Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Happy hunger...

Fasting for spiritual reasons seems to be almost a taboo subject in Scotland and this vexes me. Im sure that there are a few folk who are up to it, hidden away in secret nooks and paranoid crannies. But why are we so scared of talking about giving up food or some creature comfort for short periods of time? Is it some thing to do with an inherent fear of boasting? Perhaps we're worried about inadvertently encouraging eating disorders. Perhaps we're just worried people will see us as freaks.

In this spirit I would like to officially out myself right here and now: I was fortunate to have been introduced to fasting very early in my Christian life and have found it to be of unfathomable usefulness. I recommend it to anyone who is healthy and wants to know God better.

I quite agree that there are aspects of fasting that are inherently private but Im not advocating that we just go about spilling our guts about everything to any punter that happens to be passing. And obviously we have to be careful about the possible dangers and put a bit of thought into it, but thats no reason to write it off completely.

If you do have a go Id recommend taking medical advice , avoiding hard physical labour while your actually at it and making sure you drink plenty of water. And much like tripping on LSD, I find it helpful to tell one person what you're doing just in case.

Praying every time you would usually be eating is not only amazing for yer relationship with God, but it makes us realise just how much unnecessary crap we really can cram down our throats in a day. Fasting also forces you to slow down. It forces us to think things out and gives us time for new perspectives.

Self discipline, dignity, compassion. Fasting offers a window on all these and more. And lets not forget the mysterious way it seems to convert our prayer into heavenly, incorporeal molotov-cocktails.

I reckon theres allot at stake, and we, in our polite silence, are missing out. So lets not make a big deal of it, but lets at least be ok with talking about it.


Blogger Douglas said...

The issue of fasting has interested me for quite some time. The last time I stayed at your house I was in the process of starving myself and fasting as I understand it is much the same thing - just not eating. I don't think I ate anything at all between Monday Night and Wednesday afternoon - roughly two days without food. During this also I played a gig, went to another and didn't sleep, and must have walked about 20 miles or something. Waiting for the bus home on Thursday morning was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had in a while - my stomach felt so tight and sore, the muscles in it were twitching violently, I couldn't stand still. When I did get home, I tried to eat a Sunday roast but I could only manage a few little bits here and there, and avoided the meat altogether. I was finding it hard to swallow actually.

Although scientifically it doesn't really figure, I DID lose a lot of weight through this, temporarily (it wasn't my original intention, things just worked out the way they did) but then I put it all back on worse than before. The whole experience I would not like to repeat again, my stomach hurt for days afterwards and I felt pretty ropey in general. Simply not eating is not a medially advisable thing to do which may be part of why it is not everyone's cup of tea. However!

I do agree that it takes you back to the important things - it did make me realise how greedy I am with food, and in general my palate/appetite is a bit lighter these days - just one sausage and a bunch of chips this morning, rather than two and a whole plate full. In the long run I think it has been a good thing for me. Abscene makes the heart gro fonder and any form of depravation, provided it isn't completely overdone, makes you appreciate once again what you were beginnning to take forgranted. There is also a certain euphoric aspect that sets in around the 12 hours mark with not eating - you reach a point where you actually start to enjoy it and keep it going. For someone with such an addictive personality as me, this can be a bad thing - yesterday I had a bowl of all bran for breakfast and then a packet of crisps before I went to bed - no exertion, just sitting at the computer, and today is going a similar way - light breakfast and no desire as yet to eat.

The best thing with regard to diet is to have a balanced one, a light breakfast and lunch, and then a reasonable dinner, all followed by some kind of excerise. Not many people really do this though, me least of all, my eating habits are extremely erratic as you will already know.

For me there are no conclusions to draw on the subject of fasting - spiritually speaking, I would say that it is definitely a good thing especially as a member of a greedy, materialistic western society. The state I found myself in really did wake me up to just how horrid famine could really be and perhaps one needs that even mild acquaintance with such a thing to sympathise with the issue - this kind of sympathy being a quality which wouldn't be overlooked by any decent human being. I think everyone should fast once in a while to bring them closer to themselves, make them realise just how lucky they are and perhaps activate a more empathetic state of mind.


3:13 pm  
Blogger Dougleross said...

Cheers Douglas... I totally didn't expect that you'd had an experience with this. You remain, however, thoughtful and insightful as ever. Im well impressed with the idea that fasting can bring you closer to yourself, as well as other people and (of course) God.

I suppose the difference for me between fasting and simply starving myself is the purpose which lays behind it. When I fast I try to spend more time praying and reading my bible that I usually would at other times, especially during mealtimes. I cant put into adequate words how this helps me - its like I get to borrow Gods strength while Im feeling all knackered and crappy.

Without trying to be preachy, I would advise caution when not eating. I reckon the reason that you felt so ill after your experience is largely down to the exertion of walking and gigging and not sleeping. I find that not being able to do these things that Id usually take for granted is a valuable part of my fasting experience. Its more stuff in my life that I have to let go of, which I I suppose helps me think more clearly about the deep things that really matter.

I also find it very helpful to start slowly when you break you fast. Start with a bowl of soup and work up from there, a process which in and of itself can be an interesting exercise in self control and patience (not to mention vital for your health). A doctor would be able to advise you better about this though.

6:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey dougs
good post. thanks for talking about it. i have to admit that i have long been a bit confused about the whole fasting thing. cos i have epilepsy which is triggered by irregular eating, plus the fact that a lot of people who are close to me have suffered from eating disorders i have developed a bit of a mental block about the whole thing.
however - i have spoken to many friends who have really benefited in their relationships with God, seen breakthroughs in difficult situations they have been praying for and generally learnt a lot about discipline and humility - all through fasting, prayer and repentance. And God's spirit in it all of course.
I guess for me I need to consider things I can fast without it being a risk to my health. I fasted contact lenses once! That was a trippy day. But it did bring me closer to God in worship, odd tho it may sound.
I guess there is also a part of me that struggles with a sense of 'is it a valid fast?' if I am not fully fasting food. I think that is probably a bit stupid of me but it remains a nagging thought, be it of God or not... any thoughts?

10:00 am  

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