dear diary…

april has been a trying month, to say the least.

on a whim, i began to go through some of the folders on my computer and stumbled upon one called “spiritual diary.” three years ago, i kept a diary to chronicle my road of spirituality. most of them are deeply personal but in anticipation of my fast this coming friday, i will share one of the less personal ones on here:

October 9, 2006

I’ve falsified to say that I’ve found God.
Several years ago, that’s how I used to sing that line in one of Jason Mraz’s songs.
For several months now, I’ve listened to almost nothing but Christian music and I do quite regret not being able to see Chris Tomlin last night at CityFest. However, today, as a change of pace, I listened to some of my old music. It might have been an effort in re-living some of the more familiar moments in my life. Things were not less hectic, but at least then I had gotten a grip on how to manage.
I popped in an unmarked cd on the drive home and it was a mix of Jason Mraz and Matt Wertz. Now, I like Matt Wertz but between the two, my heart will always belong to Jason Mraz. His style is much more experimental, his music much more innovative and lyrics incredibly more thought-provoking. It’s the writer in me that draws me to him. Jason Mraz is a wordsmith and a way with words is a quick way to my heart.
So often, I write about my struggles with my faith which is unfortunate because one of the functions of this diary is to recount every step in my journey—the hardships as well as the times of clarities. To depict only one side would be unfair and unbalanced, which certainly will not do. After all, I’m a Libra. I want to read this years from now and have a complete picture of my experiences.
On Love, In Sadness” speaks to me in so many ways, especially with what I’ve learned these past few months and what I’m trying to learn now. The measure of love isn’t loss, love will never be lost on me.
Anyway, that is not how the song goes, y’know.
It’s not falsified to say that I’ve found God.

faith

when i visited my family in the philippines two years ago, i accompanied my cousins to their bible school in baguio city for a few days (if you’ve never been there, you must go! it’s not as dirty as manila and it’s a hundred times more beautiful). i spent a lot of time sitting on the rooftop just thinking and meditating. it’s always good to step out of yourself and see the world for what it really is:

beautiful yeah? imagine actually seeing it in person.

sunset in baguio. imagine actually seeing it in person.

shinobu was a japanese missionary that i met when i was there. she and i spent a lot of time together. i walked out into the common area and found her playing worship songs on her guitar on the floor so i filmed her:

first friday fast… take two

Last Friday was my second stab at my First Friday Fast. Let me just say that when I started this, it never occurred to me how essential fasting was for my spiritual growth. At the time, I always saw it as one choice among many, that while I chose this, I had other alternatives. However, around the two or three weeks after my last fast, I found myself not only looking forward to it but needing to have this experience again. The clarity and state of mind that I attained as a result of my previous fast was unable to make it through the entire month. It was such a struggle to maintain that attitude and I don’t think that I did it successfully near the end. so when the day for my fast neared, I was excited to go through it.

humility

humility

Unfortunately, this fast was not quite as powerful as the first one. Because it is the middle of the semester, I had at least one exam for each of my classes. Not to mention, I was doing some preparation in the days leading up to the day after my fast, which unfortunately, included the first Friday of March. I was too stressed and had too many things on my mind to focus on my spiritual and personal growth. To be honest, I was just trying to get through the past two weeks.

However, there were some key enlightening moments. While I spent the entire day of the fast glued to my Macbook studying for upcoming exams, I was able to use my study breaks for some serious thinking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t commit to them fully because I would have run the risk of losing myself in heavy thoughts and not completing any of the work I had. I broke my fast by having dinner with my friends. One of them, Amal, found out about my fasts and we were able to briefly speak about the fasting experience. It made me happy to be able to share this with her considering that not many people can understand my reasons for doing it. In fact, save for several people, I haven’t really openly spoken about my fasts.

Another of these very few people was someone I met last Thursday. The day before my fast, I went over to a friend’s house to offer a helping hand, or rather, a pair of helping claws (post about this to come tomorrow). While at his house, I met his father. In size, he was intimidating but in personality, he was very calm and serene (for this reason, he’ll now be known as the Silent Giant). I had the honor of having several conversations with the Silent Giant two days later. That fact alone was odd because I typically do not talk to my friends’ parents, much less their fathers, as a result of my home environment. However, what’s more interesting is that this man left such an impression on me. We talked about spirituality and church and humility and charity and I felt as though everything I’ve felt about those things was coming out of SG’s mouth. It was as if the universe found a way to give me what I missed during my fast through him and I’m so happy that it happened. 

Knowing that these two people know the things that I want to experience gave me what I needed and what I missed. Part of the humility that I’m seeking is knowing that I can learn and grow through my experiences with others.

I’m not the best at opening up to people but lately, it just seems that  I’ve been doing so with so many of the right people. And to the person that’s responsible for encouraging me to do it, I’m very grateful.

Image from the article Observing Ramadan

Image from the article "Observing Ramadan"

first friday fast…first

This past Friday was the first of my First Friday Fasts. The night before, I put aside some time for some prayer and meditation. It was a good way to help me get in the right mindset for my fast.

The next day, I woke up unusually early and figured that sleeping in during my fast wouldn’t be the best use of my time. I spent the day studying, running, and whenever the mood hit, I would think about the world, its people and God. Friday was a particularly good day for this because I found out that morning that two of my friends have relatives going through major health problems at the hospital. Rather than just having a general prayer for the world, I was also able to think of specific people in mind at the same time, which I believe helped me more than I helped them.

During my prayers, I thought of how millions of people around the world go through unbearable hunger and that this was a way of holding out my hand to them and sharing in their experience. I was also humbled by the thought that for me, this was strictly voluntary and would only last for a day. Unfortunately, they do not have the same choice.

I also thought of the importance of sacrifice and discipline. I read somewhere that while people think that suppressing one’s sexual desire is the hardest thing to do, it is actually the desire to eat that can prove to be the greatest challenge. The reason for this is that unlike one’s sex drive, whose onset is around the teen years, the drive to eat has always been there from birth. Learning discipline and sacrifice, I believe, is essential to gaining humility. Understanding that the only right one has is the right to live is a product of discipline, sacrifice and humility.

The last thought I had was one that came as a surprise. Around late afternoon, when the pangs of hunger were at their greatest, I suddenly realized that this body will give up. With no nourishment, it will die and the only real strength I have is one in spirit. I quickly became aware of one of the greatest aspects of what I’m doing: fasting will reveal the truths in me and about the world.

I can’t wait until next month!

my road to damascus

Even though my church did not require it, I participated in several of their fasts. In addition to that, I also held personal fasts in the past as a way to strengthen myself spiritually. When my church proved to be a place that was ill-equipped to provide me with what I need to continue on with my journey, I made the choice to turn my back on it. And as I turned my back on my church, I inadvertently and unknowingly turned my back on my fasts.

It’s just as well, fasting should never be practiced unless one has perfect clarity for its reasons. Unfortunately, for the past few years, this clarity has escaped me and I have taken a detour from my spiritual journey. It is probably no coincidence that in the years since my fasts were put on hold, I have grown into a person that, on occasion, I do not like. Even this morning, I thought to myself “I don’t think I can be friends with myself.”

Perhaps my lowest point came this past Christmas when I was completely bogged down with everything in my life. Over the past month, I have done much self-reflection and I came to realize that, among other things, I have become sullen, malicious and self-destructive over the years… at least by my own standards. Luckily, with this realization comes some house-cleaning. Because I have become aware of my current state, I have been able to purge certain things from my own life and I can move forward.

Moving forward for me requires that I fast. Starting this month, I am going to hold First Friday Fast to move me along on my journey to becoming who I want to be. More specifically, I’ll be doing it with the following things in mind: God; the sacrifices of others; and the understanding that in this life, I am but a mere speck of dust who is no better or worse than anyone else. I am fasting for humility and compassion. Ultimately, I hope to hold fasts that last for weeks. However, I understand the need to be careful that I am not fasting for repentance, forgiveness or for self-punishment. Once I realize that these thoughts and feelings have entered my heart, the fast will be put to a halt and will be resumed on the first friday of the next month.

These ritual fasts will first begin with some prayer and meditation either the night before or the morning of the first Friday of the month. To ensure that I’m doing this safely, I will first have liquid fasts allowing myself to drink water and juices, which will give me the energy to go about my day and my studies. I will also fast during the time when the sun is up. That is from sunrise to sunset, no piece of food will touch my mouth.

I will chronicle each fasting experience through here and I hope that in a year, I will be able to hold fasts for a couple of days a week. If anyone has any suggestions or would like to go through this experience with me, let me know.

This is going to be good.