In 1967, I was in the temple in India and I found out that people fasted on the new moon for nine days. So I said to Hari Das, “can I fast for nine days? Can I fast for four days?” He said, “well many people do it for nine.” So I figure if many people do then I will do it. So I spent the entire nine days thinking of Original Joe’s and thinking of Locke-Obers in Boston – of all the restaurants I’ve ever eaten at and what I had, and I remember Thanksgiving Days back in the thirties in New Hampshire and what the turkey looked like and smelled like and tasted like, and the skin, and the white meat and the dark meat and the stuffing. I mean, I really did it with the marshmallows and the squash and the whole shtick. And I would get exhausted from not eating every day you know during that fast. Three months later, I did a nine day fast where I spent all my time thinking about what I would eat when I finished the fast, which was in those days spinach, spinach with lemon and rice. I found that I was getting better.
About a year and a half ago we were all together, and we said we’d fast for a while and I fasted for a number of days, except at noon the only thing delivered to the room was lemon and hot water. I was really never busy fasting. I was just doing other things. I was reading holy books and meditating and I suddenly began to realize what fasting was all about. These were different levels of doing the same practice. In that sense fasting was so I didn’t have to spend all my time preoccupied with my belly and I could just give my intestines a rest and I could cool it out for a while and turn my attention somewhere else for a while.
It took me five years to figure that out, to come into the space where I could be with that method purely. And what I learn is in a lot of methods I got ahead of myself. And I think what happens with methods is that sometimes you do them for a phony reason and you give them up and you walk away – but if it is your dharma to follow that path you come back to it but in a new way. A fellow came to see me a while back with a friend of mine and he said that he had been a surgeon, and that now he was studying the flute. And he said that a lot of people were upset with him because they said to him “how can you stop being a surgeon? You’ve got this skill and you must use it to help people” but he felt that he had to study the flute. And he asked me to talk or comment on it and I said, “look, as far as I understand it healing concerns the vibrations within the being, the nature of the being that’s doing the healing. And I don’t know any rule that says that a flute doesn’t heal as many or more people than a knife and a needle and thread. Maybe all your surgery training was preparing you to be a flautist or maybe your flute training is preparing you to be a conscious surgeon. You don’t have to know the game in advance. You just got to listen to your heart.”
Berkley Comm. Theater
March 7th 1973