Some years ago, I took up a challenge. I was to do an all-day fast which was to last 12 hours. This wasn’t just a food fast; it included mass media, not even talking on the phone, nor reading or writing–just sitting in silence. I could do yoga, I could pray. But I couldn’t use anything to lean on; something to amuse/entertainment me or blur time. This experience is intended for one to be still, stay in the moment, to be here now.
It was excruciating. During this time in my life, I relied on a lot of externals. I watched way too much television, and it wasn’t until I did this challenge did I come to see just how much I relied on television. Anything I wanted to watch but wouldn’t be home to see, I taped. When you live alone, there’s the tendency to use television as a form of company, so I relied on–although I learned that I wasn’t addicted to–television.
A few days ago I challenged someone I volunteer with to try the 12-hour fast. I suggested it because she said, and these were her words not mine: “I need to stop engaging in social media. I mean I need to stop.” So I asked how often, on average, she went on say Facebook and Instagram. My volunteer friend said, and these were her words not mine: “I am on social media all day!” Of course I wondered, “What about when you’re at work?” And she said, “Yeah, work too. I have a job that offers me autonomy, so I can get away with doing it all the time.” I then asked, “And on your lunch . . .” She butted in with, “All day!” Out of curiosity I asked: “If social media is something you do ‘all day,’ what precisely were you doing with your time before social media?” She came back with, “Exactly!”
So I shared with her the day I did the 12-hour fast, and suggested that she try it. The 12-hour fast would reveal, but only if she was open to it, her weaknesses as well as her strengths. It would reflect her state of mind and what dominated her thinking. I admitted to her that when I did it, it became unbearable around the 7th hour. Still, I was determined to commit myself to all 12 hours. The social media junkie said, “Twelve hours? Seriously? No TV. No music? No Internet? Who lives like that? I mean, I can’t even have a glass of wine?” I confirmed with a nod. She then said, “What did you do for 12 whole hours . . . by yourself?”
When I told my amie that I meditated, did one hour of yoga, and I prayed, which back then I did casually, my volunteer buddy said, “Uh-huh, there’s no way. I can’t do that. I would be so bored. I’d lose my mind.” I suggested: The very idea of sitting solely with the self for hours being so intensely overwhelming was exactly why she needed to do the fast. “I can’t even read . . . not even the Bible? I can’t make calls? Please tell me I can at least pee. What if there’s an emergency?” I suggested she send texts or e-mails to the people closest to her, letting them know of her 12-hour fast. Particularly those that might start to freak because she wasn’t responding to their electronic communication. She looked over the rim of her sunglasses and said, “I have to turn my phone off? There’s no way I can do that for 12 hours; not consecutively. I might be able to manage three . . . maybe!”
This morning, while having a cup of coffee and reading online reports of the 50 people killed in Orlando, Florida, my phone beeped. I reached for it, and as I tapped the screen, discovered a text from my volunteer friend, which read: I S2G [swear to God], I kept my phone off for 6 hrs!