Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Fasting

Well it's been an interesting month.

In "The 4 Hour Work Week" author Tim Ferris talks about how for some people they read too much. For such people, reading becomes a distraction that dilutes their knowledge and stops them from applying. Considering my last year's goal was to read a book a week, this idea intrigued me. Am I reading too much? Would it be helpful to take a break? Perhaps I could really increase my productivity towards achieving the important goals in my life. I played with the idea a bit and decided to try it for the month of February. As today is the final day, it strikes me that my experience has been eerily similar to the first time I tried fasting from food.

During my first year of Bible College my friend Jason and I tried experimenting with fasting. It was pretty pathetic. We decided to fast for a day or two (I can't remember exactly) but we spent the whole time complaining to each other how hungry we were. Not only that but we fantasized on what we would eat - dreaming of the food we would happily ingest as soon as the fast was done. We went from fast food to buffets to massive self cooked feasts. Finally, as the hour was drawing near we decided to go simple - we'd go to the local grocery store and buy some canned pasta and stew and "gently" reaquaint our systems to the food. We counted down the hours, went to the store and bought several cans of food and went back to our dorm. There we joyfully broke our fast and then proceeded to eat way too much processed food, way too fast. We both felt sick. As for the spiritual fruit of the exercise? Not much! We spent the whole time focusing on what we didn't have, not on what we wanted (closeness with God).

During my book fast month I started out well, but then began to dream (literally) of being able to read books again. I also cheated, twice people caught me reading a book here and there (both times I had just picked up the book and without thinking started reading - doh!). I also started telling people about my fast - telling people about your fasting is of course a big no-no in the world of spiritual disciplines. Not content with these things, I then began to distract myself with other things - instead of reading books, I watched a little more TV and did a lot more surfing. Fasting from something and then replacing it with other, non-productive things isn't very helpful. Lastly, as the last few days came upon me, I remembered that I had some chapters.ca gift cards and so I began dreaming about what books I would buy with them - and then I made an order for 6 books! It's like gorging myself after fast except for instead of food, it's on reading. Yikes.

Now I could beat myself up for my lack of progress with this book fast experiment, but I can't help but smile thinking about how my first food fast went and the similarities to this one. The truth was that I learned alot about myself by "failing" with that first fast and I think I learned some great things this time as well. I think it is never failure if you learn something important through an experience. I think I'll do it again next February but I will prepare myself better for distractions, keep it private, and prepare myself in advance for the temptation to start thinking about books right til the very end. I did experience a small increase in productivity this month and I'll aim to increase it for next year. But I will do it a lot more humbly.

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