Today is the second full day of me not fasting this Ramadan. I had no appetite for breakfast, my favorite meal of the day especially when I’m in Lebanon where breakfast is so yummy and varied, and I still have not had lunch (It’s 4:15 pm). I guess I knew that fasting for three weeks would change my fitr eating habits, but still I think it’s amazing to actually experience that change. There’s a lot of mystery, I think, that fasting is shrouded in…when a person starts to go through it, especially for many days (as opposed to a few like I used to do prior to this year), a lot about a person’s body and mind becomes revealed.
Some observations about Ramadan fasting:
1) a person body is capable of so much more than one thinks when one is deprived of food and water for 13+ hours. Some of my most productive days this past month were days when I got up early and launched straight into work, and didn’t stop until an hour or so before iftar. Accomplishment feeds! Last year, I was surprised to learn that for several of my Muslim friends in DC their preferred time for gym exercise was an hour before iftar. This is inconceivable to me, and to I think most of the Muslims in the Arab countries where the state cuts work hours by more than 25% to give fasters more time to sleep. This widespread misconception probably accounts for why Fasters are more likely to gain weight in Ramadan than to lose weight.
2) Fasting is a great source of communal/familial bonding. Little fills my heart with warmth like breaking fast with family. Our shared feelings of hunger and phsyical tiredness is so acute; you can really sense it when silence falls over the table like warm blanket during those first couple of minutes after the maghreb adhan.
3) This last thought has been nourished by an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with a good friend Jo* who is not fasting but is putting himself through a rigorous physical training program. Like physical training, Fasting teases the limits of human capacity. And a whole month of doing that, I think, can leave a person with a strong sense of command over themselves for a while after.