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Last winter I was in a dark place, adrift and wandering the paths of delusion, heedless of the many signs God has given me to return and face the ancient beauty of all that is.
So I decided to fast, which I felt would lead me to something greater in life—or bust. I didn’t know where I was going or what exactly I was seeking, but I needed to return to love, I needed a real sense of what home is all about, I needed to find a way to master the conditions and test of the self. I needed a way to break free from the identification of my childhood trauma stories and create a new narrative for myself.
As I decided to fast, I accepted my fate—that either I could save my life or it was death for me. Although my naive focus was on the physical modalities of fasting, the intention was a spiritual one. Many of my peers have considered me a spiritual person, but little did I know of the oceanic depth of true spirituality, its qualities, virtues, and attributes that come through submission to Grandfather our Creator:
… 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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 69.
During this time an elder I met through a Native American Sweat Lodge constantly dropped pearls of wisdom when we spoke. During his spiritual path in India, he was given a swami title. Swami means teacher or master, and he was a real yogi beyond the bounds of American Yoga. He told me that I wasn’t truly fasting, as my sole condition was abstaining from solid food. I would only ingest liquids, water, fresh squeezed juice, tea, etc. Of the many suggestions he made in my pursuit of truth, the ones I took up readily included the studying of the Song of God revealed in the Vedas, known as the Bhagavad-Gita. I also studied the book Autobiography of a Yogi.
During the time of my fast, I had decent shelter found in a trailer on the property of very generous and loving people that barely knew me—a prayer answered from Sweat Ceremony, and a huge upgrade from a recent year-long bout of homelessness. But I didn’t readily have the best accommodations for my toilet and shower needs, so I would visit a local cafe almost every day for a year, and see familiar people there. It was during this time of my intentional fast that I would meet a Baha’i and become immersed in the ocean of all the Baha’i Faith presents.
After a couple weeks of fasting, I would meet a spiritual brother and friend who would change my life. On March 1st, 2017, I met a group of older gentlemen, regulars the café owners called “the boys.” The first member of this group would become my Baha’i brother, Dr. Ed Bauman. Although I had seen this tall, kind-looking fellow for a year, we first became acquainted as I read Autobiography of a Yogi and meditated. We quickly bonded through heightened conversation of a spiritual nature. On March 2nd, I heard the word Baha’i for the first time, in reference to the Baha’i fast beginning that day, and my soul caught on fire.
That fire would be kindled and grow and lead to glorious blessings and changes in my life. Within weeks I would attend spiritual devotions, gatherings, and start the learning process by studying the Baha’i book Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.
Throughout it all, I kept fasting. I ended my fast at the conclusion of the 19-day Baha’i Fast, making my fast at least 40 days long. I broke the Fast in the company of my new community by eating 20 blueberries. It was Naw Ruz, an ancient Persian and Baha’i New Year celebration on the first day of spring, and a very joyous time for me as I broke my fast for the first time in my life in community with others. I fell in love with so many aspects of the Faith and the Baha’i community. It spoke to my heart, while time and time again it validated greater truths.
On Easter of 2017, I called for a sweat ceremony. Calling sweat is done by bringing tobacco as an offering to my family that cares for the medicine lodge. I gave my offering to an elder, and I shared my intentions for calling the sweat.
At this particular sweat I invited my new Baha’i friends Dr. Ed Bauman and his wife Chris. I got there early and began preparation for the ceremonial fire, while also figuring I would be fireman for the ceremony. Some new people would be in attendance. One gentleman with terrible throat cancer would be humbly supplicating to the Creator within the sweat lodge. This man was known by my Baha’i friends, a serendipitous validation on a blessed day. While I had prepared for the service of fireman, I was notified before we went into the sweat that I would be pouring water, a huge honor and blessing. To pour the water means you are thinking of everyone in there, as well as all the elements that brought this ceremony together including God. It was a tremendous reinforcement on my path to the Creator in being invited to pour water.
I declared my faith in Baha’u’llah and became a Baha’i a week later, on April 21st, 2017, day before my birthday on the 22nd. That day, the start of the Baha’i celebration of Ridvan—which means “paradise”—is a special time in the Baha’i Faith, and a marker for my rebirth into a greater truth, reality, and cause.
Most excellent changes in my life would ensue as soon as I started hearing the message of Baha’u’llah and learning how to say his name. It was like seeing light early in the morning, so bright you have to squint to see, while putting your hand over your eyebrows like a visor to have better vision. Baha’u’llah’s name wasn’t easy to say at first—I had to adjust to the light.
In that process, my inner sight expanded into a worldwide vision, and through Baha’u’llah’s bounty I could see in the dawn and the rest of the dark.
I would have several more sweats as a Baha’i before the lodge needed to be rebuilt. Every time it was my action that called the sweat, the revelation of the Baha’i writings deepened. New trials and tribulations would present themselves early on, testing my constancy and steadfastness while validating the wisdom and power, the true remedy and salvation the Baha’i Faith contains in its writings and activities.
I am itching for another sweat, but outside of ritual, I have found true solace and authentic freedom in being a Baha’i, in submitting my personal will power to divine willpower. I turned my “no” to the Creator into a “yes,” a “yes” that I will abide by the laws and obligations set forth in the Creator’s most recent dispensation. Today I am a Baha’i and that will continue until the day I die—and when I do transition I hope to still be a Baha’i.
A Persian Baha’i friend said on the day I declared, “ I am becoming a Baha’i.” May the whole world be illumined with the light from this glorious revelation.