The title of this piece draws from “Christmas is coming [and the goose is getting fat]” and draws on the personal and cultural excitement of the approach of Christmas – of the Holiday Season in general. As a kid I would become quite overwhelmed at that time – so much so that the emergence of my pistachio allergy is often attributed to a combination of overindulgence and over-excitement one Christmas Eve.
This phrase came “Ramadan is coming” to mind because of the excitement I felt as Ramadan drew near (actually I started this piece a couple of days ago before the fast started). This is the third year I’ve observed Ramadan and my enthusiasm and anticipation has grown each year. It is perhaps wildly counter-cultural…but it is also the experience that many of my Muslim friends share, and in that world my feelings are not so odd. After all, why should it seem strange to be enthusiastic about an intense experience that is emotionally and spiritually rewarding and re-energizing, one that slows everything down, one that helps re-set priorities and has the power to break us of many bad habits?
As the big event approached I started paying more attention to my diet. I had not been eating well, often finishing the day with a lazy and unhealthy dinner of cheese and crackers in front of the TV. increasingly I noticed this indulgence and recognized that it was about to change. I also found a new translation and commentary on the Qur’an and started reading it. I find the Qur’an a difficult text, and large parts of it are still inaccessible, but much of it is beautiful and deep and reinforces my Buddhist practices. And my prayer practice has strengthened – though I do not manage five times a day as often as I should! This has been setting the stage for the fast and for a continuation of mindfulness, of focus, of a slower life thereafter. (At least for a while….)
It will be a different Ramadan for me than last year, not just because life is constantly changing, but because some important external and internal factors are different:
- I won’t be traveling, so there are no disruptive break in the middle of the month, as there was last year;
- I’ve been pretty ruthless setting my schedule for business meetings over the next month and it is very light…giving more room for slowing down and meaning I can really pay attention to my fast;
- and I am allowing myself to personalize Ramadan. I will be starting my fast late one day each week when I have breakfast with Neil, and finishing early when I have dinner with him – though I will still have a twelve-hour fast on those days.
Yesterday showed that this unorthodox practice can work for me: I had arranged a week ago to have an early dinner with my daughter, a special treat with a loved one I see only rarely. So I knew all day long this was a slightly shorter fast day, and I took a formal moment to eat dates and end my fast a little early (Morgan allowed, “I only feel a little bit of a monster for making you break your fast”). For my money I enjoyed the benefit of the fast…and in enjoying a dinner in gratitude and love with my daughter, also recognized an important part of its spirit.
I am finishing this post up after breakfast on the second day, looking forward to a day of mindfulness, awareness and gratitude, a day in which I will visiting the masjid this afternoon and go to iftar tonight at the house of friends. Mine is perhaps an unorthodox Ramadan, but inshallah it will be a good one, and it is certainly one that I am taking very seriously. This is a month I have been looking forward to for a long time. It is a truly exciting time, a time of growth and adventure and cultivation of awareness.