Saturday, September 8, 2007

To Fast or Not to Fast, That is the Question...

Oh boy...its been a while since I blogged last. I've had very limited computer access lately and its been really nice. But I miss it. There is something I have been wanting to blog about for a long time now: my recent fasting experiences. So here goes (watch out, this one's a humdinger!):

Some Background
Since April, I have not held a job. I was working at the local farmers market selling my homemade raw food snacks and goodies, but then I wanted to devote more energy and time to gardening, growing food and being outdoors near plants. I felt stuck inside in the kitchen when I really wanted to be in the yard. I was selling all this dehydrated stuff but I was being drawn more and more to fresh foods. I didn't know what to do. So one day I just quit the market, even though it seemed up until that point like my dream job. And it was! But then things kept changing. I kept changing. So my dreams changed a little, too.

Occupation: Professional Soul-Searcher
But there were no jobs I wanted. I didn't want to trade in my enthusiasm and energy to some business entity that wasn't performing sustainably towards the planet and that was just going to drain me of my enthusiasm and energy in return. I wanted a job that would help me build up even MORE energy and enthusiasm and in the meantime, be meaningful to me. Where are those jobs??? Do they exist???? I still don't know. But in the meantime, I decided I was going to take the opportunity of having no responsibility to take care of and do some things I had been wanting to do for a while. During the month of June (I think it was) I was inspired to do a juice fast. I fasted for 7 days on juice. It was very interesting to me. While I was at the bookstore one day, I found a book called The Fasting Path: For Spiritual, Emotional, and Physical Healing and Renewal by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

I read some of it and went back the next day and finished the book right there in the bookstore. In the book the author, Mr. Stephen Buhner, discusses the reasons for, benefits and logistics of water fasting. I was completely drawn to the idea of taking this inner journey in the hopes of experiencing mental clarity, higher levels of energy and a profound sense of life purpose and direction. I knew I really really wanted to try it. One of the things that Mr. Buhner stresses in his book is the importance of being out in wilderness during a water fast. I was really drawn to that idea, too.

In preparation for the water fast, I decided to try and juice fast for 14 days and then go straight into the water fast. So I began another longer juice fast. I had been wanting to do another one anyway since I experienced so much from the first one. My mom called me a few weeks before and asked me to come help her with some things at her home in Alabama and since I had been wanting to visit her, I knew I needed to go. So I packed up my things and headed out to AL on my 5th or 6th day of the juice fast.

I lasted for about 9 days. On the 10th day, somewhat out of the blue, I got VERY VERY HUNGRY!!!! So I ate food and felt proud that I made it 9 days this time.

To Fast or Not to Fast???
Then I wasn't sure about the water fast anymore. I began to have some doubts. I felt great after the juice fast so why did I need to bother with more fasting? After a week of eating LOTS of food and food that I don't even normally eat, including TONS of cooked food, I felt lost. I began thinking of the water fast again. My mom lives literally about 7 minutes from a beautiful state park. I knew there was a campground with facilities there and I also knew they allowed primitive camping out in the forest. The cost for camping at the campground was $10/night and I didn't want to go spend $70 dollars that I had no business spending, but I have only primitive camped once in my life and it was just this past June. Not to mention that that time it was with an eagle boyscout. I wanted to be a girl scout when I was younger, but when I tried they told me the troop was full. So my wilderness experiences are extremely limited. But the cost for primitive camping was only $3/night and Mr. Buhner did stress the importance of being out in the wilderness during the fast - away from normal conveniences and ways of life. Something told me that he didn't really mean a campground. So after one day of feeling utterly miserable, I packed up the next morning, drove to the park, and registered for 2 days of primitive camping. I was scared, but I had no where else to go. I wasn't ready to go home yet, nothing in my life felt resolved. Plus I was feeling pretty down and out after a week of doing not too much of anything except eating lots of crazy food. So I just took the plunge.

Water Fasting in the Forest
The Fasting Path book had lead me to conclude that the perfect amount of time for me was going to be 7 days of fasting. After the first night, I knew I could do it. Many conditions were in my favor. I was able to camp close to my car so I didn't have to carry much water around. I was near a civilization and my mom's house in case I needed to be. I made a friend at the state park so I had a great hiking buddy for some of the longer hikes I did. And it was really quiet, peaceful, and beautiful out in the woods. Oh, and there are no bears in the state of Alabama. I am actually sad that the bears are extinct there, but I was honestly also very relieved.

I journaled my experiences of the entire fast in great detail, but I will spare those details here and just get to the main points of things. The first day and night were the worst in terms of comfort, only to rivaled by one other day (the 6th). My intestines were in knots all day from the food I had eaten the day before, so I didn't have to worry about fending off a healthy appetite. But I had a very painful headache most of the night and slept restlessly on the hard ground. In the early morning my headache finally went away, I got a few hours of sleep and did some hiking after I woke up.

In Breif:
My fast lasted 6 days. On the sixth day I was miserable. The temperature had been 106 degrees that day (!!!) and I had absolutely no energy for what felt like an eternity of a day. I enjoyed lots of energy for most of the fast, but on the fifth day I was perhaps a bit too ambitious and went on an 8 mile hike in the foothills in 104 degree weather and it wore me out com-plete-ly. I foolishly sat out in the sunshine after the hike to catch some rays. Another bad idea. Alabama was experiencing an abnormally intense heat wave during this time (late August). I woke up the next day and there was no breeze. It took all the energy I could muster just to sit up in my tent. I spent the entire day lying down on a picnic table in the shade wishing I wasn't hot, bored, energy-less and extremely uncomfortable. That evening as I was trying to muster the energy to get off the picnic table and return to my steambox tent, I just decided that drinking coconut water and spending the night with mom in her air conditioned house that night was going to be the best idea in the world.

Another item of note: Foodwise, I was barely hungry during the fast and after the first three days, food was only something in my thoughts here and there. I was delighted by my absence of appetite since it made things feel so much easier.

I experienced a lot of things on the fast. Lots of significant dreams and lots of significant thoughts. I also got to spend a lot of time outside with Mother Nature and with myself. On the sixth night, I had coconut water, chocolate almond milk, and a few bites of food. I wasn't too hungry, though. Just exhausted. The next day I felt AWESOME! I went on a beautiful 6 mile hike and felt more joyful and energized than I had in I don't know how long. I felt like my little girl self. I wanted to run around and jump all over the place laughing and giggling.

Several days later, I returned home. Its been hard being back home and having to face all my old responsibilities again. I'm still eating some cooked food. Mostly grain-based stuff. The good news is I'm eating cooked foods that I have prepared for myself which means they tend to be much more wholesome and healthy than most foods available at stores or restaurants. I've been making things like vegan chocolate chip cookies with high quality ingredients (coconut butter, malt-sweetened choc. chips, fresh almond meal flour, whole spelt flour, maple syrup, etc). I love them.

After I got home I had an epiphany and realized that I am very attached to my ego. I'm considering this a blessing (the realization, not the attachment).

I'm still without a job and wondering what I should do next. I've got lots of gigantic ideas, though :-)

I'm also looking forward to my next water fast. I can't wait to do it again.

Here are some photos:

I think this is day 2 or 3 of the water fast.

Here is the lovely park I got to explore:

And here I am the day after the water fast:

I'm posting these photos and sharing this story in the hopes that it might inspire someone. Ghandi did it. Jesus did it. I was a fasting skeptic up until recently, but now I really think fasting can potentially play an important role in the healing and awakening of Planet Earth.

One last thing: Does anyone want to purchase my extra ticket to the Raw Spirit Fest? Please let me know by October 1st (tomorrow) by sending me an email:
Also feel free to email that address for any reason whatsoever.

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