One Client’s Experience: My Seven Day Ritual
Note: not all of our workshops are as intense as the one described below. We offer 1 day, 3 day and 7 days retreats, some of which invite participants to fast and some that don’t. Some of us may have health conditions that would not make it safe to fast; if that is your situation, rest assured that fasting is just one of many tools available to help us go inward and is not “required” to grow in our relationship with God.
“Fasting with no water?” That was my first thought when Preston told me about his seven day spiritual retreat.
I had known Preston for about one year and I had spent enough time with him to deeply respect his spiritual gifts and his personal commitment to spiritual growth. I was therefore immediately intrigued when he mentioned that he facilitated seven day retreats that allowed participants to go inward and create a stronger connection to the Divine. When he mentioned that the retreat required one to fast, I was not initially concerned. I had done 3-day and 7-day liquid cleanses before, so I felt confident that I could physically and psychologically handle a fast. However, when he mentioned that in this retreat, one needs to fast from food and water, I was momentarily thrown off.
Preston smiled at my shocked look and patiently explained that during the seven day retreat, we were to fast from all food and water from midnight to 9pm everyday. At 9pm, we would break the fast with water and then we would be free to eat as much fruit, vegetables and rice we wanted. Prayers would start again at midnight, so we would need to finish eating and drinking by 11:30pm in order to clean up and be prepared for the midnight session.
I signed up for the retreat, but the prospect of no water during the day and most of the night continued to bother me. Is that safe, I wondered? Won’t I be horribly thirsty? How could I possible squeeze in enough water between 9pm and 11:30pm to assuage my thirst for the next 21 hours? I gradually began to realize that my incessant focus on the fasting was really a cover-up for deeper fears of what might be uncovered during such an intensive retreat. What would I discover about myself? What might I be challenged to change about myself? What if I had a spiritual experience that I couldn’t handle? These thoughts continued to bounce around in my head as the day of the retreat approached.
One week before the retreat, I sat down to meditate and received a vision from the Divine Mother. She offered me a silver cup with golden liquid in it. I drank from the cup and she then told me that I should drink from this cup during the retreat whenever I was thirsty. I immediately felt a strong inner sense of peace. I realized intuitively that this “water” was not just to relieve my physical thirst, but was to relieve my emotional anxiety and fears as well. I felt an amazing sense of comfort knowing that this loving presence was going to be with me during my seven days.
Once the retreat started, I quickly discovered that the most difficult part was not the fasting, but the lack of sleep! We prayed and worshiped every three hours around the clock, which meant we were never sleeping for more than 1 ½ to 2 hours at a time. To top it off, we were often energized and on-fire after our prayers, making it impossible to sleep at all!
My turning point happened on the third day. It was sometime around our midnight prayer. The combination of lack of sleep and complete isolation from worldly distractions, such as TV, the internet, food and work, stripped away the masks and crutches I used to keep certain fears and insecurities from bubbling up. Without those distractions, they came rising up and burst forth in tears and sobbing. I was both taken aback and deeply ashamed. I tried to reign the tears in, but I couldn’t. After the midnight prayer, I lay in my bed and continued to cry. I began to pray in earnest asking the Divine Mother for help. Around 4am, I felt her presence descend on me and I finally began to relax. I could feel healing energy being poured into my body until my legs and arms were tingling all over. I didn’t sleep at all that night, but I felt fully alive and alert when we gathered for our 6am prayer.
After that emotional release, I was able to be present during the retreat in a way I wasn’t able to before. I began to look forward to each prayer time. While I occasionally felt a physical tiredness, it would soon vanish with a drink from the silver cup or from the next prayer session. My head cleared and it became effortless to focus my thoughts on God. For the first time, I began to understand what the saints and masters meant when they said we were to pray incessantly. At the end of the seven day retreat, I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment and well-being.
Some people experience powerful visions or hear messages during the retreat that cause them to change the direction of their lives. Others walk away with a sense of inner peace. Still others walk away with the sudden clarity of what needs to change in their lives and the courage to make that change. For me, the retreat gave me a sense of spiritual empowerment. I had more self-confidence and a sense of aliveness. The retreat also gave me a greater appreciation for the path walked by spiritual aspirants throughout time and history. It has also inspired me to do other fasts and spiritual rituals, and it taught me that I can train my mind to be focused on God at all times. It was an incredible seven days that I can honestly say changed my life.
— A Retreat Participant