Today marks the end of our 40 day lenten fast. The fast included many different components, but the one that was most challenging for us was no food from sun up to sun down on Wednesdays and Fridays. Why was this challenging, you ask? Because we like to eat….whatever and whenever we feel like eating (if you follow us on instagram then you know we’re always cookin’ something good at the thrifty palace). We went into the fast with great expectations and excitement, which in turn led to some pretty big growth moments (read Ricks’ reflections on developing a grateful heart HERE), but fasting for 40 days was not without its challenges. There were times when at least one of us was like, “ummm no. I’m not feelin’ this today” or a time when Ricks was sick or just times when life was happening and it was hard to make fasting a priority. Yet, we did it, and it left me thinking about the challenges of consciously do without things I want.
Challenge #1: Putting all my focus on the thing I gave up. Most fast days one of us would message the other and give the sunset time for the day. Daylight savings time RUINED us when we realized there was going to be an extra hour of daylight standing between us and eating dinner. I’m not gonnna lie to y’all, I can be a cranky something-or-other when I’m hungry. One day Ricks and I were chatting about fasting:
Ricks: OK, the challenging thing about this here fast, is right now I don’t have anything to do at work. So there is really nothing to keep my mind off my stomach.
Reese: The challenging thing is I’m really hungry. Like almost painfully hungry. Idk why tho. I ate plenty yesterday. Today’s more challenging than the last fast. And I have a headache. Not cool.
Ricks: Totally not cool. I thought I was going to get the whole hunger headache, but I’m doing good so far.
Reese: Overall I’m happy to be doing this. But at the moment I’m not a happy camper…..I think I’ll stop complaining now…that feels incredibly selfish….gonna turn up the music and clean up.
Ricks: Good call.
The only thing I knew to do in the situation was to redirect my attention. After all, that’s part of what fasting is about, right? I had to decide if it was worth it to focus on what I didn’t have (food) or to focus on something else. At the end of the day, I could have spent 10-12hrs focused on how hungry I was, and what would that have accomplished? On that particular day, I cranked up one of my spotify playlists, cleaned the house, and focused my mind on all the things I was grateful for. By the time dinner came, I had forgotten about being hungry and the headache.
Challenge #2: Choosing to accommodate or not accommodate life stuff. Life happens….and it didn’t stop just because we had good intentions of fasting. Our NYC trip took place during the lenten season, Ricks got sick, and I was registered for a Saturday morning half marathon. We had to choose what we wanted to do about it. We changed our fasting days to accommodate our NYC trip, because we didn’t want to set ourselves up for failure. Who goes on vacay and not eat?! Ricks battled the yuckiness and fasted anyway, and I fasted part of the day before my race (which probably wasn’t a good idea, but I had already gone through half the day before I decided I was actually going to run the race). Bottom line: there were many things that came up during the 40 day period, and we had to choose what to do about it. Life lesson: ish happens….but is it big enough for you to decide to go back to consuming (or using) whatever it is you decided to consciously give up? There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer here. Only you can decide.
Challenge #3: Choosing to function within an uncomfortable space when you know you don’t have to. In an essay called, “Veganism and Ecowomanism,” Layli Phillips pursues the concept of being gentle with herself and others. She details navigating the gray areas as she developed and embraced living simply and sustainability. I love this essay, because in it, she’s transparent about the awkward and sometimes uncomfortable spaces she found herself in during the pursuit of discovering her truth. There were many times she could have given up her pursuit of veganism, sustainability, and reducing her material possessions–particularly when she realized her partner and children weren’t into it. But she didn’t. She kept pushing until she found the balance and clarity she desired. I felt the same way during the fast. Since I primarily work from home, I could have walked into the kitchen at any time and had something to eat. I never did. I wasn’t always happy to be fasting, but I was always happy to be moving toward my truth….and I tried to be gentle with myself in the process.
Though we did this in accordance with our particular spiritual beliefs, the act of consciously giving up stuff is valuable for anyone–regardless of what you believe or don’t believe. I’ve always heard that you learn who you really are when you’re faced with challenging situations. One day I had to admit, I didn’t want to fast. I wasn’t feeling it. But I did it anyway. Why? Because the practice of giving up food wasn’t just about the food. It was about being able take my mind off the struggle-of-the-moment for a second, to allow myself to feel a lack that some people feel on a daily basis….and to sow positive, conscious energy into myself and the world around me.