Springingtiger's Blog


Fasting Friday

summer2008destiny3 013It is Friday and I am fasting. It’s not a religious fast. I did used to fast religiously, for religious reasons, some years ago I stopped. Fasting for religious reasons is a buy in to the same illusions of material reality as the practice is designed to escape. So why am I fasting? I am fasting because I miss it, my body misses it. I am fasting for the sheer joy of fasting.

Don’t mistake me I think that there is a lot of value in the religious practice of fasting. It is an excellent tool for attacking one’s beliefs about how one’s own body works and of what it is capable. Fasting quickly reveals ̶ actually not so quickly, but soon ̶ that many of our perceived physical needs are merely beliefs. It is true we do need to eat, drink and sleep, however probably nowhere near as much as we think we do. A religious fast can make us aware of how much we limit ourselves with our day to day beliefs. The thirty-six or so hours without food, water or sleep on the Sivaratri fast is an incredibly liberating experience which everyone should try at least once in their life. Religious fasting builds discipline and control over one’s body, one’s appetites, one’s beliefs, it puts a person in control of themselves. However a religious fast is also burdened with beliefs, beliefs that manifest as rules. When I say ‘fast’ I include both Christian abstinence and the Hindu ‘vrat’ when manifested in fasting. Fasting is encompassed by rules that include what one may or may not eat on a fast day, the times of fasting, the proper way to break one’s fast and implicit in these rules is a belief that it is possible to fail. That a fast has a measure of success or failure in the eyes of God is, I think, damaging. It should be seen rather as a training tool that ̶ as in athletics ̶ one builds gradually, There is no failure, only degrees of success. If you doze off for a while on Sivratri, if you need to eat something to combat dizziness don’t think of it as a failure, rather celebrate what you have accomplished and learn from the experience where you can make changes to your capacity.

People have written of the health benefits of fasting, I believe they are many when fasting is practised in moderation. However I don’t fast either for religious nor health reasons, I fast because it makes life more enjoyable. I find fasting for most of a day allows my stomach to take a well deserved rest, it works hard the rest of the week and really enjoys a day of comparative relaxation just handling juice and water. The other great benefit ̶ I find ̶ is that I enjoy my food mote on other days. It seems to me that fasting actually improves my ability to savour my food and to focus on the enjoyment of flavour rather than stuffing my face. I think it makes me less inclined to eat anything, and causes me to think about and appreciate my food more. Could I accomplish the same results without fasting? Obviously I could, but I like fasting and it’s a simple tool that enhances my enjoyment of life.

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