Showing posts with label Fasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fasting. Show all posts

Sunday, March 18, 2018

No Pain, No Gain

"Man's fate is according to his pains." -Robert Herrick, (English, 24 August 1591 – 15 October 1674)

Is fasting like weightlifting? Yes. They both abide by the dictum, “No pain no gain.”
A body builder must push his muscles to greater exertions in order to build them. In the process he feels pain. Microscopic muscle fibers tear, only to be rebuilt stronger with greater mass.

The other day, on the sixteenth day of my nineteen day fast, (see previous post), I was leaving my gallery, riding my bike to the lot where I park my van. I felt lightheaded, and realized hunger and thirst in the background of my activities. Turning a corner, I took hold of the distress. I had the feeling of being able to lift it up like a weightlifter; as if I were exercising spiritual muscles. I felt stronger by stressing my body—same as working out. But inasmuch as this effort is aimed at relying upon the pleasure of God, a much more lasting result is achieved by building spiritual character.

The road to achievement runs through hardship. My daughter Naomi Boone (January 11, 1980 - July 5, 1999)  knew this. She was diagnosed with cancer, which ultimately took her life at the age of nineteen. In the beginning of her ordeal, she wrote in her journal, “Hardship will make us stronger. I think that in every situation, there is good in it.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ecstasies Of Heavenly Union

“True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self.” —Baha’u’llah

I am at the midway point of the Baha’i nineteen day fast I observe each year. I began in 1971 and will continue, God willing, until 2022. The dates of fasting are March 2-20. The way it works is if you are healthy, between the ages of 15 - 70, not pregnant or breast feeding, then you give up food and water between sunrise and sunset. It is difficult to practice faithfully, but each year about a week before the start I have deep yearning for it. Like no other discipline, it affirms that I am a spiritual being, far beyond the material elements that compose my body. Sometimes I think that if a Divine command were to arrive that I must not ever again pass anything beyond my lips, I would be obedient until death were to release me from the physical bonds entirely. Then like a bird escaping its cage, I would wing my way into grand celestial spheres and sing the ecstasies of heavenly union with Divine Spirit in limitless freedom.

It seems just about every religion has a fasting period. The prophets, who are like Divine Doctors, prescribe it for us for our own good.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Conquer Mountains

These days I arise before dawn for breakfast. After the sun touches the horizon, nothing passes my lips until night comes. No food or water. The Baha'i fast occurs from March 2 - 20th annually. This is the 46th year for me of observing it.

I always lose some mental quickness and feel cold more readily. Sensitivity to light, sound, smells etc. increases. I get tired during the day and yet thrive on the changes. My mind might complain but my heart and spirit rejoice. The grace and bounties of God come to refresh and renew my being. I do not need to use my mouth.

Instead of craving food, I crave the experience of sacrifice that brings the reward of Spirit.
In a way, during this period I am entering a prison. I realize I am at a disadvantage physically. But also know what I gain, and that imprisonment is temporary. When the fast ends, I have become so accustomed to renunciation during the day that when I see a water fountain, my first response is abstinence. Then I realize I am free, and the enjoyment is heightened. Same with eating. . . it becomes special again.

Meanwhile, I am stronger internally and feel I can conquer mountains.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Fast

Buddhist monks outside of a temple in Bodghaya, India
The time of fasting for me has begun. I am in my third day of the Baha'i fast which each year is for nineteen days: March 2-21. The fast is similar to the Moslem practice of Ramadan, in that no food or water is taken between sunrise and sunset. This year, my wife, Heidi Of The Mountains is a Baha'i, and is joining me in the practice.

Here is a sacred poem from the writings of Jelaluddin Rumi:


There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you're full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Jesus' table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Fast

This is the last day of my annual period of fasting. The discipline requires that I give up food and water between sunrise and sunset from March 2-20. It is a requirement of Bahai’s, with exclusion allowed for sick people, travelers of long distances, nursing mothers, those under 15 or over 70 years of age. I have followed the prescription for decades, and always been true, except once—the year my dear Naomi died and then, the most precious of my life had gone away and I did not have strength.

Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years, and is especially common as a spiritual exercise in many religions. Scientific studies have shown that there are also physical benefits that include reducing risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Fasting also promotes weight loss, reduces immune disorders, and slows the aging process—increasing life span. It will produce favorable change in cholesterol.

Each year, as the time of fasting approaches, I begin to eagerly anticipate it. I am happy, and also feel slight trepidation, knowing I will be tested. I wake before dawn and eat . . . my body still drowsy and not ready for food—so I must assert command to change for the sake of devotion. As the day progresses I experience weakness and loss of concentration, and this is because of lack of glucose and protein. Tasks become more difficult and I realize I am multi-tasking because I am simultaneously active with my affairs and also fasting. I get moody and perhaps even cranky as time goes on, and must adopt a sense of equanimity, a virtue useful to all rational thought. When my hunger and thirst press upon me and I know how easy it is to eat or drink and relieve my suffering, instead, I practice will power and patience. Nineteen days is a hefty duration and this deepens all the positive lessons.

These are some of the virtues found in fasting: patience, moderation, temperance, fortitude, will power, devotion, ability to sacrifice, forbearance, bravery, commitment, creativity, detachment, discretion, enthusiasm, flexibility, love, grace, tolerance, honor, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, resourcefulness, simplicity, sincerity, trust. Add to the spiritual virtues the physical benefits of better health and longer life and we can see why fasting is an ancient and common global practice.
Here is a wonderful and in-depth article on fasting: The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Sunday, March 06, 2011


What is the essence of love? It must be attraction, a desire to mingle and share with another. If that does not exist, then love does not. In the human realm, there are famous romantic love stories of intense attraction, e.g. Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Orpheus and Eurydice, Layla and Majnun. In all these tales, one lover is willing to offer everything for the other.

Love can also be for truth, or for an ideal. It can be so strong as to cause great sacrifice. A scientist on the trail of discovery can face scathing ridicule, a solider on the battlefield will give his life, and an innocent bystander will jump in front of an onrushing train to save a stranger. We know love when it inspires sacrifice.

Sacrifice is the vital expression of love. If there is a relationship without sacrifice, it is shallow. We know parental love because the mother and father offer themselves in sacrifice to their children until the child can stand on his own.

The Taj Mahal is a love monument, built by Shah Jahan in India in honor of his deceased wife Mumtaz. It took great effort over twenty years to complete. Using white marble and precious inlay, 20,000 workers and 1000 elephants labored twenty years to bring the architecture to fruition. It is among the wonders of the world, and shares with them a foundation in love.

Everyone enjoys being loved. Especially since we know we are valued when we receive a sacrificial offering. For a lover to receive flowers, or a child to receive the gift of time and wisdom from a volunteer tutor; the essence is attraction, thoughtfulness and offering. When I travel in Asia, small shrines laden with gifts are a ubiquitous sight in homes and businesses. Usually, a small Buddha sculpture or Hindu deity is surrounded by flowers, incense, and fruit, and sometimes even soda pop and cigarettes . . . all tokens of sacrifice.

At present, many Baha’i’s, myself included, are fasting, and this is a show of love. From sunrise to sunset we abstain from food or water for nineteen days, between March 2-20 annually. It is difficult and painful to go without sustenance, but sacrifice is easy when one is in love. For true lovers, pain is sweet. And really, God cares not for material things, but He wants what our hearts can give and blesses us in the giving.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Division Bells

I imagine I know what a prisoner feels like when he is released from confinement and walks out into the big, bright planet as a free person. Suddenly, he acutely appreciates everything, and especially marvels that he is free to touch the world once again. The sun warms his flesh, colors are vivid and true, and he drinks deep the fresh air, relishing life as if he is born again. Now that the nineteen-day fast is over until next year, this is what I felt like yesterday, when I began my day and could eat or drink whenever I wanted. I had been a willing prisoner, but now my aim is accomplished and I have a fresh and vital perspective going forward.
I pulled into my driveway today just as a song came on the radio that held me so that I just sat and listened. It was Pink Floyd’s composition called High Hopes. It begins with the chiming of bells, which reminded me of Venice, Italy. The first stanza goes,
Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young

In a world of magnets and miracles

Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary

The ringing of the division bell had begun

It made me think. Children in their innocence see the world as if dreaming. The universe to them is whole and fluid, with moments effortlessly flowing one into the other. Imagination imbues everything with possibility. Then, the bells of rationality and discriminate thinking sound, and so the perception of the world changes. Slowly, children become less magical and more grounded in opinion. The ego develops and so do feelings of separation. People develop alliances and choose labels for themselves and others, such as; nationality, color, status, profession, sexuality, and many others.
To me, THE DREAM is the same place we lived when we were children, in a world of magnets and miracles, . . . without boundary. To stay there, is to not listen to the division bells that cut and dice the world into separate and unequal parts and makes us prisoners. It is to be, as Bob Dylan says in his song of the same name, "forever young."

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Fasting is a voluntary contraction of life that animals seldom do unless they are sick. If an animal is sick, not only does it fast, but also sometimes it will go further, and eat grass to make it vomit. This is a cleansing which is instinctual and life preserving. During my fasting, I feel contraction, and must rely on my core to get through the day. Today, the Baha’i fast is in the thirteenth day with four more to go, and although it is difficult, I am feeling stronger inside, and more able to reach above the difficulties of life.
Sometimes, I am surprised to find that I have yearning for the fast not to end. It is because although I am weakened outwardly, inwardly my strength is increasing. What is waning outwardly is waxing inwardly. Furthermore, I know that it is the spirit and mind that contains the most essential abundance of human life and is its true worth.
These days, the world economy can be likened to a sick animal in the throes of a big contraction. It had become bloated and corrupt and after falling sick, now is contracting and vomiting. Everyone knows the huge losses. But when the core is reached, a recovery will begin. In the end, this is all healthy, but during a sickness, nobody says, “this is good.”
I had an opening at my studio last Friday and showed prints of my photographs from around the world; (see artistic photography by Steven Boone, at Crowds of people arrived and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and this pleased me. Yet, I did not sell any art . . . and my expenses the past few months have been above my income. The contraction is affecting me along with so many others.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Violin Played By Ethereal Hands

From March 2 – 20 is a time of fasting for the worldwide Baha’i community. Imagine living without water or food for nineteen days. Well, actually, it is during our most active hours between sunrise and sunset. Usually as the time of fasting approaches, I look forward to the ordeal—something like a long-distance runner looking forward to a marathon as a challenge that is given him to transcend. This is the heart of the matter, that we need to be tested in life so that we transcend and grow. In this case, our hunger and thirst, which we can so easily satisfy but do not, becomes the instrument for the growth of our willpower, devotion, temperance, and sense of trust in God. Outwardly it is a bit hellish, but inwardly, it is like entering a garden of paradise. Those who are excused from fasting include people that are sick, pregnant or nursing mothers, those under fifteen or over sixty-five years of age, and travelers going more than eight hours distance.
Every year is different for me, and this time, from the beginning I immediately hit a brick wall. After arising before dawn to eat, I felt drowsy and lethargic. The rest of day was like being submerged in water and moving in slow motion. The feeling of pushing through water has remained, now that it is the eighth day. My concentration suffers too, and sometimes I forget what I was thinking. Nonetheless, I stay the course and want to continue. I often have blissful moments when the pure currents of life touch me as if I am a violin played by ethereal hands. I have become more acutely aware of my physical presence in the world, and can appreciate more intimately changing temperatures, smells, breezes that touch my skin, and in general, the physical nuances of life. Also, I am aware of the satisfaction of eating my hunger. The Persian Sufi poet Rumi wrote, “Only the true favorites get hunger for their daily bread.”