Thursday, May 1, 2008


Sometimes I forget how huge an impact my body has on my experience of everything. Naturally, all the sensory information is filtered through my body. The taste of an orange, the scent of its peel, its weight in my palm; my perception of the clouds swirled across the sky, of the spidery tree branches against the vast space; all the sounds that enter my mind, whether music or muttering or talk: they are all tinted with the health or energy or sluggishness of my body.

And what I forgot is that hunger is such a powerful focusing agent.

I fasted on Wednesday, and it felt like all these cobwebs and clouds of schoolwork-stress and interpersonal drama and just plain hurriedness were brushed away, and I could see and live clearly. Focus. I always know G-d is there, always know the principles guiding my life, always seek connection and peace--but I don't always feel it. The spiritual I tend to think of as influenced mainly by my relationships with people, my moral decisions, my G-d-seeking habits (church, reading the Bible, etc), rather than by the state of my body. But when I didn't eat on Wednesday, even without spending hours in prayer or formal worship, I felt so close to G-d and reality. Hurry and worry are like cataracts, emotionally and spiritually. Fasting made those scales fall from my eyes.

And I don't mean to say that simply not eating fixes things. It's the attitude of sacrifice, of seeking--of putting into physical practice a longing for something better--that does it, I think. Motivation and direction shape the fast. When your body keeps reminding you, "I need food. I hurt. I hunger. I lack something," you remember, "The thing I really lack is G-d." You direct your thoughts as though herding a giggling group of small children who keep running this way and that.

Not by my own will power, nor by some simple mechanical effect, but by some mystery, some grace of G-d, the fast brings clarity. I see. I live.

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