Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hunger


The feeders are very busy these January days as the birds eat as much as possible during daylight hours to maintain the energy needed to survive the bitter winter temperatures. Most people in the First World eat for pleasure first, not for survival. There are those cannot go for a drive, sit at a desk, attend a meeting, go for a walk or talk on the phone without a drink or snack of some sort in hand. I would venture to say that most people I know go no more than two hours during the day without some sort of oral intake.

Our society has come to expect instant gratification. We buy what we want now, even if we do not need it or cannot afford it. Our children are savvy consumers who quickly learn how to influence the purchasing habits of parents. Advertisers keep us constantly aware of what we must have to enjoy life. Few of us really know what it is to hunger for anything in a material sense.


Most, if not all world religions encourage periods of fasting for spiritual reasons. For a long time I was under the impression that fasting was a sure way to get God to answer our prayers and petitions. Fasting is not a way to earn God's favour, but is a way for us to turn our focus from the material things of life to a hunger for the spiritual realm and an increased recognition of the needs of others. The health benefits of intermittent fasting are also well documented and it has been shown that decreasing caloric intake slows the aging process. Yet some practitioners encourage several smaller meals a day as a way to health rather than giving the body a rest from the digestive process. Fasting has lost favour as a spiritual and physical discipline in our materialistic society.


I had a long 40 hour period of time to think about this as I fasted prior to a routine colonoscopy this week. While my stomach rumbled a little, and my awareness of the sight and smell of food was heightened, I missed the routine of eating more than food itself. A lot of time is freed up in a day when you do not prepare or eat meals. By day two I felt energetic and absolutely pain free. I remembered how a chronic itchy rash my husband had for weeks cleared up completely when he fasted for the same procedure a few years ago.

I have been more mindful and appreciative of my food today. And I won't wait for another colonoscopy (if there ever is another one!) to choose to practice the discipline of fasting again.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

8 comments:

  1. I have only ever fasted once--as a spiritual practice. I too had the dreaded colonoscopy procedure, and I minded more the other parts--drinking loads of liquids. In trust, I wasn't hungry--too much sloshing around.

    I am keenly aware of food wastage, which bothers me tremendously. I try very hard to be careful in food preparation, so we don't over-prepare. And now that my husband and I are both retired, we have become very good about eating all our left-overs. They make great lunches.

    One year, I resolved to put a quarter in a jar for every bit of food I threw away--and then donate the money to a food cause. It helped make me more aware.

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  2. There is almost something that makes you able to vividly focus when your insides are empty. A heightened awareness. It also reminds us how very little we allow ourselves to feel hunger. So glad everything turned out well with the results my friend.

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  3. The biggest fast I did was for 5 days and for spiritual purposes ... back when I was a young thing. Haven't really done another since. Preparing food and eating sure does take a lot of time ... if we spent that time in prayer ... it would be quite a bit of time.

    Glad your results all came back A-okay.

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  4. I haven't5 thought about this for a long time, but I'm sure you're right. Fasting is probably beneficial for the several reasons that you mentioned.

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  5. I was just writing about this the other day (between myself and a friend, not on my blog.) I fast the day before and the day of the esbats (full & new moon.) It is not solely confined to food. I also "fast" from many modern conveniences the day of the esbat (internet, phone, car, tv, most electricity.) My family does not fast with me, it is a personal exercise. I still make them food when I fast.

    To quote a bit from my letter to my friend as to my reasons for fasting:

    "I had a Hindu friend once who fasted as well, she would explain that food symbolized the gratification of the senses and to starve the senses was to raise them up to the level of contemplation. I've always felt this is a large part of why I fast. It is also a personal exercise in hardship. In depriving myself of worldly goods I remind myself of how little truly need, which in turn reminds me of how much I have to give."

    Anyhow, just thought I would share as I was just writing about this. And have been fasting for a couple days as well. ^^

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  6. Thanks for your interesting and insightful comments.

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  7. Good points-I've been working on avoiding eating or buying something just out of habit or impulse.

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  8. When I helped out with a youth group, we all did the 30 hour famine together to raise money for those in hunger. It's been quite awhile since I consciously chose to fast (except for the same medical reason as you). Maybe I set some more time aside for fasting!

    Thanks for bringing up the topic.

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