Monday, August 16

Muslim for a day

Although I don't follow any particular religion, I like a bit of pick 'n' mixing fom them all. I take a sprinkling of mindfullness from Buddhism, add a handful of Pagan seasonal festivals, a dollop of world peace from Baha'i, a dash of vegetarianism from the Hindus and Seikhs and a sprinkle of singing from the Welsh chapels to taste.

But 15 years of catholic education put me off organised religion for life. I'm a humanist instead. I believe in kindness, equality, empathy, gratitude and general mumpetness - all the good stuff that you get from religion, but without the divine power stuff.

Despite this, I find religion absolutely fascinating.

My friend H is I suppose what you'd call a reformed Muslim - brought up as a Muslim, he fell spectacularly off the wagon in his uni days and now, at the ripe old age of thirtysomething has gone back to his Islamic ways.

As it's Ramadan at the moment, H is fasting. No food or water from sunrise to sunset. Every single day. For 30 days. Cripes.

Curious about all things religious, I was cross examining him about it last week. Why do it? What's it all about? How on earth do they manage it? Don't they feel ill? He explained the idea of Ramadan being a time for reflection, thinking of those who are hungry every single day, the feel-good factor when you taste that first bit of food after sunset. He thinks that everyone should give it a try for just one day.

So, as an exercise in self-control, empathy and gratitude, I said I'd do it. And today was the day. My usual Monday morning involves a huge bowl of porridge with nuts and seeds and all kinds of yummies thrown in. There'd be lots of fruit for snacking, a nice big houmous/avocado sandwich at lunchtime and the obligatory little sweet treat at about 2pm. Today - nothing. Just me and the sound of my hungry belly.

At first, it wasn't too bad. By lunchtime, I was struggling a bit. By the time I was preparing the girls a delicious bowl of pasta pesto and green veggies for their tea, I was salivating. By 7.30, I was ready to start chomping on Blod.

At 8.40pm, the fast was over. I lit a candle, served up a simple sweet potato curry and rice, turned off the I-Pod and ate in silence by candlelight. It was calm, peaceful and all about the food. I appreciated every single mouthful.

Amen to that.

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