Quote of the week:
'None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
One assumes it works the same way for women, but I cannot be sure. I thought to share this quote because I thought the idea of listening for whispers amongst all the shouting in life is a powerful one - I hope all of you have an excellent Ramadan, devoid of loud disturbances and full of whispers that inspire you.
Commentary of the week:
The Colour of Ramadan:
As many of us know, the month of Ramadan is just around the corner. Some of us are stocking up on the ice cream and the parathas (exquisitely made fried pita) for those midnight cravings, some of us are planning cricket matches in parking lots at mid-night and some of us are even looking forward to the annual redevelopment of the discipline involved in the denial or control of our various appetites, such as the one for food and drink from sunrise till sunset. This is thus a special time, because we force ourselves to think of things in a different context. It is no longer about what we need to eat or feel like eating or doing on a daily basis, but rather about how best to spend the month reconnecting with our own spirituality and to the family and community around us. It is a time that we force ourselves to be generous, courteous and sensitive to others such that we begin to remember what it is like to be the genuine people that we really are but perhaps forget to be for the rest of the year because of our sometimes pedestrian, work-a-day lives. One wonders of course, and perhaps this is a question for all of us, about what would happen to our lives if we were able to apply the same consciousness and spirituality that we try and re-discover every year during Ramadan to our lives for the rest of the year as well.
So here are my top 3 suggestions for a special Ramadan experience - it may be wise to ignore them completely as I am no scholar of any faith, but perhaps something here will resonate with you as well.
1. Sacrifice not just food, but the appetite for living a consumptive life. This simply means that instead of planning to just cut down a bit on the eating during the day and then making up for it by frying up a few cows or sheep in the evening, try to actually consume less over the month. If you are feeling particularly adventurous and really want to get into the spirit of things, consume less of even stuff such as gas, electricity, water etc. for the duration of the month. Too often we deny only one aspect of consumption by eating no food during the day but then make up for that by polishing off a few defenceless chickens in the evening. Try to spare the chickens, the eggs and the water in an absolute sense. Not only will you have saved some holiday money as your various utility, gas and junk food bills come down, you will also have built up habits of modesty in those areas of life where our modesty is not usually applied.
2. Reconnect with not just the Divine, but also the signs of the Divine that are present around us all year. We are blessed in the sense that we have an infrastructure of places where we can worship but in some ways, even the sincere appreciation of something beautiful is a form of worship. So spend some time with your family visiting beautiful parks that we gladly pay for with our taxes between prayer times. If you have kids, get to know their dreams and aspirations so you have a better idea of how you can help them grow into excellent people that you would be proud to know even if they were not related to you. If you are young, spend some quiet and gentle moments with your parents getting to really know them again. Try and be helpful to friends, smile at yourself and others even though you are hungry and want ice cream. Forgive yourself for those mistakes for which you can and ask Divine Forgiveness for those that are beyond just you and those around you. The idea of Ramadan is meant to be something of a renewal of the beautiful aspects of your life so surround yourself with your beautiful neighbours, teachers, friends and the lush greenery and beauty that we are blessed with here in Toronto (and Canada) when you have a moment or two. Let the colour of this Ramadan be green.
3. Remember the big deal we made about the Olympics? Think of this Ramadan now as a spiritual, physical and mental Olympics that is open and accessible to everyone, not just the religious or even the Muslim elite. There are no obvious medals for success and just a genuine try to be better than the petty circumstances of our lives is a win. Also, nobody has to lose in order for others to feel successful. This is a challenge for ourselves to be better than we were a month ago, not for us to be better than others. It is also a time of inclusion such that we reach out make friends with our neighbours and co-workers regardless of differences in faiths. It is meant to be a time when we stretch beyond any petty tribalism and really connect with people.
Someone asked me recently why I wrote something against the Olympics. I tried to clarify that what I wrote was not against the Olympics as much as it was against an intense focus on the events to the detriment of other things. Perhaps I should have added that we have an annual event of our own that deserves some focus as well. Many athletes tell us that the Olympics is a special time for them because they push themselves physically and they have to wait for it for four years. This Ramadan, we again have an opportunity to push ourselves on not just a physical level, but a spiritual and mental one as well. Let us then - take this opportunity to be good, to be well, and to be helpful to those that cross the path of our lives for even a short time. After all, we don't really have to wait for four years to push ourselves a little more.
Ramadan Mubarak - May this month be full of blessings for you all IA.
Go ahead, invite us ...
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