The Contemplative Companion for Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. – Matthew 23. 10 – 12

As we fast from food in the season of Lent, the body becomes more docile. That is, after the first hours and day(s) of limiting it food, the body begins to slow down. No doubt at first, the body might be tumultuous! And the cravings for food extraordinary! But, soon enough the body begins to adjust to not eating, and a deep calm, indeed even a centered peace, arises within our experience of our body.

The peace is partly a result of the low-energy from not eating food. But also, this embodied sensation of peace arises from our increasing “emptiness.” It is actually a quality of energy. Not so much the kind of energy we receive from eating carbohydrates or sugar, but a “spiritual” energy of attentiveness and perception. A finer attunement to wisdom, grace, love and the subtle movements of thoughts, feelings, and sensations – including temptations, inner negativity, self-judgement, self-criticism and self-doubt, to name a few of the ordinary dynamics.

This kind of attentive fasting is a practical way to not let food be Master. To not let the body be Master. To serve another Truth than food. To serve something deeper than the body’s pleasure and comfort. To empty oneself of self-absorption. It is hard to exalt oneself when one is fasting. Like during sickness, our energy becomes more refined and focused. Less willing to expend itself on the ordinary irritations and frustrations of life and relationships.

Fasting shows us what has mastered us. It reveals what we have been mastered by. Our faux master can be a besetting thought, a beguiling mood, a burdensome emotion , just as much, and even more so, than  a burgeoning belly.

The wisdom of the practice of fasting is that it is a Great Teacher. And like all lessons on the spiritual journey, it is best to keep it to yourself. No one needs to know you are fasting or when you are fasting. There is no need to broadcast how the fast is going for you. Keep it to yourself. By way of analogy, keep it to yourself like the warmth in a heated room on a freezing Siberian night. Don’t open the door and let the heat and warmth out. It will just dissipate the warmth and loose all the energy expended to warm the room in the first place.

Everything is energy. And the greatest energy is love. And love lives by giving , by sacrifice. Be mastered by love, not fear – or anything that can be seen, felt or touched  on this plane of existence, especially food, drink and the body. Be mastered by love and you will be a servant of wisdom and the wider life of beauty, truth and goodness.

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