The month of Ramadan is upon us. This is the time that Muslims refrain from food, drink, sex, foul language, anger, and even chewing gum… all these things from the break of dawn to the setting sun. Everyone automatically assumes, the part about water is the most difficult and yes, especially, during the long hot summer days, it is not easy. However, it is not nearly as difficult as the part of not getting angry…. for someone who uses food to fill the voids.
One of the most fascinating things that happens at the mosque during iftars, are the conversations. It is as if the experience of Ramadan has a cathartic effect, giving us permission to open up to what is eating us. The real starvation of us is one of those conversations.
Eleven months out of the year, food is my comfort. Food is the placebo for the husband who is never there, the love that I crave, the romance desired, the intimacy needed. Food fills all those widening cracks in my heart and the empty crevices of my soul. No need to face that pain aching deep in my gut, food soothed it.
So, what happens when there is no food, no drink, no smoke, no sex, no whatever-your-pleasure may be? That pang rises to the surface and you do not have the drug to silence it. You have to face it, and of course, you try to fight doing so… and so the anger boils over. The disappointment, the mistrust, the hurt, the bruises whether physical or mental, darken to purple. It is a cycle…you get angry and you lash out at pretty much the world, but there is not enough to keep it fueled. Eventually, you have no other choice than to confront it!
All that you avoided has come front and center. It hurts like hell, but that is what you need to feel. It makes you human and it is the only way we can grow spiritually. When you brave the beast, the healing begins. You contemplate what it is you really want in life; what you are willing to accept, negotiate or no longer able to tolerate. You learn who you really are and the true strength of your being.
I know that Ramadan is about having a H.E.A.R.T. (stealing from my friend, Ali Asghar); which is honor, empathy, appreciation, respect and trust. We honor bodies by purifying it through fasting. We learn empathy when we do without food, water and other carnal pleasures. We gain appreciation for the “little” things in our lives. We respect our Lord by obeying his decree to fast. We, also, trust our Lord to provide for us our sustenance.
Yet, another thing we gain during Ramadan is redirection on our path. As we grasp the fact that our real starvation is not the food and drink, et al, we are able to grapple with the obstacles that keep us from being who we truly are and are meant to become. We learn to love ourselves and attend to our needs. We are only as strong as our weakest link, and if we are not taking proper care of ourselves and feeling we are worthy of all that is good, then we are never able to fully be there for others. How can you expect a spiritually and emotionally hungry person to nurture others and cultivate the seeds of honor, empathy, appreciation, respect and trust in them?