It's not a great weight-loss plan, but fasting is good for the soul
by Ted Slavinpublished in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2011
"Oh, that's not healthy."
"It must be so hard -I could never do that!"
"Can you drink water? Even just a little bit? You need water, you know."
Fasting: while true that it's not often easy, the entertaining feedback you can get from those who have never done it can give you a boost to get through the day. Reactions have included looks of grave concern for my physical (and mental) health, astonishing and well thought-out lectures on the body's need of food for daily functioning, and even an offer to have a pizza delivered at my workplace during lunch from an "anonymous" donor.
While I'm sincerely and deeply touched by these reactions because it means they care, I'd like to take this opportunity to express, in print, that I'll be fine. Really. If you don't believe me, consider this: humanity has, for generations of recorded history, fasted for various reasons though most often religious ones.
The purpose of fasting has never been to do yourself in. Fasting has come with a timeline and conditions to do it "right." For Bahá'ís, there are 19 days of fasting, spanning March 2 to 20. The Bahá'í Fast is sandwiched ... sorry ... between two other special times on the Bahá'í calendar -- Ayyam-i-Ha (a time of good cheer, exchanging gifts and charity) and the New Year on March 21. The way I look at it is that I get a chance to celebrate and fatten up a bit before the Fast starts.
Then, at the end of it all, I regain whatever I may have lost when celebrating the Bahá'í New Year, also known as Naw-Ruz. In short, the Bahá'í Fast, while intended to be a great booster for the soul, doesn't work so well as a weight-loss plan.
And boosting the soul is really what fasting is all about. Remembering and cherishing the quality of reliance upon God, the symbol of detachment from material things, prayer and meditation while taking account of one's life and service to humanity; these are all aspects of the Fast that so many Bahá'ís not only anticipate, but even look forward to when March 2 arrives.
While it may seem that fasting is an extreme, there is a law of moderation that balances and protects Bahá'ís from taking it to an unhealthy end.
There are several conditions that would make a Bahá'í exempt from the Fast, such as sickness or health concerns, travel, pregnancy or nursing a baby, and age.
Bahá'ís start fasting no earlier than the age of 15 and are exempt after reaching the age of 70. Furthermore, though it is 19 days long, refraining from food and drink only takes places between sunrise and sunset.
Personally, I tend to have a very small breakfast most of the year. During the Fast, I am reminded of how a decent, bigger breakfast can get me through the day and feel what a difference my mornings are with more energy.
I also get lots of time to catch up on things at lunch knowing that I won't be spending time eating. And, besides the physical benefits, I have always found the time of fasting to be one full of new spiritual insights through study of the Bahá'í Writings and the passing events of each day.
So, if you are reading this on March 20 and the sun is still up, know that the Bahá'ís in your neighbourhoods have a few hours to go until the Fast ends at sunset and the celebration of the Naw-Ruz begins. Happy New Year!
Again, thank you to those who tried to point out the detriments of fasting that would be certain to finish me. You are all very sweet. If you're still worried, you can try again next year.