A few of us attended an event at Grace Cathedral, which celebrated the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy days of fasting and prayer. Attended by long time practitioners of Islam as well as newcomers like us, the program beautifully spelled out the true meaning and purpose of this annual practice, which can be applicable and inspiring to us all.
Those observing the tradition refrain from all food and drink, including water, from sunrise to sundown for 30 days. The intention is to remember the true purpose of human life—to experience the Divine Presence within and around us, and to fully appreciate all the gifts we are constantly receiving.
We learned how fasting this way helps realize the fragility of human life, and how dependent we are on the Divine intelligence behind all of creation. By refraining from physical nourishment, we have the opportunity to reflect with gratitude, turn our attention towards the Divine, and reestablish and/or strengthen our connection with that Presence.
Fasting reminds us of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of food and shelter, and helps us cultivate empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. By sacrificing the comforts we may rely on for superficial happiness, fasting strengthens our commitment to spiritual values and inspires us to devote our lives to a greater purpose.
We left the program with new respect for the practice of Ramadan and the Islamic faith. Today, July 16h, I am fasting myself, like I do on the New Moon every month. I see now that I do this for the same reasons it’s done during Ramadan—to purify the body and mind, reflect on my relationship to food and rely on the Spirit within as the source of my peace.