Fasting Journal: Days 1 – 3

I mentioned at the end of my last post that Bahá’ís have a period of fasting for 19 days after Ayyám-i-Há. I realize now that may have thrown some of you off. Clearly we don’t fast completely for 19 days, or we’d all be dead. The fast is only during the sunlight hours. We eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset. Nothing during the day.

The purpose and benefit of the fast is somewhat multi-faceted. In essence, it’s a physical symbol of the spiritual work one does in preparation for the new year (the Baha’i new year is March 21, the day after the fast ends). That work involves purging ourselves of selfish inclinations and desires and focusing more fully on God and our spiritual reality. It’s a period of prayer, meditation, and spiritual renewal in which we strive to readjust our inner lives.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve fasted. The majority of the past 11 years, I’ve been either pregnant or nursing, so I couldn’t fast. The one year between Dolittle and BoyWonder when I could fast, less than a week into it our whole family got a horrible flu that knocked us out for the rest of it.

So I was very excited to fast this year. I really do love the fast. (Which is a bit different than saying I love TO fast – I doubt anyone enjoys the actual act of depriving oneself of food and drink.) I’ll be writing more about my thoughts and experiences during this fast over the course of it, but here are some of the simple things I’ve appreciated during the first three days:

– I love being up early. Love love love it. But I never do it. I always choose sleep over being an early riser. So forcing myself to wake up before the sun brings me a great deal of joy. Knowing that, you’d think I’d be more diligent in making that happen when I’m not fasting. But sleep always wins. So during the fast, not only am I giving up attachment to food, but also attachment to sleep habits. And that’s a good thing.

– Related to that point, I like being in tune with the cycle of the sun rising and setting. It feels refreshingly natural, especially in this wonderfully technological age, to use the rising and setting of the sun as a gauge for starting and ending something.

– One of the biggest perks of the fast is the mindfulness it requires. I’m a grazer – I eat fairly constantly during the day. That’s not unhealthy, by any means, but fasting makes me realize how unconscious some of my eating is. It also helps me realize that my reasons for eating are very often more related to procrastination than to hunger. My subconscious thinking goes something like, “Hmm…I have these 15 things I need to do, and I’m not sure which to do first. I feel slightly hungry. Let’s eat so I don’t have to make the decision right now.” Very eye-opening.

– These first three days of the fast have been pretty easy, physically speaking. For breakfast I eat two pieces of Ezekial (sprouted grain) toast with almond butter, two eggs, a little hot rice cereal, and some kind of fruit. And about five big glasses of water. And one cup of coffee. That seems to tide me over pretty well. I have a period in the early afternoon when my tummy rumbles a bit, but then it subsides, and by sunset I honestly don’t feel that hungry. I must be drinking enough water in the morning, because I don’t feel extremely thirsty during the day, either. By late afternoon, I notice my mind and body slowing down a bit, especially if I don’t stay busy. I remember the fast being more difficult – I think I’ve toughened up a bit in my old age. From a purely physical standpoint, three natural childbirths makes fasting seem like a piece of cake (no pun intended). 🙂

– Another favorite perk of the fast is the TIME. It’s like a gift. With all that extra time from getting up early and from not eating, the fast makes me ridiculously productive.

– On the flip side, one of the hard parts of the fast is getting to bed early enough to get enough sleep. I’ve been a bit spoiled in that I haven’t gotten up to an alarm (other than the occasional day) in years. 5:15am is very early for me. I dreamed last night that I slept through my alarm and woke up at 8:00. I’ve taken some naps, but that’ll be tougher with school today. So we’ll see what this week brings.

More in a day or two.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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