[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.]
Non-Beer Fast – Day 8
Well, with all this reflective energy in the air, I think it’s time for me to chime in to the beer-fast blogging as well! Seriously, I’ve been deeply inspired by not only watching Betsy & Charles “man-power” their way through the fast – giving up so much, and in the face of so many opportunities to falter and very good reasons to break – but also by reading their blogs and inner thoughts along the way. Some of the writings Charles will share with me before they are published, but most of those reflective thoughts I’m reading live online with the rest of the world. Funny in the modern world, how despite living together and sharing so much of our days and lives, still some of the conversation exists only online, in this new version of a Public Forum.
I’m also on Day 8 of my own personal fast. I decided weeks ago that it wasn’t the right time for me to personally participate in the Beer Fast with the rest of the team. Mostly, I just felt like I couldn’t handle one more thing in the month of May, with all of my energy geared full force at our upcoming summer programming (see last blog post). With everything else spinning through my head right now, I definitely didn’t want to take up anymore brain RAM with eating/not-eating. But I did want to do *something*, both in support of my fellow monks’ fast and I thought some kind of flushing out wouldn’t hurt, so I decided to do no alcohol, no caffeine, minimal sugar for the same period.
So far, it’s been somewhere between mixed results and great. The first two days I just felt kind of crappy without coffee in the morning and stifled by not having wine at night – it’s easy enough to say “no” when that stuff comes around the table, but I didn’t really feel anything and immediately began to doubt why I was doing this. As I said, I have enough on my plate to worry about this month – why deny myself the pleasures of coffee and wine and beer? But I also felt some measure of consciously choosing to not whine out loud about my experience here, as much as possible – with the others smelling and seeing food all the time and refusing almost all sustenance, how can I complain about giving up my little part? I think it was pure moral support for the others that got me through those first 2 days.
And then, the third day – a breakthrough. Clarity. Clear mind. Clear body. Center. Even. As opposed to the other guys, who were righteously struggling and feeling physically on death’s door, I felt amazing. I guess this makes total sense – my version of the fast is even more about eliminating toxins, and for me personally really about evening out my energy. I didn’t think I was really riding energy rushes, dependent on caffeine and alcohol to push me up or down (and I’m not terribly addicted to either one – usually, I have 2 cups of coffee and 2-3 small glasses of wine or beer per night. Huh, although writing that, maybe that IS more than normal, eh?) But eliminating these from my system – I just felt reset to zero, in a great way. Which is totally the idea.
In the spirit of full disclosure, on Day 4 several social business meetings, and due to circumstances, I had an espresso, one glass of beer, and meat with dinner! (I’ve also been vegetarian for 8 years.) That was a weird day. I was so delighted with the results of my fast so far and had no intention to “break”, but I’ve found in Italy that sometimes, sticking to your moral principles about your food choices actually just makes you a jerk and seem quite rude (about two or three times per year, I get “forced” into eating meat – when someone goes out of their way to cook you meat lasagna and you know they can’t afford it, how can you say no?). The worst part about “breaking” on Day 4 is that Day 5 & 6 were pretty mediocre, once again.
But now I’m on Day 8 and back on the train! I must say, I’m no longer in awe of the clarity and centeredness that I felt on Day 3. I feel clear, sure, but still having a hard time coming out of some deep sleep in the morning and usually pretty exhausted by the end of the day. But what I like about this fast is that that feels NORMAL – it feels like I’m a human being, and I can know that experience for exactly what it is without hiding behind any substances to mask things or make it “easier” in the short-term. And I guess the real secret is, any lack of clarity I feel now ultimately comes from my brain in my most clear state – and so if I still feel overwhelmed, or cloudy, or tired, I have to look at that directly. I feel like actually, this is my own journey into the darkness of Vigils this year – I’m entering into the landscape of the unknown that is within my own mind, digging through cobwebs, encountering hidden demons, unsure of exactly what I’m even seeking on the other side of the darkness. All I know is this is my path – and the only way forward is to feel my way through, one day at a time.