FASTING AND MEDITATING IN IBIZA
In April I took a trip to Ibiza to fast and meditate and explore going down to nothing…
The plan: Complete sensory deprivation (in yoga this is called Pratyahara)
ten days prior to the weeklong trip I got off coffee (for the first time since I was 14). For three days prior to leaving for the trip I did a juice cleanse to transition from solid foods, and to stock my brain/body with nutrients before the fast. Then before leaving for the airport Monday evening I finished the juice and transitioned to only drinking water for the next three days. In addition to the food fast I was also fasting from sensory stimulants. I turned off my phone. I did not bring any books. No reading magazines on the plane. No listening to music. No taking photos. No entertaining myself.
This fast is based on old shamanic vision quests that have been adapted to modern times as presented in the book One Spirit Medicine by Dr. Alberto Villoldo. It is designed to reset the immune and neurological systems for optimal physical health (ppl often do it when they’re dangerously ill). In a sense it is also designed to make you face your death – face who you are without feeding your physical body or feeding your brain with entertainments and distractions.
In Ibiza I had rented an apartment near a hotel where a non-dual spiritual teacher named Lisa Cairns was doing talks. “The Hindu concept of Advaita [non-duality] refers to the idea that all of the universe is one essential reality, and that all facets and aspects of the universe is ultimately an expression or appearance of that one reality.” So these talks also point to no-self, the self as an illusory construct, which aligned nicely with the whole fast.
In addition to attending the talks, I meditated a lot throughout the days. With no intention. Just sitting with ‘what is’. On Thursday night, after three days with only water I started eating again. I remained in Ibiza for the talks for four more days, gradually reintegrating sensory pleasures, and returned to New York Monday evening. Here are some excerpts from my diary:
Friday April 15 (3 days before leaving):
Friday morning. I can see the sun against the high roof at the top of the courtyard. It looks as bright as a California sun. I feel pretty good. A week without coffee now. The most extraordinary part is that I’m fine. I guess I don’t “need” it. Today is my last official day teaching before it all begins. I pick up the juices at 4:30pm. I requested that they omit ginger. There is pleasurable anticipation inside me. Even though it’s to experiment with starvation – ha.
Saturday April 16:
Saturday morning. I’m now up and so into this carrot/lime/apple/beet juice. I’m a little spaced out now. I know the ground is right under my feet. But it feels far away.
Monday April 18:
Monday morning. My body feels full of sleep. A day of prep before heading out. I would like to focus on nature and presence. Turn the phone off before sundown. Then every being I see, to see as myself. To be in my humanity. To only do the things in front of me. And no screens. No electronics. No books. 3 days withdrawing desire and aversions and just being with what is. I will move slowly. I will be aware of life living through me. I feel like everything I’m drawn to will be there. Now I’m just going to fall in.
Monday Evening April 18:
Now on the airplane in the back. I have a free seat next to me. It was a relief to not be using my phone or entertaining myself in any way en route to the airport or waiting. I sat in front of a group of people in the waiting area and one woman came back with a lot of candy they were all sharing. A couple was eating a box of Boston Creme donuts – feeding them to each other. It seemed like almost everyone was looking at a screen. All these people seemed to be jovial and having fun. But I am aware that this is a more comfortable state for me. Not emoting. Not doing. Not distracting myself with anything. It feels good to just be here alone. To not have to talk with anyone. To not have to have a personality. When the urge for something different arises, I keep thinking “where would I rather be? What moment would be better than this one?”
Tuesday April 19:
It’s 4pm in Ibiza. I am sitting on the wide white couch with the patio doors open and cool air breezing through. I feel pretty good. There is hunger in my body but there’s also a really nice calm feeling. And clear. It’s so straight-forward to just drink water, to not worry about getting food and chewing it. Swallowing it. Digesting it. I think that my life very much revolves around the consumption of food and drink. But it is only the first day.
Wednesday April 20:
It is just past midnight. I went to sleep for a few hours and awoke at 10:45pm. Now some more time has passed after lying awake in bed. So I thought I might get up and meditate. What else is there to do? During the afternoon I went on a successful water mission. Very nice people have tried to help me in Spanish and I have no idea what they are saying. But I did wind up at a closed grocery store that turned on their lights and sold me some very well-priced bottles of agua. I took a walk to the little beach and laid on a blanket in the sand and watched paddle boarders and the choppy water and the rocklike island and it was beautiful. Then I smelled the little outcroppings of Queen Anne’s Lace on the walk home. All the while feeling the relief of having no one to talk with. No one to emote to. I am nervous about this long night and when I will sleep again. 11 hours til the first talk and I’m assuming the hunger is only going to grow.
Wednesday Morning April 20:
At the little beach. It is breezy and cool and there are disorganized little waves tumbling in. I survived the night. It was very comfortable in that soft white bed. So even though I lay awake for a while, I couldn’t find a “problem” in that. I awoke feeling kind of queasy. Not great. The way you feel when you’re sick cause you haven’t had enough food. Which makes me think about the fasting that happens while ill – if it’s the body’s way to do this – to reset like this. Otherwise why else would you lose your appetite? There must be something in that. Lisa talks begin in 45 minutes and of course I have no idea what to expect but I’m grateful they are there.
Wednesday Evening April 20:
It has been a rather lovely day. The first talk was nice. Simple. Regular. I asked about being between worlds. I will not find completion in the flow of things. Ariel will never find fulfillment in her life story. Only in this. It has been 2 days now with only water, 5 days with no solid food. I feel surprisingly fine. I am looking forward to eating. But it is fascinating how the body can do without. My only pleasures are very simple – stretching a little, looking at the wild flowers along the road, anticipating the talks, drinking more water, taking a shallow bath, feeling my body on the cushions. No reading, no phoning, no music, no food, no coffee, no alcohol… no matter. It is nice to do none of those things. Then they can’t burrow into me.
Thursday April 21:
Afternoon. Sitting on this beach rug on the little beach. The water is turquoise and sparkly. But also dark. It really does feel like the Mediterranean. Lumpy hills covered in dark green in the distance. This is the last day of the fast and I feel perfectly empty and not a bit hungry. I was awake from 1am-7:30am this morning. A bit tormented. But also okay. I walked to the beach at 6am to see the sunrise and instead I saw the grand round orange moon hanging over the land on the other side of the bay with a perfectly sparkling path of light over the water. It was inexplicably momentous. Talks with Lisa this morning were wonderful. She was touching on how we layer story on top of the emotion and our suffering is in the story. Go beneath to the emotion. Feel what is often the story’s opposite. There is freedom there.
Friday April 22:
It is 4:45AM. After the talks last night I sat on a bench in the sun and ate an orange. My first food in six days. There were two men on laptops admiring my orange so I gave them some and didn’t feel the least protective of it. I had more in my bag anyway. I ate two more. At home I had some avocado and banana. I do not feel that hungry or like hoarding food. Marco the Italian health writer said I would want to eat everything, but I don’t. I feel very at peace and satisfied. The fast was a wonderful lesson in what I don’t need.
Monday April 25:
On the airplane flying west. The kids behind me have settled down. I am feeling the taste of this trip. As I was walking across the Madrid airport I kept thinking how the body and personality go together. It seems I used to think of the personality as separate form the body. Now it seems obvious that they go together. The personality grew up around he body. It is based on the survival of the body. I have been trying to write my own future, pen poised, trying to write the future that I think I should inhabit. The future that will display some sort of completion. The appropriate chapters in the story of Ariel. The splashy, heartfelt, deep, profound, world-rocking story of Ariel – Ha ha ha. Then, ut oh! It seems I’m sliding into a sinkhole. A crack in the ground, freefall… and fall, and fall. The story is a function of the personality trying to make sense – and make continuity – of itself. The self seems so very tiny now. This fragment of next-to-nothingness clinging to itself. The second the mind claims anything it makes it regular. The magic is stripped. It tries to say it isn’t extraordinary. I see the clouds beneath. I am literally flying above the clouds. There is no claiming. Claiming is impossible.
Tuesday April 26:
Tuesday morning back in Brooklyn. I’m sitting on my little green couch with this still air around me. I’m so happy to be home. It’s so perfect here. The silence is so loud pounding into my head and part of me wants to make something of it but I know that’s just masturbation. The thing about silence is that it’s always brand new. The couch against my back feels so very soft and wonderful.