In the same way that they say that the perceptive midpoint of an 80-year lifespan is around 30-35 years, I suppose that today should be more or less the perceptive midpoint of this 21-day fast. I wonder…
I’m heading back to the country and solitude after ‘lunch’. That’s a laugh, isn’t it? We’re so defined by eating that we even divide up the day in terms of mealtimes! I feel a hint of uneasiness in being alone again, of resettling back into a state of undisturbed emptiness. When I think about it, the feeling approaches like a gently wafting summer breeze, subtly rising out of nothing and then, before it becomes completely tangible, recedes back into the awesome silence from where it was born.
Looking back on the last two days in the city with family, surrounded by the everyday action of life, I do feel like I’ve lost something. That feeling of expandedness at the eye of the storm has gone. It’s not that I’m actively aware of its absence from moment to moment; it occurs only when I compare my current state with how I felt when I arrived. It’s hard to know whether I’ve changed within – that I’ve lost the essence of that stillness – or whether I’ve integrated my surroundings so that I don’t feel such a divide between myself and the storm. I think the answer will come upon my return to the country. If I’ve lost an inner state of emptiness, it’ll probably be harder to readjust and deepen back into it again. We’ll see.
Driving through the city on the way back to the country, I did feel the contrast once again between my inner peace and the external buzz, but it wasn’t as pronounced as on the journey into the city. Likewise, the screaming symphony of smells still called for my attention, but at less of a fever pitch. I wonder how it’ll feel when I return to the city for good in another week and a half, at the end of the fast… One other thing: on the drive back through the city, I began to let go of that quiet anxiety about returning to my hermit-like existence on retreat. It was confirmed upon arrival a couple of hours later. After opening up the house, I went to sit in the garden, just being, and felt no differently from the first week.
I’ve had another thought on why I’ve been finding it hard to fall asleep. In addition to the biology of ketosis, it could also be due to the state of consciousness which ketosis and fasting tend to produce: a kind of all-day, natural vipassana meditation. I’ve noticed in the past that, when I wake in the middle of the night to meditate, it’s much harder to go back to sleep afterwards if I’ve been doing vipassana. Different meditations definitely elicit a different response in this respect, with some types of meditations actually accelerating the process back to asleep! But vipassana has always kept me up and awake afterwards. I think this has to do with the mechanics of the meditation. If the whole point of pure vipassana is to let go of any focus, to simply be open and aware of everything, observing and not becoming attached to any particular stimulus, then if you carry a vipassana mind-set back to bed with you, you naturally become aware when you start to fall asleep. Of course, that awareness keeps you up! Alternatively, if the simple awareness at the centre of vipassana continues, you won’t even begin to fall asleep at all – because awareness is awakeness.