“Fasting had made me more alert and more appreciative of the richness around me. I began to comprehend the sense of life anew, more intensely. This sense is an increasingly rare commodity nowadays, because the sense of the Holy, of things that are completely different, of the profoundly secret, has gradually become lost.”
Bernhard Müller, Fasting in the Monastery
The early Christians fled to the desert where they confronted themselves. They called demons those features of the mind that even today, maybe more so today, tempt us to immoderation and thoughtlessness. Distinguishing themselves from other Jews, they set aside Tuesdays and Fridays as fast days (Jews fasted on Mondays and Thursdays) to remind them of the passion of their rabbi, Yeshua (Iesous in Greek, pronounced YAY-sus), that began on Good Friday.
When we’re fasting, the mind becomes clear as if a giant vacuum cleaner had sucked every detail from the sky—clouds, vestigial moon, flying geese—to leave it an empty blue hemisphere above. When we do see ourselves in this dwarfing landscape, we’re as ants, insignificant specks on the vastness of timeless space.
In this vast panorama, we are not the center or point of reference. We see how puny our desires are, how utterly silly our pretensions to power and importance.
No longer the center of being, everything becomes transmogrified, luminous and fresh. We’re back in the garden before we took things into our own hands and lost the primal vision. In the garden, every thing is new, pure and essential. There is nothing here extraneous or unnecessary, and every thing is good.
We need to regain this vision of Paradise. All too often we are lost in our own world of thoughts and images, in the project-management attitude we learn early in life. Purpose is great. It pools our resources and directs these towards creation. After a while we forget the true nature of creation. We begin to believe we make things happen, all by ourselves, by our own resources and strength. We forget the deep roots that connect us to worlds of being so vast and empty they boggle the mind. We lose this sense of bogglement. Instead we become comfortable seeing the world from our tiny speck of a reference. Fasting restores us to the whole shebang.
And in the whole shebang, everything we see is replete with light. We can even see death and life, not as tragic events we seek to ignore but as natural punctuation marks in a timeless, endless statement that being is. Each time, our sense of ownership loosens somewhat. We see as gods do, the whole panoply of human sadness and joys laid below us like a model train loop, or the valley below when we reach the summit of high mountains.