I am just back from fasting for four days in the desert as one part of a much larger experience of self-discovery. While it may seem horrific and insane to go willingly without food for so many days, I will tell you that while I experienced extreme levels of physical discomfort, hunger of the body turned out to be only one part, and perhaps, most importantly, the least part, of a much larger revelation.
Beyond physical gnawing, sickness, and cravings, beyond emotional crutches and confusions around food, there came the most unexpected waves of soul hunger; wrenching,clawing, and desperate pangs for primal needs known deep within, but often left unspoken. Or worse yet, unrecognized.
For all of the material abundance and unfettered access to food so many of us experience in this nation, we are a culture famished; literally starving to death for what matters most. We, who throw out upwards of 40% of the food we produce, spend day after day deprived of the true nourishment that human beings require to live whole, connected, and well. Things like clean air, food, and water. Things like a human pace in our daily doings. Things like authentic connection. Things like being valued for who you really are. Things like acceptance, safety, dignity, and respect. The list is both endless, and unmet in too many ways, and for far too many of us.
Day after day, and sometimes moment by moment, when the physical sensations of food deprivation felt unbearable, leaving me unable to move, I spoke my hungers into the desert floor. When I felt as though I could not bear it for one more second, I let pour out of my mouth my physical, emotional, and soul hunger; all of the things I was ravenous, and literally, dying for. All of the things I needed to feel nourished, sustained, and at home in this world and in this body of mine. I prayed my hungers. I wailed them. I screamed and whispered them all. Peace. Justice. Equality. Protection of children. Reverence and respect for all Life. Healing. Recognition of the Sacred in the day to day. On and on it went, seemingly without end.
To be human is to hunger. And to know the feel and the scope of real hunger, at any level, is to live honestly, authentically, and guided by the Truth of Existence Herself. Unfortunately, we live in times where our truest hungers are being sidetracked, obscured, and forgotten. Unfortunately, we live in times where we have come to fear, deny, and escape from the very ache that would set us right.
Try it. Step outside and speak to the trees or the sky everything you are starved for. Or whisper it into your pillow before you fall asleep at night. At first, it will break your heart. You will feel ruined by the intensity and the seemingly impossible hope that any of what you must hunger for could be sated. But once the sorrow clears, a great conviction, clarity, and commitment, in a world lacking all three, will reveal itself. And it will remind you of who your are, what you stand for, and what you know to be true. Despite the ache. Because of the ache.