Sunday, 12 October 2008

Workshops at first Fast for the Planet Main Event

I thought I'd share the three workshops that will be held at the main Fast for the Planet event in a weeks time, Sun 19th Oct 2008 to be precise! All workshops will take place at the same time, so it's only possible to do one! I have to say it feels exciting to be a part of this project, and i'd like to thank all those who have been soooo supportive :) Please spread the word and hope you can make it!

Workshop 1: A very brief introduction to Permaculture

with Nicole Freris (Naturewise)

This much is becoming clear - the industrial growth society ain't working for us and the planet. The symptoms of distress are manifest and multiplying. With so much undoing, it can be difficult to know where and how to begin to find a way through into a more sane and gentle way of being. Permaculture is one way among many that helps us start to reconnect with self and the world. Evolving from an understanding of how natural systems function, it provides deep but very practical insights into how we can design truly sustainable systems, that provide for our needs and recreate our place on the earth. In this workshop, we will have a very brief introduction to some of the basics of Permaculture and look at the practical ways in which it can re-engage and re-connect us.

About the facilitator: Nicole Freris is a part of Naturewise, (, a network of people in London seeking to practice and promote Permaculture. In her spare time she is a GP and is currently studying medical herbalism.

Workshop 2: Debt-free Home Finance
with Tarek El Diwany (Author, 'The Problem with Interest')

How does a debt-free product work? What are the consequences of interest-based lending? What universal values are relevant to this issue?

About the facilitator: Tarek El Diwany worked as a city financier and later in the "Islamic banking" sector for many years. He is the author of the best-selling book, The Problem with Interest, and runs the website, ( Tarek is a partner at Zest Advisory LLP, a London-based firm providing consulting services in Islamic banking and finance.

Workshop 3: Sharing Stories & Poetry: 'New Perspectives Emerging as Story'
with Peter Challen (Christian Council for Monetary Justice).

Telling, hearing, sensing communicable accounts of how we have grown in vision and maturity.... when entering the open space of fasting. We can use such space to re-envision, reflect and commit. Using poetry, pithy quotations, catch phrases, mantras, pictures and other modes that you enjoy. Stories about: our development, the earth, mutual awareness [Ubunto = 'I am because you are'], public awareness, my/our vocation, auditing effects of our behaviour, serving the source of our being A trigger to story telling - "Beauty is in the second glance.... when you have dealt with the predjudice aroused by the first glance."
If participating in this workshop, you are welcome to bring a short piece to read (optional), that resonates with the Fast for the Planet concept, or you can simply listen to stories/poetry being read.

About the facilitator: Canon Peter Challen chairs the Christian Council for Monetary Justice and moderates the London Global Table on inclusive Monetary Justice. He was formerly Senior Chaplain of the ecumenical South London Industrial Mission (SLIM) for 29 years; He chaired the Southwark Credit Union Development Association and works with the LETSlink London group to find synergy between Credit Unions and Local Exchange Trading Systems.

More about the concept and the main event is is of course on our website

Sunday, 5 October 2008


Brought up as a Muslim in Egypt, fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan was a prescribed part of life from an early age. At first the perception of this practise was a sort of celebration. A celebration of solidarity, compassion and good will between people on various levels, which included the Muslim world at large, the nation, the society, right down to our community and family.

The ethos seemed to encompass a spiritually refined way of living, which manifested in outward displays of self-restraint, patience, kindness and generosity towards other people, a particular type of good behaviour or adab.

Later in life, the observance of this adab began to forge links with a deeper spiritual heritage. The extension of hospitality, the sharing of meals and other socially binding actions reflected inner opportunities to embody a remembrance of God within traditions shared through the generations.

This significantly transformed my attitude towards fasting, realising that although it was evidently possible for people to achieve a heightened mode of mindful existence, outside the context of Ramadan we tended to slip back into old habits. So it became clear that nurturing this remembrance of God was a key to an increasingly consistent adab towards life and our world.

The Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said, "Fast so that perchance your hearts may seek God in this world."

So it appeared that the essence of fasting was to move towards the illumination of the heart and purification of the soul, a way of leading the spirit closer to the presence of God. Perhaps this cultivating of spiritual nature would ultimately lead us to devote ourselves entirely to God. And what this actually meant for me was a sort of tuning in to our innermost sacredness and to the sanctity of all of Creation, each in our own way and in our own time.

By slowly being drawn towards this tuning one could begin to behave more responsibly and with increasing care for others and for this Earth, our home and refuge. Becoming more conscious of the bigger picture, the cause and effects of our thoughts, words and actions would take on new light. There seems to be no limit to how finely we chose to tune ourselves. Fasting seems to nurture the will to do so.

"O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God" Holy Qur’an (2:183) Asad

So, perhaps, whatever we chose to fast from, however and whenever we chose to do it, this non-action and detachment from the worldly realm and subsequent deepening into the Sacred, bestows us with inner gifts of peace, stillness and reflection, which in turn can transform us towards deeper levels of personal freedom, awareness and interconnectedness.

For me, this poem by Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi (R.A) beautifully encapsulates this essence of the fast.


There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears,
and new energy makes you run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you're full of food and drink,
Satan sits where your spirit should,
an ugly metal statue in place of the Kaaba.
When you fast,good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring.
Don't give it to some illusion and lose your power,but even if you have,
if you've lost all will and control,they come back when you fast,
like soldiers appearing out of the ground,
pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,Jesus' table.
Expect to see it, when you fast,
this table spread with other food,
better than the broth of cabbages