Whether or not a person has religious briefs, it may be useful to consider the spiritual ramifications of fasting prior to beginning a fast. Wherever the fast occurs—at home, in the wilderness, or at a facility—fasting can provide extraordinary life-changing experiences. Even people who fast in a clinic setting often have breakthrough moments. For some people, a paradigm shift may occur more easily in a supervised setting where there is a feeling of safety and being well-cared for.
When an individual intends on fasting for a spiritual purpose, there can be certain rites of preparation, such as those found in Native American traditions. For example, Lakota Sioux rituals include purifying the place where the person will fast with charms made by a shaman. Other rituals performed before fasting include smudging (burning sage), chanting, drumming, and participating in a sweat lodge.
If you are planning a fast that will have deep meaning to you, it may be helpful to create your own ritual before you fast. My favorite way to prepare for the spiritual aspects of a fast is to create an altar. A small altar can be made wherever you fast, whether at home, a retreat, or a fasting clinic. The altar is made up of small objects that have profound personal meaning, such as photographs and trinkets. In Buddhism and Taoism, talismans have long been used as a means to strengthen the power of fasting.
It is best to create the altar where you will see it daily during the fast. The idea is that even short glances of it will keep you grounded in the purpose of the fast. This ritual can be particularly useful when the reason for the fast is to help someone else who is ailing. Placing the person’s photograph in the center of the altar helps sharpen the healing focus of the fast. A similar ritual is practiced by women in Hinduism during fasting.
If a fast is going to being influenced by a Taoist tradition, a visit to the acupuncturist may be in order. In traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism, the small intestines are balanced through a combination of diet and acupuncture.