Go fast my friend, Purge;
Resist yourself and refrain;
Go fast my friend, gain.
I used to think fasting was all about food, God, and punishing yourself. Every time I heard someone talk about fasting, they spoke about it as if it were something they were forced to do for God. And, it was always a fast from food.
A few years ago, I offered my co-workers some candy and she responded that she couldn’t eat it because it was Ramadan. I responded “oh, okay, it sure is”, as if I knew what it was, then I quickly went to Google it just in case she came to elaborate on it later.
Ramadan: the 9th month of the Muslim calendar and also the holy month of fasting.
Humm….I thought…fasting eh. There it was again, religion being associated with fasting. After I continued reading a bit more about Ramadan and how it is also a time of prayer, introspection, and self-discipline I decided to learn more about fasting and why its only associated with religion.
Turns out, fasting isn’t a religiously exclusive phenomenon (I already knew that but I don’t think the rest of the world does/did). Generally speaking, fasting is simply abstinence from something. When I thought about the simplicity of fasting, its association with religion dawned on me.
Without a intent, goal, or desired outcome, fasting is simply not doing some that you want to do. On any given day, fasting for one person could be utter self-torture for another, hence, its association to religion. Fasting with religious connotation introduces different elements that add purpose to the process. Religion also adds additional elements to any process and not all of those elements are healthy, helpful, and beneficial.
With this in mind, I’ve always made it a personal goal to establish for myself a foundation of spirituality that is not dependent upon any one specific religion, figure, deity, gender, etc. This was important to me because my entire childhood was spent under the watchful eye of Southern Baptist aunts and uncles that are probably turning in their graves at this very moment. While my aunts weren’t particularly fond of my religious rebellion, my parents were less strict. It was likely due to the fact that they had raised me to be an independent thinker and allowed me to find myself so becoming a hypocrite at this point would be impossible.
As an adult, I’m slowly, very slowly abandoning many of my religious teachings. I’ve exchanged them for lessons in spirituality while learning how to feed my soul more more lasting and nourishing content. I’m less concerned with the WHO and more concerned with the WHY and HOW.
During my own quest for understanding, I’ve learned the HOWs and WHYs of Fasting and its contribution to establishing a foundation self-discipline and restoration of focus.
Life for me in 2018 has started with so many distractions. Its been a struggle to say the least. In so many ways I’ve felt defeated and lost. I’ve recalibrated my compass so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve gotten tired and wanted to give up completely but that desire was shortlived.
I decided to fast. I needed clarity and understanding. I need to clear some space. So, last week I gave up 3 of my daily constants: Music, Coffee, and Instagram. I didn’t decide upon these 3 things just because they are constants but because they each occupy a certain amount of space in my daily existence that could be hindering my growth and forward progress. As well, these are 3 things that I enjoy immensely. I value these things with so much consistency that I consume or indulge in one or more of them at least once a day.
I usually begin listening to music in the morning when I wake up and I don’t stop until I get home from work. On my morning ride to work, Im bound to have a cup of coffee, if I don’t have it during the ride, I’ll have it at some point during the morning when I arrive at work. Instagram is a bit different. I use Instagram as a distraction or a platform to express myself. Each of these things provides something for me in a positive way but they aren’t entirely health and helpful.
Anything that we consume has an effect on our bodies and minds. Sound and visual stimulation manifest within us as we allow them to saturate us. I am fully aware that the music I listen to contributes to the thoughts that I have along with the images and content I get from Instagram. The caffeine content in coffee stimulates these things, adding to the mix.
So, I decided that I needed to fast. I know myself and I know how much I enjoy these things so I made sure that I didn’t over-commit. I gave myself a 5 day work-week assignment to remove these things from my life. I also made it appoint to incorporate prayer and use the time that I was not doing these things to do something beneficial.
When I woke on the first Monday morning, I didn’t have to remind myself not to listen to music. I just didn’t. And when I got into the car to drive to work, I didn’t turn the radio on. I just drove and thought. I removed the app short-cut from my phone so ditching Instagram for a week wasn’t really as big of a deal as I thought it would be. I realized that my aversion to Instagram is more out of habit than need and removing the ease in access was key in breaking the habit.
Not having coffee was more of a chore as well but I got by with the occasional green-tea for warmth then the office became its usual blizzard-esque temperature. I did find myself needing a pick-me-up a few times but I persevered and didn’t give in to my craving.
The silence however was a bit different. While my morning get-ready-for-work routine and drive to the office were mildly effected, working while only listening to my own thoughts and the sounds of corporate process proved to be more challenging.
A found myself reaching for my bluetooth headset a few times throughout the day. Once I realized that I left it a home the thought never crossed my mind again. By Wednesday, I had started 3 poems and meditated at least 3 times during my lunch hour. I had also prayed a few times. No more than I had done before but my prayers were different and less fragmented and more targeted. This I appreciated and needed.
Eventhough I had developed a strange headache on Tuesday afternoon, by Thursday I hadnt thought about the fact that I was fasting because I had began to focus on something different. Many different things. I began to think less about the fast and more about how much I fasting is more of a sacrifice and offering. And by sacrificing the things that I given consistency, I had carved a path to clarity and discipline.
I had shown myself that in the middle of turmoil, I can find a place of concentration. I had reassigned the value to silence that I had obviously taken for granted. My thoughts and mental activity became stronger as I found myself humming songs that I hadn’t heard in months. This within itself shattered any doubt I may have had about how music manifests itself. Songs that I hadn’t listened to in forever, some only once, had crept back into the forefront of my mind when all else had become silent. When they had space to exist within, they found their way in.
Fasting for me changes each time I do so but one thing about it that remains consistent is its ability to change the space within my soul to welcome and nurture the weakest parts of me so that they can become stronger as I age.
I haven’t planned to fast beyond a week but I can honestly admit to myself that I don’t have the urge to go racing back to my habits any time soon and this is by far the greatest reward because the absence of these things may have very well created the presence of others or even better, NOTHING AT ALL…or FREEDOM