It has been eight years since the last time I fasted – it was in late 2001 – and for that fast I practiced in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters by fasting from sunrise to sunset for a couple of weeks.
Recently I was sharing about a personal relationship issue with a monastic friend and teacher and he suggested I start with a period of fasting. I was not completely clear on how this could help or be related, but I trust my friend and know that fasting is a common practice in the monastery. The intention here is not a detox fast, but one of a more spiritual nature. I started practicing with the fast for a 1-2 weeks by fasting for dinner. It wasn’t too difficult to eat two meals a day, the most difficult time being late afternoon. This did raise my confidence and understanding in fasting.
For this fasting practice, I decided to take the experience as it happened without putting too much pressure on myself. Though he had suggested 10-days, I decided to just take it one day at a time. I also decided to make it primarily a water only fast with a couple of exceptions – namely, I would drink 2-ounces of a juice blend in the morning and evening and would allow myself a cup of tea in the morning. Aside from that, it was water. The fast was three days.
The body is strange and powerful. The body felt solid and grounded for most of the fast but at the same time it allowed the mind to soften and wander a bit further than normal. I participated in some physical activity in the yard and in the house, went to a meeting at work one day, and worked on the computer. The key to success seemed to be having the option to rest whenever needed because I did get tired more quickly and easily than normal.
On a physical level, fasting really brings a person in touch with the body itself. The needs. The functions. The different parts. Experiencing hunger pains. Numbness. Dizziness. A person cannot act and behave normally when hungry.
On a mental level, fasting gives your mind the freedom to touch its relationship to the body. More importantly, the mind slows with the body. I had an intention with my fast, to focus on my personal relationship, and with each moment of physical discomfort and tightness of the stomach I could bring awareness to that relationship. This is important to me. I will work on this more. How can things be improved?
On the third day I discovered what the most important part of the fast was for me. Namely, I slowed down. The pace of life was reduced dramatically. I could still participate and do life’s activities but at a completely different rate. Wow, so this is it. To be present. With that I decided to end the fast. I had gained some insight and also realized that I needed to lend more support to my family by having more energy and strength (by eating again).
I hope to fast again in the future and also know that I could continue beyond three days if I wanted to journey further into my consciousness. Thank you Br. Phap Dung, Leslie, and the kids for being my support.