Eating is always an adventure and I am continually amazed at the volume of lessons one can derive from food.
It seems like a very, very long time since my month-long raw diet. I’d gotten very good at listening to my body’s voice. Once again, people were commenting on how ‘healthy’ the food I brought from home was. Ah! And I had amazing energy.
Then, Ramadan arrived with much needed spiritual reinforcement. So, I just came off of a 30-day fast where we abstain from all forms of food and drink from dawn to sunset. As usual, it was both a struggle and a blessing – the two essential ingredients for life-affirming experiences!
The first four days, for me, are always the most difficult. Not because of hunger, headache or weakness but due to the emotional energy needed to break free of habits centered around food, like going to the refrigerator out of boredom, random snacking, mindless eating and the annoying habit of leaving the grocery store with more than I ever intended to buy, only to get home and realize that it will take more than a few days to eat everything. And I probably won’t even want it by then. But the transition phase passes.
Ramadan is about so much more than food. The word translates as “a burning off” – of desire, greed, vanity, gluttony, lust, wrath, envy … sound familiar? The fast requires a daily denial of food, water, sex, gossip and all that feeds the physical self, in order to elevate the spiritual self. Emphasis is placed on self-restraint, kindness, reflection, humility, gratefulness, good deeds, and creating an environment conducive to purification: whole life wellness.
It never fails that every year, at the very moment I am pondering this powerful integration, someone asks how I can go without food or even water all day long . Often the inquiry ends with them saying, “I just could never do it”. I’ve given this sentiment a lot of thought over the years. Oftentimes I’ve explained how it is not really difficult or how I am used to it after so many years. But the truth is that the fasting person is reminded of the simple reality that we have so much more stuff than we actually need. Within the first few days the mind adapts and the body follows suit, solidify the new, albeit temporary, relationship with food.
Now I am not saying that fasting for 30 days is a walk in the park. Everyone has his or her days that are just plain difficult. But this year I learned, more than ever, that out of denying one’s self the fundamental comforts, comes a recognition of and an appreciation for abundance.