It was the first day of Ramadan last Thursday, and my eldest daughter, who is nearly 12, decided to fast for the first time.
This is kind of a big deal.
For those of you not familiar with Islamic fasting, this means no food OR drink from sunrise to sunset. And with it being May, that’s quite a long time. It evoked some unpredictable reactions in our family - I am a big fan of liquid only fasting, but my initial reaction was to recommend she save this for a weekend. She had two school assessments that day and we didn’t know what effect it would have on her. My husband, who is Muslim, but often not the most enamoured with my free-spirited fasting, decided it was ok if she really wanted to test herself. He, after all, started fasting with his family from a similar age.
Not that it mattered what we thought. Her mind was made up.
Why did she want to do it? Mainly to keep company with one of her best friends who was fasting. Also, to see what it feels like. To see if she had the willpower. To manage her intake.
And she did it.
We didn’t even get up for a pre-sunrise meal in the early hours as many do. At just before 9pm when I got her favourite dinner ready a little victory shimmy was happening in the kitchen.
Sometimes life just throws out a surprise. The daughter who grazes every time she walks past the fridge or cupboard managed something most adults would find challenging...
The funny thing is, I have been fasting a lot recently, just not this kind of fasting. Initially I thought I might get the blame for setting a 'bad' example, but as we've seen, this wasn't the case. I find fasting more effective than almost any other practice, for almost everything: being present and in the moment, peace, increased levels of bliss and balance, clarity of guidance, clearing karma without struggle, letting go, slaying demons, breaking patterns, increasing devotion, self acceptance, manifesting something outside my comfort zone etc. etc.
When I say 'fasting', some people think this is quite extreme, for others my kind of fasting is probably a little tame, but generally, a not too arduous fast for me is 3 - 7 days of fasting until evening meal. Plant-based gluten free. No caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar, or chocolate. I also avoid soy. On a couple of occasions I’ve gone all the way through without evening meal making it around 48 hours in one go but this is rare and depends on not having people around who are alarmed by this. I’d like to do more, if only out of curiosity, as after a fast that long I start to feel ready for pretty much anything. And it’s easier to keeping going once you’re in the groove and feeling the benefits than it is to get started. But people get concerned I'll waste away so what’s to do?
Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I always knew that one day I’d try a Ramadan-style fast. What I didn’t know is that my daughter would beat me to it. So on Monday when she decided to do it for a second day, I joined her.
It’s not that bad.
After all those years of concern over the lack of liquids for so many hours (I drink a lot compared to most people), it just wasn’t that hard. I didn’t really feel that hungry or thirsty.
It was quite revealing - just how much of a displacement activity eating and drinking is. I have never sat at my desk and focused for so long - no tea breaks, no toilet breaks, just working and not thinking too much about it.
Coming home and not getting dinner ready immediately was also challenging as this is something I look forward to. By the time sunset at 20.57 arrived we had amused ourselves by preparing more food than we could eat and arranging it on the table beautifully. I was struggling after half a plate which doesn’t happen during my usual fasts. Admittedly, this would be a lot more difficult in a hot climate, or as a manual worker, and this is nothing on those who do this every year for a full 30 days, but it was an experience. And there are benefits to not drinking, as even water carries a certain energy which can be positive or negative depending on the source. When you consume nothing, you have your breath and nothing else.
So now we know what our Turkish relatives experience every year, and will be prepared to join them if our visits coincide with Ramazan. And we’ll probably test ourselves a few more days before the current month is complete.
In case you haven’t noticed, I highly recommend fasting.
As long as you’re fit, healthy, not insulin diabetic, pregnant etc. it's a great practice with many benefits. It’s not to be confused with a health detox or diet as the attitude and goals are different although some of the benefits may overlap. Fasting as tapas (austerities) is to be carried out with a humble attitude and devotion for a spiritual purpose. Intermittent fasting for can also be used for weight management - you will reap many benefits from this as well, but it is good to be clear about your purpose before starting.
If you’ve never tried it before, I’d recommend trying a 1-3 day fast with water and evening meal as described above. When I first started, I this I was still eating fish, dairy and wheat and still found it to be highly beneficial, so I wouldn't worry too much about the content of meal you use to break the fast as long as it's 'clean'.
Give it a go, and see what changes in your life.
Two and a half weeks into what I'm calling my personal retreat. Fasting, simplifying, streamlining, grounding, forgiving.
The healing is intense.
We are letting go of violence and drama at a core level, embodying ahimsa. We are acknowledging the 'we' that we have remembered we are. We are finding peace and presence at a much deeper level, surrendering to what is. We are finding that we are ok.
New and interesting questions are surfacing...
What does the woman in me want?
What do the women in me desire?
Standing by the side of the lake
I am complete
I am enough
I am compassion
I am peaceful
I am exploring myself
I am not looking at you
though you are pretty
- you will not distract me
There is too much violent
You are too worldly
I am in love
If anyone is asking
or anyone is listening
and in case I have any say
in the matter:
I choose you
I'm certain -
or else I wouldn't bother
there is enough love around...
I don't know the rules
or if favourites are allowed
but if I can have one
I choose you.
Parvati has spoken
and, if you ask me
she looks like a girl
who knows what she wants
gets her way
So, for the record
I choose you.
I haven't lived on leaves and air
but feeling the fire
my substance has become vapour
Meet me on Mount Kailash
and I'll choose you
confidence - freedom - passion