Fasting, as a topic, engenders much conversation. It is viewed with an air of misunderstanding and mystery on one hand. On the other, there are those who use it on a routine basis. Fasting’s roots extend back to ancient times. One becomes more aware of their inner drives and conflicts when engaging in fasting. It facilitates disengagement from sense driven activities. Fasting also provides a physiological respite to the body. Fasting can positively affect both mind and body.
The controversy of fasting hinges on the acts of consumption versus non-consumption. We are designed to consume organisms and foodstuffs on this earth plane. The practical wisdom purports that any undue delay of caloric intake has deleterious effects on the body. The need to eat is impressed upon western populations in all forms of advertisement. The senses are overtly bombarded with enticing images that promote the joys of eating. To not eat is viewed suspiciously in certain circles.
Those who do not fast are confused as to the reasons why someone would choose to not eat. In western societies. Eating or drinking is a focal point for many occasions: i.e. weddings, summer gatherings, SuperBowl parties, graduations, baby showers, holidays, funerals . . . . you get the point. The emphases that are placed on eating pervades society. To consume is taken as normalcy; in line with acceptable actions.
Others embrace fasting as something that is necessary. On a personal level, some fast seasonally or in preparation for a spiritual event. There is also the use of fasting as a monitored medical therapy. The exponents of fasting experience a release of heaviness; a lightness of body and mind. Fasting is a way to clear one’s self of any mental distractions. Mental focus increases as the ability to fast becomes more prominent.
Fasting has documented roots that extend back into ancient times and places, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to heal itself. In primitive cultures, a fast was often demanded before going to war, or as part of a coming-of-age ritual. Indeed, fasting in one form or another is a distinguished tradition and throughout the centuries, devotees have claimed it brings physical and spiritual renewal.
Fasting brings one face to face with the individual with whom they most struggle – themselves. The desires that have been socially manipulated are placed on the table. From there they can be observed, assessed, accepted and perhaps resolved. “Yes, I (think that I) am hungry but I don’t have to eat at this time”. The truth is that many in western society are overfed, for the most part, with sub-par foodstuffs. Reigning in the mind is not an easy endeavor but to do so is within everyone’s grasp.
The snares that exist become easier to see when the mind is more consciously directed. Extending past the basic sense desires can reveal the limitations of basic seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing and tasting. These basic sensations are what many hold so near and dear to their existence. However, human sense abilities are, at best, limited. The majority of people perceive things and situations based on the extent of their basic senses. Fasting is a way to begin to move beyond basic sense perceptions.
The act of fasting gives the body a rest. The physiological processes are able to slow down. This gives the body a chance to repair. The automobile is given a period of rest. Animals rest. In fact, animals go through periods of fasting due to lack of foodstuffs. Humans, as well, used to go through these periods of forced fasting. The human body is genetically engineered to endure periods of caloric lack. Modern society has chosen to promote the availability of foodstuffs.
Is fasting for everyone?? No, not necessarily. Can fasting be of benefit to everyone?? Yes! The individual has to be interested enough to pursue the benefits of fasting. Fasting is a modality that requires mental fortitude. This level of focus can provide mental stability in the face of sense perturbations. When the senses are agitated, the body wants to be satiated. Fasting provides the vehicle to move beyond the sense by develop control over the mind.