Deprive yourself of your desires?
Into the last 10 days of Ramadan some have packed their bags off to secluded territory with the rest of us geared up to search for the special night (the night of power worth a thousand months) Ramadan is now into its last third and for most, the days have gone far too quickly.
The spiritual awakening comes along to put us back into shape but zooms passed us before we can settle in, Islam - more Mo Farrah than Usain Bolt puts us into shape for the marathon because religion is most certainly no sprint. Ramadan isn't meant to be setting clay but rather the planting of a seed, a time of deep thought and contemplation brewing with full steamed action.
If you've been around anyone fasting, you'll see the day is set to run like clockwork, we have times set to eat and times set for prayer, an even more packed out and to the dot schedule then the normal routine. Yes, throughout the year Muslims pray a compulsory five times a day at set times (Tommy Robinson - unfortunately muslamic ray gun training isn't a part of the schedule) so many things to do, but so little time. Perseverance and patience are key components, because indulgence is one thing which doesn't exist. The month is about restraint, as in many ways is Islam.
Restraint is a word I have a little difficulty with, but then it's not exactly a 'butterfly' of a word. Holding back, having patience it's not meant to be easy. Inherently we all wish to desire all that is good for us but that's not always the case. In terms specific to Ramadan it's not that we are fasting from things bad for us but that there's a wait and a lesson in how little we actually need and that we shouldn't constantly feed the body with what it desires.
During the month we (Muslims) train ourselves, train ourselves to have restraint, train ourselves to have patience and steer clear from basic desires. The desire to eat, the desire to drink, the desire to argue back when under attack, the desire to indulge (mine mostly with shoes and tabio tights) curbing our enthusiasm for all of these things until the set time and realizing that in actuality we are in no need of most of these desires.
We live over indulgent lives, full of clutter and the unnecessary and we still question as to where the spiritual self is hiding? Generation Carrie in dept because of expensive shoes and generation Facebook hiding and un-hiding last year's status as and when it fits into the story, the story narrated for people they probably don't even really know. The age of the spiritual and contemplative self lost on a generation heaved with clutter. We live in a very fast world, I can press click and have net a porter deliver my Charlotte Olympia courts by morning, I can read the latest news about the grounds in Rabà as its happening, we can access so much with the click of a button.
I speak for myself, I'm logical, practical and a pretty no nonsense person, I often don't have time for anything and generally speak so fast that I'm often asked in as to whether I think I'm running out of time. Religion for me never had to be necessarily spiritual it was my practice and belief. We live fast paced lives and we are a generation of people who want instant gratification and release. We know little bearing of patience and spirituality and what it truly means.
There's no specific definition of spirituality but it's about personal development and experience and yesterday when I read this quote suddenly something clicked. "The secret to spirituality is depriving oneself of one's desires" London based teacher sheikh Shams ad Dhuha from the Ebrahim College iterated the phrase.
Maybe it's because we have so much, we don't feel the need to search for anything more, how can we sufficiently feed ourselves, if don't even know what it feels like to be hungry? And maybe that's why the spiritual self comes to surface during Ramadan. We find deeper and deeper levels ourselves ones we probably wouldn't have even known existed when we're deprived of our desires and in Ramadan that route to spirituality is formed within our daily routine.
It's not about when you want to eat; it's about when you are allowed. We are taught to be more selfless and to stop giving in to all of our wants. If you happen to watch sky TV across numerous channels hundreds of thousands are raised for charities workings around the world, large gatherings are held all over in order to raise money for those in less fortunate positions, I've heard of Mercedes cars being auctioned and individuals pledging well into their thousands.
During Ramadan everyone's just that little bit quieter and the bit more serene. I become a shade warmer (yes, I know the sun's been out) a touch quieter and a whole load more contemplative and I'm not the only one. The lack of food, sleep and whatever else naturally takes its toll but it's not the lack of energy in as to why I and others choose our words much more consciously but that everyone's in a heightened spiritual state. For those observing the month, things that might matter at other times of the year become mere dust, focused on religion and spiritual fulfillment, even if little actually changes in practice.
Some of this has to do with the fact that we're very conscious of the month and we're conscious of the opportunities in its midst. Everyone wants to build up on that extra reward and use the month to recharge, but the feeling of spiritual elation is not an exclusive result of Ramadan but rather the starvation of desire.
When we fill ourselves up with food, drink, Mui Mui knitwear and Charlotte Olympia courts it's very easy to forget that there can be more and we're left with little time to think about anything else, but there is a lot more out there, difficulty, challenges and tasks which enable you to practice patience can teach us to open up a side of ourselves so often swept into a corner. Islam is a journey and if any of our scriptures are to go by Ramadan is most certainly a time to make some progression and if I can tell you form my own experiences at this point of the year I am absolute mush.