Fasting, for me, starting as a desire to rid myself of the depression, fears, frustration, guilt, grief, and anxiety that had been plaguing me for may years. I could rehash a variety of stories, but I will simply share with simplicity.
In 2002, my mother died; 2004, my maternal grandmother died; 2004, I moved with my son to Georgia; 2007, my father died; 2008, two of my homes were foreclosed on; 2009, I ended my relationship; 2010, I moved back to Ohio and began graduate school; and 2011, we moved to Texas. Now you have a snapshot. Here are some tidbits, when I got to Ohio I had $700 to my name, we left Ohio with 4 bags and shipped everything else, and during the majority of this time I was overweight and not confident. Off and on I worked out, but also could not find employment even with a degree. When the fall of 2012 came around I was overwhelmed, sad, anxious all the time, frustrated, and tired of it all. I purposely stopped communicating with many people – a self-imposed desert experience. In December 2012, I decided I needed to do something drastic and the only thing that came to mind was a fast. It was the most drastic thing I knew to do that could possibly reset everything. So, I took it on for spiritual, mental, and physical reasons.
During that 40 days, I did not have a car, was not working, and remained in graduate school. In fact, I traveled to Atlanta for a Residency while fasting. The whole experience showed me what was possible for me. I had people who thought I was crazy for taking it one, others who thought I would damage something, and, then, there were those who completely understood the stance I was making for myself and my life. One person asked me why and I said that I felt like if I wanted something I had never had before I needed to do something I had never done, and the fast was it for me. I lost 48 pounds, my skin cleared up, my tastes changed, I saw clearer both physically and mentally, and haven’t turned back. It has not been easy, but I am aware when the depression comes, when anxiety shows up, and I regulate it with diet and exercise.
“No mud, No lotus” is a reference to Thich Nhat Hanh and the lotus flower. Often when we go into a fast it is because we are coming through the mud of life looking for something new. A lotus flower grows through mud to expose its beauty. It is the muddy water, a metaphor for suffering, that makes the lotus so unique. Thich Nhat Hanh acknowledges that because suffering can feel so bad, we try to run away from it or cover it up by consuming. We find something to eat, turn on the television, spend time in large groups, or avoid facing what needs to be faced. But unless we’re able to face our suffering, struggles, challenges, and at the basic level, ourselves we can’t be present and available to life, and happiness will continue to elude us. It is through fasting that we can recognize the strength in ourselves, uncover the wonders that we are, see the possibilities in the world and become happier and healthier. Come through the mud to reveal the lotus.