Fasting and Feasting ... and Family!
Upon arrival, I walked through the beautiful ranch house doors and into the middle of the last meal of Health and Fitness Week in Sedro Woolley, Washington. There, addressing a group of friends and family, stood Dr. Douglas Graham. Without missing a beat, he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye and winked, welcoming me home. This was my introduction to the 80/10/10 community.I have since heard Dr. Graham repeat how much he enjoys promising a little while delivering a lot, and I must agree that it was a pleasant surprise to show up expecting to lie around without food, but instead to receive welcome into a family. I knew immediately that this journey would forever affect the course of my life. Despite being a brand-new face entering what was by then a close-knit group, bonded by a week of trial by fire, I was welcomed as if everyone had known me their whole lives. I could see the emotional ties that had been tightly fastened after just one week, and my excitement grew in anticipation of my own group journey. I was invited to hear the stories, join the laughter and tears, and share in the farewells of people I had met only hours before. My travel exhaustion generously took a chair while I soaked in as much of the newness as possible. Finally, my body decided that my time was up—my fasting journey had begun. I was joyfully shown to my room for the evening, offered a towel and hug and left to ponder my fascinating evening. The following day, I was escorted to my room for the remainder of the event and introduced to my wonderful roommate, Clarissa Clark. There is something lovely about having a roommate during a fast. We were able to bounce our thoughts, dreams, hallucinations, jokes, yawns, and tears off of each other. We could laugh together about our questionable fasting milestones. We were able to encourage each other all the way through.During one of the earlier days of my fast, before my body had fully taken over management of the daily agenda, I decided that a massage would be the most amazing idea ever. Oh delicious massage. We climbed the stairs to the quiet, cozy massage nook. So serene. There I enjoyed a wonderful hour of reassuring contact and muscle relaxation. The entire facility was serene, come to think of it. The warm homey atmosphere of the two-story ranch-style house, nestled in the tall grass of a lively farm, provided the perfect setting for a fall fasting event. From the open windows of our cheery bedroom, Clarissa and I could hear the bird songs and watch the fresh mist and fog give way to the afternoon sun. Any time we needed anything—fresh water, a question, a hug—we could just call out and someone would come looking for us. Twice a day the wonderful interns came to monitor our progress and make sure that we were faring well. If we did not show up for a talk, Dr. Graham himself would come to give a pat on the back and talk with us, encourage us, and see how we were doing.Once a day, talks were held in a large room of the house. Well tucked in by the interns and supplied with blankets, pillows and plenty of water, we would swim in and out of delicious, meditative dreams. Dr. Graham taught us in his calm, fatherly tone, a little more each day about what was happening within our bodies and minds. He prepared us gently, alerting us to the various changes that we might expect. He told stories of fasters who had come before us and the amazing challenges that they had overcome. He shared new perspectives on life and how to live and thrive more fully. Daily, he shared his time with us and guided us through the new territory that we were crossing together and alone. He answered our questions, calmed our fears, and generally made us laugh out loud—quite a feat when you consider that he was addressing a nearly comatose, ketonic bunch of smelly humans.When we found the energy to move more than absolutely necessary, some of us would drag our mats to the back door of the barn and lie out beneath the glorious sun. The strong smell of fall flowers mixed with the faint scent of horses, fresh cut grass, and … well … fasters. When we broke our fasts, before our full strength had returned, many of us could still be found soaking up all of the antibiotic, antiseptic vitamin D that we could get. Though, to be fair, once we were finally permitted to walk past the kitchen (kitchen access had until then been cut off, to spare us the torture), we could just as often be found lying in a cuddly pile of much-less-smelly people, reading books and telling stories before the fireplace of the cozy back room. True to the eager anticipation I experienced on my first evening, our small group of fasters got closer and closer with each passing day. We shared stories and dreams with each other as we lay on the mats of the barn room. We held hands. We shared sleepy smiles. Note that this was not as much of a hippie experience as I may be making it sound. There is simply something different about slipping into a prolonged meditative dream state along with several other people. Something is shared. Something inexplicable binds us. When words escape us and can no longer describe how we are feeling, we catch the eye of the faster lying beside us and they smile and, very slowly, nod in agreement. Ohhh … those first bites. What a glorious, inexplicable, irreplaceable, irreplicable experience. There is no food quite as delicious as that eaten after an extended fast. Oh, glorious watermelon! Ha! It just occurred to me now, and this may be a stretch, but that watermelon may now be amongst my favorite foods, because it was the first taste my mouth registered after my fast. Not unlike an infant who fondly remembers the sensations experienced in utero. Probably a stretch, but kind of a fun thought. After several wonderful meals of watermelon, we graduated to peaches. Oh, glorious peaches! I had never tasted a peach as brilliantly vibrant and delicious as the first peach following my fast. Soon, despite the insatiable wonder of our monomeals, the artistic, aromatic meals we glimpsed from the adjacent tables began to tempt us mercilessly. What sweet indulgence the evening we were offered our first bites of tomato and cucumber. Participating in the Fall FoodnSport events was the first time that I had ever met another 80/10/10 raw foodist in person. What an incredible experience. My favorite part of this inaugural welcome into the community was eating at the dinner table with everyone. There is something extraordinary—and I do mean extra ordinary, as this is in fact the way that things should be—about sitting around a table with people you love while watching and participating in the evaporation of a small jungle’s-worth of food. In pure, jovial camaraderie, we ate beyond Thanksgiving-meal proportions, three times a day, while giggling, telling stories, and generally not looking at each other like we were insane for eating nothing but fruit and vegetables—and so many of them. It was … nice. I did not have to explain myself at each meal. I didn’t even really feel the intense need to ask a million questions (I saved those for bombarding Dr. Graham at every other opportunity). We simply, ate. Complete normalcy. A family meal. I can honestly still say, after participating in several FoodnSport events, that my favorite thing about each event is simply sitting around the dinner table with my family.Having broken the fast, I had more opportunity to continue exploring beyond the barn room doors. I walked up to the gardens that decorated our delicious evening meals. I climb up to the trampoline yard. I wandered out into the bale fields and took a light dip in the stream. The land around us grew more beautiful with each day, as my strength allowed me to explore more and more of our surroundings.Helping us to regain and surpass our initial capabilities, Dr. Graham playfully encouraged us to stretch our muscles. No, he did not tell us to go out and run around the block; he made a game, and invited the willing to play along. With a skilled but childlike gleam in his eye, he designed a challenge befitting each person’s ability. The challenge was this: can the two long-distance runners make it around the block four times, before the other athletes make it around three times, before the interns make it around two times and before the fasters who had recently begun eating again make it around once? Every person had his challenge. Each hurried as much as he or she was able. We, the few who were not yet able to attempt the block at all, which is to say, those of us who got winded walking up the driveway, stood by the mailbox, cheered, and took photos.Looking back over my experience at the fall Fasting and Feasting event, I am grateful. Dr. Graham gave his time, a lot of it, and shared with me, with us, what he has learned over the years. He has marked a footpath through the hills, leaving behind a much easier trail for us to follow. He became my mentor that week, my friend. I returned home full of stories and new insights, refreshed from my week in the crisp mountain air and sunshine, with a new extended family to call my own. The FoodnSport Fasting and Feasting event in Sedro Woolley, Washington is about much more than food—or the lack thereof. I would challenge anyone to lend a week of his life and dedicate it to his own physical, emotional, and spiritual growth. It is impossible to attend and participate without experience exceptional growth and change.