Day One of Ramadan. It was a quiet day at work, and I ended up chatting with some Muslim coworkers who talked about their practice of fasting. For many Muslims it seems, especially here in the UAE, fasting during the day often ends with an elaborate and extravagant iftar where most people tend to consume twice the calories they’d normally eat in a day. The population becomes nocturnal, staying up all night and sleeping during the day. Some Muslims take off as much work as they can during the month of Ramadan. But for the coworkers I talked to today, it was business as usual. Maybe a little extra dinner with family once the sun goes down, but nothing too crazy.
I found an really interesting op-ed article on fasting here and what I liked most about it is the context it brings to the practice of fasting. “It is meant to teach us to be mindful of all our different senses – what we expose them to and how we use them,” pens the author. I like this sense of quiet, of bare essentials, of simplicity and paring down everything so that you can listen to your body and understand how it reacts to different things. Especially out here where it’s so easy to get lost in the opulence and the opportunities for overindulgence (four hour unlimited brunches, anyone?).
Cyclically, I have always had times of the year where I crave a little depravation. For me, naturally this tends to come during the summer months. Heat zaps my appetite and my energy, and I find myself craving anything that’s predominantly made of water which is handy in the north east where produce in the summer months is decadent in its own right. While I am certainly not looking to fast, I can appreciate some quiet time and a little portion control. I like the idea of cleaning out one’s system; emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Of course when I had a coughing fit earlier today due to the excessive humidity and sand in the air, and had no water nearby to help quell it, that was a moment of frustration that was not easily subsided with thoughts of cultural respect and clean living. That just sucked, and I got mad, and I realized that while I can get all excited about tradition and living clean I’m also the type of person to get inappropriately annoyed when something inconveniences me. I suppose this is something I’ll have to “face and learn to embrace.”
As for my own practice this summer, I decided that I needed a wind-up or wind-down ritual; either first thing in the morning or before I go to bed at night, and I came across this 21-Day Yoga Challenge by yogajournal.com. It’s the perfect add-on to my pre-marathon training workouts, which right now are focused on strength training and aiming for longer and longer bouts of cardio, and each video is a snack-sized dedication. It also affords me some much-needed head space that I haven’t been able to get from my runs.
Working out is and always has been a meditation for me – part of my love of running long distances is that it’s a close second to a long drive with the windows down and your favorite songs on the stereo – but the heat and dust has driven me indoors since early May. A treadmill doesn’t offer me the same zen-like trance that pounding pavement does, and I’ve had to lure myself onto the machine for longer and longer periods of time by downloading old episodes of What Not To Wear off of iTunes. You know what keeps you on a treadmill? The promise of a really great reveal. I highly recommend any type of reality make-over show for distance training. But what it does not do is afford me the brain-ticking thought processing that running outside does. It’s difficult to hang onto a thought for too long when you’re running outside, and you quickly find that when you run through the entire catalog of worries and fears and doubts, you run out of them and have to start thinking about positive things. It’s better than therapy and a lot cheaper.
So, I continue my education here in the Middle East thanks to patient and kind coworkers who indulged my curiosity. Next weekend, we have the opportunity to attend one of the more decadent iftars, so I will get to have that experience as well. I can’t promise I won’t overindulge.
Much love for now and more later, Insh’Allah,
The New Glitterati