Good Morning; it’s Easter Monday! And yesterday I just finished my first ever intentional Lenten fast (40 days) of my adult life! Raised in a Christian/Protestant tradition, the Lenten Season was not something I ever felt encouraged nor desirous to practice. This year was different. I don’t know why, but I felt a strong impulse to ‘fast’ from some problematic dietary behaviors. Namely, I was looking to ditch my ‘need’ to not let a day go by in which I didn’t engage in consuming chocolate or nuts in one form or another. To say that I was anxious about being able to go cold turkey from these cherished substances may be an understatement. The first weeks were the most mentally taxing; regular, consistent thoughts swirled into my consciousness during my waking hours. I was convinced I needed these foods to sustain my energy and health as I trained for an upcoming marathon. How could I have been so careless as to delete these items from my diet during an uptick in physical training?
Strangely enough, I was about 30 days into the 40 day ‘fast’ before I realized that I was thriving and training well without consuming these foods. However, the next epiphany arrived when I realized the reason I was thriving was because I wasn’t denying myself nutrition from other sources. I basically replaced the calories I was fasting from with other ‘permitted’ food stuffs. Wow, what an eye opener! I felt like a fasting failure! And yet, what I had discovered as a byproduct of my fast was this: my thoughts about chocolate and nuts no longer bothered me throughout the day anymore. Thirty days into this experiment I realized that when I stood in the pantry and eyed my almond chocolate butter, a thought arose…I want some chocolate almond butter.
As soon as I thought that thought, I FELT that thought in my BODY and in my MIND. An anxious shiver ran through me, and I was almost certain that I was going to break my fast then and there, but I paused and that’s when I realized; the feeling of wanting was simply a THOUGHT! It was not a fact to be believed or acted upon. What a RELIEF! For reasons which I cannot explain, when I identified that thought for what it was, just a passing cloud in the atmosphere of my mind, I was released from its power to propel me into action. Yes, I was tempted to believe the thought; I wanted to believe that I needed that chocolate almond butter at that moment; I could imagine the tantalizing flavor and texture swirling around in my mouth, but when I recognized that this ‘idea’ was merely a thought I could let float by, I was home free! I was free to ignore the thought and let it pass. I truly believe that if I had not spent the thirty days of fasting from the forbidden food substances, I would not have been able to engage in linking- thinking. I would have been a servant, NO, a SLAVE to my thinking thoughts and I would have done performed accordingly, which was: EAT WHEN and WHAT I WANT.
So my Lenten fast (experiment) is not really complete without sharing it with the others in my life, as well as my blog post readers. Even though my first Lenten fast was not performed as practiced in the Christian tradition, it was, none-the-less a personal time of testing and learning. By intentionally denying myself certain opportunities for indulgence, I was provided with some beneficial insights into my own mind, body and spirit during that sacred season. I hope you might be encouraged to engage in a similar exercise for yourself should you feel so inclined. I’d love to hear from you and assist you in any way I can should you decide to take that plunge.
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