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Fasting, Baha’i-Style

Today is the 6th day of the Baha’i 19-day Fast. From March 2nd to March 20th, adult Baha’is who don’t have significant physical impediments or specific exceptions to do so, refrain from eating or drinking while the sun is up. For medical reasons, I drink water during the Fast, but even with that, it can be challenging for me. Today, for example, I am feeling cold, a little achy, and strongly pulled towards taking a nap. While in the midst of a free-writing exercise this morning, I found myself drifting off into dream-thoughts seemingly unrelated to what I was writing.

This used to happen to me often when I had afternoon classes in high school and college. I remember stints of falling asleep in an after-lunch history class. I would be dutifully taking notes, struggling to stay conscious. When my head would jerk up after a temporary sleep-slouch, I would look down at my notes to see that they either had nothing to do with the history being spoken of by my teacher and/or my written words had gradually become smaller and messier, trailing down off the notebook line they had started on.

Recently I have been reading about Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the founder of the Baha’i Faith, and this morning I was writing about Abdu’l-Baha’s travels in Egypt, Europe, and North America around 1912. He was nearing 70 years old at the time, and the trip was very hard on him, physically. I was just remembering a picture I have seen of Abdu’l-Baha in his aba (a kind of robe-like garment common in Persian culture), and suddenly I was in that same brick-wall-bordered courtyard, dancing in a white robe singing, “I am Mae.” Then just as suddenly, I was awake and thinking, “What was that about?”

When I have had paying jobs during the Fast, I have struggled at times to stay awake. But now that I don’t have an employer, no specific daily tasks that I can’t bypass without consequence, the struggle is even more difficult. Why not give in and let my body snuggle under some covers and submit to somnolescence?

Not everybody struggles with fasting the way I do. I’ve seen people who seem to have high energy and joyfulness even after they have not imbibed food or water for almost 12 hours. In fact, I know many people who have fasted beyond the point of sunset because eating right at sunset didn’t work for their schedule. That’s not me, though. Especially not today.