These past two weeks of Ramadan, I have finally started to meditate regularly for the first time in my life. Nothing too major, just 10 minutes every single morning immediately after waking up. I think I used to have this bizarre fallacy that as soon as I started meditating, I would achieve immediate enlightenment, feel full to the brim with glowing pulsing light and float through the rest of the day like a shimmery goddess on a cloud.
That is not exactly what happened.
There is a reason that meditation is called a practice. It takes slow, steady work. It takes coming back to yourself over and over, even when your mind is feeling lazy and you just want to dive into your to-do list of the day. I have found, in my short 12 days of practice so far, that it is not easy and it does not lead to any sudden revelations all at once, but it does start to sharpen the awareness of your edges. Little by little, small yet significant changes emerge from the softened, breathy space.
There is also a reason it is commonly said I am practicing Ramadan. Much like dance, like cooking, writing, calligraphy, playing an instrument, if you want to see any kind of real progress, it is going to take steady practice. In the beginning, I questioned why Ramadan lasts a full 30 days. Isn’t one week of fasting, one day for that matter, already intense enough? The truth is, by making anything a regular habit, deeper and more engrained results will rise to the surface. As I have talked about a bit here, this month has helped me with slowing down and rearranging time, deepening an awareness of food patterns and how much of a downright blessing it is to eat, and the importance of breath. I don’t think any of these thoughts could have been fully realized if I had just been fasting for a day or two. It takes consistency.
I have always gone into Ramadan each year with the false promise to myself that it is going to bring profound spiritual enlightenment. While I suppose it’s not completely false, similar in meditation, that feeling of connectivity and fullness doesn’t come swooping down from thin air as a prize for starting to fast. Instead, little ideas, beliefs and moments of awakening are softly teased out of the shadows where they already existed, but were simply hiding.
It is also important to remember that whatever you learn from meditation, from fasting, from whatever spiritual practice you have for yourself, it is never the be-all-end-all wisdom of life. In any way we can, we keep practicing. Even after these last days of Ramadan come to a close, I plan on continuing this meditation practice that I have started during the month, bringing it with me as a reminder that it takes work if you want to go anywhere on this kind of trek of faith.
To wrap up this special month, I wanted to share some of the major beliefs that have arisen and been clarified for me this past month. They differ for everyone, and that’s the beauty of it, but here are my little realizations:
-I believe that the natural world is our biggest link to our spiritual selves and that if you ever find yourself lost, nature is the perfect place to start searching for something larger to awe and comfort you. It was Whitman who wrote, “Logic and sermons never convince, The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.” When I think about those moments when I have felt the most connected and convinced that there is something larger to look for, it is when I am face to face with a tumultuous ocean, standing underneath a bed of stars, or softly stepping through murmuring woods. Go outside and listen.
-I believe that if you strip away culture, tradition and systems, most religions have a similar sort of glowing orb at their core. The belief in the one-ness of this universal spirit, the belief in people as having the capacity to harness this knowledge and energy (prophets, poets, religious figures, artists), and the belief in moral good.
-Spiritual life is something deeply personal, and yet can connect us to each other if we choose to stay compassionate and curious.
-I believe in this statement that could not be more beautifully expressed than in Krista Tippet’s inspiring book, Becoming Wise:
“If God is the ‘mind behind the universe,’ God honors our minds. If God is the ‘ground of being,’ God blessed our wholeness… He/she desires us, needs us, grateful and attentive and courageous in the everyday.”
-I have realized that I like to collect images and thoughts from other wise beings, ruminating on them and fitting them into my own puzzle picture of beliefs. One of my favorites as of late is from the always-enlightening Mary Oliver in her recent book of essays, Upstream. As a dancer, I am in love with this image of spirituality:
“I don’t know what to call it. Maybe hope. Maybe faith, but not a shaped faith— only, say, a gesture, or a continuum of gestures.”
A continuum of gestures. We are always moving, we are always evolving and learning and growing and interacting. Nothing stands still in a static shape. We have to meet spirituality and ourselves where they are- in fluid, shape-shifting, glowing motion- and keep developing our practice. This is where I am- finishing Ramadan and only at the beginning of a complex and beautiful path.
Where are you?
In other news, I just wanted to briefly announce where I will be very soon this summer. I have some exciting things just around the corner and I wanted to finally share a little bit about what they are. First of all, this Sunday I am heading back to France- this time to a château just outside of Tours- to be a choreographer for the Dansez Maintenant Festival. I will be spending a bit over a week there, creating a new piece of work in a limited time frame to be presented in a final performance featuring other creators and guest choreographers. I honestly could not be more thrilled about the prospect of this experience, so get ready to come along with me for this one in the next coming weeks!
The second thing is that just after the festival wraps up, I will then be flying back to my hometown to begin another exciting new practice- my 200-hour yoga teacher certification. I will be diving head first into a summer month-long intensive through Devanadi Yoga in Minneapolis in order to deepen my knowledge of yoga and the body and I cannot wait to see what comes to surface as a result.
So, two huge things on the horizon, beginning with a bang next week. I will try to keep writing as regularly as possible, but perhaps I am going to have to allow some space for shorter, more concise thoughts, less recipes (for the next week or two anyway), and less of a schedule. Bear with me, and come along for the ride.