A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to experiment with the so-called 5:2 diet – which involved eating normally 5 days a week, then two days a week limiting one’s food intake to 600 calories. I’ll no doubt post some observations on this in due course.However, I was also keen to use some of my fasting days for spiritual reflection. I’m very much a novice at this (advice VERY welcome, please!) and so yesterday was my first “proper” day of combining the two.
Frankly, I didn’t think I would have sufficient will-power to hide myself away, essentially without food, for a day of quiet contemplation. Instead, I decided to use my “fasting day” for a walk around the city (of Bristol).
Strange as this may seem, but I actually used Jane Bentley+Neil Paynter’s excellent book “Around a Thin Place – an Iona pilgrimage guide” as a resource for my “journey” (as well as references to places of spiritual and historical significance, it also has some excellent readings, reflections, poems and prayers).
Essentially, I decided to break my walk around the city into twelve sections or stops – and had duly highlighted twelve reflections/readings, in advance, that I would be using at my stopping points. I didn’t plan my “Bristol route” in advance – but I did know I wanted it to include both quiet+noisy places and both urban+rural(ish!) locations.
Well, I have to say, the experience very enjoyable (and rewarding)(and it was sunny!) … and I even started relating many of my stopping points with pilgrimage stops on Iona! The Nunnery equated to the old Bristol docks (I sat on a harbourside bench); On the Way/High Point was Brandon Hill; Columba’s Bay was St James Priory; I found Loch Staonaig in the heart of Cabot Circus shopping centre(!); the Hermit’s Cell was some paving beside the Benjamin Perry Boathouse; and St Oran’s Chapel was the Mud Dock Deli building…
This all sounds a little silly, but it actually worked rather beautifully!
I certainly intend to use a similar format for some of my future fasting days and have already identified some other books that I think would work equally well (eg. Ian Adams’ “Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living” and Peter Owen Jones’ “Letters from an Extreme Pilgrim”) – but I would certainly welcome other suggestions.
Photo: spiritual reflection at Cabot’s Circus, Bristol!
PS: I scribbled down a few one-line observations at each stopping point and found some of the book’s poems particularly insightful and helpful (and will certainly use them again in other circumstances).