What’s the one thing that controls the quality of your life?
With all the freaking out about fasting, you’ll probably think the answer is: food.
Since food puts you in a good mood and generally determines your attitude (whoops that rhymed!) Food has power over you since it gives you energy, makes you more productive and, therefore, can transform you into a better person, right?
Umm no, that’s just the abstinence talking. Actually, the single force controlling the quality of your life is: your ‘Power to Choose’.
Think about it. You choose what to eat and what time to sleep and your choice certainly reflects either positively or negatively on your body and health. You choose what to wear, and it affects how people see or even treat you. The friends you choose to hang out with will determine which path in life you’ll most likely take.
Everything in life is a choice.
You can choose whether you want to learn something from this article or go play candy crush. You can choose to study for that upcoming test or choose to think about all the things you’d rather do instead of studying. You can choose to eat that salted caramel brownie or choose to cut back on sugar and give ‘Kale smoothies’ a try! (Yes, some people do that voluntarily if you’d like to know).
We’re always opting for something over something else. Whether we know it or not, everything in our life is a mere result of a decision we’ve made or didn’t make. That said, we can’t help but wonder how sometimes life events, conditions and obligations back us up into the corner of having no other choice.
Like in Ramadan for example….
The Choices We Don’t Make In Ramadan
Yeah we know, no one is ‘forcing’ us to fast or anything, but as Muslims, we all agree we MUST do it. And as much as the Holy month’s vibe is so serene and spiritual, many of us suffer in different ways for 30 days straight. We withstand a great deal of pain and when it’s still noon and our throats are as dry as the Sahara, it doesn’t really feel like there’s any ‘power’ in our ‘choice’.
I’ve always wondered about people who get so excited about Ramadan they start doing cartwheels. I mean what’s their secret? Do they have magical “food-resisting” powers? Do they not need a caffeine shot in the morning to function properly? Can they really actually go waterless all day and still talk and smile and be civilized?
I used to be one of those people who simply “played dead” in Ramadan. I’d wake up really cranky and basically tried to minimize communication with the human species as much as possible. Especially in the summer, when it reaches up to 40 degrees at times. The day is SO long and I’d wake up parched and in extreme pain. Ugh, those splitting headaches before and after iftar. I seriously had to hold my head so it doesn’t split into two halves and fall on the ground. I spent years and years thinking “fasting” was synonymous with “suffering”. I think many of us were raised to believe that part of being “believers” is to endure pain silently and that’s ultimately part of the reward we get for fasting. And then I’d start feeling sorry for the cartwheel people. If they love fasting and are not suffering like the rest of us then they’re probably not getting rewarded as much, right?
Well, it turns out there’s a whole different perspective we’ve been absolutely blinded to!
But, instead of whining about how it took SO long for me to discover it, (no I mean REALLY long) I’m just gonna go ahead and share it as “drama-less-ly” as possible.
Secret Workings of The Mind
You’d think with all the hype about ‘positive thinking’, people would have gotten the concept down by now. I mean, how hard could it be? Simply eliminate the negative thoughts and feed your brain with positive ones. Just remind yourself of all the benefits of fasting. Focus on how you’re detoxifying your body, strengthening your mind and purifying your soul. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, is it? In fact, it’s easier to bring yourself down than it ever is to lift yourself up, because it only takes one negative thought.
Only one thought can make you angry.
Only one thought can make you scared, lonely, sad or anxious.
The truth is, your brain is not designed to make you happy, it’s designed to make you survive.
So in the first few days of fasting when you change your eating habits, your brain is like ‘What’s going on here?’ Even though we probably eat MORE in Ramadan (oh don’t lie to me! I know about your ‘Baklava’ plans) the decrease in meal frequency and the jumbling up of daily routines throws the brain off.
It’s not the hunger or thirst or even lack of sleep that’s the problem, it’s the glitch in the system we’ve been primed and trained to accept as the ultimate reality.
Because the brain has bought into a certain daily routine for 11 months, changing it suddenly sends threatening signals to our nervous system and so the brain acts up in its struggle to survive. Hence the headaches, the nervousness, and feeling like we’ve been tipped completely off balance.
Some people will take a couple of hours to adjust and others will take weeks. The difference between both groups is in their ‘power of choice’. It’s in the meaning they choose to give to the whole process of change.
You have a choice to believe into your limiting beliefs that fasting drains your energy, or transcend to the mindset of ‘I can do this. This is good for me. It’s easier than I thought.’
You have a choice to use Ramadan as an excuse not to work as hard, or use all the extra time you have during the day to accomplish more than usual.
In the end, it’s really your choice whether you want to believe that fasting in the Holy month borders on unendurable, or whether you want to believe Allah when He says:
“But to fast is best for you, if you only knew.” [Qur’an, Chapter 2: Verse 184]
It’s all in your head and it’s your choice to keep it there or not.
The panic isn’t real and the suffering won’t manifest if you don’t let it. All you need is a new perspective and it’s available to all of us through a very effortless technique. The transition can happen painlessly and smoothly; you won’t even have to worry about the adjustment period. You’ll truly experience the peaceful serenity of the Holy month and you’ll kick yourself forever accusing it of being a source of anxiety. Of course, like many people I resisted this idea like no tomorrow. I was skeptical for years until the secret was uncovered. And it works you guys, it really does. And you gotta trust me on this because I’m one of those people who simply detest clichés, textbook advice and all the pragmatic logic that doesn’t necessarily apply in real life.
One of those is the theory that ignores realism and urges you to ‘think positive’ because your thoughts affect your feelings. Well, it’s not true. Our thoughts don’t affect our feelings; it’s actually the other way around…
The Truth About Thoughts
A couple of weeks ago, we were out for a picnic and a cat comes out of nowhere to cuddle beside us. My friend jumped up like a waffle out of a toaster while I gushed over it. Our inner emotions are the cause of our many different reactions. You see, I love cats and she hates them. It’s not the facts that affect us; it’s our feelings about them. So when Ramadan approaches, our apprehensive thoughts about fasting, sleep, work, worship and everything else are triggered by how we feel about the whole month. It’s activated by the fear we harbor inside, namely the fear of change. Overcome this fear once and for all, you’ll never have it or suffer from it again ever.
The Letting Go Technique:
- Scared, worried, anxious or even angry, whatever you’re feeling is completely okay, as long as you acknowledge it. You must start from where you are if you want to get to where you’re going and that can only happen when you feel your feelings. Take a minute to surrender to the fear and don’t resist it.
- You might be thirsty, lose sleep, and/or get a headache. You’ll soon realize that whatever happens will happen either way. Don’t drain yourself trying to block it. Open the door and let it go through you. Within 20 minutes maximum, the headache, hunger, thirst or anxiety will be completely gone. Once the accumulated ugly energy behind each feeling dissipates, you’ll see how you can handle anything that comes your way.
- Here’s the weird part: Even though we look for answers and solutions, there’s a creepy satisfaction in holding on to suffering and pain. Not being able to admit that out loud doesn’t change the fact it’s true. Sometimes we feel safer holding on to negative emotions because, without them, we’re not sure what to feel. We forget that ‘anxiety’ pretends to be useful when in reality it serves no purpose whatsoever. And perhaps this is one of the lessons we learn in Ramadan, for there’s much more satisfaction in the silence, space, and the emptiness…. There’s absolute peace.
- Especially in Ramadan, from the moment we open our eyes to the moment we go to sleep, we’re always stressing about time. “How many hours till Iftar? How many hours till Fajr? If I turn in now, how many hours of sleep will I get?”. It’s high time you let go of your obsession with time. “Patience isn’t the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Don’t try to kill time. Use it. Lose yourself in whatever task you’re doing and stop staring at the clock. A watched pot never boils! I’m not going to tell you to do the basics and the ‘musts’ like reading Qur’an and doing ‘dhikr’ because you already know it all.
There’s so much to look forward to during the Holy month. That superpower we suddenly get to stand for hours to pray.
The family gatherings and the heart fluttering that comes with every single Maghreb prayer.
How we feel so blessed reciting Qur’an at night and so cleansed when fasting in the morning.
When you think of it, it’s hard to panic when you know someone has your back. There’s no space for anxiety when you’re sure you’re safe and in good hands.
This inner feeling of joy is all from Allah , it’s a gift bestowed on those who ask for it.
The question is, what is your opinion of Allah ? Do you think He wants you to dread the Holy month? Or do you trust in Him that He’ll make it smooth and easy once you stop resisting His will?
Whatever your answer is, that’s the inner feeling that’s controlling you. And I hope it’s true faith in Allah’s mercy.
Because seriously, you need to try experiencing Ramadan for what it really is….
It’s a breath of fresh air for your tired soul…
It’s the safe haven you’ve been seeking all year long
It’s just… a bundle of blessings and joy.
So let go this year… and see what happens…