que sera, sera

so i haven’t been fasting for ramadan. i wish i could say that it was simply just because i can’t deal with the hunger. it is because i could not think of anything but the hunger. and when i’m fasting just for the sake of doing it, then my motivations are wrong. i’m not having the clarity of mind that i need to have and i don’t want to view fasting as a form of punishment. it needs to be something to which i look forward. it needs to be something that helps me grow.

the semester begins tomorrow and i think the challenge that will help me be the person i want to be is to learn acceptance to changes and to things i cannot control. life will be life, people will be people, i’m going to be who i am supposed to be when it’s time. there are things i can do to help me move forward but i can not move faster than i am… and the same things can be applied to my expectations of others.

a friend reminded me the other day that just because i see the potential in others, it doesn’t mean i have the right or it’s fair for me to expect them to live up to it. people are doing the best that they can and it’s not my responsibility to hold them to the same standards that i hold myself.

this is quite a tall order for me but i will get there when i get there. and that’s how i will begin.

Change the fabric of your own soul and your own visions, and you change all. ~Vachel Lindsay~

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the universe is listening

[after patho class]

pathophysiology professor: how are you?
me: you mean… in school?
pathophysiology professor: life in general
me: um… ok, i guess.
pathophysiology professor: it can be tough

i don’t talk to anyone at school about my personal life and my professors would be the last people i would confide in… but the universe can hear me and is letting me know that i’ll be taken care of

first friday fast… take two

Last Friday was my second stab at my First Friday Fast. Let me just say that when I started this, it never occurred to me how essential fasting was for my spiritual growth. At the time, I always saw it as one choice among many, that while I chose this, I had other alternatives. However, around the two or three weeks after my last fast, I found myself not only looking forward to it but needing to have this experience again. The clarity and state of mind that I attained as a result of my previous fast was unable to make it through the entire month. It was such a struggle to maintain that attitude and I don’t think that I did it successfully near the end. so when the day for my fast neared, I was excited to go through it.

humility

humility

Unfortunately, this fast was not quite as powerful as the first one. Because it is the middle of the semester, I had at least one exam for each of my classes. Not to mention, I was doing some preparation in the days leading up to the day after my fast, which unfortunately, included the first Friday of March. I was too stressed and had too many things on my mind to focus on my spiritual and personal growth. To be honest, I was just trying to get through the past two weeks.

However, there were some key enlightening moments. While I spent the entire day of the fast glued to my Macbook studying for upcoming exams, I was able to use my study breaks for some serious thinking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t commit to them fully because I would have run the risk of losing myself in heavy thoughts and not completing any of the work I had. I broke my fast by having dinner with my friends. One of them, Amal, found out about my fasts and we were able to briefly speak about the fasting experience. It made me happy to be able to share this with her considering that not many people can understand my reasons for doing it. In fact, save for several people, I haven’t really openly spoken about my fasts.

Another of these very few people was someone I met last Thursday. The day before my fast, I went over to a friend’s house to offer a helping hand, or rather, a pair of helping claws (post about this to come tomorrow). While at his house, I met his father. In size, he was intimidating but in personality, he was very calm and serene (for this reason, he’ll now be known as the Silent Giant). I had the honor of having several conversations with the Silent Giant two days later. That fact alone was odd because I typically do not talk to my friends’ parents, much less their fathers, as a result of my home environment. However, what’s more interesting is that this man left such an impression on me. We talked about spirituality and church and humility and charity and I felt as though everything I’ve felt about those things was coming out of SG’s mouth. It was as if the universe found a way to give me what I missed during my fast through him and I’m so happy that it happened. 

Knowing that these two people know the things that I want to experience gave me what I needed and what I missed. Part of the humility that I’m seeking is knowing that I can learn and grow through my experiences with others.

I’m not the best at opening up to people but lately, it just seems that  I’ve been doing so with so many of the right people. And to the person that’s responsible for encouraging me to do it, I’m very grateful.

Image from the article Observing Ramadan

Image from the article "Observing Ramadan"

first friday fast…first

This past Friday was the first of my First Friday Fasts. The night before, I put aside some time for some prayer and meditation. It was a good way to help me get in the right mindset for my fast.

The next day, I woke up unusually early and figured that sleeping in during my fast wouldn’t be the best use of my time. I spent the day studying, running, and whenever the mood hit, I would think about the world, its people and God. Friday was a particularly good day for this because I found out that morning that two of my friends have relatives going through major health problems at the hospital. Rather than just having a general prayer for the world, I was also able to think of specific people in mind at the same time, which I believe helped me more than I helped them.

During my prayers, I thought of how millions of people around the world go through unbearable hunger and that this was a way of holding out my hand to them and sharing in their experience. I was also humbled by the thought that for me, this was strictly voluntary and would only last for a day. Unfortunately, they do not have the same choice.

I also thought of the importance of sacrifice and discipline. I read somewhere that while people think that suppressing one’s sexual desire is the hardest thing to do, it is actually the desire to eat that can prove to be the greatest challenge. The reason for this is that unlike one’s sex drive, whose onset is around the teen years, the drive to eat has always been there from birth. Learning discipline and sacrifice, I believe, is essential to gaining humility. Understanding that the only right one has is the right to live is a product of discipline, sacrifice and humility.

The last thought I had was one that came as a surprise. Around late afternoon, when the pangs of hunger were at their greatest, I suddenly realized that this body will give up. With no nourishment, it will die and the only real strength I have is one in spirit. I quickly became aware of one of the greatest aspects of what I’m doing: fasting will reveal the truths in me and about the world.

I can’t wait until next month!

my road to damascus

Even though my church did not require it, I participated in several of their fasts. In addition to that, I also held personal fasts in the past as a way to strengthen myself spiritually. When my church proved to be a place that was ill-equipped to provide me with what I need to continue on with my journey, I made the choice to turn my back on it. And as I turned my back on my church, I inadvertently and unknowingly turned my back on my fasts.

It’s just as well, fasting should never be practiced unless one has perfect clarity for its reasons. Unfortunately, for the past few years, this clarity has escaped me and I have taken a detour from my spiritual journey. It is probably no coincidence that in the years since my fasts were put on hold, I have grown into a person that, on occasion, I do not like. Even this morning, I thought to myself “I don’t think I can be friends with myself.”

Perhaps my lowest point came this past Christmas when I was completely bogged down with everything in my life. Over the past month, I have done much self-reflection and I came to realize that, among other things, I have become sullen, malicious and self-destructive over the years… at least by my own standards. Luckily, with this realization comes some house-cleaning. Because I have become aware of my current state, I have been able to purge certain things from my own life and I can move forward.

Moving forward for me requires that I fast. Starting this month, I am going to hold First Friday Fast to move me along on my journey to becoming who I want to be. More specifically, I’ll be doing it with the following things in mind: God; the sacrifices of others; and the understanding that in this life, I am but a mere speck of dust who is no better or worse than anyone else. I am fasting for humility and compassion. Ultimately, I hope to hold fasts that last for weeks. However, I understand the need to be careful that I am not fasting for repentance, forgiveness or for self-punishment. Once I realize that these thoughts and feelings have entered my heart, the fast will be put to a halt and will be resumed on the first friday of the next month.

These ritual fasts will first begin with some prayer and meditation either the night before or the morning of the first Friday of the month. To ensure that I’m doing this safely, I will first have liquid fasts allowing myself to drink water and juices, which will give me the energy to go about my day and my studies. I will also fast during the time when the sun is up. That is from sunrise to sunset, no piece of food will touch my mouth.

I will chronicle each fasting experience through here and I hope that in a year, I will be able to hold fasts for a couple of days a week. If anyone has any suggestions or would like to go through this experience with me, let me know.

This is going to be good.