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ecophilia - fasting, fungi & fractals - Fasting, control and the sense that doesn't have a name

Jessica Böhme
Jessica Böhme
Day 15 of 108 of fasting, fungi & fractals

Fasting, control and the sense that doesn't have a name
One of the fatal flaws of fasting is the idea of control and restriction. If control and restriction worked to make us do what we say we want to do, we wouldn’t be where we are. But first ….
One summer day in a chateau near Paris, twenty-two people gathered around a stone wall with a gap in between. A piece of wood bridged the gap. One person at a time would walk up to that wall. They would speak about what they wanted to see changed. And then, with their bare hands, they would break that thick piece of wood in two. 
It was my turn. 
And I couldn’t wait to get it over with. We have been doing self-discovery exercises all weekend, and I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the whole process. I hadn’t slept all night, and I wanted to go home. This was supposedly our last task. 
When I walked up to the wall, I suddenly felt anger and sadness. A speech flowed out of my mouth about how impossible, unbelievable, and absurd it is that we don’t act on the state of the world right now. We have all the knowledge. We have the technical means. Why don’t we do anything? Why does nobody seem to care? How can anyone sleep peacefully while they destroy life everywhere? I was filled with despair and hopelessness. Maybe it was less of a speech and more of a tantrum. Perhaps no one even understood what I was saying between the sobs. When I was done, I broke the piece of wood in two. 
What seemed like another one of those ineffective self-help tools turned out to be a healing moment for me to accept the grief and frustration that come along (I think for everyone) dealing with planetary issues. 
As Roy Scranton in Learning to Die in the Anthropocene says,
“The greatest challenge we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead. The sooner we confront our situation and realize that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, the sooner we can get down to the difficult task of adapting, with mortal humility, to our new reality.”
For me, that was the moment that started my new reality. 
Instead of being frustrated with how things were, my focus shifted to what I could do. Instead of blaming the system, I began to see that I was the system.
Fasting and control
… coming back to fasting. The solution that I was looking for before my wood splitting experience was based on the idea that we control and restrict our actions. My solution to making it through a fast has in the past been the same. I tried to control and restrict myself. While it might seem that fasting is impossible to do without control and restriction, this time, I want to change this energy.
I am convinced that the energy of control and restriction is harmful and doesn’t get us to the Ecocene. The only place it got me was throwing a tantrum in front of twenty-two strangers. 
The fast has been difficult for me the last few days. Affected by my hormones, my appetite was naturally stronger and drawn by sugar, fat, and salt. The first insight I got from this was that trying harder doesn’t work. As soon as I tried hard not to think about food, it became the well-known elephant in my brain. As soon as I tried hard not to eat that chocolate that I got from my parents for Easter, I went to take a bite. For a moment, I gave up, and for a moment, what followed was relief and a feeling of peace. It was the same feeling I had when I split that wood into two pieces. It didn’t include indulging in all the chocolate and denying my intention. It included a moment of clarity in which there was no struggle. I turned away from the chocolate and kept fasting*. 
The sense that doesn’t have a name
I could only sense it at that moment, but that’s the energy, or state of mind needed to transition to the Ecocene. The peaceful and relaxed sense of relief that the struggle is over, while at the same time holding on to the intention (of fasting or regeneration). Maybe this is what Buddhism describes as accepting what is or letting go. Maybe tough, it’s a different sense that we don’t have a name for yet. And I am left with a few open questions: What would a name for that sense be? What new senses would the transition to the Ecocene need that we can’t name yet and therefore have trouble sensing? What role did the thick piece of wood play in forming my sense? How did it intra-act in my story? How did the chocolate intra-act with my senses?
I wish you a great weekend. For those in Berlin, I am exhibiting this project today and tomorrow at the open studios at Moos. Feel free to swing by. 
 Jes
*As a reminder, as I described here, I am doing a modified fast in which I eat a certain amount of food. Nonetheless, chocolate too easily fills up that amount without offering true nutrition.  
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Jessica Böhme
Jessica Böhme @eco_philia

Ecophilia is an in(tra)dependent, journal-like newsletter exploring ecophilia - a lived philosophy for the Ecocene. It is rooted in the intersection of ecology, spirituality, and science. I share the best things I learn, science & experienced based.

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Jessica Böhme, Weserstr. 48, 12045 Berlin