On Wed., Jun. 9, at 3 p.m. in downtown DC, several dozen faith leaders and directly impacted immigrants will gather to begin an observance of a ritual #WeAreEssential Fast for Freedom to bring attention to the need for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The Fast for Freedom is being sponsored by our partners at the Congregation Action Network and will tentatively last through Jul. 4. I will be at the launch and blessing on Wednesday afternoon with Andrew Batcher, Mary Lareau and potentially more of you from our congregation.
Following the launch and the blessing of the fasters, I will be observing a fast through sundown on Fri., Jun. 11, and every Friday during the observed Fast for Freedom. Specifically, from sunrise to sunset on designated fast-days, I will consume only water. This is a deliberate choice I am making to dedicate my physical body’s attention to meditation, prayer and compassion. I might need to move some things around in my schedule. This is not an act of endurance, but one of presence with what is. I set limits based on my physical, medical and emotional circumstances. I make commitments based on my desire to enter into an embodied practice of solidarity.
Similarly, I remember signing up to spend nights on campus at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church while Doña Rosa Gutiérrez Lopez slept only a few rooms away. I wondered if I would be able to sleep the same way I could at home. Would it take me longer to fall asleep? Would I be able to sleep at all?
There was a part of me that was physically and spiritually disturbed by the possibility that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could come knocking. There was also a part of me that felt like part of something bigger than ICE or the government itself. I felt myself part of something as large as a Love that never lets us go; a Love that will stay with us through our uneasiness.
Truly, I found sleep easier than expected on those nights. There was power knowing that I was there with other volunteers, committed to maintaining a secure space for Rosa to live and breathe and dream. I could sleep at night and I could rise in the morning ready to do it all over again.
Fasting is one way of simplifying life for a temporary period in order to give embodied attention to something else – be it compassion, justice, peace or revelation.
In my previous experiences preparing for a fast, mentors have wisely guided me to wean myself off caffeine, red meat and sugar for a week or two before the fast. Right before entering the period of fasting, I have been advised to eat foods high in potassium to help my body process the lack of food (examples: potato soup, bananas). The other advice has been to embrace stillness, rest and water.
Will I feel hungry? Potentially. I might also be surprised by my lack of attention to hunger.
Will I feel tired? Probably. My body is inviting me to “do less” and “just be.”
Will I feel irritable? Sure, if that’s what I’m curious about. I’m sure I could find irritability.
Will I feel like a part of something greater than myself? That is the goal. We are one.
Fasting is not simply a sacrifice of privilege. It’s an act of solidarity and compassion. We endeavor to suffer with those who suffer due to injustice. We release a mere sliver of our privilege to experience a short time without food. It helps us to drop into our bodies and out of our heads.
If you would like to observe this ritual fast with me on Fridays between Jun. 9-Jul. 4, I will be hosting an open Zoom space at 12 p.m. to process what comes up for folks participating.
Thank you for your sacred witness!