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How Fasting Has Helped Me Align My Spirit & My Goals

Inspiration

There have been times in my life where I've been in a fog. My thoughts are bouncing around my brain like ping pong balls, and I can't seem to catch up. My spirit is low. My sleeping patterns are terrible. I am not inspired, and my mind looks like a desk full of papers without a filing system. Just chaos.


As soon as these chaotic feelings arise I know I need to realign myself with my purpose and goals.

I usually fast for one day out of the year to redirect my spirit. It is a time where I strip away my social media accounts, any physical activity, and food. I don't consume anything but water for 24 hours. Although I am not Muslim, I decided to do my annual 24-hour fast around Ramadan this year. There is something powerful about joining millions of people around the world in recommitment, prayer, and overall mental wellness.

Fasting is a common practice in many religions that helps increase your gratitude for basic luxuries, increase your self-discipline, and can help you recommit your spirit to a Higher Power. This year, I focused on these three areas while trying to realign my goals and set a reminder for my self-worth and purpose.

Gratitude

Although you would think the people who appear to have it all are grateful for what they have, we all know that it is in our nature to want more. There is nothing wrong with striving to be the best at your craft or wanting to have the best things, but I have to say, Instagram often makes us forget what we have, how hard we've worked, and how amazing our relationships are.

For example, I have no desire to get married. I saw this girl get engaged on Instagram and all of a sudden, my insecurities skyrocketed. Why? My gratitude levels weren't allowing me to see the things in my life that I do have and suddenly, I felt like I needed something that I didn't even want.

Fasting has allowed me to be grateful for the things right in front of me. It has allowed me to experience what it is like to be without for 24 hours. That within itself is something to be grateful for. I can eat again in 24 hours. There are thousands of families that are starving who do not have that option.

Fasting has helped me cleanse my mind and soul from everyday gripe and grumble.

Gratitude should live in everything we do. When I consider the water crisis in Flint, I'm grateful for clean running water. When I become troubled by the thousands of children waiting in foster care, I'm grateful for a mother who is alive and well. When I reflect on having the option to eat or not eat, I'm simply grateful.

Self-Discipline

Throughout my 24-hour fast, I have to continuously remind myself not to eat. Eating, like other desires, is instinctual. Meaning, we do it frivolously because it's there, it's always going to be there, we assume. We eat without thinking twice.

The act of fasting whether you choose to leave food or any other desire behind involves suppressing your cravings. Suppressing your desires promotes self-control and most importantly self-discipline. If you can handle not eating for a day, you can increase your likelihood to say "no" in any other situation. You put the decision-making process back in your control. When you have to say "no" to something that you're used to doing, you will be more inclined to stop and think about everyday decisions you make.

Devotion

My favorite part of the fast is recommitting myself, spiritually. I have practiced and followed Christian doctrine for most of my life, but I find that recommitment can work in any religion or faith. I usually take these 24 hours to pray. I pray for the things I want, the places I want to go, and the people I want in my circle. I also pray to control my appetite and any intense feelings of desire. I commit to mindfulness, being kind, and I commit to choosing love first, no matter what the situation may be.

One of the reasons why I delete all of my social media apps from my phone before my fast is to remove negative opinions that actively work against what I am trying to accomplish. I stay away from dark television shows, excessive profanity, and any temptation. I get the most out of my fast from my 24-hour devotion.

It is the most impactful way to realign yourself with your purpose.

There are many benefits to making spiritual sacrifices. After my fast, I found myself more focused, dedicated, and committed to my purpose. By relinquishing one or more of your everyday needs for 24 hours, you begin to view life through a different lens. Hopefully, that lens helps to see you through your purpose and change the way you interact with people on a daily basis.

Disclaimer: While I would encourage anyone to take on the challenge, I do not recommend a no food fast for people who are ill or traveling. It is important to pay attention to your body. The fast is generally going to test your limits, but it is important not to do anything that will put your health and well-being at risk.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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