Ramadan 2011 has begun. The sighting of the moon has signaled the start.
Are you Muslim? Do you fast during this holy Islamic month?
Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, a commandment that fasting from dawn until dusk be part of a Muslim’s day for this one month of Ramadan. Less time thinking about food, and more time thinking about God. There is prayer and ritual, as well as an idea that something is greater than indulging in daily satisfaction of our human instincts, no matter how important they are. This is also a month for enhancing one’s obligation of zakat, charity (another Pillar). Providing food for evening meals to those in need and supporting the local mosque are quite important.
Millions fast together during this month, aligning their wills into a goal of discipline. There’s something powerful in the idea that if one fasts alone, it can be a trial (though a trial of love). If one fasts as part of a world community, there is a social will that creates strong bonds.
Other traditions have discipline. In Judaism, Jews have their day of fasting (Yom Kippur) and for Christians, the time of Lent might be a period of reflection as something is sacrificed for a time in order to focus the mind on something higher.
But outside of the religious processes of denial, is there a discipline you have that gives you strength? See, true discipline is not really about whether or not you believe in a higher power. It’s about whether you can subdue your urges and cravings for the purpose of reducing your stresses and anxieties. Now, fasting is certainly a mainstay of world religion in terms of showing submission and gratitude. But what about ordinary life in the secular world?
Well, in everyday life, discipline (yoga, meditation, holding one’s tongue, journaling, taking a regular walk) is about subverting your cravings and desires so that mentally, you are less agitated. If we have the power to focus and do what we must, then we are less apt to become scattered and less prone to pining away for things we miss or can’t have. When we realize that it is our constant wanderings and wantings that create a sense of unease, then we can get about solving those problems with a little attunement (atonement?).
This month is Ramadan 2011. It’s a time when Muslims the world over will practice a discipline of fasting in order to serve and remember God. No matter your religious persuasion, why not try to make this a month of new discipline?Walk for 20 minutes a day (with your doctor’s permission) or keep a dream journal by your bed. Eat one more serving of veggies at dinner or sit for five minutes and listen to your breath as it enters and leaves your body.
Oh, and if you can drag a friend along for the ride, more’s the better. After all, the will of two can often conquer what the will of one might not. I hope you find that a little discipline goes a long way to a lot of peace of mind.