I have been fasting as part of my regular practice now for over four months. I have done this before for much longer historically, and I find the process very valuable. I currently fast from the finishing of my early evening meal on Tuesday, until the breaking of my fast (around about 12 noon) on Thursday. This practice ‘resets’ my body and mind, focuses my will and determination and does wonders for my well-being and good health. I have also undertaken more extreme forms of fasting, which are to my mind far more about altered states of consciousness, will/determination and the wisdom borne of self-imposed ritualised ordeal. These have historically been long(ish) water fasts: multiple 5 and 7-day fasts, and a 10-day fast. I have been finding my return to weekly fasting so valuable that I wanted to undertake a new fasting experience. Initially, I had planned to engage Ramadan (and I still plan to at some point), but then it occurred to me that it would be useful, as part of a wider re-engagement and healing process with respect to my early traumatic experiences with Irish Catholicism, to re-engage with Lent first. For a long time now I have avoided any recognition of any benefit or even identification with with my Christian heritage, and I am actively trying to change this entirely negative association (with quite a lot of success). So, although it will definitely not be as a practicing Christian, I shall indeed be participating in Lent this year. Not only that, but I plan to try and undertake a Black Fast.
The Black Fast is the most severe form of Catholic fasting.
- more than one meal a day is strictly prohibited.
- meat, eggs and dairy are prohibited.
- sugar is prohibited (I will prohibit all processed foods also).
- it was traditionally taken after sundown, then later this changed to around 3pm, later still to noon.
- intoxicants are prohibited.
- in the ‘Holy Week’ only bread, salt, herbs, and water are allowed.
- Sundays are free from fasting.
Initially, I will be a strict as possible. I will see if I can manage to retain my Wednesday water fast also. I will eat my main meal after sundown (if this is too difficult I may try 3pm, and so on, but I am quite stubborn, so I expect I will stick it out). Obviously I am a vegetarian, with a mostly vegan diet, so the no meat and diary will be easy. I have very recently developed a poor relationship with sugar, however, so I expect this to be difficult initially. Breaking bad habits is another positive reason for undertaking the fast. I will give up alcohol throughout (including St Patrick’s Day!). Finally, I am thinking of switching the holy week to brown rice, rather than bread. This achieves the same goal, and will be much better for me, health-wise.
This will be a very interesting experiment; I am really looking forward to engaging with it. I enjoy this sort of thing: experiential experiments that offer me insights into this mysterious process of conscious. Trying to explain to my six-year old why I am doing it, and why I find value in this sort of thing generally has been a little more tricky. She can’t even begin to imagine why anyone would choose “not to eat sweets” (this seems to be the specific point that really shocked her), as she puts it, “but I like eating sweets”. In any case, I am mentioning it publicly for a couple of reasons: 1) doing so helps immeasurably in ensuring that you stick with what you have determined to do, and 2) it helps people understand why I may not be 100% ‘myself’ for a short while. I may get fasting flu symptoms initially, I may be tired, who knows? In the past the opposite has been true and I have found fasting energising and uplifting: fingers crossed it goes that way. Watch this space.