Today is Day 6 of Ramadan. My first Ramadan. Not the first I've known of, but my first fast. Before I was an observer. Now I am a part of this amazing tradition.
I got up at 5 this morning and ate a small breakfast. Less than a week into Ramadan, and it's already hard to eat very much at one time. Three glasses of water later, and it was time to start the day's fast.
The first day I was dizzy and lightheaded a few times. Now I just feel incredible. My mind is more peaceful than I can ever remember. My breath is slower. My sleep is better. Like the artist mentioned in a BeliefNet article, I feel transparent and hollow, cleaned out of all that is unessential.
And I am hungry.
Not for food. You thought I was going to say food. Nope.
I can talk about food, shop for food, even cook food, and I am able to wait until the proper time to break the fast. Last night I started making dinner before the fast ended and yet I got through all the prep without tasting one single bite. Food has become far less essential than ever before.
No, what I am hungry for are answers. And inspiration. And a clarity of purpose.
What am I doimg here in Ramadan? What am I to learn? How can G-d use my hunger and thirst to teach me things I need to learn? How can I understand the lessons and make the changes I need to make?
And where am I going after this?
My exploration of Islam began 7 years ago in a diner in rural central Pennsylvania. I was curious. I asked a waiter some questions. He told me I would make a wonderful Muslim and he let me borrow a copy of the Quar'an. I read it in a week. More questions. The waiter left to return to Egypt. I decided I needed to learn Arabic so I bought some books. I did not learn Arabic.
In the years since then, my questions have grown more numerous. Teachers have entered and left my life. Some remain. Some new ones have entered recently. I am studying Arabic at the University now, and finally learning.
I am living Ramadan as I fast. And as I feed the hungry and homeless with Project Downtown members on the streets each weekend. And as I read and think and pray. And I will experience another aspect in the next few days, as I attend my first Iftar celebrations. I am aware that I am part of a wonderful tradition stretching back centuries.
I will be blogging about this experience for the rest of Ramadan, in hopes that writing about my experience will help me to see the lessons and understand the purpose for this fast in a very personal way.