[Fasts have long been a part of contemplative tradition. Monastics abstain from food to achieve greater clarity, embodiment, and spiritual vision. They change your physical reality, which in turn affects your emotional and spiritual realities. Indeed, the whole reason we do them is to bring about personal transformation. This series of blog posts—”Beer Fast”—documents the experiences of a pair of Artmonks as they undergo one western monastic fasting practice: consuming nothing but beer and water. With that in mind, these entries are raw, containing a higher-than-usual dose of intimate reflections.]
Today, Charles, Molly, and I begin our 14 day fast, harkening back to the monks of yore who fasted for as many as 46 days, ingesting only water… and beer.
At the Art Monastery we are always asking ourselves what, exactly, is monastic about us. We’ve answered that question through an ever-changing series of experiments: singing Gregorian chant nightly, maintaining a shared schedule, morning meditations, silent walks, etc. When we heard about this fast that was practiced by Italian monks who moved to Germany in the 1620s, you can understand why we were drawn to it.
I won’t speak for Charles or Molly, but for me, this is a really exciting, really somehow perfectly art-monastic practice with which to engage. Drinking only beer and water for 14 days? It’s crazy! But it is also discipline boot camp. It’s funny and the delightful paradox of the beer fast is just what makes it so art monastic: it is at once gluttony & asceticism, drunkenness & clarity, fest & fast, silly & serious. What could be more real? Bring on the paradox, I say. Let’s dance!
Using as a source of information and inspiration, I am reading Diary of a Part-Time Monk, by J. Wilson, whose blog about his experience doing this same fast for all of Lent — that’s 46 days, people! — is the one who put this idea in my head. [To be sure credit is offered, culpa sua goes to Nathan, Artmonk extraordinaire, who sent Wilson’s blog to me. I sent it to Charles. The hops were in the mash.] At any rate, certainly during the Paulaner monks’ fast, they would have been praying, contemplating, reflecting, and working. So I, as an Artmonk, will do the same. I will meditate in the morning and evening; my prayer will take the form of painting and drawing; my work as Executive Director of the Art Monastery will continue as best it can; and I will share the results of this experiment here on this blog.
I’m at 7:35pm on Day 1 and I feel alright! Slight headache but no big deal. We’ve been stepping down for a few days to prepare, cutting caffeine, sugar, and meat. Two days ago we limited consumption to raw foods. Yesterday we consumed only liquids. Today, beer & water. So far, so good.