….wild is the wind…creative freedom is the seed….
Most people who know me know that, this is just unlike me to agree to be silent & fast for 36 hours. I don’t always talk, but I love the exchange of lightning ideas . I cannot imagine any time where there are no new dynamic inputs coming into my days. If I did not have to get my beauty sleep, my life would be spent talking to the thousands of amazing leading thinkers that I know all around the world and discussing everything from politics to philosophy, to art to literature, from the satanic nature of bread making machines to the Alchemic origins of modern chemistry. I can’t help it. I love creative people and I just cannot help being fascinated by cutting edge ideas in all fields. I had business management discussions with a Nobel Prize winner in Gene therapy where I spent it quizzing him on how well-handled was SARS in Hong Kong given the top-down management style. I just can’t help asking and discussing unusual angles on everything in life.
So it is not a surprise that I applied the same “creative process” to the Ancient Buddhist Ritual of Fasting & Aspirational prayers. Adapting an ancient ritual to a modern Multi-tasking theme really captured my imagination. The original question was: How can one multi-task on prayers given prayers are one-pointed but also all-encompassing?
For a few years, I studied how a Multi-tasking Buddhist Yogi went around advising people. I adopted his starting premise that everything one does while awake or asleep can be a form of meditation and spiritual rituals. Singing, laughing, talking, sleeping and even shopping if applied with a sense of awareness and conscious mindfulness, is a Meditative experience. At least, with some awareness that like a dream, everything we do in life, has an element of the virtual, movie-like, intangible & transient.
It was not difficult to skip dinner. What was interesting was that for the next 5 hours all sorts of emotional issues came up, as my body sent out signals from my brain about a “break in the daily ritual”. My brain wondered,”Oi, where’s the food I am used to?” This took a few hours to calm down. I had a cry. It was like watching me in a play. Old fears came up and new emotions also surfaced. They seemed quite trivial now but then, it seemed like the most important thing in the world while I was “in character”. Eventually my brain decided “Television of the Inner Mind” was over like the ocean after a storm. I switched off and went to bed with the thought that “whatever I dream is whatever I dream, whatever I do awake is whatever I do awake”.
The next morning, it was a totally different experience. I was calm and I did not have any food cravings as my brain was in gear. As the day progressed, I made sure I had some water as I felt more and more dehydrated if I did not. I noticed that a big bruise I had on my leg from a stumble during yoga, actually started to fade more than in the previous few days. I noticed that I had a slight swelling of the joint on my left arm. I noticed how much more free time I had when I did not spend it thinking about meals and what to cook for dinner.
It was Valentine’s Day; my partner bought me a bunch of White roses. I noticed how much more alert I was to smells. I even smelt the garlic in the soup my partner had made a few hours ago from the next room! I could smell our pet rabbit moving past me as he had a slight Cabbage smell to him from his diet. Smells, sounds and tactile senses became really distinctive for me.
I took this occasion to multi-task and think about the “Aspiration prayers “ of the multi-tasking 1000 arms Chenrezig (he is also in Sanskrit Avalokitesvara, the male deity for Compassion) or Quan Yin (as she, the same deity in female form in Chinese). I think of the multi-tasking things we do on a daily basis in cyber space. I read. I get the latest grass root information from all around the world. I consult on different PR & NGO strategies. I tried to find alternative solar energy source to give sanitation for a village up in the Himalayas. I talk about different political protest in Europe with people developing technology to keep protestors safe. I gossip a little about my Fasting. In between that I am worried about the finance this month due to a large unexpected repair bill. I think of the things people all around the world are trying to do to cut Global warming & Climate change. At 5pm I am in a video conference with a lecturer at UCLA about my research in Sustainability & Joint Ventures into the Asia market. This was followed by another quick catch up to devise strategies with a Life Management Coach for a new Green company.
I email with another person briefly to talk about the health preparation she needs to stay healthy on an Aid mission to Haiti with an NGO. In short, I was multi-tasking and doing all this while imagining that the 1000 arms of chenrezig , are actually just like the emails and the millions of Facebook and twitter messages that bounces back and forth in the world in all languages. This was REALLY multitasking and it begins with one simple intention: “Today, as I turn on my computer and communicate with the world, I will do everything in my power to do what is right according to my conscience.”
By evening, instead of feasting with my partner for Valentine, we lit a fire and I made a “scent offering”. Actually it is just lovely “home-made incense” one can put into a wood fire and it leaves the room smelling of roasted barley, honey & sugar. In the traditional Buddhist sense, the scent offering has a lot of different meanings about feeding beings suffering in the realm of hunger. It is also in other traditions an offering to gather feminine, spacious & divine wisdom. But we just love the smell it brings to the open fire in the kitchen!
Just to keep to the Fasting Rituals, I did decide to sing a quick dedication song I learnt from my old teacher who really enjoyed singing songs of Spontaneous realisations whether alone or in a big group. He was just a simple Khampa Tibetan, son of a Yak herding tribe. There e is no need to go into any glamorous description about his songs. They are simple songs and he has even encouraged them to be adapted to modern Pop songs. His songs have an interesting dream-like quality. This is pretty much my “mantra” recitation because lets face it, for me, while I love the sound of the Sanskrit language; it is really not any different in sound than Swahili to me.
By the way Fasting is not only found in Buddhism, it is also found in nearly all known ancient religions and mythologies in the world. So please do not feel that anyone needs to change religion, in order to just experience the Focus of a Fast. I merely used Buddhist rituals because that is my culture.
According to the Buddhist ritual I finished the day with some light yoga stretches and a final quiet sitting meditation. But in truth, the entire day from the moment I woke up, there was a consistent meditative quality as I went through daily task. So the sitting down meditation did not seem, as my old teacher described as, “not two different things”. I still enjoyed the formality of a sitting ritual but it is not the only way to meditate or focus.
Bedtime was not as theatrical as the night before but I did sweat a great deal all night and woke up feeling as though a fever had lifted. I had no fever at all. The slight swelling in my left elbow was gone. The bruise on my leg reduced more. My throat was very dry though. By mid-day the following day the 36 hours was up. My fast was due to end. But for some reason, there was no hurry in my mind.
I prepared the light barley & vegetable soup I prepared the night before to break my Fast, very slowly. There was no hurry. There was no shock or urgency. The gradual intake of food was not an amazing burst of energy. My body found this quite natural and comfortable. There was no big drama or trauma to a 36 hrs. fast. I had no amazing profound experience or amazing awareness insight. I did not feel any feelings of going “Oh, I am so disciplined or this is so special”. If anything it was the other way, there is no Glamour to fasting when you realise that almost every day, I deal with projects full of starving people and kids in HIV slums who were born HIV positive. Actually hunger is the norm, what we have is more “unusual”. There were some mild discomfort but I would consider doing it again next week!
“Sarva Magallam” as the old Khampa yak herd teacher used to say (whatever that means! 🙂 ).
Cecilia is a Hong Kong Chinese-Australian Social Entreprneur, Artist, Directors of NGO in Africa, South Ameria, Asia and California who really really likes to "tell it how it is", having travelled to over 40 countries around the world & seen some interesting things every so often.
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