Thursday, 30 July 2009

Fast... and furious

A few years ago I lived on a new housing estate in a one bedroom house, with gas central heating and everything else powered by electric. I was there for over four years, and for the first year the entire housing estate was subject (for no apparent reason) to prolonged power cuts.

I would get in from work, in the middle of winter, switch the TV on, watch an hour or so of mind-numbing TV, then decide to make myself something to eat. And then *plink* all of the power would switch off, leaving me in the dark, cold and suddenly very hungry.

There is very little that you can do in a total blackout except light a couple of candles and huddle up in a blanket and sit... and wait (and make sure that the candles didn't burn down and set fire to the house).

It was difficult to read by either candle or torch light and within half an hour my brain would come up with a helpful suggestion.
"Well how about making a nice cup of tea?" The kettle is electric.... D'Oh!
"Well what about listening to a CD or something?" The CD player is also electric.... D'Oh!
"Why don't you start dinner then?" *sigh* You know the cooker is electric.... D'Oh!
"Well switch the TV on while you are waiting to cook...." Like, hello?!
"Oh well in that case just make a nice cup of tea...." Gaaaaahhhhhh!!!!!!

And so on. My brain could not think of a single thing to do which did not involve electricity in some way, shape or form. And it was quite amazing how often my thoughts repeated themselves.

And so it is today. I made the firm decision to Fast on the 9th of Av - the most negative day of the year (well, I wonder why). At 8:30 pm last night I was stuffing my face with the largest pasta dish known to man, and drinking as much water as my bladder could contend with. Then despite being too stuffed to move, I spent the rest of the evening wondering what I could nibble on before I went to bed. D'Oh! I'm fasting!

It was very strange getting up this morning and not having a cup of tea. Or two. As the day has worn on, every single thought is leaning towards food or drink...

My brain keeps offering the same helpful suggestions.
"Coo, I could just have a nice cup of tea..." Oh, but I'm fasting. D'Oh!
"Well, have a glass of water instead.." Yes, but I'm fasting. D'Oh!
"Oo I might just have a banana..." But I am FASTING!!!!

And the last final killer thought:
"You've got some nice ice lollies in the freezer......gowaaaaaaan.... just imagine the cool, flavoured ice melting on your tongue....... Surely they wouldn't mind if you sucked on an ice lolly? It's nothing more than flavour, really......"

On top of that I am on a permanent countdown. When I woke up this morning I had 15 hours to go. Now I only have six and a half.

Oddly enough, apart from the mental repetition and the lack of ability to think about anything else apart from food or drink, I am not physically feeling as bad as I thought. My stomach started to rumble 3 hours ago, made a lot of noise for 30 minutes, and then realised it was wasting its time and stopped. My mouth is a little dry. Maybe I have a tiny headache.

I thought I would be crying by now. And I'm not. Instead I'm feeling so grateful that this is a one-day event - that I have never had to wonder where my next meal is coming from, or whether the water (which is handily piped directly in to my house and is flushed away and wasted without a moment's thought) is clean. What I am experiencing isn't real hardship - it's nothing. Because I know it will end at 10:20 tonight with the Largest Heap of Mashed Potato in the World.....

Stomach, rumble away all you like. Only six hours and ten minutes to go...


  1. That must be really difficult. Is the reason for the fasting to make you appreciate things which are simply assumed as being normal (electricity, food etc) or to somehow clear your mind of these things?

  2. That's funny because when I started to answer your question I thought "Good point, why AM I doing this?!?!"
    I am sure that my teacher could provide a very technical answer which is rooted in deep knowledge of the energy of the day. As it is, I can only explain my understanding.

    When you eat, you take on the surrounding energy and absorb it. I would hazard a guess that eating on the most negative day of the year wouldn't be good.
    On a more fundamental level, the word 'Kabbalah' means 'to receive' - finding a way to earn blessings and fulfilment by overcoming our negative traits. We overcome our negative traits by being aware of them and trying to 'restrict' our reactions.
    To me, fasting feels like great practice at restriction. I live on my own. The temptation to make a sneaky cup of tea is huge. Who would know?

    I think there is something in both of the points you mentioned but I think the latter is more important. Going by the saying "Pain is inevitable, suffering optional", if I were a more practised Kabbalist I would be able to more easily detach myself from the physical (which is illusion - albeit a bloody good one from where I am standing!) and recognise the blessings that I am receiving in return.
    As for being difficult, it's more of an..... irritation (she says, gnawing her knuckles)....

  3. I am terrible at fasting.
    Well done you.
    When do you finish?
    Come to mine for supper!!!!