From the rustles of the highest trees,
to the skipping of the ocean breeze.
to that quiet space.
as sweet air.
At sundown I begin my ninth journey through the holy month of Ramadan. It is a tradition I began with my former husband who taught me with much patience, for which I am grateful. I’m also thankful that my first Ramadan experience took place while living in Sierra Leone, West Africa. A country of remarkable religious understanding, whose people embrace and celebrate the tenets of Islam and Christianity regardless of the method each individual or family chooses to adhere to. Waking up to the sound of the Adhan (Call to Prayers), bowing in reverence with devote Muslims at the neighborhood Mosque, and partaking in nightly Iftars with (soon to be) family and friends laid the foundation of what I would begin to understand as the core tenets of this beautiful religion. Despite previous knowledge about the religion observing family and friends who shared insights over the years, living in a country where there was a palpable shift in collective interaction during the holy month was an experience I’ll never forget.
“O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God” Holy Qur’an (2:183) Asad
Attending to the inward journey is something my life has always incorporated and part of the reason I created this blog. At first the experience of fasting was more of a mental challenge than a spiritual experience. Can I control my physical need for food solely through willpower? But as the years went on in my experience of the fast, I realized that there were many more moments of clarity, insight and creativity during the time of the fast. But that too is a by-product of the complete experience (like losing a few pounds or having a compelling reason to not to go to the gym). Ramadan is about more than what one is giving up (food and drink for 30 days).
Ramadan is about choosing to prioritize spiritual nourishment over physical nourishment in order to be reminded of why you are here.
I sense this is why the great spiritual teachers always incorporated fasting into their lives on a regular basis. We see this is Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and an array of other spiritual traditions. For why else are we here if not to attend with full presence to that which means more than anything else: LOVE. Yet this word alone is so limited and life-less, especially in English. So allow me to share a poem I recently came across from a Sufi devotee. It is one of the fullest descriptions I have ever read about real love.
last night mysteries unfolded.
messages descended as they
ceaselessly descend in all dimensions.
the human love,
in its most pure form
keeps on expanding our heart.
what other way is there
to accommodate more love?
with every glance,
with every presence,
with every outpouring of
the beloved one’s sweetness,
the unseen human heart
keeps on expanding
to make room for more love
and more love
and to accomodate the unseen hearts
of blessed lovers among humanity;
the cosmos keeps on expanding.
the farthest region of this universe
keeps on expanding towards the unseen,
towards the unknown nothingness.
and thus when each eternal adam inside of us
loves each eternal eve
(and vice versa)
with ishk, the pure love divine
the heart keeps on expanding
so much so
that when the time is ready
it is prepared to welcome the Beloved
amidst the mystery throne.
where else can He take His seat
but on an Infinite Throne amidst an Infinite heart?