Fasting for Peace – Day Forty-Nine

By: Becky Villagran, Student Teacher in the Humanities Department

Becky Villagran (left), Life Academy student teacher and Stanford Masters student, fasted on 3/4/12.

I woke up Sunday morning, knowing that I would begin my fast at 12:30 p.m. that day. Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day, and I was grateful to be able to sit outside in the sun for a little bit and enjoy the day. I ate a big breakfast in preparation for the fast, so most of Sunday went by without being too hungry. It wasn’t until dinnertime that I began to feel hungry, and I decided to read up again on the whole purpose of the Season of Peace Building.

I re-read the article written about the three little boys lost in just the past six months due to gun violence in Oakland. I began to think about how grateful I was to enjoy my Sunday in the sun, and how life was cut short for these most innocent of victims. They will never feel the joy of the warm sun on their skin again. Simple pleasures like the playing in the sun, or a family bar-b-cue will never be experienced again for these victims of gun violence.

I spent many hours of my day working on my unit for the Economics class I teach here at Life Academy. I just happened to be doing a lot of research on economic inequality and hunger in America and the invisible children who go hungry in America. It is estimated that one out of four children in America is “food insecure” meaning their next meal is never secure. I realize that while I am reading about hunger in America, I have never really been hungry. I have always lived with enough money to eat and enough security to know that I would be eating the next day too. It is because of this privilege that I have been able to enjoy and experience my blessed life. But, I feel that when people are hungry, that takes over their psyche, and it is hard to think about other things, accomplish things in work and at school, because your stomach grumbling distracts you from the millions of other things that are beautiful in this world.

Reflecting during my fast, I realize two things. Life is sacred, and we in Oakland need to do better for our children. And, there is no need for ANYONE to go hungry in this world, and economic inequality is part of the reason why people go hungry, and why there is gun violence in our community here in Oakland.  The problems, as are so many in our society, are interconnected, so the solution must be too.

I am proud to be a member of the Oakland community, and now the community here at Life Academy. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of the Season of Peace Building.

Edited By: Eva Oliver, RAW Co-Coach

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By: Dania Cabello, Youth Developer and Professional Soccer Player

Fasting was very hard for me. I did not imagine that I would have such a difficult time consciously not eating nor did I imagine that my reflections would inspire fits of anger and frustration.

The day began beautifully as six of my fellow friends and teammates fasted in solidarity with me. I was able to join my teammates on Sunday at the opening circle of our soccer game by reading the pledge and explaining why I was doing this 24 hour fast. I felt supported, proud, and committed to consciously building peace.

As the day went on, however, I found myself getting angry, feeling sad, and too focused on my hunger. All I could think about was the relationship between my hunger, my anger, and the power of my mind. Even though one of the components of the pledge said, “I would commit to having positive thought of myself,” I couldn’t help but use this time to reflect on some of my own unintentionally violent behaviors, ways of communicating, and reacting.

I felt humbled sitting in silence and reflecting on how I could make positive changes to my own life so that I could truly embody the pledges that I was committed to upholding. As I let myself delve deeper into reflections, I kept thinking, “If I was this hungry for something all the time I know I would find myself acting in negative/violent ways.” These thoughts would consume me for the rest of the evening and lead me to overwhelming feelings of sympathy and compassion for the very people that inflict violence upon others. I kept thinking of these people as the original victims – those who were violated or lacked a life necessity that resulted in their perpetuation of violence upon others.

What could I possibly do to help build peace in the lives of those who currently lack it or for those whom are deprived of their freedoms and do not live in peaceful environments? After having experienced these thoughts, questions, realizations, I found an answer to this that I felt comfortable with: As a friend suggested, we need to re-imagine how things are and how they can be. Fasting and building peace is a way to create new avenues of approaching violence by focusing on the positive. Education, community, love, and incarceration must be re-imagined. People must take a risk to dismantle our failing institutions and failing communities in order to invent new, positive ones that we can own and desire to be apart of.

This fast forced me to confront my own violent behaviors and imagine alternative ways of communicating and behaving. I’ve known all along that change begins within, and this simply reinforced that I must continue to work on healing myself as I attempt to help heal my community and be apart of imagining a more peaceful world.

Edited By: Eva Oliver, RAW Co-Coach

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By: May-Li Khoe (fasted in solidarity with Dania Cabello)

At around 1:00 p.m. today I broke my fast with liquid only – broth and coconut water. I’m continuing on a liquid-only fast for another 24 hours. I feel energized, and whenever I get hungry, I drink fluids. I gotta admit, I kind of dig it.

For me, fasting raised a lot around breaking unwanted habits, thought patterns, and behavioral patterns that I do not need or want. I feel that the act of fasting demonstrates that we are ultimately masters of our own thoughts and actions. Staying away from food requires that extra step – that moment to reflect upon what we have the urge to do before we do it – and then choosing a different course of action. The same goes for our thoughts — not thinking about food helps our ability to fast, so we have to practice controlling our own thoughts. It goes to show that we can do it!

Extending this to the text of the pledge, the line that stood out most to me was:  “I promise to not have negative opinions about myself and value the person I really am: physically, mentally, and emotionally.” I know that I have been fighting off a really strong negative internal dialogue with myself my entire life. These negative thoughts were such a reflex that it took years for me to consciously realize I was having them. Fasting helps me feel empowered to break this habit and make this pledge a reality.

Another thought that came to mind is that we should all take back the word “discipline” to mean something we can all do to empower ourselves, not something that is put upon us from an external source. I feel that in the tradition of my lineage, discipline is what allowed an individual or a group focus their energy, fine-tune their skills, and be empowered to create something that they visualize in the world. Fasting is an incredible demonstration of self-discipline!

It’s been an honor to share this with you guys – and a massive thank you to the organizers and all the other participants. I love this, and am going to invite others to join.

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By: Camilo Gaston-Greenberg (fasted in solidarity with Dania Cabello)

I had forgotten how much more alive I felt when I last fasted and how quickly I had forgotten this feeling.

I reflected on these words: “I promise to not have negative opinions about myself and value the person I really am: physically, mentally, and emotionally.” It reminded me of how I sometimes hold back showing love because I feel that I’m not capable or because I fear that it will be misunderstood.

Today, I was able to show love to one of my clients, a woman in her 60’s who, because of heart problems, high blood pressure and obesity, could barely walk four steps before being completely out of breath.  She has very short-term memory, so she would write down everything I told her and use different colors to help her remember things. We spent an hour laughing and enjoying each other’s company as I taught her some simple Yoga and other movements.  She was an activist, she told me, and wanted me to join her in the re-election campaign for Obama.  She wanted name for our workout program, and I told her that it was going to be our Activist Workout Program. She liked the idea. At the end of our session she gave me a hug and thanked me for my patience and kindness. I think that if not for my reflection and fasting I would not have been able to be so present and focused on giving all I could.

The irony about fasting is that people think that it just means to not eat.  But for me, the sacrifice and pain allow me to see the beauty of growth and love all around me.  I think this is the key to overcoming these tragedies: a little sacrifice and friendship.  It was an honor to share these with you all today and yesterday!!!!!!!!!

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By Crystal A. Johnson, Director of Clinical Services and with The Wright Institute

One of the things about fasting is that it makes me very aware of the rituals of my daily life, since sharing food with friends and family is one of the ways that I make contact, relax and enjoy the loving warmth of community.  I was happy that my husband decided to fast with me (this definitely made it easier) and that we could share this experience of making space in our day for reflections on peace and compassion.

There was an article in the New York Times yesterday that mentioned Gabriel and the two other children killed last year in Oakland.  We read that and thought about how a child’s death lingers in his parents’ hearts.  We looked on Google images at pictures of Gabriel, his street memorial, his funeral, his family’s taco truck.  We read the materials that RAW and BAM prepared for the peace fast, some of the other reflections and looked at the photos of other participants.  I told him about Life Academy and the students, and how much of a privilege it has been these last 3 years to support this community as it strives to nurture the beautiful potential that is in our children.

I felt very grateful for the small part that I am able to play in promoting peace and community.  This fast helped me recommit to considering each relationship and each community that I am engaged in as a precious gift that is to be treasured and nurtured.  It allowed me to feel both the terrible sorrow and the powerful energy for peace that gave rise to this project.  I wish for all of us the strength to remember that it is in the midst of our pain that we renew our commitment to the flourishing of our community. 

 

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