Today is the last full day of fasting. By the evening I’ll already be into Day 21. The feeling, which came to me as I woke up this morning, is that of when you’re about to say goodbye to an old friend whom you know you’re not going to see for a while. There’s an element of regret in parting from each other, but you know that your friendship is stronger than the time and distance you’ll be spending apart. And besides, you know you’ll meet again…
Last night I was listening to some music – something I’ve done remarkably little of while being here. I brought my iPod, plenty of cds and books to ‘help time pass’, but I’ve haven’t need any help! In fact, most of the time it hasn’t felt right to read or switch on any music. On the rare occasions I actually have listened to something, it’s been a little like the first proverbial orange juice at the end of a fast: a highly sensual world which, in normal life, we’ve grown accustomed to and take for granted. Add to that my more open consciousness these days, and it was like I heard everything in the music for the first time. Our ears, like our eyes, do naturally tend to focus in on whatever stimuli they choose to single out, which includes individual lines within the music as a whole. Of course, composers capitalise on this to draw us into the melody. Now, though, I heard everything: melody, along with all the other supporting lines and colours – not in a confused mess, or with my ear jumping from one line to another, but rather simultaneously together in a perfect crystallisation of sound, in which the whole really was so much greater than the sum of the individual parts.
One more thought about my lower sleep requirements since beginning the fast (I’m writing this today on four hours’ sleep). The usual explanation is that you gain energy from that normally consumed by your digestive system. While this may be true, I feel that another factor is also involved: the fact that fasting brings you into a deeper state of being. The more deeply you’re centred in being, the less you identify with ego. I hope this makes sense. If you really are just being, flowing with the spontaneity of the present moment, then there’s simply no room for the ego to be tugging you into its gravitational pull of internal dialogues, distractions, worries and concerns. I believe one fundamental reason we sleep is to escape the ego – simply because living with it all day long is unbearable. It’s also exhausting! There’s no room here to go into it fully, but just think about it briefly. Emotional ordeals – situations in which you get caught up with your ego – leave you feeling exhausted, and generally you do need more sleep afterwards. This is one extreme. The opposite situation concerns saints and enlightened yogis who have learned to fully integrate their ego into deeper being – and who are also generally known for sleeping much less than the average person. One account in Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi describes a saint ‘who never slept’. Even if this is a bit extreme, two to five hours per night is often plenty for such holy men and women. I’m not claiming to have become a saint while fasting, but I’ve definitely been in a much deeper and more consistent flow through most of it. To me it makes perfect sense that I’d need less sleep as a result
Today I had a largish teaspoonful of honey at so-called ‘lunchtime’ and ‘dinnertime’. It wasn’t a last-minute psychological breakdown – but rather a subtle call to my digestive system that things are going to change soon, and it slowly needs to think about waking up. The calorific content of that amount of honey, about 30 calories per spoonful, is going to have no impact whatsoever on the biology of the fast, but I do hope that some kind of message goes through. Of course, I could have been a total purist and waited until tomorrow, when the fast officially ends, but I already know that my digestion is generally slower than a lot of other peoples’ in starting up again. I need to be practical. This time I need it to kick-start in a hurry. Tomorrow I return to Budapest, and then the next day I meet the kids at the train station as they come home from their end-of-year school trip. From that moment on, it’s full-time family life again.
I’ve been savouring the expanded consciousness of the fast all day long, knowing that it too will slowly pass as eating begins to awaken my everyday metabolism.