Journal for the spring retreat, 7-day water fast: Day 6

Dawn yoga and meditation felt so quiet today, after yesterday’s mouna...

We kept silence until morning sharing at 9.00 am. After more than a full day without anyone speaking, after more than a day without sitting in our usual group circle, I knew this was going to be a long session. It was. Several of the participants bared their soul, sharing emotional pain and trauma that they’d kept locked inside for years. The emotional detox which had come to the surface a couple of evenings ago was just the tip of the iceberg… In the meantime, the rest of us held the space and supported when support was needed, giving hugs when hugs were needed.

After morning sharing, my plan was to begin the process of grounding the participants for the end of the retreat tomorrow. For some this was already well in progress, with fantasies of food, eating and recipes. There were also practical considerations to help people begin to turn back outwards and into the world again. First, we had an initial discussion about breaking the fast: what to eat, how much to eat, and the dangers of overeating after a fast. Then it was time to take down the sweat lodge and gather firewood for an evening campfire: our last night together. And we all joined forces to help sort out my car: towing it out of the way from where it had broken down earlier. (It seems the overheating problem – see Day 1 of this journal – had worn down the battery, and on top of this the starter motor was on its last legs.) Again, it was all a team effort to get it going so I could park it on a hill, ready for rolling start tomorrow. Nothing like some car mechanics to ground us! Like the Buddhists say: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” Or in our case: chop wood and push car.

And so we spent our last full day together. In the evening, yoga and meditation as usual. Afterwards a campfire as usual. It was all the same as any other day. But with the fast ending tomorrow morning, it felt very different. Yes, there was a sense of joy and even excitement at the thought of food. But, equally, a subtle flavour of regret hung in the air. In the end, all good things must come to an end.

3 responses to “Journal for the spring retreat, 7-day water fast: Day 6”

  1. Tallis. I assume you are fasting with the group. But I read in an easier post from this week’s fast log that you are jogging mornings. This surprised me, on a fast, if you care to respond to that. Also, though I know you are a seasoned faster and group facilitator, I wonder how you manage “emotional pain and trauma” or emotional “detox” of your own in this role. Because I can’t help but imagine you are processing as well in every fast you undertake, even in your role as experienced facilitator/group counselor.

    Thank you.

    When will you be organizing a fasting retreat in California? (That’s a request. 😉 )


    1. Tallis Shivantar Avatar
      Tallis Shivantar

      Hi Sukhdev,
      Good question about whether or not I’m fasting with the group. I admit it comes across as a bit ambiguous in the journal… As much as I’d love to fast along with everyone else, though, I never fast myself while leading a retreat. Especially for fasts longer than a day or two, it’s really important to have a fully grounded fasting guide (ie. me!) to hold the space for everyone else. This applies both to dealing with others’ emotional detox as well as their physical safety. Without a lot of fasting experience, people’s state of consciousness can REALLY begin to get a little bit spacey after 7 days of fasting, and (as happened this year too) they can lose perspective of what their natural limits are. They need someone with a fully outside perspective to hold them in check.

      Not fasting with the group is also how I’m able to go running in the morning – which otherwise would be a very bad idea, given that it would force my body to burn a lot of muscle tissue as a result.


    2. Tallis Shivantar Avatar
      Tallis Shivantar

      Hi again Sukhdev,

      I’d love to be able to organise a fasting retreat in California! Unfortunately, though, I live too far away to have access to the kind of “on-the-ground” knowledge necessary to make it work (especially in terms of finding a suitable location, which I feel is really important for something like this). Otherwise, I think there would be plenty of demand for it. Most of my private online consultation work, for instance, comes from people on the Pacific coast.

      If you’d like to help me organise the logistics of a retreat, I’d be very happy to work together with you. Seriously! If so, just let me know and I’ll write to you via email :-).

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