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Cynthia

Celebration Of Discipline

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I keep hearing about the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, so I decided to start reading it. It seems to be a book that people either love or hate. Anybody read it? Thoughts? Anyone interested?

 

I was taken aback today reading about fasting. I was interested and motivated until he got to the 21-40 day water only fast. :blink: "By the fourth day the hunger pains are beginning to subside though you will have feelings of weakness and occasional dizziness. The dizziness is only temporary and caused by sudden changes in position. Move more slowly and you will have no difficulty. The weakness can come to the point where the simplest task takes great effort. Rest is the best remedy. Many find this the most difficult period of the fast." (p.59)

 

After reading that, I am taking him with a large grain of salt. :rolleyes:

 

Anyone ever fast for more than a day? I do one day fasts occasionally... I don't think I've tried more than 36 hours (dinner, sleep, don't eat one day, sleep, eat breakfast the next day). I usually do a juice fast to combate headaches.

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I have fasted from sunrise to sunset for 6 days straight several times - very helpful IMO.

 

This said, I like Foster except that his writings tend to be a bit homophobic re: that particular issue. Other than that, I generally like what he has to say.

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One day of fasting is about all I have ever wanted to do; I don't find extreme asceticism to be a fruitful endeavor... or extremes in anything else, really.

 

Sensible, moderate discipline is fine; developing mastery over the impulsiveness and reactive nature of the ego is quite useful and can require a good bit of well-applied discipline, but I don't see the usefulness in self-inflicting any sort of extreme duress or pain.

 

I'm also wary of the spiritual value of visionary experiences reported during extreme physical duress. Hallucinations which have a genesis in starvation or other forms of extreme behavior are not, to my mind, likely to be divinely inspired, but there will undoubtedly be a great temptation for the spiritual seeker to believe otherwise.

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Hey all--

 

In her book "Thoughts Matter," Benedictine nun Meg Funk defines fasting as more a course of moderation than of extremes:

 

"Refrain from eating too much, but also refrain from eating too little. Eat at the designated time. Refrain from eating before or after meals. Eat the type of food appropriate to the season and the geographic region in which I live. My menu should not be too rarified or delicate, nor should I select foods that are inadequate for the body's sustenance. I should prefer a middle fare. . .

 

Eating too much or eating too little are equally harmful. Extremes are indicators of thoughts being out of control. . . . If I can eat and drink moderately then I can be moderate in other areas as well . . .

 

We do not loathe food, nore do we have guilt or shame about eating and drinking. Food takes it proper place, often becoming an opportunity for feasting and celebrating with others. A solitary cup of morning coffe takes on sacramental dimensions in the dawn. . ."

 

peace,

curlytop

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Interesting quote curlytop - it seems that the middle road would be much more difficult and more mindful. In a strange way it is easier, at least for me, to eat or not eat rather than to find moderation or just enough.

 

Lolly - I am inclined to agree with you about the starvation induced visions, but in the apocrypha there is a story about an angel requiring a prophet to fast and pray for 7 days as a way to please God and to qualify for spiritual information (2nd Esdras)... perhaps there is a valid level of stepping out of our usual conditions in order to perceive a part of reality that we normally have little access to. I think that many cultures have rituals that include fasting and separation from others to encourage spiritual encounters. Concurrent validity??? :D

 

BroRog - "very helpful" - in contact? Clarity? Peace? Decision making? If you feel like it - if its private, I understand. Do you work during extended fasts or take a retreat?

Edited by Cynthia

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Yes, I agree that moderation requires a lot more discipline and minfdulness than does extreme behavior in either direction. It's much easier to flip that "yes" or "no" switch than it is to constantly monitor one's behavior.

 

A six or seven day fast, if done properly, wouldn't qualify as extreme, I don't think. I suspect this sort of fast might be seen as an effective purification ritual, and yes I believe stepping out of our normal conditions certainly has validity. I know that I feel pretty good even after fasting for just one day.

 

A longer fast may also show devotion when one is able to remain steadfast on such a course... so perhaps a show of devotion is also part of what is being asked for in the apocrypha?

Edited by Lolly

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I've read the book by Foster (many years ago) and I've fasted for extended times (usually at least 3 days, never over 7) with others. I can't really remember why we fasted, but it was usually for a reason.

 

Oh yeah, I remember on one occasion we fasted for, or because of, one of the women in our community who was going through a very tough divorce situation. The fasting was done in order to keep her in our mind - as the Quakers put it, "to hold her to the Light". The idea was that whenever one felt hunger, that desire was translated into a desire for well-being for this person. It's been a few years, but I remember this as a very powerful experience.

 

Say what you will about moderation vs extremes but some things simply can't be accomplished with moderation. An athlete who is really in competition won't get very far if he/she trains in moderation. What one experiences after 2-3 days of fasting is much different than experiences up to that time. Perhaps a measure of control over one's appetite is gained through extended times of fasting? I don't know... but I don't think testing the limits of our endurance, patience, bodily demands, etc., is such a bad thing.

 

You know (if you can't tell, I'm typing as I think), doesn't Foster have something about the discipline of prayer and meditation as well? As I understand it, the mystics will usually say that transformation of consciousness requires extended times of meditation and/or prayer. Hmmmmm...

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Foster discusses several different disciplines. I read about silence today. It was interesting because he denotes silence as speaking only when moved to do so and no more, not complete silence.

 

I am interested in a longer fast now - contemplating anyway ;) . Foster suggests working up to it with juice fasts, etc. Any tips?

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Everytime i read all this I get hypoglycemic feelings!! So I guess I will never do a fast (I've gotten the shakes after not eating for 6 hours). Funny thing though. I had severe hoarseness, so I thought that I'd rule out voice abuse. So I skipped out of work for a day or two and took a very long weekend wherein I didn't talk unless it was absolutely necessary (this meant whispering as well, since actually whispering is harder on the voice). So I didn't talk for 3-4 days! I talk a great deal out loud and even talk to myself (and sometimes answer :-)), also talk to the animals a lot. So it was VERY difficult. I think even though I went thru with this for other reasons, it did have an interesting effect.

 

(BTW, it turned out to be from acid reflux so it didn't accomplish anything from that standpoint.)

 

--des

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I had a brief experience of silence at a yoga weekend. It was hard at first because it was about 15 people who I didn't know eating together, walking around a house/woods, etc. without talking for about 3 hours. Once we gave up making eye contact at every encounter, it became easier - in the South it is very rude not to "speak" to or acknowledge someone when you encounter them. That makes it harder, I think. It was extremely peaceful once the discomfort wore off :>

 

I agree with you PantaRhea - testing ourselves, pushing ourselves - especially for those of us over 30 or so... is very worthwhile. CS Lewis talks about mortality being related to growing. When you say, "leave well enough alone" then you have ceased to be useful to God - you are essentially refusing to grow. I think this is a more accurate way to access age than chronology. Ceasing to move is old. Now that I know many people who are 70 something and not old and people who are 40 something and quite old, it seems like a choice.

 

Has anyone been to a convent type retreat? There is one near me - perhaps a weekend there for fasting from food and conversation... just thinking with my fingers. Any thoughts? Seems like a monastic weekend might be more wonderful than fasting with kids running in and out and sitting at the soccer fields :> and being hungry.

Edited by Cynthia

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Thanks Winddancer - I just ordered it (from an independent through Amazon - no indep. bookstores within 30 min of me BroRog :>)

 

Perhaps anyone who's interested could chime in - we could consider a mutual fasting time period; compare notes as it were.

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At least your heart is in the right place; i.e. you'd purchase from a local independent store if you could! : )

 

FYI, I'll be fasting this week-end for 30 hours (from noon today until 6 pm tomorrow). The youth from our church are participating in the annual 30 Hour Famine event that seeks to generate awareness about hunger and poverty issues in the U.S. and across the globe. The kids choose their own level of fast (water only, juice, crackers, cheese) and participate in service projects in their community during their fast.

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