a friend of mine who isn’t religious or spiritual asked me a question about the effect of prayer and fasting, and what appears to be hypocrisy from their perspective within the religious communities – be they Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. I wish I remembered exactly what words came out of my mouth to answer, but it went something like this:
“I can easily understand how you might feel the way you do, the simple reason for a Lenten period is to move closer towards a relationship with God. when you do that and stop trying to fast and pray for some selfish reasons, you will go through a period where you realize just how small and insignificant you really are in the cosmos, and find a place where you get a glimpse of what pure love is like (god) and then really get blown away that such an entity can love you, even though you resemble Swiss cheese with a lot of holes and scars from the times you did not walk in love on the planet with other people.”
then I added, “and when you do take that time inside yourself and then come back to observe what your life has become and the noise in the world around you…it is really easy to see how screwed up humanity is and has become lately.”
then we had an interesting discussion, as each of their reasons and concerns about fasting and religion, held a lot of validity to the rational human mind. the old monks told me gluttony was one of the first ways you can get attacked in the spiritual sense. pride and vanity are one of the hardest to overcome, and in between there are a plethora of things one has to walk around in each day that keeps what each of us have inside, that being the ability to perfectly love selflessly, with the reality we can very easily be very selfish in loving ourselves and ignoring everyone else. while the words are simplistic, that is where I am with all this journey where it is easy to get lost in legalism, religion, and spiritual new age frequencies and technologies/empathagens.
“you are absolutely right about fasting and such. as it goes really to the heart and soul of each human being. I found if I wanted to fast because some rule told me to, or I wanted to lose weight or look better physically – the spiritual path was very difficult, if not impossible. if my heart was in a place to empty myself and fast to get closer to god and learn to love everyone better – the journey, might appear more difficult, yet, there is grace, peace, and an understanding that you are not alone in the process.”
as mentioned, I can’t describe the journey in works, but rather it is like peeling an onion. we all have a lot of “stuff” from life on this planet that covers up each of our hearts and souls with respect to truly loving as we can all do. to clarify, I think I have met 4-5 people on the planet that have achieved this stage of enlightenment or love in their own body and are living and walking with no to minimal onion peels surrounding their hearts.
the rest of us, are all onions of sorts, some with a lot of layers we add to protect ourselves from the fears and scars that we have gained living our lives. some have more, others have less. the one thing any layer does upon our hearts is it acts as a barrier or a wall to allowing love to grow and shine outward in a world (particularly more and more in the USA ) that has everyone offended, defending, or fighting over anyone and anything.
I am no theologian, rather a prodigal son that was a doubting Thomas that is grateful for God giving me a Damascus road experience and a chance to change from the path of who I was, and where I was heading. to the world's view, it looked successful, to gods view – it probably looked very foolish, as I guess with lent and a fast, the only two people that know the truth about each person, is god and that person. everyone else is simply a spectator with a different perspective.
what you get from fasting and prayer, is a space to slow yourself down and extract yourself from the norm of the world – its obligations, fun, social activities, entertainment, food & beverages – and shut yourself up in a quiet place and allow love to take off layer upon layer of the onion skin you have put upon yourself with your imperfect and flawed human living.
the reason it takes so much time is that I don’t think too many people could survive having all of their onion skin layers taken off in an instant? perhaps it is better to go slower and really grow over time versus thinking god is some instant gratification healer. let’s be honest, humanity is not really great at a long-term view of himself, particularly as the speed of life and the choices and machines/technology are accelerating as never before.
do you have to fast? experience says it really helps. do you have to pray? experience says that there is wisdom in the idea of praying without ceasing. can you love selflessly? sure, but you will need help with something far bigger and greater than yourself to accomplish it.
that is why you spend the time, and that is part of the beauty of spirituality – you get a choice as to how much or how little time you want to spend seeking the mystery of God and the spiritual dynamic of the cosmos.
hopefully, as a reader, it won’t cost you everything to learn such a valuable piece of wisdom I can give you. just go sit, get still (this might at first seem terrifying) and ask for some help.
that is your 10-minute coffee break for the day. may it touch and make sense to someone.