What is so special about the upcoming week? 6th March! According to a christian tradition it is the first day of the Easter fasting period lasting till Easter Sunday. These are those 40 days with one meal per day with no meat, eggs, fish, dairy and alcohol (well, if you actually count more than 40, I praise you for your special mathematical abilities as you are right! Christians left out the 6 Sundays. Chickens!)
There are several reasons why this tradition has been kept for centuries, related to both mental and physical health. But does fasting make sense today, when we have everything we need (and want) and are fitter than ever?
Nutritious breakfast, an italian espresso several times per day, seat-heating in the car, high quality protein lunch, heavenly dessert in the afternoon, high speed wifi everywhere, bio dinner with a glass of the best wine, a 20-minute hot shower, a bed equipped with the best mattress and pillow made of organic duck down. Mrs. Perfection would be envious!
But as we enjoy this perfection every day, it becomes a boring standard. What a pity!
Enjoyment lives from abstention, somebody smart said. And I can tell from my own experience that it is so true! After dhalbat nr. 15 on our trek in Nepal we were dreaming about an ordinary bread with butter. From day 4 till day 14 of our hungry trekking in Peru we were talking about nothing else but gulash (don’t ask me why, I have no clue). In Costa Rica we would pay anything for a direct flight away from the jungle, especially after removing a mini tick nr. 10 001 from our chest. In Bolivia we worshipped the inventor of a water tap, after having filtered liters of icy cold water. While falling asleep in a tent with temperatures far below zero, all dreams were about our warm bed back at home. I cannot even describe the taste of the first bread with butter, home-made gulash and tap water available within seconds. First warm shower or the first night in bed – what an amazing feeling! All this accompanied by being proud to have managed the terrific discomfort. Which is what makes you feel like a hero (at least a small one!)
But does one need to travel around the world to experience such feelings? Not really. One can achieve exactly the same at home. How? Simply by stepping back from that everyday perfection for a while. Whenever. So why not now, when some other people are fasting too? And believe me, it is not even necessary to become a monk or a nun! Everybody is the master of their own mental or physical fasting: leaving out meat, white sugar, white flour, coffee, alcohol, wifi or smartphone?
Simply deliberately avoiding something pleasant you have everyday.
This year I will abstain from meat, sweets, alcohol and – wait for it – coffee. My hands are shaking when I am writing these lines but I will really do it! Finally, it won’t be so bad. It is only 40 out of 365 days in a year.
And what are the benefits? My liver will regenerate as it will not need to metabolize alcohol and meat protein. I will also highly support its regeneration by special substances in mary distel oil or artichokes. My healthy intestinal bacteria will grow while the bad ones will diminish due the lack of sugar. I will sleep better because coffein will not block adenosine, the sleep hormone, and there will be no alcohol disturbing my sweet REM sleep. As a result, I will have much more energy. Plus, I am sure I will write a poem about my first lungo on Easter Sunday. Because enjoyment lives from abstention.
And last but not least, I believe even such a little thing can contribute to the sweetest “I-made-it” feeling.