Perhaps the oddest-sounding temptation remedy comes from Baumeister, the Florida psychology professor. He claims that any kind of self-discipline-holding your breath, fasting, writing like a southpaw if you’re right handed-can strengthen will power.
Don’t laugh…It’s really just a modern spin on ancient wisdom. ‘The old spiritual masters understood that if you’re good at fasting, you’re probably good at overcoming other desires. The human will works very much like a muscle…If you train yourself not to do something in one arena, it spills over.’
That’s the theory behind Ramadan. During the month-long observance, Muslims practice a daily fast from food and sex, believing it will hot-wire their ability to resist temptation the rest of the year.
Roy Rivenburg, Surfing the urge, The Sunday Independent, April 18 2004
In the kitchen for the first time this Ramadan, not as patron but presiding as chef of the post-Taraweeh pâtisserie. My worthy subjects, after much deliberation, requested strawberry mousse. I scurry around fetching and carrying fresh cream, strawberries, eggs, white chocolate and cantankerous gelatine. Forty, perfect, individually set strawberry mousse my objective. My maitre d’, affectionately known as Mum, has lofty standards. With the cream whipped, and chocolate chopped and patiently awaiting its passage to melted oblivion, I haul out the blender. The dual blades worked perfectly in sync to crush the strawberries to a blood-like pulp. Using my fingers as a spatula, I trailed the rim of the blender, lifting the last of the stubborn fruit, and gifting it to the pair of hungry blades. As the blades chomped anew at my bounteous gift, I looked at my strawberry stained hands and wondered whether the fruit was sweet enough. Would I need to add extra sugar? Like an automaton, I lifted my fingers to my lips, licking at the strawberry residue. Something was amiss, I just couldn’t understand what. The strawberries now a confirmed pulp, I use a real spatula this time to eke out the last of the hidden bits. The taste hovered on my tongue. Something about it wasn’t right. The pulp deposited into the awaiting vessel, I touch my fingers to the spatula. Another taste. It’s sweet enough. Well, as sweet as strawberries can be but still something wasn’t right. Another taste. Then a yelp of realisation. Of course something was wrong, I was fasting.
Rinsing my mouth of any trace of the strawberries, I was struck by how mechanistically I had reacted to the strawberries. Self-gratification-indiscipline with regard to sensuous pleasures. How often do I react to food like that ordinarily?
Ramadan tempers the beastly instinct. In consciously eschewing nourishment, it is to humanity we aspire.
‘Our Lord do not take us to task if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not place such a burden on us as You placed on those before us. Our Lord, burden us not with that which we have not the strength to bear. Pardon us, grant us forgiveness and have mercy on us. You are our Protector so help us to victory.’ Ameen!