Ramadan Reflections 2013: Making Peace

coffeebean heart

I fell asleep dear readers, and couldn’t seem to rouse myself before my body felt a bit rested!

The cat is purring like crazy and circling me like he missed me at 7:30 am.  I think even he was surprised not to see me in the wee hours.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a friend’s grandmother. They had a complicated relationship. Of her grandmother my friend said “She broke my heart. But before she broke it, she taught me about love.”Hearing that got me thinking about what it means to make peace with family members who break our hearts. One of my spiritual teachers speaks on honoring parents, in particular, through acknowledging that, whatever their shortcomings in our minds, they are the vessels through which Allah brought us to this earth. That fact is always true and always cause for gratitude. Even if our parents, grandparents, etc. also break our hearts, the peace of our spirits rests in holding both the heartbreak and the honor in ourselves. This is how I’ve come to understand making peace with ancestors. I believe there can be a really attractive pull to stay only in the heartbreak, whatever that is for us. What I’ve learned is that making peace leaves me feeling lighter and more present. I still have a couple of ancestors to make peace with and inshallah and by Allah’s grace, my heart will expand through the process.

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 20): Endurance of Spirit

Salaams all,
I have to first say that it’s been hard maintaining the blog on my end this Ramadan. I can’t exactly pin-point what entirely it is… The last couple of days I have been out and about celebrating Rosie’s birthdate with her (yay!) which has thrown off my at-home schedule a bit; my sleep has also been wonky. I’m normally the #1 sleeper (I can knock out anywhere and anytime) but ever since I returned from SF, I’ve been getting to bed no earlier than 1am – bananas!

And more than all these excuses, I’ve been feeling uninspired? I feel sacrilegious saying such a thing and I ask God to forgive me for it. This time, this month does feel significantly different – no doubt! I think most/many parts of me are/is trying to peg the major lessons and take-always still… I/we are ever evolving in our endurance of will and spirit.

In the last couple of days I’ve been struggling with interactions with a co-worker that have left me unsettled. The unsettled feelings leave me asking people around me “what the fuck?” I don’t like cursing but I’m being honest – literally, our last interaction with her blinking coldly in my face to my chipper and enthusiastic “hello ______” tested something deep inside me.

Sadly (on my end), in that moment, I turned to a very dark place, and had I been fasting, I am most certain that I would have broken it with my gossip and anger. Feelings of dismissal trigger deep wounds within me…

The next day at work, I returned to my colleague who received me after our interaction and I said to her that the exchange and this person would be the focus of my next blog – and most certainly what she stirs in me needs to be the focus of this month (both spiritually and in therapy).

In such moments, I have a hard time grounding myself… I fail at asking myself, “what is meant here for me to learn?” or even, “why Wazina – why does this really matter?”

I turned to the Quran a bit and would like much more to explore hadiths to explore this more… Allah guides us to consider affection and kindness still to those who feel like opponents. This feels hard and easy at the same time. This feels like a daunting and exciting task actually… Something/everything challenging about what it would take to pass this seemingly big hurdle… But I believe that Allah offers each of us so much more endurance of spirit than we even know.

For now,
Waz

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 18): What wouldn’t you do for the Beloved?

leap of faith

Salaam beloveds,

It is said that part of what makes Ramadan so special is that fasting is the only act of devotion we do purely for Allah’s pleasure. All of our other acts of devotion–prayer, charity, etc.–are purely for the benefit of our own souls, whereas fasting we do for Allah. I think a lot about the lives of saints and sages, from varying spiritual paths, often. I imagine what their lives might have been like, people who placed love of God above all things worldly. If God said jump, they jumped, and often without asking why. They made/make leaps of faith constantly. Each day many didn’t/don’t know where their next meal will come from, relying entirely, nakedly on Allah. I live in a society that prizes a particular notion of stability, which includes steady job, house, a measure of predictability. That’s called success by many. Is that perspective antithetical to being ready, willing and able to respond to the call to leap, when Allah calls?

From the time I can remember, it has been my most fervent desire to live according to the path Allah has set for me, to do whatever Allah calls me to do, no matter what. I feel that sometimes means I make choices that appear strange or incomprehensible to others, but I know what is in my heart and so I am at peace with my leaps, such as I have understood them.

What is your experience with responding to Allah’s call? Is there anything you would not do for your Beloved?

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 16): Tired and grateful

heart balloons

Tonight I don’t feel much like writing. I am tired and want to read and rest. It is easy to think I “deserve” to do just that. I will rest, but I also want to post, as per our commitment, and be sure I am resting in gratitude today.

In no particular order, 20 things I am grateful for today:

  • I am grateful I am alive and in good health

  • I am grateful that I have clean clothes and food

  • I am grateful I can read and have full access to my mind

  • I am grateful for my mother

  • I am grateful for my beloved

  • I am grateful for breath

  • I am grateful for my friends

  • I am grateful for joy in my heart

  • I am grateful to have a conscious relationship with Allah

  • I am grateful to be safe tonight and for the safety (as far as I know) of loved ones

  • I am grateful for the peace in my heart

  • I am grateful for prayer

  • I am grateful I am a woman

  • I am grateful I am brown

  • I am grateful for the little garden full of near-ripe tomatoes out front

  • I am grateful for the bushy backyard

  • I am grateful for Jin Shin Jyutsu

  • I am grateful for all the activists and lovers of humanity working day in and day out

  • I am grateful for the possibility of forgiveness

  • I am grateful for my faith

 

And you dear reader, what are you grateful for?

ttg

Ramadan Reflections (day 15): Homesick

Today might feel like a mountain.

That’s how my mother described today’s fast after iftar when we spoke on the phone.

Coming down from my visits home feels like slipping down a slope,
clumsy and unsure footing.
My heart racing at the anticipation of footing the path wrong
and slipping faster than feels comfortable.

When I leave my parents home on a Sunday,
I leave in a huff because it’s the most frustrating moments of the entire weekend.
My mom stuffing my bags full of miscellaneous things:

garbage bags, toilet paper, tomato sauce, tuna, fashion magazines, coffee packets, creamer, honey packets, those ice packets that drip weird chemicals but are somehow safe to keep your food cold?

And in this process, I always leave something behind because my dad is always huffing about how I should get on the road if I’m leaving and in his own way, he defends me from my mother’s frantic hoarding.

In the distance is always a sibling or two, waiting at the door or by the car, loading bags of things into the car to make the bus back to NYC.

Things that frustrate us are never about the things or the bags of stuff filled with love or the bus or about things.
It’s about being sad that we will not be together or whole again for another couple of weeks until the next visit.

The frustration is about homesickness and the things we do leading up to saying good-bye are simply the things we do to distract ourselves. All of us. We have perfected the roles and I hate mine.

I absolutely hate my role in this all. I want to be an understudy to my life sometimes and watch the good-bye in rehearsals.

Especially on days like today when it feels like a mountain and I am homesick or like I’m coming off some drug.

Today might feel like a mountain because it’s the 15th day of Ramadan. A half-way point. 
So if this is the hardest day, the hump, then maybe it gets easier after today, right?

I don’t really know what part of missing them I want to get easier. I want it to hurt less, to worry less…

… I don’t ever want to feel like I’ll never see them again. I know I will, but I’ll never have that moment with them again. 

Over the weekend, we watched home videos from 20 years ago.
My sisters were itty bitty – in one, Sangi wasn’t even born! I can’t imagine a time without her and to watch moments captured without her existence was surreal.

I sort of half-argued (to myself) and whoever was around me that we shouldn’t watch the videos.
They make me so sad… and I think they make everyone else sad too… reminding us/them of our former lives, selves, shapes and bodies. The lives we led, the little we had and how much we made that little bit stretch and go to feel like an enormous amount of wealth: we were genuinely connected to one another.

In these videos, there’s little gaggles of us – cousins. Brown and giggly with teeth missing and some funky (not good funky) outfits with (my) belly showing at 8, 9, 10… It’s hard to watch us/me again. Not because I am embarrassed, but sad for what who we were and

where is she now?

Most of all, I get sad because looking back,
in memories,
so many things are wonderful seeming.
I know they weren’t
but nostalgia can make the past so beautiful.

And so, I look back at these memories
and then I feel where I am in the present:

it feels heavy and hard
and the present has frustrations and huff & puffs

and in the present, we want it to be different
to be better.

but the present will be in the past one day
and we will look back and think
wow, those days were just the best, weren’t they? I miss…

and I just want to somehow to know that the present is a wonderful memory,
even in it’s hardest moments… even when it feels like a mountain.

So, I assert: today is a wonderful.

your waz.

(to be added to a piece I’m working on)

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 14): Purge

Lightning flashes in the dark sky from time to time tonight, and the thunder sounds not long after. I am in the quiet of my home office. The fan whirs. It’s been a day of internally preparing to let go of a lot of material stuff–clothes, shoes, papers. I have clothes and shoes I haven’t worn in years and yet when I moved to Philly, I brought them. They only took up space as I continued not to wear them into the present moment. For me, Ramadan can be a time of shedding–shedding habits and ways of being that no longer serve. Ramadan invites me to be aware of my physical consumption of food and drink, but also my consumption of media, of conversation and interactions that are not nourishing. Recently, I find myself listening to music less. As an avid music fan from the time I was a kid, I rocked Lite FM  whenever I could (Mom knew that was the station we would be listening to on any car ride) until I was old enough to order my first cd’s through the “99 cents for the first 12” deals that were so popular when I was a teenager. I listened to live radio shows to discover artists new to me. Indigo Girls, Pearl Jam, Billie Holiday, Joan Osborne, Dave Matthews Band, David Gray, Zap Mama, Ani DiFranco, Blues Traveler, Sweet Honey in the Rock, were prevailing sounds of my high school years. I was a fiend for cd’s. I grew a hearty collection. I never liked music with lyrics that insulted or demeaned. I found such works hard to ignore for the sake of a beat. Now, I have a subscription to a music service and for some years, every Tuesday I was looked to see what new releases were available. I listened to a lot of music across all kinds of genres, read music blogs, listen to music podcasts. Now, sometimes I don’t check for weeks. You can imagine, no one could have told me there would come a day when my hunger for music was anything other than ravenous. But here it is. I find that sometimes I need a lot of silence in order to expand my inner landscape. Sometimes music, in the ways I  listen, support that expansion or water my inner gardens and sometimes it doesn’t. There is much that is musical in Sufi tradition. By no means do I mean to suggest, as some do, that all music is bad, forbidden, etc. No, for me I am noticing that the sounds that nourish me are shifting. I’m not eagerly rushing to the Blues Traveler album I used to wear out, for example. That being said, throw me in an African wedding any day and it’s on and popping, as they say. I will dance joyfully til I’m wore out.

What sounds/music nourishes you? Inshallah may today be full of nourishment at every level! Amin.

Well I didn’t mean this to be about my evolving relationship with music exactly. All this to say that it’s time to let go of items that served years ago. I am so grateful for the shirts my mom gave me when I interned at the UN. I needed good tops for that purpose. I don’t think I’ve worn them since 2005 or 2006. Why am I still holding on to them? Why am I still holding on to shoes I wore once or twice? Why am I holding on to papers I haven’t looked at in years? Would I miss them if they go? Some of the holding has been in the vein of “this is a nice blank. I can wear it [at some other time that’s not now].” And then I don’t. The possibility is the thing has had me hold on. Here’s the thing: I live now. I am only sure of now. Holding on for a possibility that’s not assured, and which will offer its own potential, doesn’t make as much sense to me as it once did. I view this purging of items as an opportunity to also clear some internal space, as fasting does.

When I’m tempted to hold on to something I haven’t actually used, remind me I said this: )

Is there anything in the material world you’re holding on to that you no longer need?

 

With love,

ttg

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 13): humanity

Hello hello all,

The weekend has come and gone and it feels a lot like how I’ve been feeling the last couple of days: present to the speed of human emotions and my humanity.

Even though I haven’t been fasting the last couple of days, I am present to:
– to my hunger and the nourishment of delicious prepared foods
– to my anger at crappy drivers and the frustration of a car tailgating behind me
– my sobriety and the buzz of debauchery
– the empty feeling of missing loved ones and the bursting fullness of my heart
– the sweltering heat of airless subway car and the goosebumps when it’s too cold

This ebb and flow – this give and take is what we are meant to understand during this time, no? And even if understanding is hard to come by, we feel the push and pull.

What I love most about Terna in every moment is that she is able to remind me that there is a purpose to everything. Something to learn, something to be reminded of (even though I may and always resist it)… that Allah has something I need to listen for.

I get scared of where I go internally sometimes – the far edge of self-hate, -doubt, -deprecation and overall sadness and even anger. I try my best to tap into joy, without it being connected to anything other than a pure and genuine place… but I think I will try my best to feel my beingness as Terna has challenged and to see what opens up.

 

Ramadan Reflections 2013 (day 12): Peace

Greetings beloveds,

Peace to your hearts! What an amazing experience I’ve been having at the Jin Shin Jyutsu workshop here in PA. JSJ is kind of like acupuncture without needles, but beyond technique it is a beautiful physio-philosophy which only deepens my appreciation for/of Allah’s creation. What creatures we are, human beings. We are not human doings, human strivings, human tryings, we are human BEINGS. Have you taken time to connect with/remember your BEINGNESS today? What have you discovered in the center of your being, in your heart?

I invite you to be inwardly still for a few minutes today and really notice what is inside you. There is hadith which says “to know yourself is to know your Lord”. May you remember this anew today.

I’ve been feeling a deep sense of peace for some months now, and each day I find it still present calls up some tears. It feels like a tremendous gift. I am clear that it is Allah’s grace and generosity, not my own acts, present in my heart, inshallah. I’ve noticed that it seems very much intertwined with resting in a sense of clarity about my purpose. What brings you a deep sense of peace?

ps. I went to the local masjid in the town I’m in for Taraweeh prayers tonight. The beautiful energy in this Ramadan pulled me from my hotel room. Whatever trepidation I feel about unknown masjids, once I get there and we are standing in prayer, all that falls away for a while and it is simply beautiful to be in praise with other beings. Alhamdulillah. #grateful (my first hashtag ever!!! are they supposed to lead somewhere on twitter? I have no idea…)

Try this at home!

Curious about JSJ? Give this a try to experience it for yourself: simply hold your fingers for a couple of minutes each. No need to squeeze tightly, just gently hold them when your hands are free–on public transit, watching something, or as a complement/aid to the stillness you’ll rest in a few minutes today: )

With love.

ttg