Why I Fasted on My Birthday


This 12 months I Turned Thirty-Eight

April 14th was my thirty-eighth birthday. As I develop nearer to forty, I don’t have the identical appreciation for birthday events. In all honesty, I was by no means into birthday events. So when I instructed my spouse that I needed to go on a compassion fasting retreat, it was simply one other day within the Minguez family.

In years previous, I’ve engaged in fasting retreats however on a a lot smaller scale. This yr, the quick was going to be totally different for 2 causes. Probably the most important distinctions can be sleeping in a tent out in the midst of nowhere. “You higher not get eaten by a bear,” my spouse joked earlier than I left.

The opposite distinction – this yr whereas fasting I would keep at a Buddhist temple with restricted cellular phone entry. Let’s hope that the bear stays away!


Celebrating Enlightenment

Within the Buddhist custom that I belong to, April 15th marks the anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni demonstrating enlightenment in 589 B.C.E. To say that April 15th is an important date on the Buddhist calendar can be probably the most appreciable understatement of the yr. For context and comparability, this date can be like Easter on the Christian calendar.

On this explicit day, our actions are 100,000 occasions stronger than on every other day. For that reason, we pay particular consideration to our actions of physique, speech, and thoughts.

It’s due to the character of this present day that we interact in a purification apply referred to as Nyungne (pronounced Nung-nay). Nyungne is a apply related to the Buddha of Compassion. For those who’ve ever heard the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM, then you realize the Buddha of Compassion.


A (Very) Brief Rationalization on Buddhist Compassion

Compassion in Buddhism is a selected kind of kindness that’s motivated by the want to free all dwelling beings from struggling. It doesn’t matter if that being is white, black, homosexual, an animal or bug, wealthy or poor we work to convey all individuals happiness equally.

Usually our compassion turns into blended with different intentions which trigger us to suppose solely of ourselves. (I’m responsible of this too). Nowhere is that this extra obvious than once we look out in any respect the struggling occurring in his world.

The opposite purpose compassion in Buddhism is so extraordinary goes again to that motivation. When we have now compassion at our hearts, we don’t really feel overwhelmed or depressed by the struggling however moved to make a distinction!


Off I Went to the Temple

The World Peace Temple is positioned in New York State about two hours exterior of New York Metropolis. Located on 80 acres of wooded land, you’ll not discover entry to the surface world in the way in which of Web or cellular phone connection. I was wanting ahead to reducing that wire.

There are dorms on the grounds, however I opted to arrange camp and sleep in a tent. Sleeping in a tent additionally meant restricted entry to a rest room and operating water. The toilet block has bogs and sinks however no showers.

I arrived on Friday afternoon to pitch my tent and settle in for the lengthy weekend. The retreat would run till Monday night. The schedule would comprise of a Friday night time lecture, after which Saturday was a meditation retreat day whereas Sunday and Monday can be Nyungne days.


Awakening the Coronary heart

On Friday and Saturday, Gen Samten who’s the resident instructor on the Temple gave explicit teachings on Awakening the Coronary heart. These particular directions included the apply of Taking and Giving. Taking and Giving is a meditation the place we think about taking on the struggling of others after which giving them pure happiness.

Circling again to Buddhist compassion, we use empathy to take on the struggling of others joyfully. For instance, we’d think about totally taking on the struggling of all beings who are suffering from melancholy and bringing that struggling to our hearts the place it destroys our self-cherishing.

As soon as we diminish our self-cherishing, we will take the apply to the subsequent step. On this subsequent step, we think about giving all these beings affected by melancholy our current and future states of happiness. No strings hooked up, we give freely.



When we live from our hearts, remembering that the happiness of others is important, we will start Nyungne. As we undergo the purification apply and because it turns into tough, we recall all of the struggling on this planet and the way we want to take it on to learn others.

Sunday was the primary Nyungne day, and it started at 6:30 within the morning by taking Precepts. The Precepts are a promise we make to ourselves, they usually embody retaining vows for 24 hours, vows like not consuming after lunch, not mendacity, killing, and so forth. Following Precepts, there can be three Nyungne periods.

Nyungne consists of praying, meditating, and making prostrations. In the course of the course of, you chant the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM and have interaction in about forty minutes of full prostrations. Full prostrations imply you start standing and you find yourself flat on the ground along with your legs and arms out.

Monday’s schedule would repeat. Start at 6:30 with Precepts after which three periods of Nyungne. The one distinction on Monday was that everybody engaged in a whole dry quick, which means no water or meals all day lengthy. It’s at this level the place the apply will get attention-grabbing.


Joyfully Struggling

Earlier than I get into what it was love to do full prostrations with no meals or water in my system, I have to deal with the problem I had with my tent. All weekend it rained, and my tent was fully soaked. It wasn’t moist from the highest down however from the underside up. The bottom was over-saturated with water.

Additionally, since I was tenting, I didn’t have entry to a bathe. I may brush my tooth and wash my face within the lavatory block, however there can be no lengthy sizzling showers.

So the mix of being chilly and moist, hungry and sore, after which not with the ability to attain out and join with others made the compassion fasting retreat extra significant.

Sure, on Sunday night time I was having a tricky time. On Monday morning I was hurting. Nevertheless, by the second session on Monday, my angle started to shift as I recalled how I made a promise to take on all of the struggling of others joyfully. I made a promise to free all dwelling beings from their ache and to present them happiness. This little little bit of ache I was experiencing was nothing in comparison with what occurs on daily basis around the globe.


Self-Cherishing Thoughts

The self-cherishing thoughts is a difficult son-of-a-bitch. It’s one thing that’s at all times with us even once we suppose we’re a sort and compassionate individual; the probabilities are that we’re nonetheless working with a little bit of self-cherishing.

For instance, we’d have a date with a buddy, after which our buddy may get sick. Our buddy tells us that they may should cancel. We start to want for our buddy to get higher, however not as a result of we’re involved about their well being, we’re involved with solely spending time with our buddy. It’s such a bit factor, however these small acts of self-cherishing add as much as extra important issues.

If you wish to get in contact with the self-cherishing thoughts, attempt doing forty minutes of prostrations with no meals or water in your system thrice a day. The self-cherishing thoughts will make itself identified fairly rapidly, and also you’ll have a greater understanding of how this thoughts impacts your day by day actions.

In the beginning of the Nyungne periods, I stored occupied with having a shower and what it will be wish to get pleasure from a cup of espresso. This attachment created ache in my physique. By the tip of the Nyungne periods, I was occupied with all of the individuals on this planet who genuinely don’t have entry to wash water and about all of the beings who’re ravenous. This ache I was feeling was nothing.



When the retreat got here to an finish, I felt totally different. Driving residence with the radio off the world round me gave the impression to be shining. I additionally gave the impression to be shifting slower and was extra methodical with my ideas. For the primary time in a protracted whereas, I felt calm and relaxed.

I keep in mind pulling into the driveway of my residence and being excited to see my youngsters figuring out they had been protected sleeping of their beds. After saying goodnight and tucking everybody in, I walked into my bed room and collapsed onto the mattress.

The subsequent morning, I discovered myself within the kitchen prepared to interrupt my quick. I opted for a banana. I took one chew into the fruit, and I started to cry. Instantly I was overwhelmed by the unimaginable blessings I have in my life.

In America, how usually do we are saying there’s nothing to eat in our houses, but our fridges and cupboards are full of meals. How usually will we cease and admire our houses and the way they supply a protected surroundings for our households defending us from the weather. Even simply with the ability to get a contemporary glass of water is unimaginable. All of us have a lot in our lives to understand.


Wishing Love

How great it will be if all dwelling beings may have their wants met and not expertise struggling! After partaking within the compassion fasting retreat, I’m hyper-aware of my environment and what goes into me having fun with all of the blessings I expertise.

Extra importantly, my coronary heart has awoken, and I’m now hyper-aware of the struggling that occurs throughout me day by day. I could make a distinction and finish this struggling, and I intend to do exactly that, and this is the reason I fasted on my birthday.

This submit was beforehand printed and is republished right here with permission from the creator.

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