Archive for August, 2011

A Western Woman Fasts for Ramadan

August 12, 2011

Photo by Noushad Akambadam

Last year, I decided to fast for Ramadan. My intention was to simplify my eating and join a powerful global time of prayer.  I did not fast precisely according to Muslim tradition, but I ate very little – under 500 calories per day – for the entire Ramadan holiday.  Sitting with hunger was new to me and I found myself face to face with unrealized parts of myself, particularly the part that feels entitled to immediate gratification.

One important aspect of Ramadan is to enhance human compassion towards the poor who experience thirst and hunger on a regular basis.  Imagining this intellectually is one thing, but sitting with hunger day after day, enabled me to deepen my understanding and intensify my capacity for felt perception. Facebook became my primary lens, where I was able to witness the disparity in the world. I was opening my eyes, mind, and heart to the stories of destroyed homes, polluted drinking water, cruelty, and torture to a degree that I had never allowed myself before.  No longer numbed with coffee and chocolate, something shifted inside me – my sense of humanity and justice expanded as well as my embodied awareness of the nature of consumption and conservation. Fasting became a lament, a pause, a difficult place to hang out, and a humbling time of inner reflection. No longer buffered to my own or to the world’s grief and longing, what unraveled from my memory were the times I was impatient, when I judged others, and was immobilized to act on behalf of others.  Yet simply sitting in this deeper place, I also felt the pull towards allied action with humanity.  And this amplified vulnerability became a springboard for me to renew my commitment to act on behalf of healing and social change on the planet.

Fasting is a powerful transpersonal journey.  As I deepened my awareness of my own relationship to nourishment and eating, I also became aware of how as a Western culture, we are on a binge eating course on this earth – using up resources, devouring and polluting air, water, soil, plants and animals.  It appears that many of us would prefer to jeopardize future generations, rather than shift our own appetites.  And it is precisely this engrained habit of overindulgence that has made us insensitive to the fact that we are a part of and in relationship with everything around us. We have essentially relinquished our responsibility that we are the living, breathing consciousness of this Earth.

Ramadan is also a time of turning completely toward the ultimate Source, in Arabic called Allah. Allah is universal and has been called Creator, God, Tao, Divine Mother/Father, Universal Mind, Oneness, Source of Love and Light, and many others.  Expanding my tenderness and gratitude to the Source of Creation is a mystery that fully engages and calls me to higher expansion and wholeness. I have found profound blessings in exploring various wisdom traditions.  I have learned powerful tools to unravel old patterns, deepen within myself, and to feel the common bond of oneness that connects us all into our common web of humanity.  We are blessed to be here together now as we journey as souls on a pilgrimage.  We are unique.  We are one.  We are deeply connected.

Inner contemplation to see ourselves clearly, heightens our perception and honest interaction with the world around us. The strength of our ability to humbly sit in the shadows of our own heart, creates a capacity to sit with, meet and embrace the global heart.  When we feel the collective longing, then we can align ourselves with what wants to happen in our shared human becoming.  With humbleness, it is time to engage our readiness and step into our power to act, to nourish new life, to compost that which no longer serves us, and to plant seeds that can bear fruit – even if we do not get to feast upon it in our own lifetime. The seed itself is a celebration of what is to yet to come.