Paul Born, The Circle
President of the Tamarack Institute
I am overweight, impatient and obsessively optimistic: three traits I have worked on all my life with minimal success.
I am fat most of the time, impatient when people cannot read my mind, and prefer to view life as “sunny side up” even when it is scrambled.
To change, I could go to Weight Watchers, visit a psychotherapist and restart my yoga practice. All these are good strategies that have worked for me in the past but nothing sticks for long. I want to be a better person — don’t we all — but I know only too well that it is hard. It seems that our humanity gets in the way all the time.
Recently, I was invited by my friend Engin Sezen to join him and his community in Kitchener in celebrating Iftar — the evening meal Muslims engage in to break their daily fast and celebrate Ramadan. I went because I was curious about the community and, to be honest, because I thought the food would be great.
Needless to say, after the meal I was full, not only of great Turkish food, but also energized with ideas that I had not explored before.
So here is my take on Ramadan, which ends today in Canada.
Once you wrap your head around it, this annual practice reminds me a lot of the 40 days of Lent that Christians observe. Essentially I can see Ramadan as a discipline that is practiced every year.
The discipline starts with setting a daily intention to be the kind of person you most want to be and for those who seek God — the kind of person God meant for you to be.
Here are the four key insights I took away from my visit:
•Fasting: By not eating or drinking (or having sex, etc.) from dawn until dusk you empathize with those who experience hunger and thirst. Your sacrifice leads you to be closer to God and, over time, this deepens your self-understanding and engages your sense of empathy.
•Service: During your fast and spiritual quest, your journey is to help you to become more giving as your hunger and intention help you relate to those hungry and in need.
•Discovery and Resiliency: Thirty days of fasting is a long time. Imagine setting your intention to be a better person daily and to having your hunger and thirst present as a constant reminder of your intention, and also as a reminder to look for opportunities to serve others.
•Community: The very practice of Iftar focuses on a group of people breaking their fast together. This might be a group of families, members of a Mosque, or — as we saw in recent pictures — whole neighbourhoods.