Want to simplify your life? These Ramadan lessons offer practical tips for everyone, Muslims, people of other faiths and no faith.

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is special to Muslims as a holy period dedicated to fasting, self-purification, and spiritual attainment.

Whether you’re Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or just a spiritual seeker, you can probably appreciate the goals of Ramadan: a whole-body awareness of God and a humble thankfulness for whatever blessings He has granted.

Achieving those goals is a challenge for anyone. But after 20 years of fasting, I’ve learned some valuable lessons to simplify and spiritualize the Ramadan experience and how to keep that special feeling alive throughout the year, lessons that can help anyone make their life a little more spiritual and uncomplicated.

So check out these tips, whether you’re a Muslim who’s been fasting for years, or just someone looking for more depth in your spiritual life.

3. Share Meals Together as a Family
6. Realize That Faith and Worldly Life Go Hand-in-Hand

For all: Finding and maintaining a balance between spiritual pursuits and life practices is always a good idea. Resolving to remember God more or to be spiritual in other ways can be a soulful way to center ourselves. But I’ve found that only trained holy persons or gurus can be spiritual or religious-minded 100 percent of the time. The rest of us should make time for worldly and spiritual practices.

For Muslims: During Ramadan some Muslims indulge in spiritual extremes, they may try to shutdown all “worldly” aspects of life, like watching TV or playing with kids, and replace it with all spiritually related activities. But man cannot exist on prayer alone. Yes, Ramadan is the month when Muslims are told that God stops the devil from harassing us, and our prayers are more powerful. But though we must ramp up our spiritual practices, we need to keep up our everyday routines.

 

7. Don’t Wait for Ramadan to Get More Spiritual

For all: If you want to become more spiritual, pray more, practice your religion more closely, or read religious scripture more, working up to it will help you attain your goal and maintain it in the long run. Starting any new practice (or giving something up in small increments) will help you gain a taste for it and work it into your regular routine. Going full blast or cold turkey is rarely the best way.

For Muslims: Imam Zaid Shakir has a popular video about preparing for Ramadan as if you’re training for a big race. You can’t just stand at the starting line and then all of a sudden run the spiritual race. Start by fasting on Mondays and Thursdays in Shaban (the month preceding Ramadan) as prescribed by hadith (verified sayings of Prophet Muhammad). Want to read the entire Qur’an in Ramadan? Then before Ramadan, put aside 15 minutes each day to read the Qur’an.

8. Avoid a Spiritual Letdown

For all: At some point, you’re probably going to work towards a big goal. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds. Maybe you’re going to kick smoking. So you’ll go all-out to achieve that goal. But once it’s done, avoid the letdown. It’s so easy to go back to old habits once a goal is accomplished. Instead, focus on small ways to maintain that momentum. Making life-altering changes is great. But it’s how we manage small, daily changes that make the real, long-term difference.

For Muslims: One of the biggest Ramadan problems is what happens immediately afterward. Muslims are consumed with fasting and prayer. Then Ramadan ends and we resume the mantle of our everyday flawed lives. What we should be doing is keeping some of our good Ramadan habits throughout the year.

So be sure to engage in a cool-down period afterward with an eye toward maintaining some of your Ramadan practices. Try fasting one day a week. Resolve to keep up a charitable practice. Read the Qur’an for five minutes daily. A little bit goes a long way.

(Adapted from ‘How to Make Your Life More Spiritual’ by Dilshad D Ali, Beliefnet).