Fasting is a way of house cleaning for our body. The benefits of resting from food are immense. It gives your body a physiological rest. During this time, your body is able to get rid of toxins resulting in a very powerful internal cleansing.
Research suggests there are many health benefits from fasting and caloric reduction. Benefits include reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance, immune disorders, and more generally, the slowing of the aging process, and the potential to increase maximum life span.
Intermittent fasting directs the DNA to produce an array of brain-enhancement factors such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Fasting also reduces free radical production and apoptosis (brain cell suicide). It shifts the brain’s basic metabolism increasing the number of mitochondria providing energy to fuel activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Thus, fasting paves the way for clarity and a deeper connection with the divine feminine energy.
As Paramahansa Yogananda eloquently puts it, “Through fasting, let your mind depend on its own power. When that power manifests, the life force in the body becomes increasingly reinforced with the eternal energy continually flowing into the brain and spine from the cosmic energy around the body.”
Gluttony, the lack of discipline of the appetite results in premature aging as well as the onset of various diseases. Fasting helps us develop self-control over food cravings and gives us back our power. We gain mastery over food instead of being a slave to our stomach.
Food is man's greatest carnal impulse. Many believe that sex is the strongest drive, but it is not. From the day we are born, the desire for food reigns dominant. As newborn infants, we first seek the love and warmth of our mothers. Then, we cry for food. The sex drive does not develop until the onset of puberty. Sex is the last drive to arrive and the first one to leave. The food drive is present from the beginning to the end, it never leaves us.
Many of us keep eating all the time even when we aren’t hungry. Eating is like a drug which soothes us, comfort us or keep us entertained. When you can develop the discipline to fast, you automatically develop the discipline not to overeat. In fact, it is also a great method to free oneself from chronic eating disorders.
Fasting is a very empowering experience because it makes us confront some of our greatest fears – starvation and death. In this process, the blockages are removed and we naturally form a stronger connection with our own divinity. There is a sense of accomplishment and freedom from the past at the end of the fast. Fasting is a great way to be inspired as the mind quiets down and new ideas come streaming through.
From a spiritual perspective, fasting regenerates our spiritual willpower by giving us the direct experience of divine energy. It allows us to take a break from our constant desire for food and drink so that the needs of the Spirit can be met. Fasting is a sure-fire method of exploring your psyche and to fully get to know your strengths and weaknesses.
Spiritual fasting is an integral part in almost every religion. It was generally considered an important element of religious life, although with different practices and understanding. The Bible alone has 74 references to it. Spiritual fasting is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament, in the Mahabharata, in the Upanishads and in the Qur'an.
Jesus fasted for 40 days, and his disciples took part in many long fasts. Spiritual fasting is an art fully mastered by saints for them to regain control over their bodies. Fasting puts food into its proper perspective. Many of history's greatest spiritual teachers took part in spiritual fasting. They all understood the power of fasting for spiritual breakthrough.
There is a sacred dimension to fasting. “Fasting increases our sensitivity to the mystery always present to us. It is a discipline of self-restrain, a ritual of purification and a sanctuary for offerings of atonement. It is a wellspring for the spiritually dry, a compass for the spiritually lost and inner nourishment for the spiritually hungry,” states Thomas Ryan, a Roman Catholic priest.
Fasting is undertaken for different time periods. Firstly, find out what kind of fasting you plan to undertake. Based on this and the benefits of fasting that you want to gain, choose the kind of fast that you want to go on. Will you do an absolute fast or a juice fast or water fast? An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day (24 hours), or several hours during the day. A juice fast is a fast where you only drink fresh fruit or vegetable juices.
Once you have decided, you can determine the number of days that you plan to fast for—will it be for a single day or three days, or will it be a 21 day fast or a 40 day fast? Do not be overly ambitious and decide on a duration that you think will be comfortable for both you and your body. Consult books on fasting or fasting experts.
Be patient when faced with problems during fasting. It is normal to crave food for the first few days during a prolonged fast. After a while, you might start feeling weak, hungry and spiritless when the body gets into fasting mode. Once your body is used to the fast, you will start feeling stronger and the body will no longer desire food. Getting through the difficult part of the fast is tough, but worthwhile.
Some side effects of fasting such as nausea, hypoglycemia, headaches, stomach aches, mild fever and sleeplessness may be present during the initial days and will gradually fade as your body adjusts to fasting. Do not panic when they happen to you and do not take medication for them unless the condition is very serious.
Most importantly, do your research and speak to people who have fasted before for more information. Happy fasting!
By Chim Li Yen, http://www.thevioletflame.com.my .
Editor's Note: If in doubt about whether you should fast, or if you have medical conditions, please consult your doctor before embarking on a fast.