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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

At 6.37am

the sun rises. Tomorrow morning I will rise before it, in darkness. I will have my breakfast in half light. Sip my tea bundled up warm in the kitchen, drawing my body gently out of its cocoon of sleep. I will sit and pray, and read from the Baha'i writings as the fiery red ball of the sun rises up over the city. In the Koran, dawn is defined as the moment that a white thread can be distinguished from a black thread with the naked eye. I will feel the warmth of first-light against my closed eye-lids and cheeks. I will hear birdcall. I will write in my journal by those delicate first rays of sun. Maybe I will practice yoga as I did this morning. Later the rain will come. I will have many hours to work on my writing and listen to the showers drumming on our rooftop. I will not be planting sunflowers with pre-schoolers tomorrow. The earth will be too heavy with water for tiny hands to be digging in it. That will have to wait 'til next week. I will have a quiet first day of fasting, with plenty of time to reflect on the question burning in my heart right now: should I move back to PEI for a year this April?

I love the Baha'i nineteen day fast. It is a time of re-gathering for me before I burst into springtime and then beyond that into my season -- summer. The last six years in Canada I loved waking at dawn to watch the sun rise over the snowy landscape. It would rise from the horizon and get caught in the shattered lattice of bare branches that were dipped in ice, clattering against each other in the wind. There is something pure about the sunrise anywhere on the planet, but a sun rising over a white, snowy landscape is truly magnificent. Every tiny ice crystal reflects the light, and it is dazzling.

Here there is no snow. The branches are blossoming. Hummingbirds buzz outside our kitchen window, feeding on nectar from the flowering bush outside.

For me the fast is a time for spiritual rejuvenation. I find that I spend more time praying. More time writing. More time taking long walks and listening to the sounds of nature. More time nestled into the hammock of silence. It is not a sad time. Much of it is actually very joyful. But I find myself feeling deeply pensive and reflective, and often wanting more time alone. I am really looking forward to this fast because it gives me a set period of time in which to concentrate on the questions in my heart and the yearnings of my soul.

Tomorrow evening we have a devotional gathering here at our home right after sunset. The topic of the devotional tomorrow night will be sacrifice. Our devotional gatherings always have themes, but this theme was chosen by one of the other women in the group. She chose it because for her this time of fasting symbolizes sacrifice of physical comfort. It is true that during the fast I become extremely aware of how much of my day normally revolves around eating and drinking. Living in an affluent society as I do, I do not go more than an hour or two without eating or drinking something, and much of my social life revolves around eating or drinking with friends, so I find myself withdrawing from many social activities during the fast because I am not eating, and it is rather challenging to be surrounded by the aromas of delicious food when I am not eating.

But not eating or drinking between the hours of sunrise and sunset is also a blessing because I am reminded, every time I feel hunger pangs, of my spiritual reality, and of the great blessing that this time of the year is providing me: time to immerse my soul in spiritually uplifting activities. I also find that I suddenly have SO MUCH FREE TIME on my hands without all that meal and snack preparation time! And there can be no tea-making procrastination sagas, so I suddenly become far more productive, although I do have to get my most concentrated work done in the first half of the day because my mind tends to get rather fuzzy by late afternoon!

It is getting late, and time to give my body rest before it has to be up again to eat. I hope that all of you who are fasting have a beautiful fast this year. And for those of you who are not, perhaps you could join me in paying more attention to your spiritual self over the next 19 days. The Baha'i new year is on the spring equinox (March 21st), which is a time of opening up to the world. Using these next 19 days as time to reflect on how you want to grow this spring might help to bring more attention to the quality of the life you are living, and the spiritual energy that you are putting into that growth. Here are a couple of quotes about fasting from the Baha'i writings:

"All praise be unto God, Who hath...enjoined on them the Fast that those possessed of means may become apprised of the woes and sufferings of the destitute." -Baha'u'llah

"Cling firmly to obligatory prayer and fasting. Verily, the religion of God is like unto heaven; fasting is its sun, and obligatory prayer is its moon. In truth, they are the pillars of religion..." -Baha'u'llah

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