My five-day, water-and-tea fast was both easier than I’d feared and less cosmic than I’d hoped.
It was easier because it appears that when the body goes into self-preservation mode, it doesn’t waste energy on things like anxiety—and I had so dreaded feeling anxious and not being able to assuage my anxiety with food. Instead, my body felt somewhere between wonderfully calm and less wonderfully becalmed.
I didn’t have a lot of extra energy of any sort—on Day 4 I was so cold that I turned up the thermostat in my house from 65 to 70—but I was able to take walks, work on the computer, teach a taiji class, do my qigong practices, even do some yard work. I don’t think I could have functioned in a high-stress job or done any serious digging or hauling in my yard.
Periodically I would get hungry and think, “This is silly; I should just bag it and eat.” But I would have a cup of tea and the hunger would pass and I would be able to get involved in doing something other than thinking about being hungry.
I drank water, a cup of green tea every morning, herbal teas, sometimes with a bit of honey—and goji berry tea. The goji berry tea, which you see pictured here, really deserves a post of its own, but here we are so let me just say that it is unique.
I had heard that it was good to drink goji berry tea when fasting. However, I couldn’t find goji berry tea at the store, so I bought freeze-dried goji berry powder and stirred it into hot water instead of adding it to smoothies or sprinkling it on breakfast cereals as suggested on the package.
Goji powder is very orange, and when you stir it into hot water, it appears to dissolve, but soon it begins to coagulate, and flotillas of small, lacy/fluffy orange masses swirl in the water, carried by the currents from stirring or perhaps from whatever chemical reaction is taking place in the cup.
Goji berry powder must be self-curdling: The acid it contains apparently causes its protein to clot like spoiled milk in a cup of coffee. Actually, I found the process quite fascinating to watch—even rather beautiful in a very organic way.
I did learn some things about hunger—that it would come and then pass, either of its own accord or simply because I drank a cup of goji berry tea, and that I could carry on despite hunger, a state I have made so much effort to avoid in the past.
As well, I may also have been a bit more sensitive than usual: I had some great qigong practices, and on one of my walks in the woods, it occurred to me that the colors and detail of nature could be as intense in real life as they are on my computer monitor if only I really look. I also enjoyed contemplating my cups of goji berry tea. (In truth, it may be that part of why the week went as well as it did was that I had made sure I would have very few commitments, and I could take time to contemplate my tea because I had time.)
But I had no cosmic revelations, no great advancements in my qigong practice. I didn’t even have any interesting dreams. I barely remember two: In one I was maneuvering a big rig backwards into a parking slot; in the other, I was refinishing an object that was somehow a cross between an antique mirror frame I refinished seven years ago and a cement drainage culvert. Oh, well….
I think that many people who fast do it as an expression of their religious faith or to please god, which would bring certain rewards. Qigong practice isn’t based on a deity, so I was only doing it to please myself.
I am indeed pleased that I completed what I set out to do—although I decided that I began my fast after dinner on a Sunday and therefore could end it after dinner on Friday, instead of waiting for Saturday morning, which I consider a minor cheat but did because I wanted my digestive tract to be back in working order for a busy weekend.
But having fasted, will I fast for five days, or longer, again? I won’t say never—but probably not soon. At the moment, I feel like not consuming food consumed too much of my life.
PS I wrote the above as I was coming out of my fast. Several days have passed since then. It may be that I have forged a new relationship to food, one that will last. Which would be nice…. Which actually would be more than nice…. It would be wonderful.