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Monthly Reflection: Ala (Loftiness) – On Characteristics I Hope to Nurture During the Fast

March 1, 2024, in Articles > Baha'i Blog, by

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I think each of us has a sense, as we near the beginning of the month of Ala or Loftiness, that we are approaching a kind of spiritual threshold. A couple of weeks before the Fast begins I start to ready myself for the blessings and rigours that are latent within every minute, hour and day of the month ahead. Baha’u’llah has told us that “[e]ven though outwardly the Fast is difficult and toilsome, yet inwardly it is bounty and tranquility,”1 and “Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee.”2 For me, the 19 days of the month of Loftiness are a yearly rite of passage that give me time to prepare for the demands and opportunities that the new year will undoubtedly place before me as I emerge from my month of fasting, meditation, prayer, reflection and mindful acts of service. It is an invitation to briefly quiet the noise of the outside world and tune into the world of the spirit; a time of gathering of energy and refilling of both individual and collective wells. As Baha’u’llah tells us:      

These are the days of the Fast. Blessed is the one who through the heat generated by the Fast increaseth his love, and who, with joy and radiance, ariseth to perform worthy deeds. Verily, He guideth whomsoever He willeth to the straight path.3

There is a wonderfully diverse collection of Baha’i Blog content specifically related to various aspects of the Baha’i Fast which I will integrate into my daily reflections and meditations during the month ahead. In addition to these, Baha’i Blog has added a considerable amount of new material recently that is intended to facilitate lofty thoughts and actions. Baha’u’llah tells us:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may be lifted up unto the realm on high.4

The following recently added music videos remind us of our elevated station as spiritual beings, and brought me a great deal of joy: “Ye Are the Stars” based on the Writings of Baha’u’llah and performed by Ashkan Ziaie and Siria; “O Man of Two Visions” by Jody Cooper, which is based on passage from the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah; and “Together As One Soul” composed by Tamara Duncan, and based on the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, which is sung by the Canberra Youth.

Another Baha’i Blog initiative that facilitates loftiness in both thought and action is the Day by Day project, a series of guided meditations and affirmations created to encourage making time to connect with your spiritual self. The 6th video in the series focuses on resilience and adaptability, and is inspired by Shoghi Effendi’s guidance that “[f]ailure, tests and trials, if we use them correctly, can become the means of purifying our spirit, strengthening our characters, and enable us to rise to greater heights of service.”

One thing that I am acutely aware of during the Baha’i Fast is that my individual actions do not exist in isolation. They are part of a powerful sea of choices and exertions made across the globe. As I rise from my bed in the dark and welcome the sunrise with prayer and meditation, I am conscious of the fact that I am not alone. Thousands of people around the world are rising with me, each of them “fleeing their beds” to recommit themselves to a humble life of joyful service during these 19 days. There is power in the awareness that my daily choice is one wave in a vast sea of choices happening every minute and every hour this month in homes all over the planet. As such, I love individual initiatives that tap into this collective gathering and exchange of energy. Jacqueline Claire’s “19 Days of Inspiration” emails is one such initiative, and it is entering its 7th year of existence! This year Jacqueline is inviting participants to join her on a mystical journey through The Seven Valleys of Baha’u’llah.

Another post that caught my eye and struck me as both tender and lofty this month was Maia James’ “Green Flags: A Letter to my Daughter About Marriage”. Relationships are something that we are all working on year-round, of course. But as I read Maia’s letter to her daughter I thought why not also use this Fast as a time to reflect upon the qualities we hope our future partners will possess and how we can also develop those qualities in ourselves; how can we strengthen our friendships, and the make the marriages we are already in even stronger and more joyful?

I want to close this month’s newsletter with a few questions I’m asking myself: How do we ready ourselves for the month of Loftiness? As we step over the threshold into these precious 19 days we have been given, what qualities do we want to nurture in ourselves and in our communities? What is our vision for service to others during the Fast? Have we reflected upon the attitude with which we want to approach our friends, partners, children and extended family during the Fast? When the 19 days are complete and we are looking back on them, what characteristics do we want this period to be defined by?

  1. Baha’u’lláh, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting, XVI []
  2. Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, US Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1987, p. 143 []
  3. Baha’u’llah, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting []
  4. Baha’u’llah: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, K51, p. 38 []
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Ariana Salvo

Ariana Salvo was born in the United States, and spent sixteen years of her childhood on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. She moved to Prince Edward Island to do her master’s degree in Island Studies, fell in love with the tightly knit community, and has never left. When not writing, she can be found exploring art at galleries around the world, flower farming, traveling to remote islands, hiking and taking photos of the wild natural landscapes of Canada’s eastern shore, teaching English to international students and reading historical fiction with a good cup of tea.
Ariana Salvo

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