PM – Eve of the Final Day
As I climb into bed on the night of the last moments of the fast, I feel a strange sense of sadness. Shouldn’t I feel accomplished? Shouldn’t I feel relieved? I do look forward to the hot tea and lemon tomorrow, to my break fast of special strawberries and cherries I bought for myself from the fancy shop this morning (open on Sunday morning? in Italy? what is going on? this place is Special!). Am I sad about losing some sort of special status? Or am I sad that I segregated myself when everybody else ordered in pizzas? Should I be relieved that is the last time that will happen? Or is it the sense that it will only be a matter of not very much time before I am eating pizza again? And what would that mean? That I’m normal? That I will go back to the way I was. To struggling to keep my meditation practice going, rather than holding to it with real live discipline.
Maybe this is akin to the let-down that I feel after art installations. All the work and production that goes into it, and then it’s up, and after the opening reception I feel like I should be flying high and instead I often feel like I want to go get in bed. Mel Prest, my excellent teacher and friend, says that’s totally normal. That it is, in fact, even part of the process. Knowing that does somehow help. Lessening up the sense that something is wrong.
I find the words of Christine Valters Paintner comforting: “As monks in the world, we are always on the path, always growing, we never fully arrive and so we always have more to learn… [Being a monk in the world] is not something we simply become and arrive fully. It means being committed to the process of discovery, a transformation of a lifetime.” I suppose that if there is anything that we do arrive at in life, the Great Arrival would be death. That thought makes it easier to buddy up with the process, the path, the growth, and the beginning again. And again. And again.
AM – Final Day!
Not without some ceremony, I lifted a single, perfect strawberry to my mouth. I bit off just the tip and it exploded into technicolor fractals in my mouth. It really is like candy that grows on plants. It took me quite a while to work through that strawberry. It was not unlike coming back into speaking after a week or two of silence. A fair amount of sensory overload. I ate a cherry like it was an apple. The flavors were even more intense than the strawberry. For the next couple of days I’ll be eating fruit during the day and some simple broth at night. I plan to make that applesauce of Aunt Sara’s. (Turns out the recipe is super simple: Peel as many apples as you want. Chop into pieces. Barely cover with water. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Squish. Instead of sugar, add cinnamon. I plan to add ginger as well.) In the subsequent days I’ll gradually begin to eat everything again– just in very small portions to re-acclimate my inner workings. I’ll be especially focusing on broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, as they are known to cleanse the liver.
Looking back on this fast, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by what an epic journey it feels like. Just two weeks ago I thought such a huge part of it was the humor. The humor element is there, but really it’s only there from the outside. With each day that the fast continued, the more it was about the fast and the less about the beer. And a fast is serious. It just takes you inside, whether you intended to go there or not. I’m glad I did it. I noticed a lot about the way I connect and disconnect from people. I really saw my discipline come alive and the dance that my inner critic does with it. I dug through layers of my body, my psyche, and my heart. Can’t really ask for more than that.
Deep bows to my Paulaner cousins who did this crazy thing for 40 days, year after year. Deep bows to J. Wilson for doing this for 46 days here in the modern world. Deep bows to my Artmonks for supporting me. Deep bows to Nathan for bringing up the idea, for mentioning your own fasting, and for inspiring me with your own spiritual practice, struggles and all. Deep bows to Charles for making the challenge, for daring, for finding the way to bring practice into your life in such a meaningful way, and for taking care of yourself at the same time. Deep bows to Molly for jumping in, for doing the research, and for facing your fears, as overwhelming as they may seem. Deep bows to Liz for taking the inverse challenge, for not drinking alcohol or caffeine for this time, for bearing through those parallel struggles, for finding a way to participate that is true to you, for being supportive of this adventure despite your initial misgivings, for trusting me, and for going for it. And one more bow to anyone who has ever attempted a fast, who has challenged themselves in a spiritual practice that takes physical form, who felt emptiness, who felt hunger, who sat in the dark, and those who became intimate with the void.
Day 14 – Sober as a doornail. I felt I was really “over” my sober fast about 3 days ago, and ultimately continued only for sympathy to Betsy and to stick to my word. I suppose I achieved exactly what I set out to do. I feel stone sober – clear as day – riding my emotional ups and downs for exactly what they are, not able to hide behind anything other than the normal chemicals in my brain. I feel I’m continuing things I started to notice at the beginning of this year – the way different foods and drinks make my body FEEL – sugar makes my skin crawl, pasta makes me tired. But I suppose the point of it all is to know and recognize, and feel like I have some measure of control or choice over what I put in my body, how I want to affect my physical state.