“YOU ARE DYING! YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DRINK WATER, RIGHT NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW! PLEEEEASE DRINK WATER!”
I feel crazed. I’m anxious and unsettled. I don’t know what to do with myself.
I am only 10 hours into a 32-hour dry fast and everything I thought I knew is now being questioned. My fight/flight response has activated and I feel fidgety. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up and my skin feels like it’s crawling. One thing is clear: I do not like this.
Dancing with Death… Again
I’m not entirely new to these sensations, though I’ve only ever experienced this extreme bodily anxiety for the briefest moments before. The earliest examples my mind can find are memories of falling, but the most clarifying experiences with this horrifying and overwhelming body-takeover have happened more recently – in Kundalini.
Kundalini yoga involves a lot of prescriptive breath work, including holding both the inhalations as well as the exhalations at times. Most people have held a big breath in, especially if they’ve ever swam, but personally I had never even tried to hold my breath out until prompted in Kundalini. It isn’t something you soon forget.
Panic, anxiety and the desperation to survive all swell up inside you immediately and you realize that you are dying. The first few times I tried, I was helpless to withstand my body’s automatic responses, gasping dramatically after the briefest moments.
“Why?! WHY? Why are you doing this?! BREATHE! LIVE! YOU MUST SURVIVE!”
But, after breaking through fear for just a moment longer, pushing beyond that automatic response – the peace and bliss that fills your being is indescribable. Overcoming the fear of death, even for the shortest time, is remarkably invigorating and strengthening. I can only imagine how restorative a full day of consciously ignoring my fear-response will be…
Beginning with the Hardest Challenge
A dry fast is not something to be taken lightly. Abstaining from water can kill you in just days and it is commonly the opposite of what’s recommended by health professionals. So why am I dancing with death in this way?
This is all just the start of a 21 day fast. I will conclude my dry fast at 8am tomorrow, beginning a 3-day water fast until 8am Tuesday. Starting Tuesday morning, I will finish out the remaining 17 of the full 21 days with fresh juices.
I am prepared to supplement with nut milks and bone broth should the need arise, but I will be abstaining from solid foods for the entire three weeks. Though, arguably not entirely restful, fasting is restorative. Perhaps others would find feasting relaxing, and I have before myself – but right now, I want to relax on a deeper, metabolic and cellular level.
I’ve been pondering these seemingly foreign concepts for over a week now and I’m realizing that so much of the difficulties in my life are caused by not really, truly just resting and relaxing. I have had disordered evening binging tendencies my entire life, and I’m now seeing for the first time it was never about the food. These kinds of realizations came not as a result of fasting today, I haven’t had any major breakthroughs and am mostly hangry, but they are what lead me to this course of action.
I’m diving in, beyond my fear response, to find out who I am beneath all the comforts and conveniences I have been accustomed to my entire life. If it isn’t the food I am looking for while grazing in the evening or otherwise over-consuming, what is it I’m truly craving?
Enabling Prolonged Endurance
Regardless of the fact that I have been called to do a three week fast, I am also still trying to learn how to apply the Divine commission to “rest, relax, heal and meditate.” So, how does one do a difficult, uncomfortable thing in a relaxing way?
Enter the episodic fast! I begin by facing the fear response caused by my dry tongue today and by tomorrow, water will taste like nectar from the goddesses! I’ve actually already been fantasizing about drinking water in the morning…
By Tuesday? Fresh juices will not only taste Divine, they will be gratefully received by a body that has reprioritized the quality and necessity of each nutrient. I imagine the feeling of nourishment and vitality sure to rush through my veins with the first sip will be sublime.
I can already imagine the involuntary sensuality of reexperiencing the sensations and tastes of each bite in my mouth when I do finally chew food again. Mindful eating will be automatic, no longer just something else I “have to try to do.” I will have reclaimed food for myself entirely.
Committing to the Process
That’s why I’m doing this – because I LOVE food. I do not however, love, like or even enjoy feeling enslaved, crazed and controlled by it.
Eating everything I can in secret like a starved and abused animal is not what I want for myself and my relationship with food anymore. I don’t want to feel ashamed and confused about my love for food ever again. Food is a great comfort, but only if it’s being adequately appreciated – otherwise it’s just another distraction from the truth.
I don’t know what I am going to find on this journey. I have already wanted to quit a half dozen times today and almost “messed up” by force of bad habits a few times too. I have felt desperate, sad, angry, frustrated, tired, lonely and irritable off and on all day and yet, I’m grateful.
Even having the opportunity to choose to fast means I have an abundance of food I can abstain from. When I almost “messed up,” I really caught myself making excuses to break my commitment and was forced to accept the complexities of my conditioning. Feeling angry, sad and tired has given me some perspective about other times I have felt similarly and reminded me of the intensity of emotions a lack of basic necessities can lead to…
I’m already learning so much, just 18 hours in. This is why I’ve stopped myself from chewing gum or going to bed early too – the lessons are in the discomfort.
Settling in for Restorative Healing
Now, just because I’m doing the hard things doesn’t mean I am punishing myself. Quite the opposite. In ways, eating excessively without pleasure or necessity because of a fear of discomfort was much more punishing.
I heard a definition of Sacrifice this week that resonates: “to make sacred.” That’s precisely what I’m doing with water and food right now. I am sacrificing these things so that I can make these things sacred to myself.
That’s why I can salivate at the thought of a drop of water today and yet last night, no amount of snacking was satisfying at all. I am learning to truly appreciate my blessings – as they say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
Still, despite not wallowing in the potential misery of my situation, I am making allowances for some appropriate considerations. I am not exerting myself; I’m abstaining from caffeine, supplements and other stimulants; I am moving slower, being gentler with myself and others – noticing, listening and observing more. It’s all quite relaxing actually.
It’s official: today marks the last day of my year-long commitment to daily blogging. In many ways, this Optimal Mastery experiment has become so much more than just a blog, and yet, it feels as though that first initial, simple commitment has made all the difference in my life throughout 2019.
I have been contemplating this ending while also considering my possibilities for 2020 – including those available for this blog – and I even briefly thought that I might not continue blogging, instead focusing on content campaigns that I can more easily monetize. I never considered for a moment that I would stop entirely (you know, aside from those quarter- and mid-year “why the heck am I doing this” slumps), but I wanted to be sure I was renewing and adjusting my commitments according to my progress and not just trying to copy/paste my past success.
The reality is though, I have recieved far to many benefits to ever stop blogging daily.
Committing to Life
If you’re thinking that’s a pretty bold statement, you’d be right. Believe me, I know. Daily blogging is hard, frustrating, exposing and uncomfortable – but it is also incredibly healing, gratifying, clarifying and powerful.
Daily blogging is not the best way to build a profitable online empire, but the truth is: my purpose for starting this blog was never about making money. Optimal Mastery is all about the daily grind, being better than perfect and appreciating the messy art of growing. Without the imperfections and messiness that daily blogging organically creates, all of that vulnerability and transparency would become necessary to manufacture, which is certainly an impossible task.
It is with this understanding that I am proud to officially announce my recommitment to daily blogging for not only 2020, but the entirety of my foreseeable future!
Playing with Potentials
That being said, now that I’ve built-in the habit of daily blogging, continuing to do so isn’t really a goal or challenge anymore. I desire more from myself in 2020 than merely riding on the coattails of the previous decade. In fact, my human desire for progress shouts from within that this year’s goal must be even harder, better and GRANDER!
POETRY SHARED IN 2019: OVER 150 TOTAL ORIGINAL POEMS PUBLISHED, WITH MORE THAN 60 NEW POEMS BEING WRITTEN THIS YEAR.
Now, I am tempering that enthusiasm with some wisdom, knowing that it’s the simple resolutions that stick (if I had detailed what “qualified” as blogging every day at the beginning of 2019, I would have failed miserably). So, I need something flexible, adjustable, modifiable but also powerful… and I want to do a year-long commitment again because I found it to be so motivating and momentum building over time…
At first I toyed with different ideas for the blog: expanding the website, diversifying content, focusing on video – but it’s all too prescriptive and restrictive to end up being a successful year-long commitment. I do think I will make changes and keep building Optimal Mastery in order to offer more and more value to my readers as well as expand my reach this next year, but it’s no longer going to have center stage.
This year I am committing to my daily spiritual practice!
2020: 366 Days of Sadhana
I have been making attempts at a consistent daily spiritual practice for a while now. Sometimes it goes really well but as soon as I miss a day, it seems to derail, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Stressful times, busy times, while I’m traveling – those days when I really need it the most are the ones in which it seems to be missed the most as well. It’s been frustrating, disheartening and even saddening at times – but that’s all about to change.
I hereby officially commit to 366 Sadhana practices over the course of 2020’s 366 days. That means, similarly to this blogging committment, that I am not defining what a Sadhana must contain or being so strict that I cannot “catch-up” on days (though I have learned from this experiment that that freedom comes with its own costs).
I am committing to sitting on my yoga mat and/or meditation pillow, at least 366 times this coming year. Yup, that’s it – I am merely committing to sitting every day!
Working with Organic Flow
If you ask any regular gym goer, yogi or meditator what the hardest part of their discipline is they will probably tell you: “showing up.” Once someone is actually on the mat, at the gym or sitting in a meditation pose, the natural motivation to act accordingly is stimulated. The challenge in motivation comes before that first initial, but incredibly powerful action. This is what I hope to be triggering for myself in 2020 with this new commitment.
There may be a few days when literally all I do is sit down on my mat, feel sorry for myself and make an excuse, justifying doing no more – but the likelihood of that continuing day after day is quite low. I truly love my spiritual practice. I enjoy meditation, yoga, mantra, Reiki and Divination immensely. My problem with consistency in my devotion always arises from being “too busy,” “tired” or otherwise distracted.
With this commitment, those excuses and justifications don’t matter anymore. I can be busy and sit. I can be tired and sit. Heck, I can even be distracted all day long and forget all about my commitment all together, yet still sit for even a brief moment that night or the next morning when I remember (which in and of itself is a powerful metaphysical action of realigning with my commitment).
Blessings for a Blessed New Decade
With this new year-long commitment planted firmly in my heart, I am ecstatic to begin this brand new decade with all of you! I am also overjoyed to continue this journey of Optimal Mastery, showing up here every day, at both my best and my worst.
Thank you all for taking this incredible journey with me! Here’s to looking forward to all that we have yet to discover together.
I wrote this poem on Christmas Eve morning, my soul sick with processing decades of abuse and trauma, but ready to move on… Almost ironically, things came to a head in my family that night, with me standing up to an Uncle who is used to using his position in the family to intimidate and stagnate the rest of us. It would seem that by accepting the responsibility for my pain I have also stepped into a new place of inspired authority. I am fearless. All that I have been learning this year has lead up to this. Blessed Be.
My Dearest Tragedies,
I know I have no right to write, not after all this time – not after the pain I caused. I know you must think hell of me, for I remember hell too. I couldn’t see how I was hurting you, so desperate to make everything fit into my agenda.
Please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you, but I was blinded by my own pain, doomed to fail you because of my own shame. Whatever I made you feel was a reflection of my own self-hate.
This isn’t to say that I’m all better now, I’m still struggling, a lot. Not a day goes by that I am not myself, forced to face to truth of all I’ve done. Yet, there is a grace that’s carrying me, through faith I’ve been brought beyond – not because I’m deserving, but somehow in spite of my own desperate plots.
Truly I wish you only blessings now, in all the same ways I have been blessed and more. Regardless of the way we left things, my hope is that you are lucky, loved and charmed.
I’d say I’ve changed but it’s more like changing… I’m not sure I’ll ever be “done.” I hope you know what I’m trying to mean, in that language between words humans have almost forgotten. It’s true, this letter is only a vehicle for a communication much more pure – my sincerest hope is that you feel my authentic love, as tough as it may be.
My eyes are opening to the threads that intertwine – to the life in all the spaces that are empty of our Mind. I know that to fully function as a being of this Divine light I cannot withhold love anymore, even in the ways I’d justified before. This is my humbling and my quaking provocation, to prostrate myself before you for either acceptance or slaying.
Do what you will with me. I am still many things that deserve and require pain – but I am not afraid anymore for my own sake. My only woes are the divisions I’ve sown and the catastrophes I’ve made in attempts to be right.
My healing is nothing without the wholeness of our world. Without all of you, I am nothing but my own delusional tyrant and abused pawn.
I don’t need you to agree with me, in fact, it’s better if you don’t. For all I’ve learned, the value of diversity has proven itself most potent. So go ahead and challenge me, I welcome your rivalry and competition – but I’m not playing to win anymore, if that means one of us is losing.
Blessed be, beloveds. I pray we meet again, and that at our next most fateful crossing we offer more help to one another than hurt.
A forgotten poem, of which I have lost the memory of its inspiration, yet – its words still shake me to my core:
Leave it to my dreams to convict my mind of thinking resentful things, to show my heart exactly where fear broke my wings and to teach my soul that it’s never quite done searching for the healing it needs…
Leave it to my dreams to remind me that there can be joy in the race, to put my private hurts and anger in their place and show me that what I’ve been giving isn’t grace but rather poisoned apathy…
Leave it to my dreams to surprise the way I’m feeling, to inspire more truthful dealings between my shy heart and my stubborn mind; to show me where I’ve been reeling rather than accepting my fate…
Leave it to my dreams, though seldom and wistful things, to shine light in places I’m content to leave behind me unexplored; to break the innumerable locks on my heart’s door and leave me to embrace it all the more –