FASTING AND FEASTING TIME FOR SPRING CLEANING
In the springtime, we start to think about cleaning out, slimming down, letting our juices start flowing after the lethargy of winter. If we look out in nature we can see a rebirth happening - buds, green shoots, new life springing up after a process that almost looked like a kind of death. Even here in southern California the flowers seem brighter, the green more filled with life. I know of no better way to connect with the activity of springtime than to participate in the process of rebirth which comes with doing a fast.
As the human species we are given freedom and choice, and can participate or not in the processes that go on around us. We can make prayers and trust that spirit is working for us. So too we can make simple choices for our physical body and trust that nature is conducting miraculous healing within us. As a medical doctor in NYC working with sick people, I used to tell them to spend time in nature. Those who did invariably had transformative insights which led to healing. As I myself grieved the loss of my husband, the most necessary part of my healing was the time I spent in my flower gardens or hiking the mountain I lived on, or just sitting silently by the stream. Besides spiritual healing, as we gain an understanding and connection with the regenerative processes in nature, we can also begin to heal our bodies.
I think that we sometimes get the impression, especially if we watch television, that our body is designed to self-destruct. We are bombarded by ads about all sorts of frightening ailments, such as acid indigestion, runny noses, itchy skin and all types of pain. We have come to live in fear of our bodies.
Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to regard our body as self- correcting? As the ecosystems of rivers, meadows and forests slowly but definitely rebalance themselves following the insults of storms, dry spells, and infestations of locusts, so too the body can rebalance itself, if we let it. There is a strong survival mechanism built into all living creatures. The natural process of every living body is toward healing, not destruction or disease. Fasting is the most natural healing tool. Animals will naturally fast when they are sick or injured, and when we are sick, if we really listen to our body, we will find diminished hunger, the body’s effort to reject food.
When most of us hear the term fasting, we think of it as an austerity or deprivation. We can almost feel the cravings in our body just thinking about giving up a pleasure we consider a necessity. We seem to have an unconscious fear of starvation, which is not compatible with the truth that most of us are overfed. I say there is no greater state of abundance than being in the grace-filled state of fasting. There is a love-intelligence that governs the universe, called by some, God, or life energy, or spirit, to which all life is connected. There is no better opportunity to experience this first-hand - for when one is Fasting, one is truly Feasting - on God.
“A table descends to your tents, Jesus’ table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table spread with other food better than the broth of cabbages.”Rumi - 13th century Persian saint
The technique I recommend is to drink unlimited quantities of juices, water, and herbal teas. If you get hungry, thirsty, or upset, it is simple. Just keep drinking. The fast itself becomes a feast, and you get to see that what you may have called hunger is just a form of desire. And besides, within the first three days the body no longer feels any hunger!
You will find while fasting that you can access a state of detachment, where you can watch yourself thinking and feeling and not identify so much with it. And contrary to what you might think, the longer you fast, the more energy you feel. Even before the physical benefits are apparent, there is almost an immediate change in the mental state. You will notice an increase in mental acuity, as though a fog has been lifted from your brain. In fact, veteran fasters, even if their initial fast was for physical healing or weight loss, will routinely go back to fasting because they love the heightened awareness and mental clarity
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A FAST?
One of the primary things that happens during a fast is that the body gets a deep rest. It takes a remarkable amount of work to handle the day to day job of digestion and assimilation of our food. Most of us are so behind, we’re trying to catch up with digesting last year’s birthday celebration! During a fast the energy that is normally used up in digestion is available for breaking down material that the body needs to eliminate for healing, detoxification, and weight loss. There is so much additional energy that people are amazed. One of my clients trained for the LA Marathon during a long fast, and after running 26 miles didn’t feel tired. You have to experience it to believe it, but the general rule is that individuals on a fast have much more energy and vitality than they do when they are eating!
Not only does the body get a deep and usually much-needed rest, we can have a vacation from eating! Just think of all the time and decisions that go into shopping, preparing food, thinking about food, the guilt and remorse when we fall short of our goals. It’s pretty easy to fast. Just keep drinking! That is all you have to remember.
Fasting may be the oldest and surest means of healing known to man. How can it be that if we just stop eating, our bodies heal from all manner of ailments?
Fasting gets us in touch with the inner healer, called by some people the inner physician. That is the wisdom of the higher self which knows what we need to heal, and has the power through the connection of spirit which of course is Love, to heal. Paracelsus, famous alchemist of the 15th century, called fasting “.....the greatest remedy, the physician within.”
Physicians have been saying for centuries, that we are sick because of excesses.
"Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor."
Egyptian pyramid inscription, 3800 B.C.
Our diseases of modern times are those of abundance as our bodies are burdened from overconsumption or stress. This leads to overweight, sluggishness, and toxicity and left alone will lead to the chronic degenerative diseases of modern humans, whether allergies, arthritis, or other nuisances which are not life-threatening, or the more serious things like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes.
The body, an expression of spirit, knows in its inherent wisdom just what it is that we need to be well and whole, and that usually means that we are needing to eliminate something. That might be fat, tumors, cholesterol in the arteries, fear in our hearts, anger in our gall bladders, or negative thought patterns which are holding us back from expressing our divinity. We lose the integrity of our individuality.
When we fast it is like peeling away layers. In the wisdom of a natural healing process, whatever we do not need will be discarded or discharged. The wonderful thing is that this happens at every level of our being. Physical poisons will be eliminated, and negative thought patterns, or old emotions can simply pass away. The only thing that we need to do is to surrender, trust, and allow God to do its healing work. It is a different way of thinking to know that we are better with less! When you fast you are saying yes to nature, to your higher good, to the part of you that knows what you need and has the power to heal. I describe a fast as giving you back to yourself. As you surrender and trust that you can let go of everything that is not you, you will be more, and truly yourself.
Most people lose weight on a fast, an average of a pound a day, because we need to, and the weight loss is usually permanent because in the process we learn how to listen to the body and its needs. Most of us have been disconnected from our bodies, allowing our unconscious instincts to influence our decisions. Once we have connected in consciousness and learned to speak our body’s language, we will have the information that we need to become self-regulating.
The most successful fasts are those undertaken with the supervision of someone familiar with the process. Even with my experience as a coach I find I do better on a fast when I have someone who understands the process, supporting me.
There are people in my Science of Mind community who have feast fasted for months, and can attest to the increased clarity, energy, and connection with spirit that persists long after the fasting process. Rickie Byars, singer/songwriter, and the director of the Agape International Choir says that she is a better person from having done that major cleanse. “I can’t say enough about it. Because I fasted at the time of the summer solstice, I was able to get clear and prepare for the season ahead. I have never known such clarity and sense of order, not to mention breaking my addiction to processed foods. I released 15 pounds as well as other weight that I didn’t need to carry in my consciousness. And as a result I am easily maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
My clients who fast for several weeks or months - absolutely begin to look younger. This is not just physical improvement. There is visible emotional and spiritual rejuvenation as well. They seem to light up. We can see the results of years of negative belief systems by the way that most people age. We are meant to become more and more light-filled as we grow in years and wisdom. We can see in fasters something that can only be called, Aging in Reverse.
I have a patient who does periodic juice fasts during the year and she calls them a rebalancing. They are undertaken after a time of overwhelm, after she has been travelling, or at a time when she is getting messages from her body that she is ready for another level of healing. After every fast besides coming back to a state of balance, she always tells me that she functions at a higher level of awareness. She is a treasure to watch. Her higher consciousness is an inspiring example to her family and friends. She fasts one day a week, and reports more and more appreciation for what she calls “my liquid day”. “On liquid day I don’t feel bad being around food. I have no desire for anything else, even though at other times I love to eat. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful fasting is, or how I how I have NO HUNGER. I always look forward to liquid day. I really need it. It feels like a vacation for my body and a reminder to do right by myself. Not just a health cleaning, it brings me more in touch with myself, in a very clear way. Simplifies things, sharpens my perspective, I get sense of what is most important. It is something celebratory.”
I had a medical practice in NYC for 20 years. My patients came to me with various forms of illness, a desire to lose weight or get healthier, or to prevent illness. I worked with hundreds of people supervising juice fasts from 3 to 180 days. Everyone got healthier, normalized their weight, gained more physical energy and mental clarity. But it didn’t take long for me to see what was really happening with these patients, and that is that they were participating in a deeply spiritual activity.
Fasting has since antiquity been a part of all the world religions. Jesus the Christ, fasted 40 days and began his ministry declaring: "The Father and I are One!" And he assured us we can become whole by seeking the Kingdom within. Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Elijah, Moses, St. Francis, Mohammed, Hippocrates, Socrates, Plato, ancient Egyptians, all have undergone deliberate fasting and prayer.
There was an American missionary who was called by God to go to Argentina. He heard God tell him to fast, so he set out to do 40 days on water. At the end of it, as he was preparing to break the fast, he heard God say to him ”you’re not finished yet.” and he did another 40 days. At the end of 80 days, he had lost only 1 1/2 pounds. He was a very small man and did not have any weight to lose.
When I heard that story from a man who had known the missionary, I was powerfully moved. To me, it proves what I know, that God is all we need. Though at one time I had a weight problem I have now been thin for years. I often envy my overweight clients because they are able to do long feast fasts, and I feared that being so thin, I couldn’t fast for much longer than a few days. That was my excuse anyway! I have since faced that fear, and have been fasting regularly, at least one day a week. I cherish every fast as the closest that I can come to knowing God and the presence of spirit filling, nourishing, and living its life as me. God is truly all we need, and anything that brings me connected to that awareness I hold as a precious gift.
“Fasting is not a deprivation; on the contrary! The principal purpose of a fast is to nourish oneself on another plane. When we deprive the physical body of food, our subtle bodies - etheric, astral, and mental - begin to find nourishment elsewhere, for within every human being is a principle that resists death. When we give less to the physical body, the entities within us, whose function it is to look after our well-being, are alerted to the situation and bring us what we need from a higher plane. In this way we begin to assimilate elements from the atmosphere. This explains the fact that our breathing improves and, after a little while, we sense that we have been given nourishment that was not physical. In fact, if we stop breathing for a few seconds, we shall be nourished by entities from the astral and mental planes. Thus fasting is really a different kind of nutrition.”
Omraam Mikhael Aivanhof, 20th century Bulgarian mystic
Living from a higher plane
The physical body is really just an “excretion” of the higher bodies. Rudolph Steiner, 20th century Austrian metaphysician, spoke of the four bodies, the physical, etheric (life force) astral (instinctual) and the ego organization (individuality) or higher self. Edgar Cayce, 20th century visionary healer, said it another way, “spirit is the life, the mind the builder, the physical the result.” Those of us committed to a spiritual path can uplevel our experience so that we are not dependent on the physical world for the health of our bodies, but as we become more connected to awareness of spirit, we can live from a higher plane, and take our bodies with us. Fasting can teach us how to do that.
The Fasting Worms
Experimental tests conducted in the 1930's at the Zoology Dept of the U. of Chicago showed that worms, when well-fed, grew old, but by fasting them they were made young again.
In one experiment worms were fed as much as they usually eat, except one worm, which was isolated and alternatively fed and fasted. The isolated worm was alive and energetic after 19 generations of its relatives had lived out their normal lifespan.
Prof. C.M. Childs said: "When worms are deprived of food, they do not die of starvation in a few days. They live for months on their own tissues. At such tim thy bcome smaller and may be reduced to a fraction of their original size. then when fed after such a fasting, they show all the physiological traits of young animals. But with continued feeding, they again go through the process of growth and aging (and die).
One group of womrs was well fed and every three or four months passed through the cycle of aging and reproducing. Another group was given just enough food to maintain the worms at a constant size but not enough to make them grow.
These worms remained in good condition without becoming appreciably older as long as the experiment continued, which was three years."
The life span extension of these worms was the equivalent of keeping a man alive for 600-700 years.
“There’s a hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and a new energy makes you run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue in place of the Kaaba.
When you fast, good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Soloman’s ring. Don’t give it to some illusion and lose your power.
But even if you’ve lost all will and control, they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents, Jesus’ table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table spread with other food better than the broth of cabbages.”
by Rumi translation by Coleman Barks