look forward to. I’ve created a place in front of my east window to greet the day, and in front of my west sliding glass door to close the day. I start by getting into my yoga “child’s pose” (which for me counts as formal exercise!) and with my forehead on the ground and fingers counting the ten repetitions of my mantra, I say:
“To you I belong, O God; in you I am carried all day, and in the fullness of time I will return.”
I love this. I say it slower and with fewer words and longer gaps of silence as I pray. I wish my Christian culture included a time when all of us were expected to get into child’s pose before our heavenly parent twice a day and remember how deeply beloved we are. But since one of the hallmarks I cherish about my liberal protestantism is claiming responsibility and authority for my own choices in God each day, imposing this rule of prayer on myself is one of the ways I am now choosing to surrender to Allah.
Thanks be to God for Ramadan. For my muslim sisters and brothers for preserving their traditions, and for the freedom to discover the Mystery and Wonder of God in our own ways.