More than any other time of the year, Ramadan replenishes my spiritual reserves and fortifies me for those low points in my forthcoming year. You know, those moments where I witness my friends lose their jobs, family friends pass away because of cancer or an accident, or I feel utterly directionless and caught up in self-loathing. I often take a look around in my surroundings and find that prior to this past year when I found a community consisting of some awesome, positive thinking friends and above all, an all-around beautiful and inspiring woman who loves me like none other, my life simply sucked in a lot of ways. The years preceding this one felt like I was constantly treading water to no end in any part of my life. Looking at me on the surface, yes, I did have a lot of blessings: completing graduate school, going on dates, a loving family, enough money to live comfortably, etc. but internally I can tell you I felt many times like a hollow individual, alive but not living if you get what I mean. Spiritually speaking too, I did not find myself really connecting with God despite identifying as a Muslim and having converted several years prior – I thought at the time that going it alone would facilitate the best spiritual journey; my past year showed me how wrong I was in my (egocentric) thoughts.
I now realize that a lot of my hollowness stemmed from different causes, especially my tendency to seek out ways to avoid confronting potentially emotionally intense situations/my own flaws and buying into a mindset of guarding one’s heart for the sake of self-preservation. One of my favorite lyrics from the hardcore band, Modern Life is War, speaks to this trend: “Growing up in an age where monotony reigns…it’s so easy to keep your heart and mind locked away. And it’s up to you to rise up…to break away. We’ve got no more time to spend spitting ugly words at our vicious circles from within. The time has come to adapt and reinvent. Let yourself go. Come unhinged.”
Man, this Ramadan has been a month-long exercise in letting myself go and coming unhinged from those things that keep me from being my happiest and helping my taqwa become stronger. Something very concrete that I did this year and not before is to abstain completely from alcohol consumption and limiting my expenses to my basic needs. As a result of these conscious actions and occasional reminders from my lady to confront and not avoid, I am discovering a much more authentic, productive, and God-attuned self emerging. For instance, I now more than previously desire time not squandered on wasting money with a bunch of strangers; rather I crave more time with loved ones who are uplifting. It is I who chooses whether to revert back to my old ways or forge ahead with these new insights and keep my heart unlocked – I choose the latter tenfold!
Salaams for now.