Ramadan is a Time for Feeling, Whether Fasting or Not

Monday, June 22, 2015

It's been a difficult beginning to Ramadan for me. Most of the time, I feel excited for the fast as a time of reflection and community. But this year I've felt stuck.

The night before the first full day of fasting, as we laid out dishes for the coming sehri, I felt irritated and nervous. I'd just come back from traveling across the U.S. and my body was already withered with fatigue; the hours of fasting stretched before me. I always set a few intentions during Ramadan, but this year feels like I'm getting back to basics. Feel more, write/create more, read religious texts and artistic works, challenge yourself. All the same things as the rest of the year but with the additional focus of fasting. I wanted to hurry up and prepare by making a few dishes of food, studying up on how much water to drink, and setting myself up well - in essence, I wanted to control it.

When I actually did begin the fast, I felt by turns resentful of others who were eating/drinking and then guilty for not sitting with my practice. I've been asking again and again the question: Is it better to keep going with a ritual when you feel embittered by it? Will you learn something vital simply by continuing to practice?

I think the answer to the second question is easier for me. I do believe that if I continue to fast, I will gain some greater insights into myself and perhaps even why I feel embittered this year as opposed to others (even while this year I feel like I've got my nutritional plans and other logistics better sorted than previous years). But I also want to respect what my body is telling me, with its mood swings and headaches, and make those decisions on a day to day basis. And so, I have chosen to wake up at sehri and decide then whether I will continue the fast that day.

With matters of religion, there are always people that will tell you that you're not practicing with the greatest level of piety. I have seen people floating around the phrase "let there be no compulsion in religion," which to me helps assuage the guilt of not being able to 'muscle through'. Because, in my heart, I know that's not the point of Ramadan. All of the intentions I've set point towards other purposes: Self-reflection. Going slow. Deepening spiritual practice. Listening to your body's needs and wants.

I'm excited to be going deeper with my practice through writing, reading Qur'an and generally practicing radical self-love. Here's to a month of profound spiritual wellness.

Ramadan Mubarak!

I'm going to be speaking at the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival next week! I'm honored to be on a panel under the track "Faith, Conflict, and the Future of Religion." Stay tuned for how it goes.