This is the first time in 10 years that I've been fasting. I made the decision in July 2004 to pursue Amma-related Hindu practices as my main practice and, even though I had wavered in that decision by returning to salat briefly in 2010-11, and then returning to the Hindu practices once again, and then noticing that my practices were trailing off altogether, I made the decision to resume salat this past January, starting with maghrib, and I haven't turned back since. In fact, the Amma programs took place in New York and Boston this month, but I didn't attend any of them. I have effectively walked away from that experience.
It may seem like somewhat of an odd thought to have, but at some point this past January I thought what a shame it was that, so long as I continued to practice Hinduism (or continued to waver), I probably wouldn't find the time to read some of the Islamic books I had, including completing reading ones I had had for some time as well as reading some of the ones I had acquired during my in-between phase in 2010-11.
Then again, maybe that's not such an odd thought. I tried to force the issue of spiritual community for a number of years, spurred on in part by things I had read that were written by spiritual teachers (including Lex Hixon). Realistically, in my experience, in order to participate effectively in spiritual groups it is necessary to live in or near a relatively large city, and/or to have enough disposable time and income to spend on a regular basis. Not that it's necessary to give a lot in donations or fees, but it helps to have enough money to travel to events without having to worry about it.
I've decided to relax about that as much as I can. It's enough for me now to read and to pray and to make use of resources on the internet (including Shaykha's sohbets, etc.).
As I've written before, I'm perfectly capable of becoming elevated by spiritual reading and practices. On the other hand, when I feel inclined to view politically-oriented documentaries or feature films, or to read political or philosophical literature that has a bit of toughness to it, I choose to give some scope to that. I think that's another reason why it's good for me to keep my options open and my schedule as flexible as possible. Recently, after seeing the Dirty Wars film, I returned to reading my ebook version of Jeremy Scahill's book. Along similar lines, I spent some time today looking at documentaries online about the former Yugoslavia. I find that, in my reading about Islam in contemporary social contexts, I like to go back and forth between perspectives from before and after 9/11.
With the recent (and ongoing) examination of ethical failures in my department, I've begun to consider that some of the uneasiness I have felt in the department may have been a result of secrets and festering issues, and not primarily a reflection of fundamental inadequacy within myself that I could somehow (and so far in vain) hope to "cure" with what British psychologist David Smail terms "magical voluntarism." Similarly, with each cultural setback and political disappointment, I have to acknowledge that it really is a burden to live in the post-9/11 U.S.
My computer's doing automatic backup, so I'll sign off before it shuts down automatically.