Friday, March 26, 2010

Enlightenment through deprivation

I've always been intrigued by the ways in which enlightened beings lived. I've been told that samurais would sleep only a few hours a day, monks could go long periods without food, something in their spirit carried them beyond the luxuries in which we deem physical necessities nowadays.

I haven't eaten for 10 days now, meaning I haven't physically chewed a piece of food in more than a week. I've been on a 7-day master cleanse, the diet popularized by Beyoncé for her quick weight-loss to fulfill her role in the movie "Dream Girls". But the Master Cleanse isn't meant for weight-loss, for me it's not even that much about physical cleansing of the body (though that seems to be a byproduct of taking such an insane regiment). But rather, the master cleanse is a cleanse of our triangular relationship to life: the physical, emotional, and spiritual parts of our being.

Not once have I been physically hungry throughout this fast and I've learned the difference between "hunger" and "cravings". Instead what I've found is that gastronomic indulgences are really just distractions to disconnect us from our understanding of self, and in their absence you're forced to confront a number of internal emotions that brew to the surface; without things like "food" to latch onto, they really have nowhere else to go.

During this fast, I decided to learn about the food industry to essentially rebuild my diet after I had "reset" the digestive system, yet despite all the troubling and horrifying facts I've learned about the profit-driven trade, the only thing I could think about was eating the food being described. But what I missed most was participating in the festivities that involved food. The sharing, the laughing, the comradery in the breaking of bread amongst friends and family. Yet at the same time, I couldn't ignore the troubling disturbances that I had read about. Sadly, it made me feel that I could never successfully reintegrate myself back into the lifestyle I once enjoyed.

Ironically enough, the day in which I can finally eat (at least liquefied foods) is actually the first day I don't feel like eating. Something changed along the way. Somewhere I started feeling more and more detached from society and despite all the isolation from others, I was onto something. Maybe that's why the cleanse is commonly promoted for 10 days rather than 7.

Perhaps most troubling was I became more and more comfortable with being alone. Books, writing and work satisfied my needs of companionship. But I think the other component to finding inner peace is learning how to be peaceful with others. Inevitably we learn that as humans, we need each other. You have to learn to accept others for being human just as they have to learn to accept you.

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