Ramadhan, time to reconnect with one’s self and others

Author: Massrat Shaikh

This Ramadhan will be the most memorable one but for different reasons.  We will not have many distractions of iftar parties and social events. Instead, this Ramadhan has brought us an opportunity to reflect on the simplicity, and that is its essence. We can make this Ramadhan more special by practising the art of mindfulness in these seven simple steps.

Mindfulness is a practice of connecting with ourselves, in a way that we pay attention to our present moment. It trains our mind to remain grounded and balanced in challenging situations. Although fasting is a spiritual exercise, it shares similar virtues of mindfulness. Practising mindfulness brings increased mental well-being, self-control and, an inner peace.

Mindfulness and Self-Regulation: When people fast from sunrise to sundown in Ramadhan, it is primarily teaching us self-regulation. Holy Quran says in chapter 2 verse 183 -“O you who believe fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may learn self-restraint”. Mindfulness shows that self-regulation helps us control impulses and helps us to cope with strong feelings and emotions. Fasting teaches self-restrain and anger management that is also an outcome of mindfulness. It is a teaching of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, that says “when one of you is fasting, he should abstain from indecent acts and unnecessary talk, and if someone begins an obscene conversation or tries to pick an argument, he should simply say him: “I am fasting”. This narration shows that Ramadhan teaches us not only self-restrain but also mindfulness in our conversations.

Mindfulness and Self Awareness: Ramadhan brings a reset and realignment in our lives and improved self-awareness. Mindfulness practice shows that self-awareness brings our focus on emotions, thoughts, and intentions and helps us become more compassionate and patient. Holy Quran says in chapter 13 verse 11 – God will not change the condition of people unless they change what is within themselves. This verse highlights self-awareness as a critical aspect that brings change. Awareness of one’s thoughts, words and actions help an individual improve their relationships.

Mindfulness and Gratitude: Abstaining from food and drinks in Ramadhan, cultivate patience. Holy Quran says in chapter 11 verse 49 –“So be patient; indeed, the best outcome is for the righteous”. Practising patience is a quality of mindfulness to delay gratification and learn self-control. Ramadhan increases us in gratitude. It brings our attention to the blessings we have in our lives and to be more compassionate to those who have less and go hungry. Mindfulness research shows that cultivation of positive emotions such as gratitude increases joy, interest, and contentment. There is a link between practising gratitude and feeling happy. Gratitude takes the focus off the adverse reactions and cultivates positive emotions such as love, appreciation and stimulates the nervous system to rest and digest stressful life events.

Mindfulness and kindness: Ramadhan is also known as the month of charity. By sharing what we have with others who are less fortunate than us, we become compassionate and kind. A narration of Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, says, “verily kindness is not found in anything but that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything but that it disgraces it”. Practising mindfulness shows that compassion and kindness reduce stress and negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression. It connects us to our inner-selves and creates a pool of positivity under challenging situations

Mindfulness and wandering mind: Ramadhan is a month of increased worship and prayers. Praying regularly helps to gain control over wandering minds and create an anchor for our everyday lives. Exercising mindfulness in prayers can make one more disciplined; improve executive functions such as focus and attention.  It can also have an impact on the neuroplasticity of the brain that enhances learning and memory.

Mindfulness of eating and addictions: Ramadhan gives us a chance to start excellent and healthy eating habits and refrain from addictions. Mindfulness of eating in Ramadhan can bring our attention to not just our eating habits but make us more aware of our environment. Fasting should teach us the value of appreciating food and being conscious of wasting it, as Holy Quran says in chapter 7 verse 31 –“ Eat and drink and do not waste nor be extravagant”. By practising mindful eating we increase our awareness to resources we use from the environment, it teaches us to reduce our intake of products that negatively impact our environment.

Mindfulness and relationships: Ramadhan is a time of keeping good relations with our family members. Living in closed quarters and sharing prayers and meals with our family members give us a chance to be more mindful of our relationships. Mindfulness can help us to reconnect with our loved ones with patience, gratitude, respect, humility, self-control and empathy.

I aspire everyone to be more mindful of their goals this Ramadhan, It is in these unprecedented times we need more than ever to make a shift in our consciousness. I hope that this Ramadhan we learn our lessons; that we transform our characters and purify our hearts. It is at this critical time that we learn to reset and reframe. We are truly blessed to have made it to this Ramadhan during a pandemic. May this Ramadhan leave us with content in our hearts and peace and serenity in our minds.

The author is an educational psychologist/ mindfulness educator. massrat@ahlameducation.com

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