Eating is always an adventure and I am continually amazed at the volume of lessons one can derive from food.
Over recent months, I’d gotten very good at listening to my body’s voice. People were commenting on how nourishing my food was, how healthy I seemed. And Ah! I had amazing physical energy.
Then Ramadan, a lunar month during which we abstain from all food and drink (as well as sex, gossip, anger, etc) between dawn and sunset hours, arrived bringing much needed spiritual recentering. As always, it is destined to be a life-affirming experience!
For me, the first four days are the most difficult. Not because of hunger, headache, weakness or thirst 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 my eyes are indeed bigger than the shrinking ability to stuff myself. We are so addicted to food.
But with consistency, transition doesn't take long.
Ramadan is about so much more than food. The word translates as “a burning off” – of greed, vanity, gluttony, lust, wrath, envy … those all-too-familiar desires. The fast requires daily self-imposed restraint from all that feeds the physical (lower) self, in order to elevate the spiritual (higher) self. When the physical things are removed, we are left with a sharper focus on introspection, reflection, charity, humility, positive productivity, gratefulness, worship, and the development of an environment conducive to inner purification.
It never fails that every year, at the very moment I am pondering this powerful integration, someone asks how I can go without food and especially 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 we have way more than we actually need or how I am used to it after so many years.
I am not saying that fasting for 30 days is a walk in the park. But the truth is that we are reminded of the Creator's promise that the fast will be easy. It is then, up to us to foster a mindset which embraces that truth. When the mind shifts, the body follows suit, adapting and solidifying a new consciousness of and appreciation for the the ability to self-regulate and choose how we move through this life.