Recalling Our Destiny: The Importance of Community in Spiritual Practice

Today’s post is by Nic Cable, a senior at Depaul, who is pursuing a double major in Religious Studies and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies. He is serving his second year as an Interfaith Scholar at DePaul University and is the Director of the Better Together Campaign at this institution.

Life is often circular. Things come and go. The seasons rage and pass every year, as does the sun, which rises and sets each morning and night. Humans, too, can show patterns in their actions. It has been more than six month since I began fasting for the month of Ramadan in mid-august. The experience was phenomenal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My body, mind, and soul were reawakened to the purpose of sacrifice, thankfulness, and global family. Ramadan, as I soon learned, was about being conscious, aware of the unjust realities that surround us, as well as the beautiful gifts that are shared with us everyday. Conscious consumption is the most ethical consumption, not just of food, but of all we come across in our lives. Utility is a blessing and that which is used must be treated as such. While one stomach remains hungry, all humans remain hungry. These were some of the lessons I learned during my experience with Ramadan.

Unfortunately, the most common of our human patterns is forgetfulness. The month of Ramadan was unbelievable. The weeks following, I was on my game, remaining conscious and living thankfully. As time went, though, I began to fall into my old habits; I began to return to a culture of unconscious consumption. My portions grew in size, my thoughts before, during, and after a meal were rarely on being thankful for sustenance or on my fellow human beings who would go to bed that night with empty bellies. I didn’t notice, however; I was in community with others who were just like me: asleep.

This is common in not just fasting, but also all modes of life. I have found that religion and spirituality are keys to maintaining a practice of consistent consciousness and observance. Whichever tradition one comes from, the goal of consistency in aligning one’s values and actions is of great importance. In my faith tradition, similar to Islam, we have a very orthopraxic religion, meaning we do not merely belief in things and practice them occasionally, but attempt to live the values everyday with each action we commit.

When I slipped off the mark a month or so after Ramadan, I did so because I lost my focus. I found other things that I gave higher value to. Few noticed, including myself because my Ramadan fasting happened in relative isolation. I went to a few iftars and celebrations with some of my Muslim friends, but for the most part I broke my fast each night alone in my apartment. I liked it at times. I was sad other times. The beauty of community was something I missed. When participating in a universal practice such as Ramadan that over a billion others were doing at the same time is quite powerful. That global community pulled me through those times alone in my apartment. It is community that guides and supports us through both the difficult and exciting times in our lives. Most importantly, it is community that brought me back to the practice of being conscious.

Every year, when UMMA, along with MSAs around the country organize fast-a-thons, the community is once again restored and our chance to unite as a global family is once more before us, and thousands flock to be a part of such an experience. Why? A lack of community already? Maybe. An interest in issues of hunger? Perhaps. But, what really happens during these events is a spiritual and existential reawakening to the family we once were and the family we are destined to be once again. My eyes are open again thanks to this years fast-a-thon, but this time I am not alone; I am building a community of friends committed to working to better ourselves and our world at the same time. Next year, when Ramadan comes again, when the circle comes around once more, it will not be a familiar sight of disappointment; rather, it will be a new invitation to go deeper in my own spiritual relationship with the divine, recalling always the things I am thankful for and the people in this world waiting to receive the justice they so greatly deserve.

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