Ramadan Fasting: Mental and Physical Benefits are Plentiful.
But without its connection to the Spiritual, to God, the act of fasting quickly becomes empty...
The Muslim month of Ramadan. A time for spiritual cleansing, re-committing oneself to God, and remembrance of all of the reasons why we are put on this Earth. The physical and mental benefits that stem from the actual fasting process (i.e. forgoing food and drink) can be plentiful. But without its spiritual component - the constant attempt during Ramadan to devote a month to actively remember God - something about it just seems lacking.
We all know that Ramadan isn't simply about abstaining from food, drink and sex. During Ramadan, those who haven't been praying the obligatory 5 times a day prayer make an effort to do so; they also try to read the Quran; and increase devotional prayers to God.
For many Muslims, this can be a difficult thing to do.
Some Muslims simply focus on fasting's physical aspects - the forgoing food, drink and pleasure. No doubt, this already can be a very difficult thing to do. It takes a certain amount of discipline to give up food and drink for many hours - during one's waking hours no less. It does take self-discipline to not drink that much-needed coffee in the morning, when all you are doing is craving for it. Those times, one remembers why one is doing it. Simply because we believe in God and this is one of His commandments.
After the first week, the body amazingly adapts. The hunger pangs become less and less. The mind and the body becomes accustomed to functioning without the morning caffeine. The constant pre-occupation with food and drink eventually disappears, and you start to feel great mentally and physically. And the amount of time you have on your hands suddenly seems immense - since you are no longer frittering away time on lunch and tea breaks!
Physically, you find that your body is able to function well without food. Some of us perhaps even realize that we eat too much during the non-Ramadan months.
Mentally, you find that your mind becomes clear and alert without stimulants such as sugar and caffeine.
It's all good. It is no wonder that even some non-Muslims fast regularly to detox their body and mind.
Today, marks the 9th night of Ramadan fasting (2013). For the past nine days, I have been fasting the "lesser fast" - simply forgoing food and drink, and praying the obligatory prayers (but even for those, I am ashamed to say, I missed some!). As each day passed, I felt something nagging within me. This sense of discomfort and restlessness only increased day by day.
There was something different this year that I was doing as compared to the previous years - for whatever reason, this year I did not increase my spiritual remembrance of God. I did not make the effort to read the Quran or pray or "speak" to God; instead, I left the tv switched on right after iftar, its meaningless noise in the background as I read the news or worked or chatted with someone on Skype. Then I slept in the night as I would on any other night of the month.
I guess I just realized that it takes special effort to remember God - it is not something that magically happens. There are just too many distractions around in this day and age competing for attention. It is up to us to set aside the time for God, or risk losing the closeness to Him. It is a relationship just like any other, but one with longer-lasting implications(if you believe in the Hereafter!).
So with the remaining 20 days, I will work to re-establish the connection to God. I will spend the time necessary so that I form the bond with God that I know my soul truly desires.
I hope that my focus on the spiritual aspect of this month will make for a complete Ramadan - and my restlessness thus far can then be eased.