Fasting: a multi-leveled Self-Inquiry Process
Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the Spirit reveal itself.
It is that time of the year when a lot of people tend to embark on some type of ‘Spring cleanse’ protocol, either to feel lighter, or to feel more energetic or to deal with mild health issues. A couple of people I know are reporting on facebook about their journey with their chosen cleanse method sharing how much weight they have lost and how good they feel.
For me, fasting is a self-inquiry process and a journey that invites heightened awareness and self-love. It also invites asking big questions about ones motivations, views of oneself and attitudes to self-care. If you have an eating disorder history, fasting need to be approached with self-love and care as a means to consciously dive deep into the painful landscape inside… and through…And you may need to be supported. Or, fasting may not be the aligned way for you.
Always ask ‘Who is fasting and what for?? Is this aligned??’
My personal experiences with some ‘cleansing’ diet protocols have included water fasting, intermittent fasting, mono-fruit cleanses, raw food detox, and juicing. Whilst exploring all these, I discovered that there are differences between a ‘detox’ diet, a ‘cleanse’ and a ‘fast’. For example, it is suggested that:
A ‘fast’: is the complete abstinence from food for 12 hours or more where only water is consumed – distilled or pure water strongly suggested and preferably in room temperature. Fasting is a natural dietary process that has existed in many cultures and traditions for millennia to treat health issues and to facilitate spiritual practice.
A ‘detox’: uses certain foods or/and herbal supplements to facilitate the natural process of elimination of toxins in the body (toxic substances from processed foods, pollutants, acidic foods etc) through the liver and kidneys. Often a detox is accompanied with enemas, tongue & nose cleanse, steam & saunas for more effectiveness.
A ‘cleanse’: involves the clearing and rebooting of the digestive system and detoxification organs in the body, while re-fuelling with optimum amount and quality of nutrients. Cleanse diets eliminate certain ‘trigger’ foods and add alkaline rich plant foods that regenerate the body cells.
I felt to invite attention and explorative discussion specifically to Fasting for better physical and mental health, for breaking addictions and for facilitating the unfolding and falling away of karmic conditioning.
Fasting is an inherently natural response to food shortages, which we had to make back in the early days of humanity. We learnt to adapt as a way to survive, though I feel today fasting is a necessary response to ‘survive’ the effects of overconsumption, ingested pollutants and internalised toxicity in the environments we now live.
Fasting as an ancient medical intervention in the modern world is becoming very popular and private medical health centres dedicated to fasting spring up all around the world. Scientific study on fasting protocols in humans is increasing and what many ancient cultures practised for centuries is now increasingly being backed up by research for its many health benefits and impressive physiological adaptations.
Autophagy – a natural process of the body to cleanse and repair itself
Autophagy is one of the key adaptations that take place during fasting – a natural process of the body to cleanse and repair itself – that does not happen when eating is involved. Autophagy (derived from Greek, meaning ‘eating oneself’) is basically a self-recycling process that breaks down and disintegrates cells to create new ones.
The Science section on The Telegraph online reported recently:
The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system. “It gives the ‘OK’ for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California. “And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.
The amazing thing is that Autophagy is a process that takes place on the karmic level too. One often experiences increased sensitivity to energies and also deeper Samadhi (absorption) states when combining fasting and meditation, and as a result the surfacing of deep-seated emotional conditioning is accelerated.
With increased clarity, strength of Mind and expansive awareness, karmic conditioning is felt through and moved more rapidly. But only if one LETS it! Being present in the unfolding and unwinding process is essential, and so is Softness and mepathy with ourselves.
When I used to do 10-day retreats with 11-12 hour meditation practice, I would have one small meal at 11 am and the rest of the time I drank only water. The fasting intensified the already intense meditation practice and I experienced the rapid purging of conditionings through the mind (in dreams and mental energy), through the emotional body and also the physical (pain, tightness, flu symptoms). At the end of the 10 days, I would feel immense expansiveness, presence, lightness and peace…
Later on and at some point, I start asking more questions…. Am I trying to achieve a particular state?? As opposed to being curious and exploring WHAT IS IT THAT REGARDLESS OF STATE IS ALWAYS THERE IN STILLNESS AND REST…that can be felt always…?
Ways to Fast and the benefits
Fasting involves abstaining from food and drinking only – as clean as possible/ideally distilled – water for at least 12 hours. Fasting protocols include drinking only water for one or more days and Intermittent fasting modalities.
When water is only consumed, full rest is advised and exercise or other stressors better be avoided. Longer fasts may need medical attention, especially if people are on medication.
Intermittent fasting modalities include:
Eating one meal a day and fast the rest of the day.
Eating for 6 or 8 hours and fasting the rest of the time. For example, starting to eat at 11am in the morning and having a last meal at 5pm or starting at 10.00am and having the last meal at 6pm. The eating and fasting windows can be moved according to ones needs and routine.
My personal exploration
Personally, I have tried all of the above protocols and currently, I do intermittent fasting a lot as a form of exploration and NOT as a discipline or as a DOING. It’s not about ‘pushing into the perceived perfection’ BUT more about the softening process and finding alignment in it. This means that when ‘ I break the fast’ for whatever reason – which may be because I seek some comfort in food, then its perfectly OK – there is NO value judgement and therefore NO conflict – hence no suffering.
I find this way of long term fasting suitable for my needs and for feeling healthy, vibrant and full of energy. It’s also a way to meet cravings as and when they arise and to gently allow unresolved mental and emotional life to unfold at its own time.
I also have a diet, which is 100% plant based and mostly whole foods (*See note below about the difference I feel there is between being vegan and having a plant diet). I have noticed that because of my whole foods plants diet, the discomfort that often is experienced with fasting protocols like headaches, excessive tiredness, dizziness etc is very very mild.
Experts have reported that the more animal based, processed, sugar/salt and oil based diet one has, there are more withdrawal symptoms of feeling unwell and ill. Similarly with medications. Therefore, to embark on a fast one may need to first start a ‘cleansing’ or ‘detox’ program eliminating ‘trigger’ foods and feeding the body with vibrant plants foods for while.
Wholefood, plant based diet for optimal health, longevity and mental well-being
Dr Klapper, is one of the many medical doctors who advocates a wholefood, plant based diet for optimal health, longevity and mental well-being. He is also the co-founder of a health clinic in the US that offers fasting therapy that can last from a few days to forty. Here is a brilliant informative video where he explains in detail some of the reasons to fast, benefits and how to do it.
Enjoy and Be lovingly aware!
NOTE: Veganism is an awakening.
I wholeheartedly feel and believe that animals are right-deserving subjects/persons just like all humans are. Rather than merely a diet or an individual food ethic, veganism is a stance, which aims at eradicating the myth that animals belong in the consumption narrative. Put differently, eating animals and their bodily excretions is a systemic issue and not one dependent on personal ethics (there are no “bad/unethical” people in my books!). Would not allowing a black person to drink from the white man’s fountain be an ethical question or a stance to Rightness/Justice/Harmony? To me, veganism involves an embodied inquiry and a collective/individual karmic unwinding for re-aligning with universal Harmony, and for creating/expressing a New narrative and a New Paradigm of deep Freedom and Love.