Unplugging is an ancient practice. During the Christian season of Lent — the six-week period leading up to the Easter holiday — many people unplug from a variety of things. Some refrain from eating chocolate. Others give up meat on Fridays. Still more might refrain from alcohol, binge-watching or cursing at other drivers in traffic. Giving something up, or refraining from doing something, is often referred to as “fasting.”
For some people, fasting is both a constant reminder that we are preparing for Easter and also a small way to participate in the suffering of others. But fasting has merit and value that can be profound.
Fasting raises an awareness of presence. When we pull things out of our lives, we get a clearer sense of all that we still have in our lives. Refraining from binge-watching Netflix presents an opportunity to notice other, possibly more community-based, ways we find relaxation and comfort. We may find some of the clutter being removed from our minds and souls as we fast.
Fasting one day a month is even good for your health. Given our heavy Western diet, taking a day off here and there and letting our bodies rest seems wise. Given the increased energy it takes to produce meat, abstaining from eating meat once a week (or more) is an easy way to stand in solidarity with the poor and hungry. If you donate the money you save from a weekly or monthly fast (or abstinence from meat) to your local food bank or world hunger organization, you can and will make a significant difference in feeding the hungry. So, fasting is good for you as an individual, good for the world, and acts as a reminder of the suffering of Jesus and of others in the world.
So during the next days leading up to Easter, consider integrating some form of fasting into your daily life. When you do eat, really think about where your food comes from and feel gratitude for the farmers and other laborers who grow your food and deliver it to you. When you deny yourself something you really want, stop and take a moment to remember that there are people across the world, and right in your community, who are consistently and chronically hungry, and consider a donation of food or money to the food bank.
Consider participating in a time of unplugging — like the National Day of Unplugging — and see if you encounter a stronger sense of presence.