[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.]
Some observations about my fast:
- Guiness is the easiest to drink of all the beers. Beers that I adore, like Chimay and La Rossa, have come to gross me out.
- Adding a lemon to my water has been revolutionary.
- My tongue feels weird.
- I got cold more easily.
- My sense of smell is far more acute than normal.
- It takes all of about 3 breaths to get deep into meditation land.
- I am more aware of my habits. Or, my tendency to talk myself out of doing what I said I was going to do (anything other than work: drawing, meditating, dance of the seven directions). These are things that I love and I feel good while I’m doing… and yet I tend to talk myself out of doing them. I think of Nietzche: “He who cannot obey himself is commanded.”
- I drink water whenever I think of drinking or eating anything and whenever I notice my back (which aches now and again) and whenever I see my water bottle. This winds up being a lot of water consumption.
- The experimentation with not avoiding the delicious scents of the kitchen or discussion or even thinking about food, has proved fruitful. Not the kind of fruit I can ingest on a physical level, but fruitful nonetheless. I’m in a much calmer state about other people eating food. I can enjoy the smell of coffee that wafts in to my room in the morning. And leaving my door open invites in not just the aromas, but also my dear, sweet Artmonks, who come to see what I’m doing in my room. A quick and simple demonstration: avoiding threatening or unpleasant sensations actually cuts you off from connecting to other people. Riiiight. This is why this is such a big concept in meditation. Rather than avoiding your emotions, go into them, experience them in your body, witness them. In the process, you face your demons, sit and have tea (or beer) with them. Either they turn out to not be so bad, or they turn out to be just as bad as you feared but then they go on their way. Either way, the only real way to get away from them is to go to them. One of those lessons I have to take in in so many different ways on so many levels to learn and re-learn. Got it. Until next time.
Other fun facts about the friars of Neudeck ob der Au, the Paulaners whose fault it is that I’m doing this crazy practice:
- They were vegans.
- They drank a variety of beers on their fast, not only dopplebock.
- They would have broken the fast for Sundays, St Patricks Day, and other feast days during lent. (CHEATERS! No, not really. I mean, I’m only doing this for 14 days and now I’m sneaking lemon into my water. Who’s the cheater now?)
“I regard monks and poets as the best degenerates in America. Both have a finely developed sense of the sacred potential in all things; both value image and symbol over utilitarian purpose or the bottom line; they recognize the transformative power hiding in the simplest things, and it leads them to commit absurd acts: the poem! the prayer! What nonsense! In a culture that excels at creating artificial, tightly controlled environments (shopping malls, amusement parks, chain motels), the art of monks and poets is useless, if not irresponsible, remaining out of commercial manipulation and ideological justification.” – Kathleen Norris