Ramadan begins on June 28th, 2014.
Americans have a collective, bad habit of planning lofty New Year’s resolutions, only to forget them by February. We’ve all said and heard these resolutions before: “I’m going to lose weight and exercise more!” “I’m going to eat better.” “I’m going to get a raise at work.” Truthfully, most of us give up making resolutions at some point, out of fear of failure. Maybe the problem with ‘bettering’ ourselves lies with our approach, not our intension. We’re fixated on finding new, ‘better’ habits that we hope will counteract the ‘bad’ ones. We’re trapped in an endless cycle of disappointing ourselves, and we’re in ‘it’ alone.
Settle Down and Stop Gossiping
Perhaps peace within ourselves doesn’t result with procuring new habits, but rather with taking a hard look at the habits we already serve. The Muslim period of Ramadan is based on the idea of quitting bad habits through total self-restraint, both in the literal and figurative senses, through “sawm” or fasting. In other words, individual prevent their bodies from consuming or producing anything toxic—food, thoughts, actions, etc. During Ramadan, followers restrict their mind by not speaking foul language, discussing others’ business, looking at anything unlawful, or thinking negative thoughts. Physically, they abstain from having sex and consuming food. You might assume physically restricting yourself is the more difficult task; however, the mind controls everything about the physical. Self-control begins and ends with the mind.
Savor Your Food and Thoughts
Those practicing Ramadan don’t cease consuming food entirely, only during daylight hours. Followers partake in what is known as a suhoor, or a ‘pre-fast’ meal before the dawn, as well as an iftar meal, to break the daily fast after dusk. These meals provide something to look forward to, a time to reflect and appreciate food in a way that is often overlooked in the bustle of day. Similarly, we can take time to appreciate and savor things and moments we usually take for granted–one’s we often don’t appreciate until they are taken from us.
The sacrifice does not go unrewarded. On the first day of the following month, Shawwal, participants celebrate the breaking of the fast with a festival known as Eid al-Fitr, during which time they prepare and consume their favorite foods together. Rewards gives us the courage to make sacrifices—this should not be an excuse to let yourself fly off the handle and be rude to others. Instead, positively reinforce yourself for changing your behavior. If you treat others better, you’ll feel better about yourself. Eventually, you won’t feel the urge to curse, snap, eat half a pound of chocolate, or whatever vices you.
American Dream or American Curse?
Americans are controlled by desire—it’s why they appear so powerfully attractive to onlookers. Anything and everything one can imagine is available here, at virtually no limit. We have the freedom to say, think, and do nearly whatever we want, with little consequence to us directly. Some call this freedom a blessing, but without some sense of self-restraint, it can easily become our curse. The mind controls the body, not the other way around. Rid your mind of toxic thought, and your habits will follow.