Each year Baha’is are blessed to have a special month dedicated to fasting. These 19 days are an intense, enriching part of the calendar that can motivate wonderful changes in life, spiritual insights, and detachment among many other spiritual qualities.
Last year we shared a post with ideas about how parents can share the Fast with their children. This year we have collected some practical ideas for mothers about utilizing the Fast as a time for spiritual renewal while also keeping in mind the practical aspects of fasting while caring for children
First let us reflect on this selection in which ‘Abdu’l-Baha describes the wisdom and results of prayer and fasting:
[quote]O thou spiritual friend! Thou hast asked the wisdom of prayer. Know thou that prayer is indispensable and obligatory, and man under no pretext whatsoever is excused from performing the prayer unless he be mentally unsound, or an insurmountable obstacle prevent him. The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. The greatest happiness for a lover is to converse with his beloved, and the greatest gift for a seeker is to become familiar with the object of his longing; that is why with every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God, his greatest hope is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate before his Beloved, appeal for His mercy and grace and be immersed in the ocean of His utterance, goodness and generosity.
Besides all this, prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and conducive to protection and preservation from tests…[/quote]
(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 367)
To read more quotations about prayer and fasting, visit this site for a full compilation on the topic.
Please note that the photographs used in this post are from the amazing website/project Nineteen Days, an annual collaborative photography project that is published during the Fast. Click on the photo to go to its page on the website and to read more about the photographer and why it was taken.
Fasting as a Mother
Here are some ideas you may like to try during the Fast, to help infuse spirituality into your life and into your role as a mother:
- Consider your prayer routine and think about if you would like to boost it up a bit
- When you notice you are getting frustrated, pause to say the Remover of Difficulties before losing your temper
- Listen to Baha’i music during your morning routine to add in more time for devotions; you may like to check out the 20 quotations of Baha’u’llah available on our child-friendly CD “At First Light” Volume 1
- Browse our Radiant Hearts lessons for some virtue-focused fun to share with your children
- Consider using (and possibly memorizing) the Tablet of Ahmad (find some helpful resources here)
- Notice the language you are using to direct your child (these family rules may be useful as a starting place for incorporating positive discipline)
- Download some Baha’i talks or Baha’i Audio Books and listen for a half hour each evening before bed
- Use our “Dream and Scheme” Booklet to reflect and plan for personal growth in the year ahead
- Focus on sharing the attitude of prayerfulness with your children (find eight creative ideas here)
- If you can get a two hour block alone, use our Step-by-Step Guide to Mama Soul Care for some spiritual pampering
- Subscribe to Nineteen Days, a website that shares beautiful quotations, reflections, and photographs for each day of the Fast
- Give yourself some extra time to reflect and pray about how you balance detachment and self care, a challenging area for many mothers
Here are some tips from experienced mothers about fasting while caring for young children:
- Go to bed early!
- We have a very nice tradition in our community – we have dinner (almost) each night at a different person’s home during the fast. That helps a lot because you don’t have to cook so often. You could also do this with just 2 or 3 other families.
- Dedicated quiet time (ie reading books, listening to audio stories, watching a video) in those last couple of hours before breaking the Fast (these audio stories about Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha are wonderful!)
- Try to minimize your duties for the month so you can focus a little more energy on yourself
- Eat a very nutritious breakfast and take a multivitamin
- Drink enough water in the morning and when you break the Fast to keep your energy up and your body functioning properly
- Be gentle with yourself and try to find a way to get help if you need it
- Nap time is helpful for some down time – use it to rest (read or listen to some soothing devotional music) and resist the urge to “do more”
Here are some other ideas from mothers who have experienced exemptions from fasting due to menstruation, pregnancy and/or breastfeeding but still wanted to infuse the spirit of the Fast into the month:
- I chose a certain Baha’i Writings book to read part of each day and reflect on.
- I said fasting prayers daily during lunch hour and said the Greatest Name before each meal/snack.
- Some friends and I wanted to memorize the long obligatory prayer together, to give the period of the Fast a special meaning while breastfeeding. We met each day to rehearse it over phone/skype.
- One of my favorite things about the Fast is reading the Fast prayers, they are so beautiful and there is so much love and devotions expressed in them.
- Some years I would do no sugar during the fasting time as well (all 19 days no sugar, not just while the sun was up).
- I read or sung the Fast prayers, among others, to my baby.
- I exchanged my regular movie watching/book reading with Baha’i books (like biographies of the Hands of the Cause). It was lovely and I learned so much!
- I worked on memorizing the prayer for expectant mothers (find a video and song here)
What do you love about the Fast? How has fasting changed since you became a mother? Do you have other ideas to share with moms who are not physically fasting due to exemptions?