Isolation-Cave Fast, September 22nd and 23rd, Purnima
Definition: As initially instructed by Immanuel Trujillo, this is a minimum of two days/two nights every 90 days in the wild. My choice of location is a cave, shaped like a yoni (vagina) in the base of a huge rock structure that is shaped both like a woman and a penis. I do not leave the cave for the entire time (not even to deficate) and have a pile of rocks waiting for anyone wishing to disturb me. This was my 10th quarterly fast. I went in on the late afternoon of the 21st, began fasting at Midnight and came out of the cave on the morning of the 24th.
An element showed up that I have not yet experienced in the cave: RAIN. In the past it's been dry as a bone each time. It seemed fitting that as I prepare to go to the cold, rainy Northwest that this would arise. It provided an opportunity for study.
During the middle of the night there was the softest of flashes in the sky, barely visible. The flash occurred again. And then again. First I thought I was seeing things. Then my mind began to speculate what would cause this soft, random flash. Is it the echo of a flashlight far away? Or something else? I watched it for a while as it became more apparent in the canyon. The lightning was so far away that even the sound of thunder was not audible.
In time it rolled in, great flashes and loud claps. The rains came. I lay there listening until I fell asleep to the pleasant sounds. Hours later, still dark, and with no flash light - I was awoken by the water that I was sleeping in. I’d made the assumption that my usual spot would stay dry, for it is well away from the mouth of the cave and is somewhat protected with an overhang. I was not counting on the cave to have leaks!
Not only did it get very wet where I was but it took hours to do it. The leak came down through the inside of the cave, which does not happen immediately. Just because something appears a certain way, does not mean it is. This is a common understanding – but to really understand and anticipate, experience is more helpful than euphemisms.
This was an important lesson at just the right time. On this occasion it was warm so I could concentrate on the challenge of finding a dry spot with no light in the dark. Cold easily distracts me since I am so thin and am adapted to the heat from spending most of my life in AZ. This taught me never to expect a spot to be “safe or dry” and to be alert and prepared for this sort of thing. A mistake like this in the cold could be very costly.
Being rained on in the cave presents other challenges. There are bats living in the cave and bat guano is everywhere. Finding a dry spot and moving my wet things to it also required, for health reasons, that it be as poo-free as possible.
Another challenge I came across was the parasites, which also took an unexpected twist. On the second night in the cave, I woke up and found that my left arm felt as if someone had taken a meat grinder to it. The fast prior to this one was very similar – but in both I was been perplexed – for there are few mosquitoes. In fact, I neither heard nor saw any. And when you are lying in a cave with a mosquito, you definitely hear it! The next day I watched the insect critters in the area. Found a few that could have been the culprits and relocated them away from me. Didn’t pay much attention to the shield bugs, however. The shield bugs where everywhere – fat oval things waddling around. If I made too sudden a movement they’d scatter. Never thought it would be them – probably because they are cute and timid.
Again, another lesson about perceptions. As I was laying there during the day time, one wandered right up to me and began to stick out it’s long proboscis right toward my bitten-up arm! I picked up every shield bug I could find at that point and flung them all out of the cave. There was peace for my flesh after that.
Parasites in concept don’t bother me. When I consider that they are taking so little – when I have taken so much from other life forms, they almost seem compassionate. But there is a place where I draw the line, and my fat little friends crossed it.
This fast was very centered around introspection. I contemplated my decision to leave AZ and travel like a hobo, the aching in my heart to find my guru, and perceived trespasses between myself and others.
Forgiveness has been a very necessary part of my growth, for I’m very sensitive and easily hurt. I make mistakes and often hurt others, even though it's not my intention to do so. In the introspections of this matter, I find that it is essential also to forgive the self. Forgive the self for holding onto negative feelings toward others.
I thought of a couple of people in specific that I know are unhappy with me. Even being a super friendly person and trying always to be kind, I still manage to stir the ire of others quite often and have incurred abuses from this all. Sometimes I felt others did harm to me, emotionally and mentally as well as energetically. It is easy to find fault with others and easy to excuse our own participation. But none of that (excuses) matter in the truer dynamic. Or so this is my opinion. This is what isolation fasting has shown me over the past couple of years - a way to look at these situations with different perspectives.
The day of going out to the cave an object had suddenly appeared that I thought I got rid of long ago. This object connects me with someone that I had a horrible falling out with in the past. I had planned to bring it with me and hurdle it into Canyon Lake so it could never haunt me again. Ironically, it got left behind even though I was sure I had it. I thought of the object and the person. I remembered the sound of their laughter and the way their eyes look when they’re happy.
A radiance filled my heart and prayers came through me for them to receive an abundance of healing, peacefulness, and harmony in their life. And in the prayer the feeling was strong, as if I could see and feel it all materializing for them right now. As beautiful as it was, there were no intense emotions during the prayer. There was the feeling of balance and harmony in my own spirit, a sort of glow – but not emotion. Emotion seems unstable from this space - dependent upon circumstance. This inner harmony did not need good or bad to be. I spent some time praying for others, friends and foes, along similar sentiments.
The timing of this fast was no coincidence. A while back I’d gone to a Hindu temple in which they announced that among other things they were observing a day called Purnima. The description was that it was part of a holiday owed to the first Hindu that fasted to find his guru. When I went home and looked it up, it was actually the next day. The next day I began with eating a mango but quickly regretted it due to a nagging feeling in me. I spent the rest of the day fasting. Then I actively began looking for my guru.
I began to look at Sivite websites – for all I know is that I feel devotion toward Lord Siva. I even wrote general letters of inquiry to several of them but never got any responses. Do they not care about my spiritual progress? Was my letter unsatisfactory? It was disheartening at times. I really felt sorry for myself.
At one point a calendar on a website called attention back to that word “purnima” (fasting to find one's guru). On their calendar there were the dates of 22nd and 23rd of September. These dates caught my attention even more as they fall on the Autumnal Equinox and happen to have a full moon attached to them this year. How auspicious!
Conveniently, the dates were at around the time I needed to fast anyway (as I fast for two days/two nights every 90 days).
While at Bhakti Fest I felt my guru at times but it wasn't a peaceful feeling in me. It was a longing that hurt, stronger than ever. I'd try to remind myself "like a log you should remain". It did no good and on the last day a feeling of aggitation and loneliness grew in me as I wandered about like a lost child. But I'm an adult so I can't just wander around and cry for an adult to come hold my hand. I did my own version of that by sitting in the desert alone with the prayer drum, wailing my prayer songs in relative solitude. It was comforting to be away from people. I'm not fond of crowds and even at such an amazing festival it can be a bit much for me.
After the sun went down the feeling of aggitation grew. I wandered around the camp. Should I be somewhere, doing something? Why does nothing appeal to me? At last I gave in and let go, allowing my feet to carry me. They took me straigth to a particular spot and stopped. I'd passed this spot at least a dozen, if not two dozen times. A woman arrived at exactly the same time, it was as if we were both carried there by some strange and powerful force.
In the center was a sacred fire with a Sivite priest pacing around it. He blessed us both and the other woman left. I remained and asked some questions. The priest gave me a gift: scent of samadhi. He was really kind and loving, I felt protected. And even better, I felt the pressence of my guru in that space, even though he was not physically there.
Walking away from that spot was the moment I decided. I must let go of everyone and everything. I must go on a journey to seek my guru.
When speaking about it I didn't really attribute it to this because it felt awkward to talk about so I found other reasons to attribute to my decision. But deep down, this experience has been my biggest motivation.
In the cave I really questioned my resolve and motives. Do I really deserve to find my guru? It is not enough just to show up and it seemed at times as if there is hollowness in me. I don’t really do anything special in here, resting mostly. I'm a rather lazy cave yogi.
Is this genuine or superficial (???), I asked myself over and over again. I reminded myself of the times my heart has ached at the thought that I am not near my guru and the frustration I would feel when people would tell me “be your own guru”. Yes, yes. I get that. And I have relied upon myself and seen the world as my teacher for some time. But this feeling is different somehow and should not be invalidated.
Why does my heart not ache now at this moment, in the cave, as I fast to seek my guru?
Am I genuine?
Does suffering equal authenticity?
Is this the only way I can express myself to be worthy?
Am I worthy?
If not, will I ever be?
Will I loose heart?
“I am safe and secure, I am safe and secure, I am safe and secure”. The mantra of a kind man from Bhakti Fest eased me through it as I considered the need to love and support myself – especially if I’m not worthy or fear that I will never be. This avidya (source of fear) in is a common in me - a conditioned response that I am aware of. I cannot get rid of it but have found ways to soothe myself when I start thinking that I don't belong.
One’s life is a story. But in the pursuit of liberation, the story becomes secondary to the goal. I’ve contemplated this lately also – for I have all these outlandish things I’ve done (for a 30 something product of this society). My life has been truly pheonominal at times, both in ecstacy as well as terribleness. It’s easy to get caught up in the story. To think the story is me. This too I contemplate in the cave. For what is the truer identity?
Notice I do not write true. This is for the philosophical belief I invest in that there is no such thing as absolute truth or false in any matter… that both are present and create the truth of liberation from needing something to be one way or another in order to subscribe to it.
“My life purpose is already fulfilled
I’m not creating something
that does not already exist.
I am simply helping to liberate
This reality to it’s truer form”
The last day of fasting I did not drink any water and did not write in my journal - keeping my expressions of anything as minimal as possible. The only time I broke this was when I unfolded some papers and was starteled by a bark scorpion taking a nap in them. I squealed, flung the papers, and then quickly apologized to the scorpion - for he/she looked pretty scared, too. Poor scorpion!
I went well over 26 hours without water. It actually wasn't as difficult as I expected. Normally, when the fast is nearly up I am sitting there looking at the food to break the fast with and counting down the minutes. At times I've even cheated a couple minutes. Shhhhh!
This time I was able to perform ritual work well past this time designated. After the ceremony I drank a small amount of water but did not eat. In fact, I didn't eat until I got back to town. The reason for this was that a book I brought advised me not to eat apple when breaking a fast. The book suggests grape or cherry. I'd only brought an apple so I waited until back in Tempe where I bought some organic grapes. It was a good experiment. I think I would have done better to eat the apple as the grapes did not do well for me. Each to their own.