Friday, March 05, 2010

Fast Bloggin' Day 4

The law of the Fast is ordained for those who are sound and healthy; as to those who are ill or debilitated, this law hath never been nor is now applicable.
(Compilations, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

Today I faced a dilemma. To fast or not to fast. I could tell that I was coming down with something but I could not bring myself to eat or drink. I know this is not in the spirit of the Fast but I have always found it difficult to abstain from fasting just because I'm not feeling well. Even when I have caved in and quietly had a bit of food or water in private, the guilt is very real. I'm curious how others have dealt with this issue.

Mental tests continue, but overall I felt better today. I had moments where a true smile appeared on my face. I started the day with good ol' oatmeal and broke the fast with chicken, couscous, broccoli and a slice of apple pie. The apple pie was a true indulgence as I've been trying to loose a few pounds. Hopefully it won't do too much damage to my waistline!

My spouse has instructed me to lay down for a bit. Perhaps this is good counsel. More tomorrow.

How goes the Fast for others?


  1. I feel the *exact* same way about guilt from abstaining from the fast! Even when I know that I am exempt I don't feel exempt, and then I chide myself because surely Baha'u'llah and God know better than I do and I should trust the exemptions. I guess the guilt comes from the fact that so many people try to make excuses not to do important things that it feels like cheating when you have a legitimate excuse. Also, when getting sick there is a gray area where I think it can be hard to tell if you are sick or not, or rather "sick enough" to warrant not fasting. Is this headache a symptom of not eating or of something worse? Do I have a sore throat or am I parched? Am I in denial because I want to keep fasting because I look forward to it all year?

    However I have personal trouble not feel guilty with all exemptions, and some of the female exemption are pretty black and white. I haven't been pregnant and therefore not nursed, but I know that is probably the only exemption I wouldn't feel guilty about. I guess that's what I am learning this fast, that I need to trust in God and Baha'u'llah more when it comes to abstaining from the Fast. That and we have the option to fast in a different month if we can't fast during "The Fast". Still, it's such a wonderful time and such a wonderful experience.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! It really really speaks to where I am this fast as well.

  2. There is no guilt. ^_^

    I once used the Ocean software to look up guilt in the Baha'i Writings. The only mention of it is in the context of judicial proceedings. It's so irrelevant to the philosophy of being a Baha'i that there's no mention even of NOT feeling guilty. My understanding is that the relevant attitudes taught by Baha'u'llah and `Abdu'l-Baha are that when a deficiency of character is identified, to resolve to improve it.

  3. In case of doubt regarding the dreaded lurgy - I drink water, on the theory that the body needs that to cope. I really hate getting a cold during the Fast - but Sonja's nose is running like the waterworks today, so it's a fair bet I will have a cold tomorrow :-(

  4. Anonymous10:44 AM

    This year marks my 50th fast. My first was in 1960, right before I formally became a Baha'i. I was 18 years old at that time. "I thought you were fasting," said my mother as she watched me absent-mindedly eat a cookie during a trip to the market. I was fasting but old habits and distractions of cookies... I resumed that fast with more resolve.

    Fifty years look like a benchmark. I remain grateful to God that we have persevered. There is much for which to be thankful. Our children and grandchildren are devoted to Baha'u'llah.

    I'll turn 70 in late 2011. The Lord tells us that those who attain the age of seventy are exempt from fasting. The Baha'i month of 'Ala' will be quite different in 2012 which will be the end of Baha'i year 168.

  5. Anonymous11:14 AM

    It seems to me that being sick in general will keep individuals from the spirit of the fast, which is to have a closer connection to God. If one is distracted, or weak, or generally not feeling well, How can they concentrate on the spiritual. As a doctor, I tell people to first regenerate themselves physically so that they can regenerate themselves spiritually. No guilt needed, and good for you for following your insticts

  6. Quick comment to Maeve above, I've never heard of the "option to fast in a different month if we can fast during 'The Fast.'" My memory recalls the opposite, but I would appreciate being enlightened on that one.

    As for using the exemptions, me too. I didn't fast one day this week due to an invasive medical procedure and I had to get the "doctor's permission" to not fast to ease my conscience. It made for an interesting teaching opportunity during the procedure as well ("Can I fast during the healing process?" He said yes, as long as I get adequate calories at breakfast and dinner - and then he started asking about the Faith).

    When I returned to fasting the next day, I felt really quite good!

  7. Anonymous12:42 PM

    Phillipe - I don't believe that the fast should elicit feelings of guilt for any reason. The spirit of the fast, as far as I can see, is to willingly abstain from material desires to best be able to focus on and respect Our Lord and I do not believe He would desire those who for whatever reasons cannot maintain that fasting state to feel guilt or remorse for that situation. No one is being cheated to not maintain the fast.

    I am new to the Baha'i faith but have previously fasted for various reasons and while I sometimes have been successful in maintaining the planned fast, other times I have not and the experience was not dampened by that nor did I allow some sense of self to bring about feelings of guilt.

    I don't believe that God would desire His precious creations to suffer from either guilt or illness on their quest of spiritual knowledge - I think that is evidenced by the contingencies/exceptions set forth regarding the 19 days of fasting - He doesn't want us sick; He wants us enlightened and reverent. Breaking the fast isn't going to 'damn you to hell' - it is simply evidence of our being mortal beings. Love God and be mindful of the wondrous body and mind He gifted you with.

    I am chronically ill and could and would break fast in a heartbeat if I became symptomatic - I will give God what I can and not remorse over that which I cannot offer and I know in my heart that He wouldn't want me to either remorse or potentially harm the gift he gave me. It is to be a joyous time of offering to Him. Happy Fasting!

    BTW, I really have been enjoying your blog!!


  8. I have trouble with the exemptions. I tried to fast again this and, as I should have expected, it blew up in my face. I have a stomach disorder that the doctor has said: don't ever skip a meal, eat 5-6 small ones throughout the day.... Well, I figured that was advice and started the fast. What a mistake it was this time! I got so sick--all of my symptoms showed up and the medicine wouldn't work. So, I stopped fasting. I'm a bit down about it. I can understand how guilty you feel. But, I know I can't be this sick all of the time, so I went back to eating and following the doctor's advice. I do wish I could be like some folks in my community who do fast so gracefully, with out any nasty illness trying to ruin things.

  9. Looks like the issue of fasting and illness really got people going. Glad I was honest about my feelings regarding this issue. It's interesting to hear so many ways in which people are emphasizing the spiritual nature of the Fast. I think this is true of all the spiritual disciplines God asks us to perform. Whatever duty Thou hast prescribed unto Thy servants of extolling to the utmost Thy majesty and glory is but a token of Thy grace unto them, that they may be enabled to ascend unto the station conferred upon their own inmost being, the station of the knowledge of their own selves.
    (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 4)

    I'd be curious to hear how people feel the Fast has contributed to the "knowledge of their own selves."

  10. Anonymous1:38 AM

    We came from a family that was Christian of the Baptist denomination on our mother's side and, although he no longer practiced it, Muslim on our father's side. We children avoided foul language for the most part. Our friends shared this attitude.

    As a Baha'i the stakes were raised even higher: "Defile not your tongues with the cursing and reviling of any soul, and guard your eyes against that which is not seemly."

    The degeneration of speech and writing is pervasive. Pollution pours from mouths and literature so much that it is difficult, even impossible to avoid it. The fast again reminds us how ugly things are already in the world without our adding to the mountains of ugliness. In moments of exasperation or pain, I'll say "dingdongit!" or reach back into the past for "confound it!" or "dagnab it!." It elicits laughter and lightens the event. I would really be ashamed for my children or grand children to hear me, a grandpa use ugly words. I would not want foul language as part of my private and public character.

    When growing up we believed the absolute worst expression was "taking the Lord's name in vain," which we felt was combining the word God with a curse word. I met a Jewish rabbi who provided a new insight. Taking the Lord's name in vain, he explained, was to profess one's belief verbally, but to live contrary to those beliefs. The rabbi was spot on! I still hold it to be extremely impolite and inappropiate to join the name of God with profanity.

    "Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty."

    "...guard your eyes against that which is not seemly."

    Unseemliness surrounds and confronts us. The cable company wants me to add channels. For what? Most of what is offered is not worthy. We give attention to classic films that we missed or want to revisit. A few more recent ones as well.

    While going through the restraints of the fast, we take great joy in listening to music. The last we heard were the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 with Dylana Jensen. We also enjoyed the 1949 soundtrack of "Samson and Delilah" by Victor Young.

  11. Phillipe, I have been a Bahai since 1982 and have never been able to fast due to my illness. I tried once and got really dizzy and sick so realized God has a plan and it is not mine. I try not to eat in front of public during the fast but sometimes that is not possible either. Think it is the motive that counts. Good thing God is loving and kind. Feeling spiritual today, taught the faith with someone. Grace Eagle Reed

  12. I'll never forget my first Pilgrimage in 1973 during the Fast. There was a group of young Baha'is (well I guess I was pretty young then too, but they were even younger) who decided to keep the Fast, thinking it would be particularly potent because of where they were. On the second evening one of the House members reminded the entire group, ever so gently, that the exemptions were an integral part of the law and that, as we were clearly traveling, we should not be fasting. I've used that memory as a guide and it has served well to eliminate any feelings of guilt.

    This is my first visit to your blog and I love it!