Monday, September 21, 2009

September 21, 2009 'Fasting'

Today, I read in Altman's book about the "Art of the Inner Meal"(See Bibliography) that the Christian tradition has fasting and how Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Food connects to the Spirit through renunciation which is achieved by sacred prayer and fasting. The devil tempts a hungry Jesus by asking him to turn some stones into loaves of bread which Jesus refuses.

Later in the chapter, Altman relates this practice of fasting by uniting prayer and fasting which was used early in the history of Christianity by Christian monks living in Egypt. They lived in poverty and pent their days fasting all the while nourishing their spirit by reciting scriptural passages. The author states: "Looked at another way, doesn't renunciation diminish the ego and make room for God and the Spirit? Doesn't it give us the greater spiritual capacity we need to be more charitable toward others? " Altman thinks the more we use the inner meal practice of fasting and prayer to restrict food the less likely we are to worship food and become obsessed by it or let it become a stumbling block to providing charity for others.

In the Buddhist tradition, there are desire and selfishness and balanced on the other side is renunciation and charity or selflessness. This balancing scale is the Buddhist struggle between excess and abstinence all over again.

For those who overeat, there is a magical element quality of food. Perhaps fasting wakens the fear many of us have that create the overweight that we have. I was underfed as a child. Many people who almost starved as children often have weight problems later in life. It is as if we are afraid that we will never get food again. I know I fasted once to help find the problem with my health that was associated with something that I was eating. It worked, but it was so hard. I never want to do it again.

I remember someone in OA saying that when she was eating, she never wanted to stop eating again. When I am eating something that is very delicious, I feel the same way. I don't want to stop even when I am full. That is when mindfulness comes into play. I start to talk about food to myself and that fact that I can have coffee all I want. I can eat tomorrow. The house is full of food. My bank account is full and I can buy more food if I need. Am I really that hungry? I just want to feel that magical feeling again. I can wait for it. A few times I ate until I was too full and I hurt. I did not like that feeling so I try and remember that when I am eating.

Fasting separates the importance of eating, food and spiritual hunger. When all I am thinking about is what I am going to eat for my next meal, I am not thinking about the more important things in my life. For the monks, it was God. For me it is my family, love, writing, my health and other things. Food gives me a high. So does other things. I hope food does not remain the most important part in my life. I don't want it to be. I like not eating in the morning. It is like a mini-fast. I know things will go better when I don't give it as much thought. I like to enjoy it, but there are other things in life.

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