Friday, March 23, 2012

"Fasting" for Lent

Wow, long time no posts! That ski trip seems like so long ago, another life almost.

I wish I could have kept a journal of my "fasting" for Lent (technical difficulties in blogoland -- I notice the space bar is not always working, so bear with me). I have to qualify the term because I fasted between meals only, M-F only!! That's all I could stand to do, with it being tax season as well. That has been challenge enough. Let's see, the fasting is around 6-7 hours without food two times a day, and I have noticed it quite a bit. 

This year, I finally had a persuasive reason to fast, and I have started to grasp why fasting is so spiritually significant. It's a way to untangle all the cords that tether the mind/spirit to the body. It's just one avenue to tell the body, you're not the boss of me! (Of course, I'm not sure who is the boss around here most of the time.)

As I told my spiritual guide, Cecilia, I wanted to observe some fasting to be in solidarity with the people of Kinshasa, Congo. That country has abundant natural resources which have been misdirected and squandered. Food is imported from other countries at a high price, rather than grown locally, making it unaffordable for the people, so they have a system to survive. They choose which family members, including children, will eat on which days. Each family member eats one day, then fasts one day. This is not a mere exercise or a choice, because they have no choice. Imagine that kind of hunger and want, right now, and it makes our overabundance of food seem a bit sickening.

Cecilia was on the same wavelength. This year, she is fasting for indigenous people who live in remote mountainous areas of Mexico and are experiencing great hardships and deprivation due to a severe drought and harsh winter. 

I think that untethering our souls from our bodies is a crucial step in progress toward, shall we say, enlightenment. Not to be unaware of how the body is feeling, but to be separate from it and allow it to suffer without the spirit also suffering. This would completely transform the approach to all human misery, which is so deeply connected with our physical bond to our body and to one another. "There is an end to suffering," says Buddha.

My latest philosophical epiphany is this: we are our attitudes! Nothing else is important, nothing else in life is even real. The way we approach everything is crucial, and makes all the difference. Our life's work is a continual attitude adjustment. Life is so fleeting, so uncertain, and the dramatic storyline is a distraction from the important work. 

So, to report on the fasting. Since this is me we're talking about, I have eased the way for my own suffering! I don't "eat" but I often enjoy a hot tea latte (complete with milk, i.e., protein, and some sweetener, nice and filling) late in the afternoon, when my body is demanding some attention. 
I wanted to try to describe the many aspects of hunger, having experienced it twice a day now. The hunger I have can't be anything like people who are truly malnourished and starving. It's just a shadow of that ferocity of deprivation. Even so, it is interesting how pervasive the effects can be. I have trouble concentrating (and this worries me because my job requires great concentration). I often get a dull headache in the afternoon. I feel weary. Of course, I have trouble being cheerful. It's quite similar to a car running out of gas! The get up and go, got up and went. 

This is how Austin described hunger, and he's a ravenous teenage boy, so is something of an expert! One year, he had a late lunch period at school and ate after 1 pm (right after math class, one of his most difficult classes) every day. He would describe feeling incredibly hungry midmorning. Then, by the time it got closer to his lunchtime, he told me, "My stomach died and I wasn't hungry anymore." 

I know what he means. By the time I eat lunch, after 1 pm (having eaten breakfast around 6 am), I am not experiencing the usual feelings of hunger and could keep on working, though I feel out of sorts. But I've noticed that my body is adjusting to the new schedule, and it is not so physically demanding as it was at first. 

I can sympathize with people who are trying to lose weight. It's really hard to feel hungry and not eat! Worse, it is easy to overeat when you really are running on empty. That is another challenge. I often come home and stuff myself around 8 pm, then feel uncomfortably bloated. Though, I must admit, I prefer the feeling of being too full to being too hungry! I sprawl into bed about 2 hours later, not having digested my meal.

Let me not end this post with that fulsome image!

My boys are growing up so fast. Austin is due to graduate from high school, and Andrew wants to get his driver's permit and a summer job. (I am bullying Andrew, at this moment, to sign up as a zoo volunteer as a backup plan. It's hard for teens to get summer jobs these days, especially the nondriving ones!)

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