Monthly Archives: March 2012

Day Sixteen

Today was day sixteen.

Sixteen days without food. Sixteen days.

Physically, how am I doing? I feel all right. Really, I feel fine. Stomach feels empty but isn’t panging like it did on day three while the crew cooked dinner. A sip of water here, some coconut water there, I feel all right. But, without any distractions from my own mind… ooh… I’m craving a cigarette today. It comes in waves of need that fall back into the ocean of my desire and then come in again and again for minutes at a time. Even these craving are all right. I remember them from last time I quit. (Hey! I brought licorice root to chew. I’m grabbin’ some. Be right back.) Without mirrors or accurate scales I can’t really judge how my body is changing but its been sixteen days without food, and – according to the fasting literature, I’m almost certain to have given up between ten and fifteen pounds from my entry weight of somewhere around one hundred and forty five. I know that the size 32 jeans I got in New York this winter are now at least two sizes too big.

I’m not worried. Weight loss rates decrease quickly during fasts and I took all the steps to do this as safely as possible. By next week I should only be losing between four and eight ounces a day. And the week after I’ll be expecting that to drop to between four and eight. From then on… four to eight onces a day. I’ve done the maths. If all goes well… Well….
There’s literature out there – real case studies done by western medicine in the forties and fifties – that suggests that after thirty days of fasting, people on pure water water fasts lose only several ounces of weight of day. I can barely imagine it: don’t eat for six days and only lose one pound.

In the meantime, coconut water is a diuretic (explaining my having to urinate all of the time) and is great for my kidneys, but I have to stay up on my regular water consumption.
Why am I doing this? It’s not for my health. Is it to find and cement a relationship with God? Well, that’s what my schedule is all about, the prayer and meditation but, who knows? If we’re all just a part of Creation creating, then what I think I’m doing might be altogether misleading.

I have a lot of time to ask myself that question. For now, I can sit back, watch the citronella candle burn, relax, and get ready for my eight o’clock meditation.

Meditating. That’s hard. I started out easy with just two hours a day – three or four sittings, but now I can hold posture for an hour, easy. It’s the concentrating on the spot between my eyebrows for more than a few seconds that’s tough; my eyeballs move in their orbits of their own volition and I think my left eye is weaker than my right because my right eye can remain aimed at the spot that’s said to be the center of Christ-consciousness while the left seems to fatigue and drift away, lazily going cross-eyed toward the bridge of my nose. My guidebook for this adventure is the yogi Paramhansa Yogananda’s system of self-realization and he insists that the more I concentrate my will, the faster results will come. So I set and reset (and reset) my eyes, gently reminding myself to give my attention to my third eye, and when they drift away, set them back, again.

An effect of this inner-gazing is sometimes felt as a swirling eddy of energy just above my eyebrows and, other times, like an itching or burning sensation. When I feel either, I try and enter that sensation… But I hardly know what that means, to enter into the sensation.
Afterwards, however, there’s a calm like I’ve never experienced, a calm that takes one by surprise, like standing in a gale and having the wind utterly cease. In that serenity exists a beatific acceptance of things as they are.
I’m being careful, here, to avoid the topics of what I’m thinking about and what I’m writing about in my journal and my reasons, for good or bad, are because I’m involving myself in esoteric thought I’m neither yet comfortable elucidating nor confident explaining. I’ve become a disciple of sorts, a student travelling with masters centuries gone to ground, and I have a ways to go yet before the topography of this journey can be charted or analyzed, so I merely take the steps, confident, faithful, assured, that one way or another, I’ll get where I’m going.

With prayer, meditation, and as much will as I can muster, I’m determined to meet my inner mystic.

Faith tells me that he’s around here, somewhere.

Oh, yes… Tomorrow is laundry day.



Updates …

Neil talks to Dr. Jacob Lieberman

Neil learns to meditate.

Neil learns to meditate.

Director: Mark Matthews

Director: Mark Matthews

Tree – Day 1

Letting the days go by….

I don’t want to find myself concentrating on the days, thir names, their number. I want to lose track of them, have them fade away like ghosts on vanished horses. To know the days is to know the distance and I don’t care about fathoms or furlongs, meters or miles, counting strides and . No journey begins with two steps. It’s always just the one followed by the other. I dont want to know how long it’s been since my last banana, my last avocado, my last juice.

On the other hand, I’m thrilled to have made it to day five. It’s here (say the sources) that the pangs diminish and energy returns. It’s here at day five that the food addictions begin to break and the relationship with food becomes less needy. I think I can already feel (if one can be said to feel a negation) the detachment.

A bowl of fragrant roses for a meal,
The jollity of friends.
Chick peas with garlic
Smell delicious, too.

I have a journal that I’m using to copy a prayer of St. Francis of Assisi’s until I have it memorized. No time at all, just ten minutes, to copy it three times each day (yesterday, the day before, and this morning) and, although I know i haven’t the order cemented yet, all the content is in my noggin, now. Here it is (corrected… I did forget a line):

Lord make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love,
that where there is error, I may bring forgiveness,
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
that where there is wrong, I may bring truth,
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith,
that where there is despair, I may bring hope,
that where there is darkness, I may bring light,
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds it
is by forgiveness that one is forgiven,
and it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

Neither the meditation sessions (two to three a day) or the yoga (one heavier, one lighter session) have shown any result, but (Ok… yesterday I was pretty spaced out after forty-five minutes of meditation in the afternoon, but I have no idea what the cause was. I haven’t been eating! It could as easily have been a lightheadedness, a dumfoundedness that just came on upon arising from my sitting posture) I have no expectations about them, either. I just got started. My concentration will improve as I meditate more. My body will become more limber with frequent stretching. However, according to Andrew Newberg (How God Effects your Brain), meditating for just fifteen minutes a day will show brain changes at the end of a single week, and according to Rachel Gonzalez, daily yoga will evince changes in posture and energy also within a week.

I’m still so new to both, however, that they’re hard for me. It’s hard to concentrate for an hour. The monkey mind goes wandering. It’s hard to hold a pose and not give in to burning numbness. I’m counting on improving. I think it’ll be hard to do this thing if I don’t.

After my early afternoon sitting meditation yesterday, I went for a walk. Maybe that spaciness I mentioned was the result of chanting the mantra ‘hare Krishna” in my head the whole time I strolled. Still… it could be the not eating. Either way, I was in fine, spaced-out head-set for the rest of the day.

three days later…

Although we got here four nights ago, we haven’t yet got a tree. There was a big hoopla and we all thought, “Hey it’s on!”… but it wasn’t. We’re staying in a beautiful house, with a spectacular view, but we’re hiding during the day like hoodlums because we’re technically not supposed to be here. Without a tree, that “not supposed to be here” feels like a sublime truth. Without a tree, what are we doing here?
As for the fast… it continues (with the exception of some irresistable coconut meat that appears to tempt me every time I open a coconut for drinking).
In case you haven’t been following…
Friday the 21st february, my diet shifted from whatever I wanted to eat (which we’d all consider a “fairly healthy” diet, but which was still whatever I wanted to eat. Lots of bread and rice, lots of pastas. Here a meat, there a meat. Frequent vegetarian meals.) to a diet touted by a doctor of Chinese Medicine of leafy greens and vegetable juices, supplemented by sundry items from his apothecary. Green powders that contained things like powdered wheat grass and algae and brown powders which joined reishi with pulverized acai and otherrs, bee pollen and b-complexes, something that called itself cell-food. Flax seed oil cooked and dressed my meals. I ate sautees of greens prescribed by said doctor: bitter beet-greens, peppery mustard greens, a clove of garlic, a carrot, a little grated ginger, no salt, no pepper, dressed with a ripe avocado and some basil or a sprig of dill. Sometimes that meal was over chopped oats. Other times it was over quinoa. It was breakfast, lunch and dinner. And during the day I’d make smoothies or juices. Carrots, apples, ginger, beets, bananas, starfruit, mango, papaya, celery, the occassional grapefruit. Hardcore healthy. All my juices were tinted green and tasted minty because of the chlorophyll I added, but I didn’t care.
That was my diet.
And then March 1st rolled around and the regime got even tougher. I entered what was supposed to be a five-day transition to a simple liquid diet: No solid foods at all to get me into line for having bowels to be proud of before beginning the coconut water-fast. Which takes us to the first scheduling delay date of March 7. Fine. Although I’m shedding weight like a diver sheds his tanks, I re-establish my commitment to this thing, and I continue in depths of smoothies and juices. Another five days – no big deal. So what if the diet wasn’t intended to go this long?
On the 13th, expecting to have a tree to get under so I can “officially” begin my search for Unity with the Divine Spirit, I dropped all the extraneous juices and moved to the water inside fresh coconuts and regular, regular water. Since I didnt have a tree, I let myself boil the water for cafferine -free tea. No harm at all. I won’t have tea under that tree, thats for sure.
Yesterday, the 15th, I let myself nibble on some shards of coconut meat. This isn’t one of those american nibbles where we “nibble” through a bag of corn chips. Literally, over the course of the day, I ate a couple of tablespoons of fresh coconut meat.
I still don’t have a tree to go under. I’m not beating myself up about some pieces of fresh coconut. What I would beat myself up about is sharing breakfast with the filmmakers who are eating such delightfully smelling meals that my mouth literally fills with saliva almost faster than I can shut it to keep from dribbling.
And today is the 16th. No tree. No food. Just some coconuts. And maybe, I’ll nibble on a shard or two.
I must be addled-pated to let things continue like this.

Tonight is tonight and tomorrow… tomorrow

Tonight is…
Tonight is the last night before I go. And I’m going dumb, just like we all agreed. I don’t know the location, except for it might be under a mango tree. (Who thought of that, putting a man abstaining from food underneath a tree that drops its fruit when the fruit is perfect for eating? Who, I ask?) I’ve been warned that I might have to build my own shelter, which is great. I know my half-hitch, my wrap, and whatever that’s called when you turn the wrap so it cinches it all in. But am I going to be given rope? Or a knife to make cording with? Or gloves to prevent macerated hands? A machete? Is there material to build a shelter anywhere about this mango tree?

Mark Matthews asked me today if I had any dry clothes. For a year I’ve been telling him I want a rain-suit. It looks like another of those minimum requirements that got dropped because of budgetary concerns, like Western-style medical monitoring and before and after fMRI pictures of my brain. Maybe he’s trying to scare me. Maybe it’s a ruse to get even with me for the past year of trusting neglect I’ve given the project. It wouldn’t surprise me if he took a perverse joy in setting me in a mosquito-infested rainforest sans slicks and shelter. Possibly a ruse, a little prank, a bit of mischief on Mark’s part, but… I have a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Speaking of stomachs… My last bit of solid food was a half-slice of pizza either nine or ten days ago. My sister would kill me if she knew. Three weeks of a greens-no-gluten diet, followed by this last bit of only drinking fruit and vegetable juice – a couple of quarts every day – has just peeled off what little fat I had left after a December spent walking around New York. I’m ripped. My abs haven’t looked like this in over a decade. And of course, I can’t help thinking that I might not weigh enough.

Yesterday I had my first lay-in-bed-and-shake panic but it didn’t last long. Only a couple of minutes. Remembering to breathe alleviated the fear.

And I wonder how many of those moments I have in front of me.