05 March 2010

Fasting Reflections

*I wrote this a couple of years ago while fasting.

Baha'i's fast for 19 days out of the year, which for us means that we don't take in food or drink from sunrise to sunset. We consider it one of the pillars of our faith, a time of reflection, detachment, and rejuvenation.

Fasting is always an interesting time for me. My whole world is turned around.

There are the day to day practical changes. I stop exercising. during the day I need to maintain some hydration, while at night, after I have eaten and digested, it is already too late and I am tired. I am less social; there is less available energy to engage people in certain conversations that I am ambivalent about. I avoid going to lunch or coffee with friends, which is usually the most social part of the day. There is also more time to work because I am not excusing myself for coffee and snacks, yet I probably get less work done. My attention span gets shot starting at about 2pm.

Then there are the spiritual things. We are told that every hour of this time is imbued with a special spiritual potency and potential, which is why the time I waste and misdirect feels so tragic. There are less things to distract me from my core being, and more things to remind me of it. The day is not broken up in the same manageable chunks before and after meals; instead it is a long and drawn out marathon all day, and then all day again, for 19 days. I lose the strength to manage and marginalize in my mind the personal and moral issues that I am facing. Food is no longer a viable way to forget and distract.

In other words, it is a direct confrontation and struggle. There are only two ways for me to respond to this. Either prayer is used to accept, engage, and transcend these issues, or I get resentful and crabby. There have been many times during the Fast where I have eaten just to comfort a whiny heart, and to spite any injunction that it not be pampered. There is no middle ground. Most of the time I live my life in this middle ground, a comfortable place that neither rejects nor fully accepts spiritual consciousness. Pink Floyd coined it as being "comfortably numb".

While fasting, there is potential to grow and evolve, or to sink into the dark depths of ourselves. It is really the only choice we have at anytime, it just becomes especially salient during these 19 days...and probably when we die.