ayyam-i-ha and the fasting season

It’s a busy time of year for Bahá’ís, no matter where they are. The joyous festival of Ayyam-i-Há is taking place, a festival of fellowship, generosity, and hospitality. The Bahá’ís in Da Nang have been busy with a campaign of home visits to elderly members of the community. Tonight, Quynh, Kiên and I gathered together with them at a fun musical celebration, and tomorrow we’ll be doing some visits of our own in our neighbourhood, and cutting out some Ayyam-i-Há decorations with some of the local kids.

dawn of a new dayTomorrow evening comes the Feast of Loftiness, which kicks off the 19-day-long Bahá’í Fast, during which Bahá’ís from the ages of 15 to 70 years abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise ’til sunset. The Fast comes to an end with the celebration of Naw-Rúz on March 21st. Falling on the spring equinox, Naw-rúz is a celebration of revival, renewal, and springtime, in both the physical and spiritual senses. Fasting is a period of preparation for this springtime, during which we not only fast physically, but pay special attention to our spiritual life as well, in order to come into a new year with our souls refreshed and strengthened.

Interested in finding sunrise and sunset times for the Bahá’í Fast? Check out the list of Bahá’í Fasting Times for 2014, complete with links to Fasting calendars for major Canadian cities and selected cities worldwide, and a ready-made chart for Ottawa (for the folks back home).

good morning vietnam: observing the baha’i fast

In 2012, Media Makes Us put out a call for Bahá’ís around the world to film their experience of the Bahá’í Fast, which takes place from March 2–20 every year, for inclusion into the documentary Fast In A Day. I recorded a bunch of footage in March 2012, hoping to send it over, but due to personal circumstances, I couldn’t submit it in time for inclusion. Instead, I gathered it together and presented it here.

The first time I observed the Fast in Vietnam was in 2010—the year Quynh and I were married. In fact, our wedding was during the Fast, because that was the only time one of our witnesses could make it (during the March Break). A lot of our Bahá’í friends joked that we must have been trying to save on food costs by holding a wedding during the Fast—if only! Because so many members of Quynh’s extended family attended—and very few of them are Bahá’ís—we had to provide lunch anyway. After all, getting married is hungry work for all involved. In fact, it was so hot on the day of the ceremony (upwards of 35°C) that I started getting faint, so I decided to break the Fast discreetly with a small bowl of soup. I figured it was either that or falling over during the reception.

As mentioned in the video, sometimes people wonder how Bahá’ís can survive when observing the Fast—abstaining from food and drink during the daylight hours. The fact is, though, it’s not too bad under normal conditions: I usually do fine if I make sure to eat enough oatmeal and drink enough water before sunrise. And for those who are worried that fasting causes harm, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary—that is, occasional fasting may actually improve your health and help you to live longer. There are some cases where fasting is less than ideal, of course, and the Bahá’í Fast takes these into account. Bahá’u’lláh has exempted those who are ill or who perform strenuous physical labour from fasting, as well as women who are pregnant or menstruating.

Ultimately, it’s up to each person to study the Bahá’í teachings so that they can understand the significance of fasting and how it applies to their life. Fact is, it’s not just about not eating and drinking. During the Fast, we pay special attention to the life of our soul, avoiding doing things that will drag down our spirits and spending more time doing things that will help our souls grow. Bahá’u’lláh calls fasting and obligatory prayer “two wings to man’s life” that enable us to soar to the heights of spirituality. Fasting also helps us remember our blessings, and to better understand “the woes and sufferings of the destitute”—those for whom hunger is a day-to-day thing.

anticipating the fast

dawn of a new dayFebruary rolls around, and the groundhogs have poked out of their holes and carried about their business. Shadows or no shadows, we know the spring is coming, and with it, a busy season for Bahá’ís: First, Ayyam-i-Há, a time for fellowship, generosity, and hospitality; then the Feast of Loftiness, which opens the 19-day-long month of fasting from March 2nd–20th, during which Bahá’ís from the ages of 15 to 70 years abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise ’til sunset. The Fast comes to an end with the celebration of Naw-Rúz on March 21st. Falling on the spring equinox, Naw-rúz is a celebration of revival, renewal, and springtime, in both the physical and spiritual senses. Fasting is a period of preparation for this springtime, during which we not only fast physically, but pay special attention to our spiritual life as well, in order to come into a new year with our souls refreshed and strengthened.

Interested in finding sunrise and sunset times for the Bahá’í Fast? Check out the list of Bahá’í Fasting Times for 2013, complete with links to Fasting calendars for major Canadian cities and selected cities worldwide, and a ready-made chart for Ottawa.

happy naw-ruz

sippin'today was my last day at work before the trip! I’m feeling nervous about the preparations, as I mentioned yesterday, but at least I know that things are in good hands at work. there’ll be a nice little lunchtime farewell next Tuesday, I’ll drop by again the day before leaving, and that’s it until September.

Tonight, a special celebration happens, called Naw-rúz; while it also happens to be the Persian new year (as recently attested to by President Obama), it’s also the Bahá’í new year, symbolizing spiritual renewal and the dawn of a new day for humankind. Apart from having a great time there, I’ll be performing on stage during the artistic portion, as well as offering a prayer set to an improvised melody (much like the tracks from the prayercast I post here). Before that, I’ll be joining a band of friends—almost 80 of them, in fact—in breaking the Fast for the last time this year, at Saffron Restaurant on Rideau St. Good friend, former co-worker and fellow web dude Martin used his wheeling-and-dealing talents to secure a buffet dinner for 80 people, including unlimited kebab (koobideh beef, joojeh chicken) and Persian rice. I’m definitely looking forward to it, along with the other 79 I’m sure.

I have to say though, I’ll miss the Fast. For some reason it seemed unusually sweet this year, although it was also hard. I felt as though I was able to connect with God through prayer in a way that I don’t always feel able to. Maybe it’s the influence of preparing to move out of my apartment and leave for Vietnam that’s been helping me become more detached from my surroundings, my possessions, and the like. You know, like packing up your life into a set of luggage and leaving behind the rest. Whatever it is, I’ve found it… especially sweet, in that it seems to have allowed me to deepen my spiritual experience during the past month, helped me to leave behind attachment to material things. Awesome.

Speaking of material things, it’s getting close to dinner time. Happy Naw-rúz and a glorious springtime to you all, materially and spiritually.

quick (fast) checkin

wireless getlol, blogging at the mall.

the Fast has gone pretty well so far, except that I’m really tired—but then, that was happening since before the Fast. I think winter, short of making me depressed this year, has left me in rather pitiful physical shape. maybe I can blame the bus strike for not letting me get to the gym regularly… uh, anyway, excuses aside… I spent a couple of days at the beginning sick with a sinus cold, and thus unable to fast. It always really irritates me when that happens. shortly afterwards, I paid a visit to Craig and Geneviève in Victoriaville, which is always like a drink of life-giving waters. we had a chance to chat about my upcoming trip to Vietnam, and they gave me a lot of tips and encouragement about Vietnam and travel in general.

For the rest of you out there who are fasting, I strongly recommend you follow the blog nineteen days, maintained by a couple of Baha’is with photographic skills and an eye for the poetic. They’re into their second year of blogging their fast and are now featuring guest bloggers each day this year, making it an even more interesting and engaging read.

That’s it for now… off to help with Ruhi Book 3.

fasting prayer (prayercast, trk. 5)

Today’s prayercast is an improvised melody accompanying the short prayer for the Bahá’í Fast. This prayer is sometimes known as “the Frequented Fane”.

Click above to hear this track, or download the file.

Praise be to Thee, O Lord my God! I beseech Thee by this Revelation whereby darkness hath been turned into light, through which the Frequented Fane hath been built, and the Written Tablet revealed, and the Outspread Roll uncovered, to send down upon me and upon them who are in my company that which will enable us to soar into the heavens of Thy transcendent glory, and will wash us from the stain of such doubts as have hindered the suspicious from entering into the tabernacle of Thy unity.

I am the one, O my Lord, who hath held fast the cord of Thy loving-kindness, and clung to the hem of Thy mercy and favors. Do Thou ordain for me and for my loved ones the good of this world and of the world to come. Supply them, then, with the Hidden Gift Thou didst ordain for the choicest among Thy creatures.

These are, O my Lord, the days in which Thou hast bidden Thy servants to observe the fast. Blessed is he that observeth the fast wholly for Thy sake and with absolute detachment from all things except Thee. Assist me and assist them, O my Lord, to obey Thee and to keep Thy precepts. Thou, verily, hast power to do what Thou choosest.

There is no God but Thee, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. All praise be to God, the Lord of all worlds.

Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, pp. 245-246

want to hear more of these? leave me a comment on this post or via email, and subscribe to the prayercast in iTunes or your favourite podcast player.