Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why, Why, WHY??...

Sorry, just had to throw that "psi" joke in the picture, which really has nothing to do with this post! Well, maybe a little...but I'll explain, loosely as always. (**And for those of you not in the know, the Greek symbol for "Psi", pronounced, *sigh*, was adopted by the psychiatric world a number of years ago to represent/abbreviate the word "psych"...WE just jokingly refer to it as "the blue pitchfork"**)

So, Tracy and Webster both left inquiries in the comment section of the previous post, basically asking me, "WHY"? WHY do I participate in a yearly fasting ritual/cleansing and HOW/WHY do I stay warm etc. Both were such wonderful questions that I decided to try to provide some answers here.

Most of you (if you've been paying attention, that is) already have discovered I am "polyreligious" (not to be confused with polyamorous by any means!)...I have dabbled in or even practiced for periods of time MANY of the traditions and customs across the religious spectrum. From Jewish Shabbat to Catholic Mass and other crossroads in between. Religion and the occult has always fascinated me on a deep level (which, BTW, ALL religions began as "cults") and I admire the many customs each religion brings to its followers.

But contrary to general principle, I am NOT a religious person. I have a very spiritually based belief system that incorporates the teachings of many of the great prophets: from Jesus to Buddha to Moses, all rolled into a personal spiritual philosophy that works for me. I judge no one by their religious beliefs, only their actions in the world...which is all I can EVER hope another judges me upon.

Some might even go so far as to call me "pagan" because I traditionally honor the Earth religion holidays more so than typical Christian/Jewish/Buddhist/Shinto/Muslim/Hindu observances. And when I refer to "earth religions", I am talking about those practices that follow the seasonal changes and pay reverence to this planet we walk on.

My yearly fast falls on what pagan tradition refers to as *Hallows* or *Samhain* (pronounced "sow in"). You can Google those words to find out more about this reference (And here's a past post from the ol' AOL blog brought over to Blogger recently referencing this observance ). Last year, due to a shingles outbreak and relapse, I had to postpone my tradition until the common New year, January 1st. I'm also a big believer in the notion it really doesn't matter what TIME one chooses to honor their beliefs/values...only that they DO so.

So, my personal tradition of fasting on Hallows began nearly 16-17 years ago when I was a participant in a Women's Spirituality study group out of Madison, WI. I was a practicing massage therapist/body worker at the time and read many of the teachings of Gandhi (who used fasting as a form of prayer) and other teachers. The idea of fasting became a challenge for me because I have always had "food issues", aka, over-eating since I graduated from nursing school. I have also been keenly aware of a fear of darkness that I developed as a child due to family of origin *issues*. And the seasonal change of fall to winter (which used to be designated on Samhain as the Feast of the Harvest...or the coming of the New Year) felt like a perfect time to utilize deprivation of my comforts (food/harvest) to get in touch with my darkness (unconscious mind/winter). Are you still following me here?!? LOL

When I prepare for my yearly fast, it is a spiritual preparation I must attend to. I find a time (as close to Hallows as possible) where I can set aside a minimum of a 24 hour period to pay mindful focus on my thoughts and my body. I deprive my body of the comfort of food so that I can listen more closely to the possible discomfort in my mind. I practice meditation/prayer. I sometimes utilize distraction. I breathe. I become aware of those things in my mind which cannot surface readily when I am in otherwise constant comfort. I cry. I sing. And I begin to visualize exactly what I would like to see in my life and in myself in the coming year. THIS is why I fast. And THIS is why I attempt to cleanse my body following my fast with a strange vegetable diet. It is not because I have MS. It is because I believe the ritual is a perfect method for ME (you, I don't know about) to recenter and focus mind/body/spirit.

That hopefully answers the "why" question of my fasting motive. Now, onward to the electricity question! LOL

In answer to Webster's Q about using heat during this period of time, I can only say this is the FIRST year I have ever added on the electrical black out along with the fast. And I decided to add this into the mix because I have become aware of how reliant and even dependent I am on the Internet/TV/etc., to entertain and distract me. I simply wanted to see what I might be like if I didn't have these things as a crutch.

Temps here in Seattle don't fall much below 40ish this time of year and I warmed my hut up to a toasty 72 degrees before I shut everything down. So, no...I did NOT utilize my electric heat for comfort during my fasting period, but my hut also did NOT fall below 52 degrees in doors either. I wore fleece and used quilts to stay warm as well as pacing exercise! Frankly, it concerned me more to not have lighting than it did heat. I tend to be pretty warm-blooded in the first place, so a bit of chill in the air isn't necessarily a "bad" thing!

And finally, the "Psi" portion of this post comes from my belief that the mind/body/spirit are all interconnected and, when one aspect is out of balance, I tend to *lean* more heavily to the other two. More recently, my body has felt completely off kilter with my MS, which has placed considerable stress on my mind and spirit. I believe when I can switch focus/pay more attention to the other two aspects of my being, my physical being can regain its needed balance. That's not to say I believe fasting or any other spiritual practice will HEAL my MS or CURE me of simply means I will strengthen my body "if" I can strengthen my mind and spirit.

Was this too much information in response to simple questions?!? ....


Jim said...

Many people practice their spiritual rituals in many different ways and for many different reasons. I don't practice "fasting" even though Christianity does have spiritual fasting. Often, through my own spiritual understanding, I practice my own spiritual routine that may be different from other Christians.

I may not agree with some people's doctrinal practices & beliefs. I respect them and I know their frustrations because I have dealt with my own patience and frustrations when people question my practices. Spiritual faith is so different than human faith, saving faith can only come from the Holy Spirit. Oxford English Dictionary “It as a conviction practically operative on the character and the will and thus opposed to the mere intellectual ascent to religious truth sometimes called speculative faith.” This clearly means a belief and a conviction that changes your life, changes the way you are, it affects your character and your will.

I have learned not to ask "why" anymore because I have learned that I possessed an intellectual understanding. I was born spiritual ignorant which means spiritually dead. Through Adam, we are born spiritually dead. I have learned that through Adam I was dead and I need to have life through Christ.

Webster said...

Thank you for your complete answer. One more ? - Did you allow yourself to drink water?

I lack the discipline to undertake something like that, so I admire you for it all the more.

I am cold all the damned time, so I would never make it without at least a fireplace to stoke. My cousin and brother are warmblooded (or would that be coldblooded? haha) like you and barely heat their homes. Whenever I visit them, I layer copiously.

I also believe in the need to balance body/mind/spirit which can get so skewed with an illness like MS. It's also why I believe true "healing" is in bringing yourself to a place of acceptance of what is - esp. with regard to MS.

Jen said...

UGGGGHHH. My browser is messing with me. Tried to comment an hour ago and it went down. Now it's not sending the comment through. Let me eat something and try again in a moment.

I can't take it, Brain Cheese! haha

Jen said...

I'm on the same wavelength when it comes to religious ideas. I take a little of this and a little of that. My sister-in-law is Jewish and I enjoy spending time with her family and observing their days with traditional customs and (of course) foods. Religion is so subjective that embracing different aspects of it works well for me.

Sounds like the cleansing really helps realign mind, body, and soul. Maybe more folks in the U.S. ought to do this-- seems like we're so fragmented when all of these things are really so intertwined.

Interesting post!

Becky said...

I do a cleansing about once a year but it is not a fast...I limit myself to water and veggies...and feel so much better after

Denver Refashionista said...

We all need our rituals. This all makes sense to me. Faind what works for you and stick to it. That seems solid.

Joan said...

Wonderful! Although I didn't ask Why/Psi, I'm glad you explained.

By the way, some of the people at the Delaware Area chat are asking if YOU would come someday soon. Are you ever available on Fridays between 4 - 6:30 your time (next one is 12 Dec). We'd love to chat with you!

Thanks again for this great post!

harkoo said...

I think your yearly ritual is a lovely thing