But, stressors in our modern life aren't just physical. Our fast-paced life, our endless mental chatter, our endless chores and tasks urge us to run and rush all day long. Even when we rest our bodies at the end of the day, we rarely give our mind a rest. It keeps running while watching the news or following the last episode of soap opera. We feed our body with synthetic depleted empty calories, our hearts with anger, envy, competitive spirit, and aimless goals, our minds with to-do lists and endless tasks while we starve our souls and neglect its needs.
let's take the opportunity of this holy month for a complete detox, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Once a year, it is time to recharge our spiritual energy, purify our hearts and clear our minds as we rid our bodies from toxins.
Allah said in the Qur'an: "... And if you fast, it is better for you, if only you knew." (Quran, 2; 184)
Physically, fasting Ramadan is a perfect detoxifier for our whole system. Fasting is a natural immune booster, it enhances the ability of the lymphocytes to fend off bacterial attack, purifies our blood, gives the chance for the gastrointestinal system to regenerate its lining, boosts the detoxifying powers of our liver, and cleanses our kidneys.
To get the most out of this natural body wisdom, though, we need to approach our food with a different mentality.
There is no better start than the holy advice: "... And eat and drink but do not waste by extravagance, certainly He [Allah] does not like those who waste by extravagance." (Qur'an, 7:31)
Start your Iftar by blessing your food and supplicating. Besides its spiritual values, this habit allows you few moments to reflect about the food you put into your mouth. Take the time to ponder. As our fasting urges us to think of the poor and needy, let it urge us to think about our God-given gift: Our body. How respectfully are we treating it? How diligently are we protecting it? Are we putting in our mouth the 'right' kind of food? Are we feeding it in a way that boosts its vitality, energy, and health?
This month, we are going to reflect and ponder about each bite we take, each morsel we put in our mouth. we are going to make sure that this is the food that will bring us vitality and health. We are going to show gratitude for our body by protecting it as we show gratitude for the food we have by sharing it with others.
Choose natural, simple, healthy, fresh foods. Choose foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Every day during this month add to your iftar table a big bowel of fresh raw salad packed with dark green leafy vegetables and colorful fresh variety of produce. Sprinkle your salad with nuts and seeds. Add apple cider vinegar and olive oil for dressing. Apple cider vinegar is a great detoxifier in its own right. it helps maintaining slightly alkaline pH needed for healthy immune system, strong bones, and balanced blood sugar levels.
Add yogurt and buttermilk to your menu either during iftar or suhur. Yogurt is a great source of probiotics, it replenishes healthy intestinal flora, improves digestion and bowel health.
Avoid all synthetic chemicals, additives and preservatives. Keep away from processed foods and minimize your intake of refined carbohydrates and simple sugars.
And, when talking about detox, water is the perfect place to start. Allah says: "... and We have made from water every living thing..." (Qur'an, 21: 30).
We need to drink at least eight glasses of water every day. You can flavor it with lemon, lime, rose water, or orange blossom hydrosol.
Water regulates body temperature, helps in all metabolic reactions, lubricates our joints and gastrointestinal tract, and helps flush out toxins. Avoid dehydrating, highly sweetened or chemical-laden beverages like coffee, soft drinks and artificial juices.
Another important detox during these holy days is our mental detox.
In our modern life, with its technological advancement, we exert less physical effort. Technology seems to save us time. Or, so they claim.
During these holy days, let's take a fresh look at our life, at our time that seems to speed by beyond our reach. Let's slow down to be able to cope with our endless life demands. Sounds strange, isn't it? But, believe me, it is true. Our grandmothers chatted and socialized while kneading the dough, washing the dishes, sweeping the flour or embroidering their dresses. These weren't mere house tasks, these were relaxation and meditation exercises. Our minds actually need these gaps to recharge. They need those relaxing moments to slow down and silence the chatter, they need it to stop running on the hamster wheel.
If we slow down our minds, we achieve more because we experience more clarity, better concentration and heightened creativity.
Let's benefit from this month by slowing down your fast paced-life. This in no way means reducing achievements or neglecting our work duties and house responsibilities. It is a mental readjustment. It is time to pause, turn-off the autopilot, and start living in the moment. Time to reformulate our thoughts, reprogram our minds and empower our thinking with the endless supply of God's words. Time to acknowledge all our life boons and blessings, enjoy the beauty surrounding us everywhere. And, yes; there is beauty everywhere. We just need to look with new eyes; we need to embrace life and awaken our senses to the endless supply of God's gifts.
The messenger of Allah SWT said: "Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart." (Bukhari & Muslim)
In the heart, reside the most beautiful feelings and characteristics of mankind. It is the centre of love, forgiveness, satisfaction, contentment, chastity, altruism, piety, courage, charm and elegance...
And, in this heart, resides the power to control destructive feelings of lust, anger, avarice, hatred, envy, and selfishness... In it, resides the power of self-control, of patience, perseverance and forbearance.
Muslim scholars identified what they called at-tahliyah ba`da al-takhliyah , or "beautification after purification". In our journey towards a balanced heart, we need first to get rid of all bad characteristics, habits and behaviors, before attempting to beautify our heart with good habits and traits. You cannot fill an already overflowing cup. You have to empty it first for it to receive purity afresh.
This month is the perfect time to purify our hearts. Time to forgive; time to imbue our hearts with love, care, peace, and compassion. Let's take a heart purification challenge. For the next ten days, we will be aware of all our thoughts and actions. Any time we catch our thoughts drifting towards a hating, envying, or unforgiving pattern, any time we notice a prejudgment or a spark of anger, let us pause, close our eyes for a moment and refill our heart with love, immerse it in purity and peace; and wash it with piety and faith. Every time you catch yourself dwelling on a toxic heart pattern for more than a minute, you will have to start over the 10 days from scratch. Let's take the intention that by the end of this holy month, we will have a pure, loving, whole heart ready for beautification with the best characteristics of mankind.
In our daily life, we strive to work, play, eat, drink, learn, read, have fun... we feed our bodies, sometimes our mind and even our psyche and emotions, but most often, we neglect the needs of our soul whose only food comes from its connection with its One and Only Creator, with Allah SWT. Ramadan is the perfect opportunity for soul regeneration, for Renewing our intention and reconsidering our life mission and meanings. This month, every time you pray, supplicate or read your Qur'an, remind yourself to live in the moment. Truly feel this sacred connection, let it touch your heart and revive your soul. Let's recite our Divine remembrances with full and whole awareness. Let's ponder on the words of our holy book and reflect on the needs of our desperate spirit. Let's detoxify our spiritual life and refuel and recharge for a whole year to come.