Meditation is a practice of focusing on a sound, object, visualization, breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment and enhance personal and spiritual growth.
The practice of meditation is commonly combined with fasting, as has been demonstrated by numerous historical figures, including the Buddha, Gandhi, Jesus, Mahavira, Moses, and Muhammad. Meditation has been practiced within religious traditions since ancient times, especially within monastic centers.
In traditional Chinese medicine, fasting is an important feature of meditation, particularly in the practices of Qigong and Tai Chi. In his book Chinese Traditional Meditation: Calm and Moving, Weimin Kwauk said, “Fasting may be triggered by meditation naturally, or it can be started intentionally by yourself. The skill of controlling the timing will be learned as part of your meditation practice”.
Meditation can be beneficial during fasting for inducing relaxation and reducing stress. A number of fasting retreats incorporate meditation into their programs.
Although there has been an extraordinary amount of research on meditation—approximately 3,000 studies since the 1950s—reviewers have cited multiple flaws in these studies. The National Institutes of Health has funded a number of reviews of meditation studies. These reports have also found problems with the research, but have also suggested that mediation has numerous psychological health benefits.
In 2004, a review of 82 identified studies concluded, “The results support the safety and potential efficacy of meditative practices for treating certain illnesses, particularly in nonpsychotic mood and anxiety disorders. Clear and reproducible evidence supporting efficacy from large, methodologically sound studies is lacking”.
Mindfulness-based meditation has become popular within Western medicine and some Buddhist psychologists advocate fasting as part of a meditative practice.