Ramadan as told by Usman 

 

the lovely Usman

 

In order to gain a better perspective, I asked my good friend Usman to write about what fasting and Ramadan truly means to him. Here it is, enjoy. 

 

When thinking of what to write about Ramadan, the following came to my mind;

Family, generosity, friends, selflessness, piety and determination. 

These are the values that are more or less enshrined by a Muslim during the month of Ramadan while fasting. It is a reminder of everything worldly as a blessing from God. It is appreciating life and the sustenance provided to us. It is a time of coming together as friends and peaceful human beings, to overlook differences and be generous, merciful and calm. Ramadan is just a window into the life of how a Muslim should lead his/her life, and a practice that they should follow to be more respectful, generous, and selfless. 

Fasting is not a unique concept in Islam, rather a common practice in the monotheistic religions and Hinduism. The underlying concept; to allow oneself to appreciate the value of food, the suffering of those less fortunate is similar among these religions with the difference lying in as to the duration and manners of observing them.


This is my second Ramadan away from home and is a time when there is no immediate family for meThere is a considerable difference from how fasting is done here and back home. Although this might be part of growing up and learning to live on my own, it is a reminder of how the things we take for granted should be valued. 


In Pakistan, the family; and by Asian family standards I mean extended families, and relatives you never knew existed until now, are an important aspect during Ramadan. Working hours are considerably short which means people get to spend time with their family more than usual. It is a time when people host more feasts, a real festivity. It is a celebration of the life we have, and including those near and far in our celebrations. One thing I do not miss is the heat, even though fasts are longer due to long days in the summer in the UK, they are made bearable by the weather.


Food has a rather important role to play in forming families and cultures at home and sacrificing something that forms bonds, can make us really understand the importance of it and each other.

However, those values of generosity, friendliness, selflessness are translated across borders where friends have replaced family at iftar. There has not been a single day when I have not been blessed to break my fast without friends, furthermore I have been able to inspire a close friend to try fasting as a means of improving her eating habits. 


While living in the UK, it is quite common to be with friends who aren’t fasting. It is definitely tempting to have the odd ice cream when it’s sweltering hot (like it recently was), grab a coffee while out in town, or go out for lunch with friends. It’s hard to describe how one feels when others are eating and you aren’t, but it’s something fasting teaches; to have a degree of self-control. Though my friends have been really accommodating and have asked permission in the past if they know that I am fasting, it makes it worthwhile to know that someone appreciates and respects your choice to fast.

 

The process of fasting is rather enlightening, humbling and more fulfilling than it might come across initially – with the thought of not having to eat or drink from dawn to dusk. Contrary to it, the body is instinctively capable to handle such prolonged periods of abstaining from food and water. It is completely eye opening and something worth experiencing yourself – just like my friend who believed it, tried it and hopefully benefited from it. If one can fast for a continuous period of time, one can be determined enough to do more than just fast.


I think having inspired one person to try to fast, even though for health reasons, is in my view an act of showing just how peaceful and beneficial the values of Islam are, and can have a positive effect on one’s outlook on life, and our purpose. 


  

‘you look so smart, let me take a picture with you’

  

‘if you stand there. Fab’

  

‘et voila’

 

our friendship is based around food!

 

food food food

  

breaking the fast with Usman

  

7 days of fasting reflection 

Written last week but due to no internet I’ve unfortunately experienced a delay in publishing. Enjoy! 

It’s officially been one week since I’ve begun fasting for eight hours throughout the day. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I became inspired to fast (for non religious reasons) after speaking to my Muslim friend Usman who was committing himself to Ramadan. Usman is originally from Pakistan, so whilst he is not at university, he would find himself to be fasting in much tougher, more testing conditions (just look at Pakistan’s weather forecast to understand exactly what I mean) – I found the whole idea to be incredible and Usman’s dedication to be amazing. Although Usman does not fast for dietary reasons, spirituality and an improved sense of character definitely comes into it for him and this is where I felt encouraged to try it out.

So I’m seven days in to the fast, which involves me fasting after breakfast for about eight hours a day. For four of these days I have been in full time work, so to reduce a significant depletion in energy or risk of endangering myself whilst I burnt calories walking around all day, I would allow myself one coffee during the daily fast and nothing more. This proved a lot easier whilst I was able to keep myself busy as I was unable to examine the contents of my fridge on a regular basis – I’m guilty of doing this often.

The results have already been amazing. Although in terms of weight I still feel reasonably similar to how I was before, my self discipline and relationship with food has become a lot healthier. Previous to fasting, i would find myself consuming entire tubs of ice cream after snacking on chocolate, biscuits and a various assortment of carbs (some healthy and others unsurprisingly not). This behaviour made me feel sensations of depression and despair, so I was aware that this had to change before I damaged my mental and physical health. After a long term break up I was unfortunate enough to experience ‘comfort eating’ at its best and as a result, I would often find an excuse to eat unhealthily – ‘I deserve it, I’ve had a hard week’ and so forth. 

I found the first few days to be incredibly testing – as soon as your stomach begins to rumble you subconsciously tell yourself ‘I guess it’s time to eat again’. Pushing through this hunger was very difficult – revealing the first test of determination and control. 

After a week of refusing free samples at coffee shops, as well as offers of ice cream during the biggest heatwave Britain has had for a long time and watching my friends eat lovely lunches whilst I continued fasting, I feel as though I have made significant progress and it’s very rewarding. 

It suddenly occurred to me recently that I had not eaten sugary treats for the entire first week that I had begun fasting. This quickly allowed me to realise that the fasting process had already killed my detrimental sugar hunger pangs that had previously lead me to the kitchen cupboards at all hours of the day. Not only had my cravings calmed down, but my general hunger and capability to scoff down a big meal, had also begun to seize. On top of this, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt bloated or unattractively full. As someone who suffers with symptoms of food intolerances, this was a huge plus for me. 

My second week of fasting has commenced and so far I have only managed to experience one mishap – one day I broke the fast after six hours. Another element of this process that has presented itself, is the idea that healthy meals enable this process to be much more beneficial. Not only do you feel better, but your body thanks you for it. I will be in the States this week, so fingers crossed my diet doesn’t completely fall off of the wagon!  

The many benefits of fasting

Hi! Now that my degree is under my belt, I’m able to get back in the blogging swing of things! This month, my mind and body is focusing on fasting.

As you may be aware, it is Ramadan. Ramadan involves a month of fasting from dawn until sunset and has been a highly practiced religious process within the faith of Islam for many years. One of my very good university friends, Usman was kind enough to share an evening with me where we broke the fast together – known as Iftar (at this point I was not fasting but simply observing). As we chatted, I became intrigued as to why Muslims typically fast. Apart from multiple dietary benefits (such as losing weight and increasing your metabolism speed) fasting is supposed to increase your appreciation for multiple things in life by essentially putting your body through a testing time. The difficult practice is said to remind individuals of their connection to the poor and the hungry, to moderate excessive lifestyles and to allow the person to hone in on their spiritual connections. The last 6 months have been quite disruptive in terms of self-discipline, so I felt that by fasting, I could essentially detox to increase my mental clarity, as well as loosing some weight.

According to http://www.allaboutfasting.com, fasting typically:

1. Allows the digestive system to rest

2. Allows for cleansing and detoxification of the body

3. Creates a break in eating patterns

4. Promotes greater mental clarity

5. Cleanses and heals ‘stuck’ emotional patterns

6. Leads to feelings of physical lightness, increasing energy levels

7. Promotes an inner stillness, enhancing spiritual connections

I have become intrigued with this method of re-balancing and mentally re-aligning, as I result of this, I have told myself that I will be trying this for a month – in line with Ramadan (using my friend as a little mental crutch shall we say). During these times it will be tough as I travel across the world and work my butt off trying to repay my credit card debt. However, I will try my best to utilise the best part of the day for reflection and fasting. So far, I’m 6 hours in and absolutely starving – obviously. My friend suggested 12:30pm – 9:30pm as a starting point and it’s tough to say the least. I’m going to try and fight through this mental block that I am already experiencing and keep you posted. Here’s to clarity and a smooth running body!

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The importance of gratitude

It’s so common for a vast majority of us to have those occasions where we doubt ourselves, our path, and for some of us, our lives in general. After reading The Secret I learnt about the power of the law of attraction as well as gratitude. These two aspects have become very important in my own journey to positivity and happiness.

Gratitude can be showing appreciation for those around you, yourself, your interests and achievements, even your failures. It’s appreciating everything that you have (the good, the bad and the annoying), whilst showing openness for so much more to come. The problem for most people is appreciating the difficult elements within their lives that may have set them off of track. However, in order to move forward it is really essential to show appreciation for your hardship whilst acknowledging your ability to move forward from it. It took me around 3 years to acknowledge that my hardship actually emitted positivity. This acceptance and gratitude does not happen over night – for me it developed as soon as I was able to heal and start to move forward.

Personally, I became heavily depressed after moving to another country and returning back home without my parents. My lifestyle had shifted, my personality was a shadow of it’s original self and I didn’t even know what happiness was – almost everything was a an act. I’m not sure exactly why this happened, and I was probably in a dark place before I even moved, but France seemed to be the catalyst. However, now I am able to look back on the situation and appreciate what happened to me. There were moments when I didn’t want to be alive and I didn’t know why or how I could feel that way, it consumed my entire thought process. I was told to read The Secret, and it essentially changed my life. Now, I look at the situation as something that I grew from and got through, rather than something that consumed me. It’s also enabled me to be able to empathise and help others who are suffering.

The idea of positive thinking and the law of attraction sounds so floaty and lacking in substance but there are numerous important thinkers reciting this idea of the law of attraction, as well as endless testimonies from people who have read the secret and experienced the same change in their lives, by 1. appreciating what they have and 2. only seeing positive things in their future.

Gratitude can work for the smallest of things, such as ‘I’m thankful because I had the time to have a lovely bath this evening’ to ‘I’m so thankful for having such a supportive group of friends’. The list can be endless but it can work for everyone. For me, I often compare myself to someone who would be worse off than me, whilst encouraging me to remember that others have it worse off and I should be helping them!

Give a try and see how it goes!

Love and Light x

How does the moon really affect us?

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The moon

During recent times I’ve become infatuated with the moon and it’s relation to human beings. Although there isn’t a significant amount of scientific evidence to prove that the moon has an affect on us, there is definitely a spiritual and historical belief behind the moon’s power.

Historical beliefs

Just think of the word ‘lunatic’, (derived from the Latin word lunaticus) and its connotations with unpredictability or dangerous behaviour and its stem from the word lune (moon). On top of that, there’s always been a theory behind a full moon bringing out our worst behaviour. There have even supposedly been reports that suggest an increase of hospital admissions around times of a full moon.

How can a full moon affect my behaviour?

A full moon is known to heighten behaviours. For instance it may increase your creative tendencies or it may heighten other tendencies from the subconscious mind that could be negative or even spiritual.

A new moon which occurs later on in the calendar is reported to increase negative energies but in a more subtle way. The effects of a full moon are meant to be physical, affecting us in the body, whereas the effects of a new moon are understood to be more mental, affecting our minds.

Funnily enough I had a day this week where I felt incredibly ill. I couldn’t put my finger on the reasons why I was feeling weak, nauseous or headachy. It wasn’t until someone said ‘maybe it’s the full moon tonight’ and referred me to a page on the moon, that I began to understand its potential effects on my behaviour.

A good way to track your behaviour and how it is affected by the moon would be to log your moods two days before and two days after the different moons. It would definitely be interesting to see if there is a connection. Take a look at the moon calendar above to keep track!

Click here to read more information on the wonderful moon.

The benefits of Citronella essential oil

If you’ve ever been on medication that alters your moods or plays with your emotional receptors then you’ll understand how it feels to be out of control of your own mind and body at times. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in natural remedies that can work alongside or replace traditional medicine in order to help my body run how it’s supposed to instead of being numbed by medication.

I tend to believe that sometimes, patients can just be another number on a piece paper that doctors wish to ‘treat’ and cross off, rather than dealing with each case in a unique way – of course this would be more expensive and time consuming. I’ve had my fair share of doctors that aren’t willing to give up more than a 10 minute slot of their time to try and work through your issues, and this can feel incredibly hurtful – especially if you are in a low place already. At times, I feel as if I am getting no where with the health system, so I thought I would investigate some natural remedies that can supposedly produce similar effects to that of overpriced, over prescribed medication.

I’ve started with citronella oil as it can be ‘uplifting and energising’ (being anemic, this had multiple benefits for me). With this essential oil you do not apply directly to the skin, if you do want to do so you will need to use a base oil to mix the citronella oil with.

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Essential citronella oil

I began by using the citronella oil in a bath, mixed with a lavender oil which was lovely. The citronella is supposed to not only be a bug repellent (not really want I want it for), but due to its anti bacterial properties it is supposedly useful for colds, illnesses and acting as a natural deodorant. Plus, citronella oil is meant to be good for clearing the mind.

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I didn’t have any natural lavender oil so I had to make do with perfumed lavender oil. It still did the trick though!

 

I have felt that it has already helped to calm my mind quite well and after the bath I felt extremely relaxed (more so than usual after a bath). I will definitely be continuing this routine once or twice a week to help my mood levels come back to reality.

So far, I’m enjoying this essential oil – good start!

Optimism

Part of my happiness is hugely based on the ‘idea’ of optimism. To me there is an ‘idea’ of what it is like to be an optimist and that is often how it remains – as an idea. Part of the challenge in being an optimist, is actually manifesting this ‘idea’ into something that can become part of your being.

I won’t lie and pretend that I wake every day feeling fulfilled, but I make a conscious effort to try and start the day at least feeling content, attempting to remain positive through any given situation that is intent on dragging me down.

I associate yellow with optimism. The braveness of the tone just seems to highlight its refusal to settle into the background. It screams determinism and the person I want to be.

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