i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fasting Is A Way of Life

About eight years ago, I became intrigued with the idea of fasting. There is much ignorance & plenty of fear regarding fasting in the west, particularly in a society obsessed with fast foods, microwave ovens & George Foreman grills. Though I knew few people who were proficient & very little about what to expect, I proceeded to fast on my own, without assistance or understanding, for three consecutive days.

My diet consisted of orange juice, vegetable juice, tomato juice, citrus juice, water, grapes, raisins, bananas, granola bars & trail mix. I experienced dizziness, headaches, nausea & other unpleasant sensations throughout the three days. After the three days was complete, I rewarded myself with two pieces of Popeye's Chicken, a biscuit, an order of fries & a sprite. In less than 15 minutes I was in the bathroom, on the floor, calling r-a-l-p-h. I felt horrible. What's the lesson? Live & let live.

I shared this disaster with a couple of people who have some experience fasting & they suggested I re-think my approach. I swallowed my pride, along with feelings of embarrasment, guilt & shame, in order to get the help I needed. Six months later, while pretending to shop for canteloupes at a market in my neighborhood, I summoned the courage to ask a woman for help. My 97 year-old great grandmother used to tell me as a kid, "the lord works in mysterious ways." I was frightened by her convictions, yet as an adult I've come to develop a loving relationship with the God of my understanding; as such, I sense when one of his angels, like this woman, is in my midst.

She was also preparing for a fast. We bonded quickly, exchanging numbers & agreed to talk soon about my next attempt at fasting. I called her & immediately felt comfortable, important, safe: she had my best interest at heart. Usually when someone tells me something I don't know - or, better yet, something I think I should know - I get defensive, feel inadequate & obsess about why I'm lacking the information. Yeah, I got more issues than Jet Magazine. After our thirty minute phone conversation I was ready to make my second attempt at fasting.

One of the most important lessons I learned is how to prepare for the fast, as well as how to break the fast. Of course, I never considered these two essential elements primarily because I wanted to prove I could do something well without anyone's help. Maybe one day (sigh) I will grow up. But I digress. I learned the importance of adequate rest, drinking proper liquids, getting fresh air, not engaging in strenuous labor & socializing with others who respect my goals. As a result, I was able to grow & mature in my practice, which I decided would be twice a year, once in the summer & the other time during the Kwanzaa season.

Over the years, I've increased the length of my fasts from three to seven to 10 to 14 days. I've added a series of colonics to further eliminate the poisons, toxins & wastes I tend to pollute my body with because of my compulsive, gluttonous & self-indulgent habits. Despite my athletic frame, I have a weight problem. I can't wait to eat. I eat when I'm not hungry, I eat when I'm sleepy, I eat when I'm bored, I eat when I'm angry, I eat because you eat, I eat because its free, I eat because its there...well, you get the picture right? Right?

Last week, a trusted friend & yoga instructor loaned me a book entitled, Rational Fasting for Physical, Mental & Spiritual Rejuvenation by Arnold Ehret. I'd shared my struggles & successes over the years with him about fasting, letting him know I was about to begin another ten day fast. He shared the Indian philosophy of fasting as a way of life, along with a mucus-less diet (another book by the same author) & daily meditation. My grateful spirit conjured up the image of Sophia from The Color Purple as she rocked back & forth in her chair at the famous dinner table scene saying, "When I seended you I knew der is a God...der is a God."

This book changed my perspective completely! I had to read it over & over & over again because I wanted to be sure I fully understood the beliefs, concepts & strategies set forth. I was about to undergo yet another transformation. I learned fasting for ten days twice a year is neither practical nor spiritual. I learned I could fast for one or two days with just water, while adding lemonade & a tatse of brown sugar or honey to my light diet. I learned to rise out of bed slowly. I learned it was ok to stay in bed as long as my body deemed apprporiate for rest (not to be confused with laziness). I learned fasting for 3-6 days at a time, on & off throughout the year will benefit the body, mind & spirit.

I learned to take a laxative a few times before bedtime during the fast. I learned I could eat as much as I wanted to after the first meal breaking the fast. I learned to not listen to 99 percent of the people who have opinions & prejudices & theories about fasting. I learned I could end my current ten day fast after six days because it was simply doing the right thing for the reason. I learned the process of fasting is expected to be a generally unpleasant enounter, yet its efficacy offers a sense of joy, serenity & vitality beyond compehension! In the words of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, "I feel good."