Friday, March 22, 2013

The Fast Ends

I managed to take part in the last week of The Fast. For several days before that I had been only consuming fluids during daylight hours as my airway wasn't quite back to normal. I thought it would be a challenge to get back to it after missing so much but I found that going without food did not produce much suffering.

I had been wondering if there was some unpleasant wisdom in becoming so ill during The Fast and I think returning to the normal patterns of life is answering that question. What I noticed over the past week is that going without food and drink is something I've hardly noticed but all of my attention has immediately been drawn back into the bare necessities of life. It is such an effort to get through the day that that's all I can think about. The long hours that my business requires and the mental responsibilities of keeping everything organized leave little time to focus on spiritual growth or devotion.

There is a real tug of war that I feel about that when thinking about it from a Baha'i point of view. On the one hand our laws make it clear that a significant portion of our lives should be spent in communion with God and service to the Faith, but on the other hand we are urged to excel in our occupations and consider work as worship. Then there is the practical element of simply needing to work long and hard to make sure we have a business that functions. But then, of course, how does one find the strength to expend so much energy if the spirit is not nourished?

There is irony in the absence of fasting being what inspires the reflection that is supposed to come with The Fast. However those 19 days are over now and with the Naw Ruz celebrations of the last couple of days we move onto a new season. We were excited to be able to join our community to celebrate the holiday as we all broke our fast for the last time this year together. We also took March 21st off and closed the business for some much valued family time. My hope it that in the year to come I will be able to maintain the spirit of reflection that has come with this year's Fast.
Friends enjoying food together at our community Naw Ruz  celebration.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fast In A Day

Last year a small production company called Media Makes Us decided to make a short film to capture the feelings and emotions that surround the Baha'i Fast. Their method was unique in that they put out a call for Baha'is around the world to shoot and submit footage, crowd sourcing the film making process. I was lucky enough to have the clip I send in included. It was our first year fasting as a married couple and the story I tell is about our first day fasting together. As you hear in the film we kind of botched it.

Fast in a Day from Media Makes Us on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Reflections on Being Deprived of The Fast

We are right in the middle of the Baha'i fast. This is the time every year when Baha'is between the ages of 15 and 70 abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Our breakfast
Everyone who's healthy, that is.

Baha'u'llah, in His infinite wisdom, did not require those suffering from illness to fast, nor did He require women to fast if they are pregnant, nursing or menstruating. This time last year I remember joking with my husband that it would be the last year I'd be fasting with him for quite some time since we were having thoughts about starting a family. His response was to joke that he would hold off getting me pregnant just so I'd have to join him for another year. As the months went by and this year's fast started to approach, the joke no longer seemed funny. Ayyam-i-Ha came and went with no sign of conception and I realized it was my husband's prediction that had inadvertently come true instead of mine.

I normally look forward to fasting. It was something I couldn't imagine as a child but as an adult discovered it was not nearly as difficult as I'd thought. I enjoy the discipline and the challenge of it. I also find that when fasting is shared with other Baha'is there is a bond and camaraderie that is formed. That was something I discovered while spending time with Baha'i youth on my year of service, then experienced with my father after returning to Canada and experienced again with my husband over the last few of years. The prospect of fasting would normally be welcome but this time I felt like I was getting a harsh reminder of how quickly time had gone by and how badly we were failing. I felt strong disappointment.

Then we started fasting. We lasted through the first day but by sunset I was starting to cough and sniff. I knew that night I wouldn't be able to fast the next day but wasn't sure if I could manage a partial fast with just liquids or if I'd need to give the whole thing up. I find it's worse when you have to break it off after starting then resume it again later. Things go more smoothly when you can just plough through for all 19 days. As it turned out I think I was too miserable to take anything but liquids anyway. I also had to work as we were running a display at a convention that weekend.

It was less than ideal but I figured it was a bump in the road that would be over in a few days. It wasn't. I mean, I'm sure in the bigger picture it is but here I am on day 11 of 19 and I can barely get out of bed. It seems that this is the time my body has chosen to send the clear and firm message that I have abused it too hard. I have been working too many 12 hour days and only taking time off for illness. It was only a few weeks ago that I was sick before this and there were a series of migraines in between. I was already worn down and now what should be a short cold has completely knocked me down and will not let me up.

This seems to be the worst of both worlds. I am neither pregnant nor fasting. Even though there are likely practical reasons for both (perhaps they are even connected) I am starting to feel like I'm being called to examine my spiritual health. It seems a rather strong coincidence to become so sick at exactly the time of year when we are supposed to turn our attention to God. There is some irony at finding myself being forced to focus on the spirit by being deprived of the fast that is supposed to be the focal point for the rest of the world but it is unlikely I would have paused for reflection otherwise. I don't quite know what I should do other than lay here and recite prayers. There is little other choice though so that's as good a place to start as any.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I'm reviving this again.

I have very little time for writing these days but at the moment I am flat in bed sick. I suspect it will not be read much - in fact I hope it isn't read much - but down the road my family may very well enjoy having a blog maintained. I am at the stage of life of trying to start a family and when that finally happens this seems a good way to keep relatives and friends up to date instead of - or in addition to - bombarding facebook. Even though the stage we are at is essentially a private one I think it might be wise to collect a few of the thoughts from my pre-parent days to look back on later. Very few people know at this stage how much of an effort we are putting into becoming parents. At the moment we have no desire to enlighten them but it may  help to provide perspective later on.

There is another aspect to picking this up again. This started as a travel blog during my Baha'i year of service. That was a challenging time but it was also the time when I was the most steadfastly rooted in the Faith. I found strength during that time that has seemed to fade and I think my attention needs to turn back in that direction. Serving full time offers the chance to be fully devoted to God but we need to be able to maintain devotion through everyday life and I fear I am not doing so well at that.