Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Gift of Fasting

Today marks the twenty- fourth day of Ramadan, the month observed by Muslims all around the world. It is considered the holy month, in which we increase our prayers, purify our hearts, words, and actions, and give more in charity. The most well known characteristic of this month, however, is the fast. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk everyday, refraining from all food and drink.
Reading this, some of you may be wondering how I am holding up--whether I’m clenching my stomach in pain, exhausted and broken by the 13 hours of not having eaten a single morsel of food.  Some of you may even feel sorry for me.

Although I feel the pangs of an empty stomach that any normal person would experience, I am actually comforted. I am comforted by the fact that fasting has prevened me from overindulging, and quite literally stuffing my face all day with thick, heavy breads, salty chips, and all the destructive sugar that rushes to my brain and sucks it of all hydration. I am comforted that I am stronger every day, confident that my ability to withstand the hunger of today will constantly allow me to stay content and productive in the challenges I face tomorrow. I am comforted with the notion that I am blessed so much that at any give time, I can close my eyes, open my fridge, grab something random, and know that whatever it is, it will be delectable and fully satisfying. What is some hours a day for a month, to the years and years I not only had enough food to fill my belly for one meal, but enough grocery stores and restaurants to pick out exactly what I desired to fill my belly twenty times over?
This month serves as such a wonderful reminder. Ever heard that saying, “you never know what you've got until it’s gone?” You never realize how the sun is nourishing your flowers, causing them to burst out in impeccable bloom, until you notice their buds closing in on themselves that week where the heavy clouds depleted the light outside your window. You never realize how velvety soft and plush your carpet is, until you lift your bare feet out onto the cold hard cement, and long to run back inside. In the same way, I never reflect upon how beautifully my food sustains me and gives me happiness and warmth until I am kept from it. I have to love what I'm given, care for it, because so many others without would do anything to be in my place. Fasting, I have come to realize over the years, is a gift. It allows me to become more appreciative, less greedy, more careful.

I remember the first time I had these invigorating thoughts. I would break my fast, wondering why it was that everything tasted more rich, more fragrant, more delicious. Then, the thought hit me. Tt was not the food that had changed. It had always been this rich, this fragrant, and this delicious. It was my own perspective that had changed. I had subconsciously remembered what it was like to be unable to taste. The prospect of eating brought me joy, therefore every bite of goodness was amplified by a hundred. Suddenly, I realized I felt happier. I felt happier than I have ever felt eating in my entire life. "What is different?," I thought to myself. "I am still eating the same food, still doing the same thing. Why can I not be this excited all the time? Why does everything have to seem less sweet in my eyes on any other day?"

It took time, but I realized the problem. Everything I receive throughout the day is a blessing. The more I normalize these blessings, the more I expect, and the less satisfied I become with everything around me. As another Ramadan comes and goes, I am reminded again and again, to take everything  as a blessing. I am reminded that the food on my table at the end of the day is not there because I should have it, but because I am fortunate enough to be given it. To indulge less, but enjoy more through appreciation. To wake up in the morning and see the sun as the light that guides me through the day, rather than the heat that scorches my skin. To be thankful for the steaming, flavorful dish that waits for me as I come bounding down the stairs for dinner. To be thankful for my amazing mother who makes this possible. To be thankful for even the food that my mother did not make; the food that may be slightly salty, or a tiny bit too bland. In the end, in some shape or form, it was good to my tongue, and good to my welcoming stomach. I learn to be thankful for the fresh drops of air that surround me and enter my lungs, so that every second, I may breathe.

And breathe I do, again and again as I utter from my lips, Alhumdulillah, Allahuakbar (All praise be to God, Allah is the Greatest.)  

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