Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fasting and Granola Bars

It is a month now since I headed down to southern Utah for a week long session with Animas Valley Institute.  It’s been over three weeks since I fasted for four days and camped solo out on a bluff overlooking a red rock canyon.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
And like all good experiences, my time in Utah is nuanced and still simmering.

I’m happy to talk to anyone about my trip – in person.  Written words are too limited and tend to bind emotions and actions into categories, labels and definitions. That wouldn’t help anyone understand what it was like to fast in isolated splendor.
Before I left, I wrote about paradigms and shifts in perception.  On my way down to Utah I listened to On Being with Krista Tippett. She was interviewing Barbara Kingsolver on The Ethics of Eating. It is an older broadcast from 2010 but beautiful and thought provoking. Interestingly enough, she talked about – you guessed it – paradigm shifts in regards to how she and her family chose to drastically change how they were living their lives.  It's just a shift. You know, momentum in our habits can be enormous. And sometimes, it's just takes some sort of a formal vow to get us from one kind of thinking into another.” Barbara Kingsolver goes on to say that any paradigm shift takes discipline at first, but then – “I understood that sometimes you have to push yourself into a new way of thinking to get to a place where you want to be that's very comfortable, that doesn't even feel like work.”

I’ll say it again - it is very hard to evaluate one’s life when one is not only immersed in it but pulled by the currents and tides that govern it. Yes, another metaphor for all those influences of culture, family, community, work and ego.  Maybe better people then I can somehow tread water and take a 360 aerial view of their current lifestyle and circumstances. For me, sitting out in the wilderness and feeling those currents go slack gave me the space to think about what shifts I want to make happen in my life.  The literal act of fasting is ‘pushing yourself into a new way of thinking’ in the most visceral of terms. 
One of the outcomes I am sitting with is that I actually took control of all those voices that kept telling me to eat the granola bars I had in my backpack.  Talk about plowing headlong into the most basic of learned behaviors: Eating.  This is, however, strikingly significant. I now know that I have the discipline and perseverance to put my Self in the driver’s seat.  I now know that I can shift my thinking – and live into whatever growth and change I want to tend within myself.

Those granola bars are still in my backpack.
Have I known this before? Of course.  And I forget. I would hazard a guess that many of us evolve and dissolve through this process of clarity and wisdom all the time.  There are times that we need to fight the currents and we may think we’ve forgotten how to swim.

It takes an effort to strike out in the direction we want to go. Maybe we flounder a bit, getting our arms and legs to sync up. Perhaps we swallow some sea water as we begin to move.
And then… we remember…

that we’ve known how to swim all along.

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