Every year now for the last 8 years, I have done some kind of fasting in late spring/early summer, as the Qi is closer to the surface of the physical body than in autumn or winter. Sometimes I abstain from all food or certain types of food. Often I begin at the new moon and end either around the full or the following new moon, 2 to 4 weeks. I do this not as a way to lose weight, as so many people might imagine (fasting is the worse way to lose weight!), but to let go of energetic blockages, or attachment to food and other behaviours that don't benefit me, or just getting clarity. Thus, beginning afresh. Often, I have fasted with an intention or a dedication to someone. This makes it a little easier, it guides the journey, pulls you back on the path when the moments of vulnerability occur, which they will definitely occur.
This year, I decided that I wanted to do it differently. I didn't need to remove anything from my system but I realized that I could spend more time connecting with my environment and my inner self. I found that I hadn't spent enough time in nature since juggling work and family life. I used to take walks almost every day or hike in nature often when I lived in California. On the new moon in May, almost 2 months ago now, I began my practice of walking in nature at dawn or dusk for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes, I was on the path for 2 hours. It was amazing! No excuses, rain or shine, family or no family, I went on my walk.
Why dawn or dusk? These are very special times of the day. For one thing, there are very few people around. There is a certain quiet in the air. I met an occasional dog-walker but very few people were out and about at that time of day. There is also that detail of light, the moment between light and dark is really special. What I often saw clearly in the bright daylight was quite different in the sunset/sunrise. I felt like I found secret spaces that only opened up at that moment between sunrise/sunset. Kind of like in "The Hobbit," by J.R.R. Tolkien, where the door to the Lonely Mountain would only be able to be opened at that certain time of year, where the light of the moon shone on the face of the mountain, illuminating that secret keyhole.
The sky at sunset would glow red, purple, peach... it was often an artist palette of radiant colors, until the sun dropped, then shades of darkness would engulf the sky and all around. Then, the stars would shine. A few times, I encountered animals, birds often, once a fox, so quick I almost wasn't sure it was even there, and once a deer, who leapt so nimbly over the path and into the forest before I could even be aware of its presence. I felt very connected to my environment. I felt like I was experiencing the space around me like our ancestors did, who had little of our modern technology. Just me, with my legs, my senses and body, feeling the earth under my feet, the sky over my head, moving in the space around me.
I realized then that we are so blessed in Switzerland. Though small, we still have many spaces of nature and so accessible on foot. Where I grew up, which is now a city of over a million people, nature spaces are a little more challenging to get to, partly due to urbanization, which has lengthened distances to natural spaces and also the lack of nature conservation. We are so lucky that we don't have to pay to be able to go into natural spaces. For instance, the Swiss National Park in Graubünden has no entry fee or just walk out your door and within a few minutes, there are trees, forests or even a lake or river, maybe even mountains. You don't have to do a fast like I did. But, value what you have as your own backyard. No excuses, take a walk outside, enjoy the fresh air, the environment that surrounds us and be open to what nature wants to share with you.
Photos by Elaine