Baha’is believe in the power of prayer and you’ll find Baha’is and their friends, throughout the world, getting together to pray. This is often referred to as a ‘devotional gathering’ or ‘devotional meeting’, and they happen in diverse settings, whether in cities or villages.
The Baha’i Fast falls during the month of Ala–the last month of the Baha’i calendar. During these 19 days, Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
Reflections on Fasting (Spiritually) While Pregnant
The Fast for 179 B.E. is approaching its final hours and I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts, reflections, and goals I had this year. I’ve been a Baha’i since the end of 2015 and this was my eighth Fast, however, this was the first year I was exempt from partaking of the physical Fast as I am expecting my first child. During these few weeks, I hit the eight month mark of my pregnancy, and with that came a lot of excited preparation for my little one’s arrival. This was also the first Fast I have been this conscious of making goals. Usually, I glide through it feeling hunger pains as the easy reminder of what this period means–knowing I wouldn’t have that this year made me engage in more preparation before this time came.
There are many quotes and writings to take into account when thinking about the purpose of the Fast. I’ve included a number of them below:
“This material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.”
“Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow.”
“It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.”
– From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi
Keeping in mind the spiritual elements of the Fast such as “taking on the characteristics of the spirit”, “commemoration of God”, and “spiritual recuperation”, I chose to focus on deepening my gratitude this period. It was difficult in its own way but I’d like to share some moments in this Fast where I felt especially thankful. Also, being exempt meant that most of these moments revolved around the fact I am pregnant.
One goal I had during the Fast was to continue to participate in my family’s typical Fast practices–it never quite feels like the Fast without them. Every morning I got up with my husband to have breakfast and stopped eating when the sun arose. We also love listening to older Australian Baha’i Temple Choir songs on repeat while we cook and eat.
Then at the end of the day we like to break the Fast with a cup of tea and clink glasses with the toast “Ruzetun qabul” which means “may your day be acceptable”. While conscious of not letting any actions become ritualistic, as our family grows, we’re looking forward to finding ways of including our children in the creation of more personal traditions to make this potent period particularly memorable and special.
Beyond these two practices, my Fast looked very different from previous years. On the first day, my husband asked me what baby would like for lunch, which was an odd feeling to say the least! He wanted to help me feel as comfortable as possible with eating through the day by reminding me that my exemption is because of our child. He then cooked us (baby and me!) a delicious cheesy-lemon fish pasta.
Focusing on the arrival of this new life helped deepen my gratitude greatly. To have a loving and supportive close and extended family ready to help with our preparations has been a blessing. I’m also grateful my health has been optimal during this time.
My personal goals were not all accomplished during this Fast. I told myself there were two books I was going to finish during this time, but, unsurprisingly to those who know me, I was only able to get through some of the first book. However, we were able to get into the nursery, as planned, and set up the room for baby’s arrival, which proved to be quite an emotional process for me. I cried as I put all baby’s books into the bookshelf, contemplating what it will be like to read them together before bed. We are so thankful to live close to the Australian House of Worship and we visited the bookshop in person to choose which children’s prayer books and family virtue publications to buy. I’ve linked what we bought in case you’d like some ideas for yourself:
If you’re as emotional as I am, I should warn you that the incredibly beautiful picture book called Sweet One made me cry in the bookshop and I couldn’t even finish reading it before I bought it. If you’re expecting a child or trying for a child, this book will definitely hit home for you. Then one day, when your little one is old enough and you’d like to talk to them about how wonderful it was to welcome them to the world and how blessed you feel to have them in your family, this book will add meaningfully to that conversation.
I was especially excited to find a prayer book and a book of quotations from the Writings specifically for little ones. The pages are on thick board for tiny grabby-hands so we can let our child turn these pages early in his life to help him feel engaged when we’re reading prayers together.
My little one is kicking my diaphragm as I write this, giving me a wonderful reminder of the spiritually connected days we’ve had together so far. Next year, God willing, I will be exempt again as long as my health remains optimal and I am able to breastfeed this wiggly child. I hope to continue building my capacity to explore and deepen my understanding of the spiritual purpose of the Fast.
Hello, I’m Cherie! I grew up in Sydney, Australia, and currently live just west in the Blue Mountains, where my heart has always belonged. I’m a graphic designer, photographer, and general artist, having basic skills in a wide range of mediums and performing arts. I love learning new ways to live sustainably and sharing these ideas with my friends, family, and the local community.