March 20th marked Naw Ruz, the Baha’i New Year, and it has me thinking about fresh starts and changes. It seems very natural to me to start the new year not in the dead of winter, but as the world itself begins anew. “In the spring there are the clouds which send down the precious rain, the musk-scented breezes and life-giving zephyrs; the air is perfectly temperate, the rain falls, the sun shines, the fecundating wind wafts the clouds, the world is renewed, and the breath of life appears in plants, in animals and in men,” said Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith. “Earthly beings pass from one condition to another.” It is a time of dreaming and setting goals, of taking advantage of the natural change of seasons to propel our own changes. In the Baha’i Faith just before the New Year comes a time of fasting. People often ask me about how this fast works. In a nutshell, Baha’is between the ages of fifteen and seventy who are in good health fast for nineteen days (one Baha’i month) from sunrise to sunset. It is an opportunity to focus on the spiritual aspects of life in the absence of the material ones. Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha’i Faith wrote that the fasting period is “essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character.” I try to use this fasting time to reflect on the past year and recuperate spiritually. This way at Naw Ruz I am prepared for a fresh start having reviewed both what was successful last year and what lessons I learned when things did not work out the way I hoped they would. This year, when we have been hibernating more than usual through the winter season due to the pandemic, I am especially looking forward to a fresh start this spring. Over the past year, I have watched as the world has reflected on many of its challenges and learned about areas where we, as a whole, need to learn to do better. It seems to me that the central theme we are learning about is the oneness of humanity. The events in one nation impact us all. The oppression of one group stops the growth of all. The health of one impacts and is impacted by the health of all. In the final analysis, there is no us and them. There is only us. Having had an opportunity for reflection, we now all have the opportunity for collective change, a new start. What goals will you set for yourself in this season of renewal? What changes can we as individuals make? Because the changes made by one, and multiplied my many, can impact the spiritual, mental, and physical health of all. Katrina Bradley is a member of the Baha’i Faith and facilitates the Spiritual Life Team for the Wyoming Interfaith Network. As a Licensed Professional Counselor she specialized in working with criminal behavior and substance abuse for 15 years before turning her energies to homeschooling. She is passionate about family, faith, education, and animals. Her life goal is to contribute to universal acceptance of the oneness of humanity.
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