ecophilia — fasting, fungi & fractals — the transformational story of fasting
Day 12 of 108 of fasting, fungi & fractals
The transformational story of fasting
To fast has been challenging during the holidays. I had my family visit. One of the things we do is to go out to eat. I was part of a four-hour-long ritual at Moos. One of the things was dinner from a vast potluck buffet. I went to see friends. For dinner. Mostly abstaining from food means that I become a bystander in those moments. It also means that I don’t get any distraction from the situation. If the conversation is boring, tiring, or challenging, I have no other choice but to be with it.
I find fasting different from the usual stories of transformation, which go something like this:
Story of the butterfly
The first story of transformation is the story of the butterfly. The caterpillar becomes a butterfly by resembling its so-called imago cells. When the caterpillar locks itself in a cocoon, imago cells start appearing. In the beginning, they are being attacked by the immune system. Over time, more and more imago cells show up. They gather together and completely dissolve the caterpillar, emerging into something new: the butterfly.
The protagonist willing to transform is the caterpillar in the story. She is unhappy. Life is not fulfilling. She can’t live in line with her values and feels like she doesn’t make a difference. She lacks true purpose and direction in her life and holds on to beliefs about herself from the past. She is judgmental and doesn’t accept herself or how the world works. She keeps making big plans of what needs to change, critiques what’s wrong in the world and with people, and makes herself more miserable.
Then the imago cells start to show up. She works on herself, becomes spiritual, discovers secrets of her past and her past life, identifies her main stressors, learns how to deal with strenuous emotions, and determines what is good for her and what is not. She finds peace. She goes to psychiatrists, psychologists, astrologers, and gurus, reads religion and philosophy, takes yoga classes, craniosacral therapy, chants mantras, and meditates. She eats avocados and spirulina, and drinks green juices and aloe vera extract. She reads her horoscope, takes personality tests, and checks her blood type. She drinks Ayahuasca, doesn’t drink alcohol, drinks only wine, or smokes herbs. She goes to homeopaths, osteopaths, naturopaths and tries Chinese medicine. She sets her alarm to 5 am or does natural sleeping. She discovers her past life, gets hypnotized, and learns NLP. She creates vision boards, journals daily, expresses her gratitude, or repeats affirmations. Her friends lay her Tarot cards. Strangers take her on a shamanic journey. Experts read her aura. She clears her chakras and travels to Rishikesh.
The transformation process is hard work. Inside the cocoon, it might take years or decades. For some, it never ends. But when she is finally ready, she emerges as a completely transformed, fundamentally new, never seen before, changed person: the butterfly. It can fly wherever it wants to. It is free. It is joyous and fulfilled. It will live happily ever after. If we only all do this inner work, the world would be in peace and harmony forever.
Story of the dictator
The second story of transformation is the story of the dictator. The dictator is internalized social norms, the therapist, parents, or social media. The people are being told what to do by the dictator. The protagonist — the person willing to transform — is the people, das Volk.
The only way to tame the people and keep them in control is by rules, pain, and punishment. For a while, this works great. The autobahn is being built. You finally find direction in life. However, even though the Volk seems submissive, a revolt is secretly planned. This happens underneath the radar of the dictator. But the Volk retains its untamed instincts. The dictator can never fully trust the Volk. Little misdeeds happen. The Volk is punished, and more laws and regulations are passed. For a while, it seems like order can be maintained. What happens is that the system comes closer and closer to total breakdown. Anything that threatens the plan will be avoided and banned out of life.
The protagonist is constantly on guard. Agility is non-existent. Fragility is the consequence.
The result is frustration, non-existent fun, a sense of deprivation, and meaninglessness, bafflement about what matters prevails. Like an alcoholic, the protagonist manages to take it “one day at a time.” Until she dies, she can be called mildly successful in her approach. But it doesn’t feel like it to her. She feels like life is happening without her. She avoids anything that might be a trigger.
The story of fasting
The story of fasting differs from these stories of transformation. While the first story is about cultivating inner change, the second is about cultivating outer change by laws and regulations (even if those laws and regulations are dictated by oneself). Fasting is where the outer meets the inner. To me, it’s raw. It’s real. It’s learning to face and deal with resistance.
What I want from this fast, is to neither allow an escape to the inner nor the outer.
The last couple of days, the protagonist — me — experienced a yearning desire to eat. In the past, I have dealt with this through the dictator. Today, I try to apply the age-old practice of noticing what happens without resistance or judgment. I neither use the dictator nor escape to inner practices that make me feel good but don’t get the job done.
For the transformation towards the Ecocene, we need to find this third story of transformation. To me, it’s the story of fasting. It allows me to learn to connect what we need to do: consume less; with what we strive to be: relaxed and joyful.