So, in an effort to really hone my focus and determination, I decided to take on a 7 day fast in honor of discipline.
And I’m cutting myself short at four. Why? Well for one, I’ve been doing a lot of research and a fast longer than 3 days is usually monitored by a professional. Two, and this is the reason I’ve decided to break my fast, is because I need to focus on writing this paper that is due tomorrow (but is 8-10 pages all the same).
Why the second reason and not the first? Because I can’t focus. The whole time I’ve been fasting, all I’ve been thinking about is food. Not because I want to, because I’m confronted with it at every turn. Walking past food places in the student center, downtown, in different parts of the several schools on campus. And when I really looked at the way that food is displayed all over the place, in media, in cartoons, in books, in my mind (the worst place of all) I realized how food, of all things, dominates my life.
In an effort to define discipline, I was confronted with the fact that 60 percent of my time is spent thinking about food and 40 percent is the amount of focus I give everything else while I’m not thinking about where to eat food, where my next meal will come from and what I will eat next.
I couldn’t believe it. How could food, of all things, be such a domineering segment of the composition of my thoughts?
And I realized that this battle of discipline was about food and an effort of mine to take control of not only my thoughts towards food, but my thoughts towards every other facet of my life. My ability to commit to something until its done has been a huge short coming of mine. My wavering levels of commitment toward anything are a major source of frustration for me. In abstaining from food, I was attempting to gain control over my flighty, non-committal nature. Instead, I was forced to observe my own habits in life in an objective, not involved way. I watched people eat, was assailed with advertisements about food and I realized how disgustingly habitual and unnecessary eating is.
The whole time I have been fasting, I have not actually been hungry.
In order to actually hunger the body must deplete all other bodily resources to the point of destroying healthy tissues in order to meet nutritional needs (that is called starvation). You read it right folks, your body has to turn on itself in order for you to experience hunger.
So what we’re experiencing most of the time is a desire of the body to get energy the easy way (i.e. not from its stored resources.) Which makes me realize that I’ve been using my body a dispensary for all of the unfortunate and ridiculous cravings I’ve had in the past for food that I didn’t need. My body wants to gain energy the easy way. And my brain is willing to let it because the sensory experience is excellent. How fucked up is that?
I love food. That isn’t something that’s going to change. The thing that’s going to change is that I’ll also give more love to my body and respect that it isn’t supposed to take on unnecessary amounts of excess energy. By respecting my body I’ll there by be better able to respect my life. There were times during my fast where I felt light and free and genuinely happy. I felt weightless, my body was buzzing with activity and when I could focus, my work was 100% more exciting and engaging than any meal I could have ever eaten.
And that’s what I’ve learned from this experience. That I need to decide what is necessary in my life for me to be my very best. While fasting, I was critical of my friendships, my relationships, my family life, my financial life to really assess what is actually necessary. What I actually needed in order to not turn on my self in order to meet my needs in this life.
I learned a lot more than I set out to. And maybe I’ll try this again when I have a professional (preferable a monk) to guide me through the experience. But I must say that I’m proud of my discipline in learning from every experience that I have. And I’m excited to see what life will be like post-fast. I’m not expecting a complete overhaul after four days of fasting, but some overhaul is definitely over due and now I’m aware of it. And that’s the first step.
This was a challenging experience and to a person with the right mind set, I’d recommend it. The objectivity that comes from not participating is a benefit that I was not expecting, but one that I will be forever grateful for.