Spiritual fasting is the fast track to discover your truth and where your addictions lie.
Jesus said, "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the (Father's) kingdom." ~ Gospel of Thomas, Saying 27 (Gnostic Text)
What is spiritual fasting? Is it the same as merely abstaining from eating? Is it about intermittent fasting that I describe in my article healthy weight loss? Is its main goal that of weight loss?
In my article on healthy weight loss I showed you the physical benefits of flexible, intermittent fasting. There are many. Flexible, intermittent fasting is not just about weight loss. It can dramatically improve your health in many other ways.
Intermittent fasting is also a great way to improve your self awareness of just how much you are pre-programmed regarding your eating habits. We all have ingrained notions regarding when to eat and how much to eat. Often these notions are more about habit than an intuitive response to physical hunger.
(You can also take a great self-awareness test if you click on the link in this paragraph - but do come back and finish reading here - I will wait for you! It will help you understand how well you really understand yourself!)
The intent of this article is to discuss the spiritual benefits of fasting. In the Christian tradition one uses spiritual fasting to overcome temptation. Jesus does it for 40 days in the desert. Prayer and fasting is a time to purge yourself of the “evil influences” around you.
I would like to broaden the concept of fasting, and make it more relevant so that you understand that spiritual fasting can make you become more self-aware in all aspects of your life. Spiritual fasting can help you understand where your addictions are and what you do mindlessly in your everyday motions of life that may have become habits that have turned into addictions.
Spiritual fasting is about fine-tuning your body to hear its subtle messages. It is opening your heart at the physical level so that you become more in tune to your personal truths. It is opening up to self-awareness through temporary self-denial so that you can achieve a higher spiritual level.
Some may use spiritual fasting to regain "control" of their addictions. I have used it in this manner as well. However, if you see it more from the perspective of increasing self-awareness, the insight that you will gain will automatically take care of any need to regain control of your life. It will just happen. With more self-understanding and self-awareness, the path toward self-healing becomes easier.
The self-healing path turns you into a self-healing personality. You actually yearn to understand your truths and hope for more and more self-awareness. Then the control issues fade and melt away.
I believe that the word "control" brings up negative connotations anyway, since this is something that you try do with your head instead of your heart. If you open up yourself to learn self-awareness, the heart is always involved. The best way that I have found to become more open and self-aware is by opening my heart to my personal truths through spiritual fasting.
You may wish to use my heart meditation to increase your ability to open your heart to self-awareness. Your heart is your window to what has truth and meaning in your life. Opening your heart allows the Spirit and fresh insights to flow in. If your body is a window to your soul, it definitely starts with your heart. Becoming more aware of your heart is imperative for your growth and healing.
Most of you don’t realize that your habits may have become additions. Your unhealthy habits creep into your beings slowly and insidiously. Until just like this seedling growing out of the rock, from the side of the cliff, a small habit takes root. Then before you know it, a tree is growing in the rock of your soul, and it is almost impossible to pull it out.
I have increased my own self-awareness regarding my personal addictions. I have successfully done caffeine fasts, alcohol fasts, and television fasts.
I choose caffeine because I have always wanted to know if I was addicted to caffeine, and what effects its use really had on my life. As it turns out, after a week-long caffeine fast (from coffee), I learned that I really didn’t depend on it as much as I thought I would. I had been drinking about half regular and half decaf coffee for years. Each day of the spiritual fast, I drank ½ my usual caffeine amount, until I had no coffee after several days. Then I abstained from coffee for a full week.
I found out that I truly could function efficiently without it. I learned that I enjoyed other hot beverages such as hot tea just as much.
When I added the coffee back into my morning routine, I used a new mixture of ¾ decaf and ¼ regular coffee. On any given day, I could walk away from coffee altogether, if I choose. I had found the critical point, at which coffee no longer made a difference. In fact, if I choose to have a fully caffeinated cup of coffee now, I find that the caffeine will quickly make me feel queasy in my stomach if I drink more than one cup.
Alcohol, on the other hand, was much, much harder for me. I love a nice relaxing glass of wine at 5:00 every day, after a day of accomplishments. I love to chat with my husband, or watch the sunset, or just do nothing as I relax and unwind and sip a glass of wine.
However, it was very easy for me on stressful days to feel like I "deserved" the second glass of wine. Before I knew it, I wanted 2 servings of not-so-small glasses of wine each evening. I felt like an addiction was forming, or at the very least, a very expensive habit.
So, I decided to go on a spiritual fast from wine to develop self-awareness regarding my need. I did it without trouble for a whole week. I have to say that it was more difficult than I had imagined. During the times that I just wanted to escape and relax with that glass of wine, I would go into my corner and do Yoga or just simply to meditate.
I would move deeply into a Yin Yoga pose, hold it and the discomfort, being mindful of this discomfort in my body, my mind and my soul. As I became more aware of what was happening within me, the cravings would slowly subside. It
worked for me, to recognize the need, fully sit with it with full awareness until it was released.
While I might like to say that I have given up alcohol for good, right now in my life I have chosen to continue to have a glass of wine most evenings. I believe that I now know it’s effect on my life, and after the alcohol fast, I know that I am not addicted. I am better able to limit my consumption to one glass at a time, and I no longer need it every single evening.
Who knows where this will lead me in my future path. I may give it up alcohol entirely at some point, or find it is less fulfilling.
The real culprit in my life is sugar. As I write this it is January, just after the holidays, I may need a lot of regular total fasting from eating to reconnect with any spiritual issues regarding my eating habits. I did not gain a lot of weight, however, the composition of sugar in my diet was deplorable. I have not beaten myself up, but I do have self-awareness regarding just how much sugar I ate.
On my last day of my holiday, in Florida, I gorged on a wonderful, homemade ice cream, key lime pie. It was made with low fat ice cream and condensed milk, so the glycemic index of the pie was probably ski high, with no fat to slow down the sugar rush. It was so good, I had two nice pieces, and in about 1 hour, I felt totally sick to my stomach. I think I made myself sick. However, it was the perfect cure to my overindulgence. The next day, I fasted to reconnect with how much I ate when I finally had a schedule of my own, without the holiday pressure to eat and eat and eat.
If you want to know more about how I do flexible, intermittent fasting from all food, see my article, "Healthy Weight Loss."
When I get up the courage, I will do a week long fast from sugar this year. It will be the hardest of all, because as you all know, sugar is in everything. It will mean no processed foods of any kind, no sweets and not even bitter, dark chocolate! For me, that will take enormous amounts of meditation and prayer, to work through that one.
My spirit has been nagging me about eating meat. It has been suggested in various wisdom traditions that eating flesh will reduce your clarity for spiritual messages and make it that much more difficult to find God. I personally don’t know if this is true. I plan to find out and later this year I will do a fast from meat. I will see if I gain greater spirituality and understanding about myself. Thus far, I have been afraid or unwilling to try it.
As some of my readers may have already figured out, recently I have been focusing on spiritual development by reading the Nag Hammadi texts. These are the texts that were found sealed in a jar in the Egyptian desert. They were hidden from society when a decree in the 4th century, A.D. required the destruction of all non-canonical scriptures (the Bible as we know it today). These texts were so well-loved that they were preserved and hidden in these jars. Only recently have Biblical scholars come to accept that these writings are indeed, wisdom teachings of the apostles of Jesus.
Recently, I have been fascinated with the unsung Gospels of Thomas, Philip and Mary Magdalene, collectively know as the Gnostic Gospels. Christian mysticism and wisdom teachings are opening up a whole new door to me.
So, in regard to eating flesh and the supposed detriment that this behavior entails, I found the following:
"Jesus said, "When you go into any
region and walk about in the countryside, when people take you in, eat
what they serve you and heal the sick among them.
After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you." ~ Gospel of Thomas, Saying 14 (Gnostic Text)
I absolutely love this quote and feel that it is a definitive answer for me. However, I still want to see if fasting from flesh will help me gain clarity. If it does, I will use this type of fast periodically to increase my insight. Most likely, I will never entirely be a vegetarian.
If you choose to accept my premise that your body is a window to your soul, spiritual fasting is a great way to understand your mental and physical addictions. You can use your body window through spiritual fasting, to understand where your own addictions lie.
If you do your spiritual fasting for self-awareness and you open your heart for fresh insights you may find that you will get much more than you bargained for! If you also meditate and pray during your period of fasting you will become closer to your true self and therefore you will become closer to God. You will reconnect with your soul. You will reconnect to consciousness. Mindlessness will fade away.
Let your body be your instrument for more self-discovery and more self-awareness. Body awareness is self-awareness, because your body is yourself, and reflection of who you really are.
So, open yourself to this process and see if it does indeed change your life.
It is only by increasing your self-awareness through methods like spiritual fasting that you will grow like this tree in the Colorado forest: Straight, tall and solid. Growth is always slow, whether it be for your benefit, or your detriment. Just make sure the growth is in the direction that will provide healing for your body-mind-soul.
What you choose to include in your spiritual fasting is less important than what you learn about yourself as the result of the fast. Spiritual fasting is about gaining your truth and fine-tuning your body so that it is open to self-awareness. It is only through understanding where your addictions lie that you can empty yourself of the addiction to find more meaning in your life and become closer to God.
May you open your heart to your truth and may you increase your self-awareness through spiritual fasting, so that you may find health, healing and God!