What is Fasting


Fasting using techniques such as water-diet to cleanse or detox

What is fasting

 

Fasting is a period of purification where we allow the body to rest from all food; except water. Some people do it to lose weight, some for God, some for health.

Fasting has been around for thousands of years. Its inscribed as part of a ritual practice in several mainstream religions where the health benefits allowed it to make the leap into mainstream alternate health.

Why do people fast? The theory is by stopping the digestive system from consuming our energy, we will have more energy for other things. Originally it was enlightened masters that taught this simple process to their disciples, so they could focus on God during the fast freeing the body and mind of unimportant tasks.

There are of course many degrees of Fasting, to ‘Fast’ means to withdraw something. In theory it should be all food items but in practice its common for people to consume liquids containing small amounts of nutrition.

The length of the fast varies based on what a person wants from it, and their mind-power or strong will. 1-2 day fasts are the norm, a few still do 40 day water fasts; but this is not recommended unless you regularly check in with a doctor. For some people it works like magic, for others the side effects may be too troublesome. For the first time its best to keep to short fasts, perhaps 1 week or so until the mind gets use to it.

There are alternates to fasting for physical reasons, some detoxification kits (see below) can achieve a similar result without abstaining from food and also taking a shorter length of time. But a detox does not give the same spiritual result.

Tips on fasting

  • plan your fast
  • arrange your schedule and only advise the people around you that need to know and will support you
  • if you are addicted to coffee or chocolate or anything which the body forces you to consume, slowly reduce it before you begin the fast. To give up cold-turkey may be too difficult once you start.
  • try to stay positive and strong-willed. Avoid media and some people who will question your process – that includes yourself. Your emotions will play games, you need to be aware of what’s real and not
  • rest when you need but not always. Exercise or keeping active is very important otherwise you will experience weight loss. Excessive loss will frighten people around you.
  • at the beginning take time off as you will have more bowel movements than normal.
  • to help succeed have a goal in mind so you can focus on a target. Praying to be closer to God helps many.

What happens during fasting?

That depends on your current state of well-being (includes emotional), the length of the fast and your karma. In a short fast you may not experience much but in a longer fast, many emotions could be released and if your body was not pure, many toxins and mucoid plaque could be removed from your system. Here is a summary of what generally happens to people who fast using water only diets.

In the beginning of a fast, some physical changes occur. Some times a heaviness in tongue is felt, bad breath and teeth may be sticky. Feverish symptoms may be felt in the mouth – just physical signs of the cleanse.

Please note, even though no calories are being consumed it is recommended light exercise be continued, even working around the house. Only for those with some illness, should they stay in bed. In health retreats where a 1-2 week juice fast is provided, the process can be enhanced with an enema.

  1. First few days, if not pure then a lethargic feeling, nausea or lack of energy. Will experience loose stools often.
  2. Hunger pangs and strong craving to eat, especially salt based
  3. After a few days once you have passed the habit of the body and mind, the body will be well and truly into cleaning mode. You will still experience bowel movement as the system cleans itself out.
  4. After a week you may still feel weak but now the body is already feeling more flexible.
  5. Most of the emotions should have been released, if not the deeper ones will start to appear. Often people eat only to cover their emotional pain. Fasting for long periods forces us to deal with it.
  6. Many health problems should start to reduce, eyesight better also.
  7. After the 2nd week or so, we will feel light. Not because our weight has been reduced (although this has also happened) but because our system has huge amounts of reserve energy since it no longer needs to digest.
  8. Your tongue should be pink, an indication of good health.
  9. Less emotions, feeling of being lighter will continue.
  10. After 2+ weeks then the feeling of not wanting or not needing to eat will come, our body has settled into a new paradigm. During this time we should be exercises otherwise we will lose too much weight.
  11. Continue until it feels right to stop – the length depends on each person.

Benefits of Fasting

 Besides healing many forms of disease and weight loss, fasting clears our emotions and uplifts our spiritual state.

Why does fasting work? Because we are more than the physical body, by dropping our attention on food we increase our attention on soul.

Fasting could:

  1. give the digestive system a break from modern chemical filled processed foods
  2. allow for cleansing and detoxification of the body and blood
  3. forces us to see what we eat and the result from it
  4. clears our mind, makes us have higher more noble thoughts
  5. release stored emotions
  6. promote a feeling of lightness and increase our energy level
  7. heal many diseases or at least reduce them or get them under control. This depends on the length, intensity and our karma.
  8. cleanse the body  of impurities thus making us lighter & healthier
  9. act as a form of austerity or penance and abstinence
  10. help us to focus on spiritual practice instead of the hassle and logistics needed to prepare food

People also fast when:

  1. Advised to by their guru
  2. Part of their religion or culture, such as a religious festival or holiday
  3. To experience hunger like the poor

Prayer and fasting (Religions)

Fasting and religion have always been intermixed. All religions have some periods of the year where followers are told to change their diets. Originally, the masters would have recommended changes based on the method they taught. For example, to follow advanced deep meditation you should first be vegetarian for a few months then abstain from certain foods. Or they may have said to be vegetarian for a few days a month to help encourage our compassion for animals. So here are the leftover of what past masters said.

Fasting is usually mentioned along with prayer and charity. By controlling the passions of the body, we free our souls for prayer. And by refraining from eating, we free up food or money that we can give to those less fortunate than ourselves. The three spiritual disciplines go hand in hand.

Most of the religions recommend prayer prior to the meal and to only fill the stomach 1/3 with food, 1/3 with water and 1/3 with air.

  1. Christianity – 1,3,7  & 40-day fasts are mentioned in the bible. No meat on Fridays, 40-day lent fast (from all meat and eating only one meal per day).
  2. Islam – month of Ramadan (abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours). Islam Prohibits Over-Eating and Prescribes Good Dietary Habits
  3. Buddhism – apart from one meal per day recognised by strict buddhist’s, fasting is not so common. Buddha recommended a vegetarian diet, but not all the sects of buddhism follow this. The ones that don’t only fast using a veggie diet for 2-3 days per month.
  4. Hinduism – fasting and religion go hand in hand for hindu’s, most fast on certain days of the month, some on certain days of the week, Tuesday & Thursdays are auspicious days for fasting, fasting during religious festivals is also very common.
  5. Judaism – Jews completely abstain from food and drink, including water for six days of the year (the ones that observe this rule)
  6. Spirituality – modern masters say there is no need to fast as it’s of the body only. What they recommend is sustainable, simple, pure living including the vegetarian diet and eating only to sustain the body. 

Sikhism completely discourages fasting, the past satguru’s said it “brings no spiritual benefit to the person.”  This seems to be a complete oxymoron, but the beauty of life is everyone can be right – as in this case.

When the Sikh master was alive, he told his disciples not to bother with anything physical and focus on their meditation. Eternal liberation does not depend on our body, just spiritual attainment, concentration and unwavering faith. If we thing we must do this or that, it’s a wrong concept. We don’t need to do anything except ignore the body and just be still. So to focus on customs or rituals was pointless for these disciples, it would confuse them as they had something much greater – a living master. The master could pull them up due to the lords grace. Its like this, when we are students struggling to pay our student fees and bills, a new phone would put a dent in our finances and perhaps we have to work a few weeks for it. But once we graduate and enter the middle class, the cost of a new phone is irrelevant, like pocket-money. So, when we have a real living master, austerities are like pocket-money – we have much more in the bank; there is no need to struggle for it. Not only that but they can be harmful, they can make us think we need some physical act to attain enlightenment.

Without a living omnipotent & omnipresent master however, our progress is someone slower. We must take baby steps to reach the same state. In that case, fasting can be beneficial for a short time, and more so for those not vegetarian.

What is far superior than fasting, is a pure and simple way of life 365 days a year. No thinking involved, no effort on the mind, no focus on physical demands; thats what is fasting.