I recently watched a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, about a man who documented his 60-day juice fast. He’d felt at the end of his rope health-wise, and was subsisting, at the age of 42, on an artillery of pills for a myriad of ailments. On his journey, where he traveled across the United States telling his story while drinking his green juice, he came across a few most unlikely candidates, who latched onto his journey and made it their own. These were people who, like him, simply felt as though they’d somehow, somewhere along the line, lost self, lost purpose, and rather than living were merely surviving. I remember as I began watching it, thinking, “well, this isn’t new information for me, but it’s always good to get a reminder.” But then there came a moment that truly got my attention, and made me obsessed enough to watch this movie two more times before sticking it back in the mailbox. Not only did these participants’ health turn around (how could it not, when you’re talking about concentrated, mega doses of micro-nutrients a day?), but something in their entire psychological and spiritual paradigm shifted. A serious reboot of mind, body, and spirit seemed to have occurred. And lately that is something I’ve been feeling an almost desperate need for in my own life.
Something’s been wrong. I’ve felt overwhelmed by finances and survival, and though I am an artist to my bones, I’ve been creating very little. The novel that released almost a year ago now has barely received much marketing nurturing from me. I would tell myself that I believed in a universe that would take my deserving labors into it, and would not let those labors just flounder in the sea, no matter how unmotivated I may have been. I was clearly ignoring whatever the universe might’ve had to say about effort. Even this blog hadn’t been given any love since my last post three months ago. My own health, fitness, and wellness is okay, but I want more than okay. And I’ve begun to isolate socially and emotionally from those I love, or even just like. And I realized as I watched this movie that I, too, felt I was merely surviving, and no longer living.
I’m a big believer in synchronicity. I encounter it constantly, and always experience moments of absolute bliss when it occurs. So, right as I was obsessing over this movie, I also happened to read a quote on Facebook, credited to Homeboy Industries, an interpretation of Lent that spoke directly to my own practices of meditation and turning inward.
“The giving up of something you enjoy is to quiet the mind and recognize how caught up we are in what we think we need. Lent is a time of reflection and centering and to remind ourselves that what we need is inside of us.”
I’m not Catholic, and have never observed Lent before (born and raised Baptist, now living largely with the tenets of the Buddha Dharma). But my own spiritual approach has always been completely inclusive of any rituals that resonate with my heart and soul from all the traditions. So, what the hell, let’s participate in Lent this year. Of course, I came to this resolution ten days into Lent, but I also realized that for me it wasn’t about the number of days, but simply about participating in something for however long I could, somewhere during this stretch of time called Lent. It was a symbol.
From the moment I decided to participate, I knew that a juice fast was going to be the chosen sacrifice. Lent and this documentary couldn’t’ve both been roiling in my head at the same time for any other reason. And for me, it seemed too easy just to give up wine, or coffee, or chocolate, or whatever (the typical choices I always hear about). I wanted it to be something truly challenging, because if the ante wasn’t high enough then I just didn’t see any kind of genuine transformation being a part of the deal. So, I decided to do 10 days of a juice fast, inspired by Joe Cross’ adventure, coupled with an intensive meditation. To quiet my mind, and invite the truth to show itself to me. To actively seek to forgive myself whatever realities I’ve clearly felt needed punishing. To feed my body with only what it needs, and not what I think it needs (in this environment that I’ve created of learning to self-medicate and to numb). To get really, seriously, ridiculously focused, which the ritual of juicing pounds of vegetables every day, and cleaning the multi-parts juicer everyday, and getting in lotus position everyday, and saying “no” to every waft of food that comes your way everyday, will give you. There’s no meditating in the movie, but I decided to include meditation because suddenly the age-old tradition of “prayer and fasting” was very attractive to me.
I am open to the possibility that if I’m feeling the need for further, come Day 10, I’ll extend the fast beyond that (I can tell you now, it won’t be the 60 days that Joe Cross accomplished). And am resolved that if I do make it to Day 10, and don’t crumble at Day 5, it will be a triumph beyond words. No other options exist.
I chose a day to start, and even got a friend on board to do it with me, so that a sense of community, of a support system, of checking in every day and keeping each other honest, would be set firmly in place. And today is that day. Leading up to today, I experienced the weirdest and widest berth of emotions about it. Dread – that I would not succeed, that I would bail after Day 2 because my caffeine and sugar addiction would get the better of me and have me climbing the walls. Hope – that I might actually come out of this 10 days changed, transformed, bettered. Anxiety – that a social commitment would challenge my ability to stick with this; because, what are we if not social animals who congregate over food and libations? And honor – to be entering into this ritual that I see as sacred space.
My first instinct was to share this journey publicly. Facebook here I come! Then I thought, no, not this one. This one requires quiet. Then a third thought came to me. That if I blogged about the journey (no, it’s not a travelogue to the Himalayas, or across an ocean, merely an internal one), then I would be made to stay honest, to commit, to see this all the way through. Otherwise there’s just public humiliation, and we all know how fun that can be. But there was something deeper to the thought, as well. A connection. Sharing my journey means opening my heart. Maybe even inspiring someone else who may be feeling lost. Just as a Netflix DVD changed my world one night.
So, here I am. Day 1.
I awoke with excitement, and immediately went from my bed to my meditation altar, lit my candles, drew my mantra for the day, and then closed my eyes and did what I do. Sometimes meditation can completely cocoon me in the comfort and warmth of meaning. Other times I can be quite antsy and distracted. It happens. Every day is different. Today I was cocooned. When I was done, I walked right over to my kitchen and juiced up the pile of vegetables and fruit I’d bought the night before. I was stunned at how little juice that huge pile of veggies actually made, and instantly realized I’d need a lot more vegetables every day to make this work, and to keep me from feeling starved. But the juice was tasty (I made enough for all of my meals today), so the first effort has been a triumph. Today’s combination is spinach, kale, celery, apples, a whole lemon, and copious amounts of ginger. I made sure, as I prepared for this day, to collect as many juicing recipes as I could find, so that the creature of habit in me wouldn’t end up making the same thing every day, and growing bored, and quitting.
So far, so good. No panic seems to have hit. I’ll call my friend who’s doing this with me a little later on to see how he’s doing. But I’ll check in at the end of every one of these ten days, document where I am, and promise to be honest about how I’m feeling. There are sure to be some cranky moments, but if I keep clear and present about what I’m trying to accomplish, I think the crankiness will be kept to a minimum. Or it’ll be the steepest mountain I’ve ever had to climb. Either one works for me, because I’m ready to take this on.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, offers a thought that does my heart good as I go forth into Prayer-&-Fasting Land.
“If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, anything from your house to bitter old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”
That’s good enough for me. See you all tomorrow.
P.S. Speaking of synchronicity, the very next day after reading the Homeboy Industries quote on Lent, I was driving to Union Station in Downtown LA, and drove right by a large building with “Homeboy Industries” in big, bold letters on top of it. I just had to stop in to find out about them. Wow! Check them out, if you’re so inclined. Homeboy Industries
And while we’re at it, check out:
Reboot With Joe
Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.