Sunday, September 23, 2007

Empty belly, grateful heart

On Saturday I fasted, as promised, joining in prayer with the world's Muslim observers of Ramadan and Jewish observers of Yom Kippur. It was not as difficult as I thought it would be, but there was a good reason why.

By lucky coincidence, my teenage son -- who requires more-or-less constant feeding -- was with friends all day. And since it was Saturday, I had no need to be any of the places where I might be tempted to eat. I could stay at home, away from the kitchen. There was no need to summon the will power to turn down treats at the office or invitations to lunch.

The few times I felt hungry, it was less like a ravenous craving than a gnawing emptiness. Mostly I forgot food altogether, which made me wonder how much I eat out of habit rather than need.

I thought often of the many people who feel this hunger every day, and not by choice. It's all too easy to forget the desperation of the poor when your own belly is full.

And when I finally broke my fast, the food seemed different to me: like a feast rather than an ordinary meal, like a symphony rather than the background noise of everyday life, like a brightly wrapped gift rather than a simple bowl of Shredded Wheat.

Indeed, what I felt throughout the day was not deprivation, but gratitude and compassion.

Has that been your experience? Have you ever fasted for religious reasons? What was it like for you?


Anonymous said...

I've fasted few times in my life (for 10 days each) but never for religious reasons (obviously as I see no evidence for existence of any god). First few days was hard then it got easier and did make me feel better at the end. However my fasting was different as I really didn't eat anything for that 10 days (and nights) and my diet consisted of lots of fluids (tree syrup, lemon, red pepper powder mix).

Honestly I am thinking of trying this again soon as it was many years since I did it last and it did cleanse my body.

Anonymous said...

I have fasted before the LORD numerous times. Almost always to quiet my mind and spirit to prepare for some emotionally trying experience or to simply be able to hear/understand more clearly. It helps me remember that my stomach is not my GOD. I think the biggest thing is to remember to do it in quiet, to not make it anyone else's business when we fast for spiritual reasons - otherwise instead of starving the flesh, we are feeding it. I have always had the most amazing spiritual breakthroughs after an extended fast; most likely as I have seen what Christ says when he means that man shall not live on bread alone.

Concord said...

I think it's wonderful that you not only remembered it was Ramadan, but chose to do something outside your comfort zone.

I'm actually taking fasting this year seriously and I regret not doing it sooner. My experience has been a lot like yours Saturday.

The first day I had a headache, but it went away. The first week I was very - mellow. Didn't have the extra energy to do much extra, but this week my energy is returning; I'm just very thirsty.

I'm not religious at all, I'm doing it to remind myself about those that go hungry and have no choice and to teach myself alittle discipline - I have none usually. It also makes me sympathetic to the rest of my family which IS fasting.

Have to admit - I'm a bit bummed that after twelve days of fasting I've only lost 3 pounds, but I don't feel as bloated or as heavy.

The_Weaver said...

I fasted for my affirmation ritual to the Morrigan. It was very intense, emotionally uplifting, and spiritually empowering. I like fasting before any major spiritual event. I live a healthy lifestyle so fasting is something I know how to do without much risk, as there are many different types of fasting believe it or not (You only eat a small amount of cooked unbleached rice morning, evening, and at night you drink green tea mixed with lemon and (gross) vinegar, you eat nothing, or other very light variants. It depends on your health).

Lao Tsu, the writer or writers of the Tao Teh Ching (The Virtuous Way, to paraphrase, writes that, "An emperor, in ruling, stuffs to stomach, and empties the heart." This means that a leader maintains the sustenance of the people, makes sure they have what they need at all times. However, she/he keeps them free of the worries of matters of state and problems so that their lives are not immersed in bureaucracy and all things that would over complicate that which would detract from the people farming, gathering together, family life, and caring for the land.

I thought that might be interesting.