Blogcast: Why am I Fasting?

I’m usually a little nervous before Ramadan starts. Even though I’ve been at it for years now, anticipating the long days of fasting and lack of sleep throws me for a disconcerting loop. Yet despite the nerves, I’m always excited to welcome in this special month. It’s one of my favorite times of the year!

Now that we’re about two weeks into the Islamic month of fasting, those initial nerves are gone, the excitement still remains, and the tiredness is definitely setting in. Pretty typical for this midway point. But there has been one big difference about this Ramadan.

It’s the first time that both my parents and my sister are not in town for it. Since we tend to be around family even more often during this time of year, it definitely feels like something is missing for me. But thankfully, we do have some extended family around so we’re all making the most of it and getting together regularly.

While the change in dynamics this Ramadan has taken some getting used to, there’s also been a positive side to it. It’s given me a chance to really reset my intentions. And, interestingly, these new circumstances have led me back to focusing on the basics.

As I was thinking about what I want to get out of this month, one word that kept coming back to me was purpose. I’ve had my hands pretty full lately, but somewhere in the midst of it all, I lost track of why I’m doing most of it. Over the past few months, I’ve slowly been finding my way back. And now that Ramadan is here, it’s the perfect time for an official reboot.

I want to leave this month and move through the rest of the year feeling really clear about why I’m spending my time and energy on each of the things that I do. And I’d love to have an underlying sense of spiritual purpose for all of it in addition to the other reasons. Since Ramadan is what sparked this line of thinking for me, I decided to spend some of this blog post exploring my why with the month of fasting itself.

When this holy month arrives each year, Muslims across the world give up certain comforts including eating and drinking during the day as a means of spiritual reawakening and growth. That’s the general reason. I want to dig a bit deeper for myself this year though. Why am I fasting? What’s keeping me committed to this tradition that’s so physically and mentally demanding?

Every year, I begin Ramadan intending my fast as a sacrifice for God. And every year, it eventually dawns on me what an incredible investment fasting actually is in myself. This month-long practice challenges me as it slowly strips away the layers of distraction that I’ve built up throughout the year.

It takes me on a journey that wears out my body and stretches my mind, but brings my heart back to life.

Even though the idea of it is often daunting to me, the start of Ramadan also feels like a chance to come back home. When this month comes along, it completely disrupts life as I’ve grown used to it. My days and nights are suddenly consumed with fasting, extra prayers, and more time spent in community… in addition to my other commitments.

Ramadan is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

As the month goes on, I find myself feeling less and less attached to certain things that had seemed so important only a few weeks before. I run out of the time and energy to care so much anymore. And, at the same time, my attention starts shifting in another direction. The loosening of these attachments opens up space for me to pay attention to the parts of myself that I’ve forgotten.

I begin fasting for God, but I keep fasting because I realize it’s God’s medicine for me.

My heart needs this practice. And my mind needs it too. They finally get the spotlight in Ramadan. The one that’s usually drowned out by the million and one diversions that make up my life. Fasting helps me recenter what truly matters. And as my heart and mind shift back into their rightful place, I’m taxed with facing the truths that they’ve been collecting while I wasn’t looking.

Sifting through the memories, emotions, and struggles that surface in Ramadan is one of the hardest parts of fasting for me. This is a month where I’m supposed to be striving towards patience. But it often feels like I’m being pushed to literally every limit I have. The thing about patience though is that I need to have it for myself before I can really be patient with anyone or anything else. This is one of the biggest lessons that Ramadan has taught me.

I fast because it forces me to face some things that I’ve spent the rest of the year unconsciously hiding from. But that’s not all fasting does. It also helps me heal. This month-long journey teaches me to practice having grace with myself. To forgive myself. And to love myself despite the shortcomings that I’ve become hyper-aware of. And when I start doing all this for myself, it gets a little easier to do it with and for others too.

So there isn’t really a short way to answer the question of why I’m fasting. I could go on and on and still feel like I haven’t explained it well. But, I’ll end this post by saying that Ramadan isn’t just a physical experience for me. It’s one that involves my whole being – heart, mind, and spirit too. This month is a chance to detox myself in all the places and ways that I desperately need. Detox’s are never easy, but this particular one has always proven worthwhile for me.

Are you fasting for Ramadan? Or have you ever fasted for anything else? I’d love to hear your perspective! Share your thoughts in a comment below this post or in an email!

Peace and blessings,

Hanaa

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  1. Bold Peace Meditation: Sometimes, living boldly takes courage and getting uncomfortable. Invite calm back in with this short and sweet (3 minute) guided meditation.
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