"These are, O my God, the days whereon Thou didst enjoin Thy servants to observe the Fast...Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue..."
Every year, right before the beginning of the Spring (21 March), Baha'is throughout the world observe a 19-day religiously ordained Fast which requires abstinence from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. These 19 days (2-20 March), for me are a period of reflection and renewal of my commitment to serving my Lord and putting my affairs back in order.
Yeah, every year it seems things get out of hand. Thanksgiving and excess eating during the traditional holidays are sometimes the culprit. New pounds are put on and need to be shed. In comes the Fast to help out.
As the season change, it is a good time to detoxify the body, to cleanse it, to give the digestive tract a much needed rest. And in comes the Fast to help out.
And maybe I've gotten so busy in the previous year that I have inadvertently squeezed daily prayer right out of the equation, and my life is no longer balanced in the way that it ought to be. In comes the Fast to get me back on track and provide the spiritual revival that will take me though another year.
Yes the Fast is a requirement in my Faith. And so it has become a yearly ritual with me for the past 19 years -- a ritual that keeps me in harmony, balanced and focused on the things that might otherwise be neglected.
Some fasts are difficult to endure, but I find that when I perform the Fast during the time period right before Spring, there appears to be extra divine assistance to help me through. Perhaps that is because I start to focus on the divine and the countless blessings the Creator bestows. Whether this is a placebo effect or not, I don't know...but the blessings do seem to flow.
The Holy Writings state:
"As regards fasting, it constitutes, together with... prayers, the twin pillars that sustain the revealed law of God. They act as stimulants to the soul, revive and purify it, and thus ensure its steady development."
And what else does it do for the individual?
"Fasting is the cause of the elevation of one's spiritual station."--'Abdu'l-Bahá
There are many writings about the purpose of the Fast. One of my favorites is that it preserves one from severe test in the upcoming year. And I don't know about you, but this is something I can sink my teeth into ... cause my life is test-y enough as it is.
Have you ever thought about Fasting as a yearly ritual before Spring? There are so many things that it does to balance your life, your spirit and your being, and that is in addition to the purely physical benefits your body derives from it.
When you focus on the things of the spirit which is what I generally do while Fasting, you find that the absence of food and water from sunrise to sunset is nothing when compared with all the blessings and bounties that come from being obedient to this religious commandment issued forth from the realm on High.
"We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have de-signated for you Naw-Ruz (Baha'i New Year) as a feast. . . . The traveler, the ailing, those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the Fast; ... Abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sundown, and beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book."
This year I plan to reread Gleaning from the Writings of Baha'u'llah during the Fasting period; this was one of the first books I read prior to joing the Baha'i Faith almost two decades ago.
If you do decide to participate in the Fast and are new to it, I offer this one small gem of advice that may be helpful for the purely physical part of fasting.
That is: always break the fast each night with a cup of something hot. My preference is herbal tea, but it could be a cup of hot water or hot water with freshly squeezed lemon juice added to it. The hot water actually causes the stomach to expand after it has shrunk from going without food for long hours. It kind of readies the body to accept the food and not suffer the shock that it might otherwise alert you to.
Here are a few resources to help get you in the spirit of fasting:
- 12 Health Benefits of Fasting
- The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting (Extracts from the compilation)
- Fast Call for Bread and Tea (a poem on fasting written by a friend)
Whether you decide to try fasting for one day or many days anytime during the period from 2-20 March, know that millions of people from around the globe are doing the same thing. You are not alone.
Of course if you are sick or nursing or are a female in her menses, you are not bound by the Fast, and probably should not be fasting. While this is a spiritual law, part of the law offers exemptions for certain categories of people. And it goes without saying that you should consult with your health care provider prior to beginning any new regimen with your diet.
I love fasting because fasting "loves" me back! Get your healthy serving of this benefit in the upcoming days.
Note: Due to formatting difficulties, you can take a look at the complete resource list for this post here: