Can struggle be a blessing?
How my 3-day-water-only fast turned from pain to pleasure.
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Today’s intention is:
Before you follow a negative thought, send the angry text, or say what you think he really ought to hear… pause.
The thought will pass, the text can wait, and just maybe, you’re better off saving that little comment for another time.
The gift of paying attention
My eyes squint open to reveal a little wet nose surrounded by a dozen whiskers. Bernie snagged a slice of my pillow during the night.
Reaching for my phone, I see the time reads 6:11 AM. My head aches and there’s a tightness to my jaw. The stern brow I took to bed remains.
The final of my three-day-water-only fast and I want to throw in the towel. I can tell I’m still feeling cranky and weak. Thoughts charge my brain like a bull:
This is stupid. You’re healthy. Why are you doing this?
You can’t work. There’s no way you can do a podcast later. At least make some coffee.
You got two days in. That’s pretty good. Eat something.
My neighbor, Brian, closes the gate outside my window and begins to walk his dogs. The distraction helps me get out of bed to brush my teeth and wash my face.
As I look in the mirror, a few encouraging thoughts surface:
You chose to do this. You wanted the experience. And tomorrow, it’s over. Why stop now?
They motivate me enough to stay the course. I make Bernie his food, wake Tracy, and we all take a morning walk together.
Struggle or blessing?
The rest of the day passes well. While I physically feel tired, weak, and hungry, mentally I feel sharp, grateful, and pleasant.
The day has a novelty to it.
During our walk, the sun feels warmer.
Driving to the studio, the cars and roadways seem more inventive.
Chatting on the podcast, my guest sounds more human.
I observe the world as if I’ve never seen it through this lens. Because I haven’t. While it’s a struggle, it’s also an opportunity.
Pain and struggle represent moments of change. And change can help highlight life’s magnificence. It can seed awareness.
In her famous work, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes,
“Success or failure, the truth of a life really has little to do with its quality. The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”
The fast leads me to paying attention and thus increasing my capacity for delight.
And by that measure, it’s not a struggle at all. It’s a blessing.
“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me. Each moment, taken alone, was always bearable. In the exact now, we are all, always, all right.”
Slipping into bed, I call Bernie to snuggle. We get comfortable for my final night sleeping on an empty stomach.
The smell of fresh sheets fills my nose while my head sinks into the pillow. An evening breeze whispers through the window and across my face. Bernie tucks his head to his tail forming a donut shape near my right hip.
The morning’s stampede of thoughts has long passed. The truth no longer cloaked in my perception, I can close my eyes and observe the exact now.
I can enjoy the gift of paying attention.
Until next week,
Don’t wait. Start small. Learn as you go.