I often get asked about my own fasting experience so I thought I would share some of it here on the blog.
I had no idea what I was embarking on when I began fasting 10 years ago. My experience with fasting began when I was studying Chinese Medicine. My teacher recommended yearly fasting. I did my first supervised one-week fast (away from home and work) in 1995. I had previously done numerous “juice fasts” where I had ingested only vegetable juices for one to five days. I found the water-only fast to be considerably more intense. I had headaches, pain in my joints, extreme lightheadedness and I was restless and bored. After completing my first fast, I had more energy and mental acuity than I had in years.
I noticed a spiritual shift in my thinking and in the way I experienced the world. The following year, I fasted for two weeks, again away from home and work. The fast was so painful I vowed that I would never do a two-week fast again unless I was extremely ill and my condition warranted it. I experienced severe headaches, deep joint and muscular pain, weakness and dizziness even more intense than the first fast. Although my spiritual experience was more profound during this fast, I was deeply confused during the weeks afterward. I felt disconnected from the world and unfamiliar with my life. It was an anomalous feeling that eventually subsided. Looking back, I believe that a therapist with fasting experience could have help me to process the event more effectively.
Over the past ten years, I have fasted at least one week per year. In 2004, I underwent a series of drastic life changes and felt called to do a series of intense fasts. In February of 2005, I did a two-week fast during which I experienced some of the most intense spiritual experiences of my life. Emotions, thoughts, and grief I was having difficulty processing were cleared during the fast. As the days passed during this two-week fast, I recognized a distinct pattern that had occurred over my ten years of fasting: With every year and every fast, the fasting itself had become easier and significantly less painful. I became stronger during each fast (even though I was getting older), had less dizziness and weakness and in fact had enough strength to undertake intense physical tasks.
I noticed that each fasting experience built on the last and that my body, mind and spirit remembered the previous fasts. The spiritual awakenings became more intense with each fast. For the first time, I saw how the spiritual component was intrinsically linked to the physiological and psychological aspects of the fast.
I was so fascinated with the changes I felt during my two-week fast in February 2005, that I underwent a second two-week fast in June, 2005. By this point I had begun to view myself as a type of spiritual science experiment. I knew that doing two extended fasts so close together carried some physiological risks, but I felt confident that I was healthy enough and it was appropriate. Sure enough, the fast reinforced my previous findings. I began to see even more clearly the properties and occurrences of my entire fasting experience over the years.
With each fast, I had been forced to look at myself. The longer I removed myself from food and from the act of eating (the longer I fasted), the closer I became to my essential nature, who I really was—not who I thought I was or who the rest of the world thought I was. I continue to practice the discipline of fasting because becoming in touch with this part of myself is the most extraordinary feeling I have ever felt. It’s a perfect state of Grace. It’s as if the sun is shining through my soul and nothing matters except the moment—in which everything is perfect.