« Baby Grasshopper | Main | That's a Huge Grasshopper on My Corn »

Purification with the Moon

moon through trees

One of the five pillars of Islam, "Sawm", is the ritual fast, such as the abstinence of food, water, smoking, and sex from dawn to dusk during the Islamic lunar-month of Ramadan. Sawm is also a time to abstain from speaking rudely, arguing, fighting, and thinking negative thoughts. Fasting in these ways is meant to bring a person closer to God, bring clarity, to teach self-control and compassion, and to purify the whole self.

While my religious upbringing was Islamic, I don't make claim to any one religion. Although practicing Islam was never obligatory for me, I've participated in the Ramadan fast since I was a child. In my adult years I practice Sawm, in the traditional sense, much less frequently than when I lived with my parents. As it is my background and still a part of my family, each year when I begin to sense Ramadan's approach, I make the decision to either practice the fast in the Islamic tradition or to perform another type of purification during the month such as the Master Cleanse (which I do a couple times a year) or a herbal supplement type of cleanse. This year, I've been particularly drawn to acknowledging my Muslim roots and finding more universal connection with it. While I did not set the intention to fast all of the four weeks of Ramadan, I decided to commit to fasting at least a week during the month, and to open myself to beginning another purification practice if that feels more right along the way.

Well into my first week of fasting this Ramadan, with my mouth parched and sour, I'm reminded of an article I recently read. It described the horrendous living and working conditions of people who are prisoners of Dubai's labor scam, the builders of Dubai who are given salt water to drink while working 14 hour days sweating in the desert sun.* I may know only a fraction of their suffering, but right now I can feel our shared humanity a tiny bit more closely.

Even though I grew up in a large, relatively poor family, my basic needs have always been met ― sometimes with challenge, with a lot of dissatisfaction, but never with great suffering ― so it's difficult to imagine how most of the population of this planet lives. Fasting brings me closer to that.

When I think of the English expats in Dubai who are there to live lavish lives, waited on by servants who they abuse*, I sense their greed and wonder if it is fear ― afraid of not having enough ― that causes them to exploit others for their gain or pleasure.

The feeling of abundance ― of having everything you really need, and knowing the universe will always give you what you truly desire ― and having gratitude for all that you have, creates generosity, the feeling that you want others to have what you have and that there is enough to share.

This is elective fasting, an act of choosing to not consume even though there is plenty available to me, and it makes me more aware of how abundant my life is. It makes me grateful that I have a choice. I can fast with serenity knowing that I will have food and water when I choose to break my fast, and I can have hope while I do without. Hope is something that many famished people on this planet have lost.

Fasting frees up time that would otherwise be spent preparing food or eating. It frees up finances that would otherwise be spent going out to lunch or coffee during my work day, money which instead can be used charitably. "Zakat", another of the five pillars of Islam, is the charitable act of purifying the self of accumulated wealth to help relieve the suffering of others and reduce inequality. It is obligatory for Muslims to give to the poor, needy, or those in debt. Part of Zakat is to free captives or slaves and to aid travelers in hardship.

There are a few arts and music projects I have given to this Ramadan, but when I fast, what touches my soul are issues around the global shortages of food, famine, starvation, malnutrition, and of the mismanagement of our planet's arable land. Year-round, I use spare time to grow food in my suburban yard in an attempt to eat truly locally as well as to reverse the "development" and "management" of the suburban lot, the use of poisons that effectively kills the life of the soil.

I love the fresh cucumbers, radishes, carrots, green beans, shiitake mushrooms, and herbs I harvest and I want that abundance for all hungry people. Some charities I'm considering this Ramadan are ones which provide seeds, tools, and training in sustainable agriculture and therefor help create healthy, sustainable communities; charities such as Plan USA, Africare, and Mercy Corps **.

* http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/the-dark-side-of-dubai-1664368.html
** http://www.charity.org/news/Fighting_the_Food_Crisis_with_Sustainable_Agriculture

The other day I was copied on an email ― from my father to his old friend ― that included a Ramadan story from my childhood. I'm going to leave you with this story:

"Some year before the Lassen Lodge era, I got restless and impulsive on Ramadan, so I took some leave time from work, packed up the little Opal station wagon with camping gear and kids, and drove to Lassen, eventually winding up at some camp name like Manzanita Campground. Along the way we stopped at Lake Helen, on a whim (just because of the name), for a rest. We were walking around the magnificent lake when we came across two couples that were foreign tourists. Talking to them was very animated and fun. When I learned they were Iranians I asked if they were Muslims and doing the Ramadan fast. They said they were Muslims but were not doing the fast. I said we were not Muslims but we were doing the fast. What transpired could have been an interesting study in silent facial expressions. Finally one of the men blurted, 'We are traveling so are not compelled to fast.' And the other man said, 'When you are in a foreign country that has been conquered and is run by the conquerers you are not compelled to fast.' They excused themselves and swam out in the lake.
"I might have unintentionally ruined their day. I don't know. The odds of such an strange encounter must be astronomical. 10,000 miles from the homeland to flee the fasting crazies and you run into a dorky family of Americans in middle earth that are doing your Ramadan. There's no escape.
"Reminds me of the man who was living in Marrakesh when he met up with Mr. Death. He fled, took trains and boats and buses and cars to eventually arrive in Baghdad. When he was walking along he met Mr. Death again. Mr. Death said, 'Well you finally arrived. I didn't understand why I ran into you in Marrakesh when our rendezvous was supposed to be here in Baghdad.'"

charity (2), cleansing (2), fasting (1), islam (1), politics (2), purification (1), ramadan (1), religion (1)

Moon (12)

If you can read this text, your browser does not support web standards or you have CSS turned off. This site is made to be viewed in a browser that complies with web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device. If you think you are seeing this in error, re-loading the page might help.

Creative Commons License Arianna Helen | | designed by ulaluma | hosted green green leaf