This is the month of Ramadan, the annual Islamic period devoted to study, reflection, charitable acts, and fasting. Since Islam and Christianity share wellsprings of spirituality, I, as a Christian, ask myself, How can I join in fellowship with these pilgrims and worship God more?
My focus settles on Ramadan's central element of fasting: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint" (Qur'an 2:183, Yusif Ali English Translation).
Somehow I always see a need to learn more self-restraint!
As I understand it, the intent of such fasting is not to induce hardship or discomfort, but to help adherents turn away from a materialistic satiating of the physical body, and to reorient them toward spirituality, a realm beyond the physical and to the home of the perfect and divine.
This is consonant with my own priorities as a spiritual seeker. The spiritual self-care called for by Ramadan isn't confined to one religion, or to any one time of year.
But Ramadan reminds me to check on my own present priorities and tendencies. Am I letting the body's demands for comfort, pleasure, and ease dominate my life, dulling my spiritual sensibilities, clouding my appreciation of God's love and care? Am I letting circumstance, age, or even heredity convince me that I am not God's handiwork, and therefore am subject to limitation and debility? Am I allowing my self-image to be shaped by selfishness, sensuality, and greed?
I've found that to the extent that I minimize materiality in my thought, I experience less limitation, better health, and more harmonious relationships. I also feel it makes me a better spiritual healer. In fact, Jesus once healed a sick child who his disciples hadn't been able to cure. When they asked him why their attempts had failed, he told them that more "prayer and fasting" were required (see Matt. 17:14-21).
And yet I know from past experience that if I don't monitor the state of my thought, the prevailing materialistic headwinds of the world will subtly deflect me from my spiritual goal. Limitation of all sorts will seem more real than the freedom and peace natural to a God-made being.
So, not only as a gesture of fellowship but because it's good for me, I'm going to observe my own version of Ramadan. While I won't fast from food on the same rigorous schedule or to the same degree as my one billion Islamic neighbors, I will make an extra effort to restrain materialism in my thought and practice this month - including cutting back on shopping and perhaps even on the quantity of food I eat.
My goal is to fast from materiality and feast more on God's presence - to be a better person, a better healer, a better Christian.
The Founder of Christian Science made this observation about the essence of worship:
Dost thou 'love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind'? This command includes much, even the surrender of all merely material sensation, affection, and worship. This is the El Dorado of Christianity. It involves the Science of Life, and recognizes only the divine control of Spirit, in which Soul is our master, and material sense and human will have no place.
Mary Baker Eddy
This article was originally published at www.spirituality.com.
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