Journal for the spring retreat, 7-day water fast: Day 4

Another beautiful day here in the forested hills above Hungary’s Lake Balaton… We’ve been so lucky with the weather – yet again! Last year, it had been raining for weeks before the retreat and then, like magic, the day the retreat started a long sunny spell moved in. This year too, showers had been predicted for every day, but so far it’s been wonderfully warm and sunny: perfect to enjoy the fresh air outside and even some gentle sunbathing in the garden.

Today the plan is to take full advantage of the weather and head out on a major expedition: a 9 kilometre / 6 mile hike across the fields and through the forest. I scouted out the route on a run yesterday, and it really is perfect for a slow walk while water fasting, with good paths and nothing too steep.

After an abbreviated morning sharing just to check that everyone was still alive and well :-), we left without further ado. Knowing that it’s natural for most people to walk comfortably at a snail’s pace while fasting, I estimated it would take about three hours. And that meant that it would already be getting hot by the time we returned home.

Just as with the previous days’ shankhaprakshalana and sweat lodge, the walk was purely optional, and a few of people preferred to stay at the millhouse and enjoy some solitude instead. That was fine by me. It really is best that everyone can follow their own natural rhythm!

Otherwise, I’m a true believer in long, slow walks while fasting. Gentle movement is so important for cleansing, thereby preventing the build-up of toxins in the muscles and lymph, as well as any detox symptoms which might arise from this! So long as you feel like you have the energy to walk, and so long as you never overexert yourself to the point of getting out of breath, then walking is one of the best things you can do while fasting!

And so we went slow, stopping for frequent rests (as well as to enjoy the scenery).

And next thing we knew it was early afternoon, and we were returning to the millhouse.

Everyone was tired. Fair enough! So I declared mouna again, leaving people to rest, sunbathe, sleep for most of the afternoon.

It was beginning to feel very, very quiet: more than just the physical silence of not talking to each other. Something was stirring, I could feel it…

Since the morning, a definite shift in mood had taken place. Perhaps it was pure exhaustion. Perhaps it was the relentless cleansing of the past three days’ programs: shankhaprakshalana, the sweat lodge and now the hike. Perhaps it was the mouna. Perhaps it was the natural course of the fast. Most likely, it was a combination of all these factors. Whatever it was, there was a feeling of fragility in the air. Some people were beginning to feel cracks in their armour, and it all began to come out after evening yoga, as we sat around the campfire for evening sharing.

Tears. Only one or two, and not from everyone. But they were tears nevertheless. Not about the fast or any discomfort brought on by the fast. No, these were tears about life, about regrets and wasted opportunities, about not following the path that each of us knows is right in our hearts. In such situations, I feel a huge weight of responsibility to hold the space so that these emotions can come out freely and without any sense of shame or inhibition. I’m also incredibly thankful to the group as a whole for providing such unwavering support to those in need.

Emotional detox had begun.

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