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5 day fast - Max Misogi Challenge

“I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death.

   You will not die if you do not eat for 5 days (most likely). You will however have a better understanding of what starvation is. If you are open to it, the fast will also provide you with an opportunity to be grateful for our close relationship with food. This is the story of my Maximum Misogi - The 5 day water fast. 

   Once I chose this as a Misogi the planning began. When you do a long fast there is a laundry list of items that you want to think about. These are the first questions that I answered for myself: 

~Why am I doing this? 

~Am I physically capable of doing this? 

~What are the physical impacts of this short and long term? 

~How does this impact my family/people i work with/people I am close with? 

~Do I need others' support to do this? 

~What research needs to be done to do this safely? 

~When do I NEED to stop? 

~What needs to be done when I stop fasting to do that safely?

~Do I allow myself some exceptions beyond just water? 

~Would there be others interested in doing it with me?

   Even something seemingly logistically easy like “just stop eating” has many different variables to consider. After considering these questions and others that came up in answering these questions I came up with a plan on how to execute. Here was my plan: 

~I talked with my partner Meghan, and set expectations with her on what to expect. 

~I picked a time that did not interfere with any other plans as I determined this may eat into things I was capable of. Additionally, I started on a Tuesday to not disrupt as many of my weekly coaching duties as possible. I guessed that I would be a shit coach on days 4 and 5 (which was a solid guess

~Fast rules - I would allow myself to still have athletic greens (which are my vitamins) even though they have minimal calories. ~ I would allow myself to have electrolyte packets (Which had 5 calories) ~I would use a large jug to make sure I drank a gallon of water each day ~ I would allow myself to have a tea ~ I would allow myself to take Vitamin D via a tincture drop 

It is important to define “rules” in a misogi challenge because if you leave it up to yourself to decide while under the duress of the challenge, you will most likely choose the easy thing. If you are reading this, and want to know why I choose those sets of rules instead of just plain water, feel free to reach out.

   The story of how the days played out is much different than anticipated. I am happy that I had this structure to fall back on as it got much harder than I imagined. 

  About 3 weeks before the fast, I started to deal with some real anxiety in regards to the fast. Having done a bunch of 3 day fasts before I knew it wasn’t going to be fun. This is actually where the misogi began. This allows me to put in place the things I tell clients allow the time. If you have an event you are anxious about, ONLY LIVE IT ONCE. Any event only lives in the moment it is happening. Before and after the event the feelings you are having are not due to an external stimuli but do to your internal focus being not on the present. I realized that it did not serve me to have anxiety about it so I took time to sit with it, take some deep breaths and let it pass.    I started my fast on a Tuesday (5/14/24) . I finished my last meal at 11am. I choose steak and eggs with a little bit of hash browns. I felt some excitement as I finished my meal. I took time to enjoy it. 5 other people had said that they were going to do it with me. 3 of them started earlier so I was stoked to get on it with them. Because I do shorter fasts regularly, the first day was cakewalk and business as usual. I did start the fast weighing 168.2 and ended the 24 hour period at 163.6. This would prove to be the biggest weight loss day. 

   Day 2 of my fast I started to feel some impacts of the fast, although not ones that you may expect. I actually felt a ridiculous amount of energy. So much so that I felt like I was talking over clients and in meetings. I went to our creativity in Jiu Jitsu class and participated but didn’t roll as that was the plan going in. After class I got my first real craving for pizza. I deflected that craving by appreciating how great pizza is and creating some excitement for the next time I am able to partake. All in all, another pretty easy day. Unfortunately, all of that was going to change! 

   Day 3 started out awful. I slept crappy and woke up with a headache. My Thursdays are packed so immediately the stress of the day combines with the way my body is feeling to add much weight to my stress backpack (stress backpack is a pack we all carry daily). Meghan and I try to go for our customary 45 minute walk outside (a carryover from our 75 hard challenge) and I feel like I am too weak. What the hell happened!    After weighing myself and checking in at 160.5 I looked in the mirror and noticed a difference. (see the attached progress pictures) It should be noted that I am in no way doing this for weight loss, but it is information. I made it through my coaching clients, but had to qualify with each one that I may be a bit off because of my physical disposition. This was tough to admit as it is my job to listen and provide valuable perspective.    Coaching Jiu Jitsu was really tough. I was teaching a speed pass (toreando pass for you Jiu Jitsu nerds). I showed the active drill that I wanted them to do for about 10 seconds and felt dizzy. Additionally, I believe that I lost my train of thought a few times in the evening. Luckily, I have wonderful students that were supportive as I seemingly struggled though dizzy with a headache. I went to sleep hoping that things would be better on day 4. 

   Day 4 started off better than day 3 although the end was shaky. I had the remnants of a headache but it wouldn’t last all day. I slept a little better and had more energy. This is uncharted territory as my longest fasts were previously 3 days. I had hope that my body would adjust, I would have mental clarity, and I would reach a new level of understanding. 

   It was a transformational day. I am normally a calm, peaceful person. Admittedly not getting to high on the highs and not to lows on the lows. Not Friday. Friday I could be enjoying the smell of a nearby tree one second, and in the next tell that dog the shut the fuck up! For someone who prides himself on really listening to the world these quick judgements, especially the negative ones, were challenging. 

   I barely made it through the workday as my early energy faded with no replacements in sight. As my energy faded my mood swings did as well. I was falling into a contemplative hole that was mostly full of gratitude. I liked it. Thoughts of how lucky we were to have food so readily available for us were common. Thoughts about how incredibly talented people are at preparing food. Thoughts about how blessed I am to have had incredible food. 

   I became cold at night and since we have a hot tub in our complex I decided to partake. As I got up to change I was pretty dizzy, this is something that had become common all day. I asked Meghan to check on me in 20 minutes. I got to the tub and realized that I can get dizzy getting out of hot tubs on a normal day. Today was not a normal day. If I got in, and I passed out, that would be the end of Josh.    This thought sent me on a spiral in ponderance of death and my relationship to it. I thought about the parable of “Death in Tehran” It goes like this : “A rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with one of his servants. The servant cried that he had just encountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his master to give him his fastest horse so that he could make haste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off on the horse. On returning to his house the master himself met Death, and questioned him, “Why did you terrify and threaten my servant?” “I did not threaten him; I only showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned to meet him tonight in Teheran,” said Death”

   I got in the tub, slowly. Life is meant to be lived. I was very weak and thought about people dying of starvation. I thought about Viktor Frankl’s book “A man's search for meaning”. People that survived starvation had a strong why. At this point I understood how people without a strong why would let go. It is more peaceful. Please note in NO WAY is this a comparison to anybody's plight. It is however a moment of growth for myself. This moment in the hot tub is the reason I do misogis. I broadened my perspective on life. 

   When Meghan came to get me as my 20 minutes was up the door to the hot tub was locked. It closes at 10 and it was just past. I had a gallow’s humor moment when I realized that in my thoughts I had the consideration of if I did pass out, at least Meghan could save me. Nope, that would not have worked out well. I got out of the tub very slowly and appreciated that moment in time. 

   Day 5 started much like day 4. I had slept OK but did have more energy than the night previous. This was the last day and first day I didn’t have to work. It was also a perfect spring day in Wisconsin. 75 and sunny most of the day. I had planned to just be reflective and meditative the whole day and that is pretty much all I had in my mind. Today, I realized something that I had felt before but understood in a concise way. What actual hunger was and the difference between cravings and hunger. Precisely put, cravings are your brain telling your body that you should eat. Hunger is your body letting your brain know that it is eating itself and perhaps it should choose to do something about it.    Most of the day I didn’t have cravings for anything (unless I caught a whiff of Meghans burrito or the delicious smoke brisket truck that parks near me). I instead felt my body deal with the realization that it had to trim the fat to stay in business (pun intended). Oddly, the sun charged me up as I sat in it. Not in a let's go for a run way but a mental fortitude way. A peaceful way. The sun somehow let me know that everything was going to be ok. I had excitement to eat and also contemplated doing it for longer. Perhaps pushing myself to the brink is what I needed. 

   I woke up at 5:30 am Sunday morning. Officially, 5 days was at 11am. I couldn’t fall back asleep so I watched some of the sunrise over the lake. Life was beautiful. I could continue this, I thought. I enjoyed the contemplative nature. While the energy level was very difficult to deal with, I don’t work a physical job. I have a client who has done longer fasts, his longest is 10 days. Maybe I should do that? I turned on some TV to break up some thoughts.   Ultimately, I used some of my coaching tools on myself. I went back to why I was doing this. It was not to do the longest fast in the world. It was not to compete with a client. This was not a competition at all. I referred back to my WHY. I did this Misogi because I believe that humans need a certain amount of challenge in their lives to derive purpose. It seems you can either consciously challenge yourself or the universe provides it free of charge (but you may not like it). Over the course of this Misogi I was able many times to reflect and earn little wisdoms the universe was gracious enough to provide. 

   I am sure if I were to continue, I would learn more but where does it end? Is it fair to clients to be a low energy coach? Is it fair to Meghan to have a partner who has the energy of a turtle? The answer was clear, the misogi was going to be over at 11. I became excited and the universe decided to tempt me with one last thing. It was 9 am. I had a brunch for the City Champs crew at 11. I could have my juice now and maybe be ok to eat a little bit of normal food with them. Nobody would know. It is basically 5 days, what is the difference? 

   It then hit me like a ton of bricks. I would know. I am ultimately the only opinion that actually matters. I will know if I cheated and I will not let that mentality creep into my psyche. I have learned that the secret to living a happy life is congruence. This little incongruence of eating early will not have a chance to germinate. The thought gave me chills and killed any thought of eating and hunger. I actually had more energy than I had Friday and Saturday. Life was beautiful. 

   Before I broke my fast I weighed in at 156.4. 12 pounds lost over those 5 days. People at the brunch commented on how my face and body looked skinny without any prompting of the question :) This fast certainly took a toll. I broke my fast with a sip of cold pressed juice and some nice chicken noodle soup. My sense of taste hadn’t been that strong in years.

   As I slowly continued to eat soft things over the next few hours my body felt like it turned on. It was off for a few days and now it is back on. It started telling me it wanted to move and I started to do more things. I began to think how marvelous this body is. Give it no fuel for 5 days and it finds a way. With the light switch on, the day got brighter.

   I am writing this on Monday 5/20/24. I feel fantastic and have already put on 3 pounds. My digestive track seems to be working better, as I am having more bowel movements. My energy level is high. I am generally going to try and not overeat anymore as I don’t believe that is good for us. I have gained a significant amount of wisdom from this Misogi. I am thankful for this life and for the energy that allows me to keep living it. 

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