Fasting requires a strong will, determination and physical endurance. Because of this, fasting is not appropriate for everyone. A therapist familiar with spiritual practices, psychotherapy and the nuances of fasting can support the faster throughout the process. In order for a therapist to recommend fasting to a client, the therapist and client should have considerable history. The therapist needs to take into consideration the client’s overall physical condition, emotional stability and spiritual state.
If a client expresses interest in fasting, the therapist should recommend that the client consult with a medical doctor and a nutritionist who are familiar with and proponents of fasting. Initially, fasting should be done in a supervised environment with immediate access to both a medical doctor and a psychologist. In addition, a chiropractor can be useful as the skeletal structure frequently misaligns during a fast. Massage therapy is helpful for relaxation and increasing circulation and lymph performance. Kinesiology, acupressure and acupuncture are beneficial to identify and correct energy blockages.
If the fast is done in a supervised setting, the therapist may only have access to the patient before and after the fast. Prior to fasting, the client needs to be as healthy and stable as possible. The therapist should pace the sessions leading up to the fast so there is some sense of closure before the fast. The therapist can explain the spiritual, physical and psychological ramifications of fasting, recommend literature, do preparatory work, and encourage the client to journal daily. The journaling of dreams before, during and after the fast will yield fertile material. The therapist can also assist in setting the intent and goals of the fast.
If the therapist is able to work with the client during the fast, he or she can use approaches that enhance the fasting experience without interfering with the process. The therapist can actually heighten the intensity of the fast, partly because the faster feels safer, inviting a deeper exploration of altered states of consciousness. During the fast, the therapist should avoid physically or mentally demanding approaches to therapy. In some instances, group process can be beneficial during the fast, but it can become problematic if the group becomes confrontational.
After the fast, the therapist may find the client more open and more leading. The therapist will need to determine which approach—transpersonal and otherwise—best meet the needs of the client. For example, if the client was physically limited before the fast, he or she may now be ready to begin Tai Chi or Yoga. Clients who were not ready to meditate before the fast may want to begin. More often than not, the client will be ready to take therapy to a deeper level no matter which approach is used. All of the major approaches associated with transpersonal psychology would be appropriate during various stages of the fasting experience. Below is a list of transpersonal methods from Greg Bogart’s list of major approaches to transpersonal therapy.
- Somatic methods: Sensory Awareness, Hatha Yoga and Pranayama, all forms of Integrative Bodywork.
- Imagery-based methods: Psychosynthesis, Guided Imagery, Hypnotherapy, Visualization.
- Doctrinally based methods: Course in Miracles and Buddhism.
- Conscious work with life transitions: Birth, Death, and Rites of Passage.
- Symbolic methods and personality typologies: Enneagram, Astrology—the study of life cycles.
- Techniques for calming and enhancing awareness: relaxation methods, Yoga, and
- Meditation. Another example is Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing method. In Focusing, we contemplate a current problem area in life until we develop a “felt-sense” of the situation—sensing it, resting with the unknown, waiting, and letting a feeling take shape. Gradually, a “felt shift” occurs as we unfold the meaning in the felt sense.
- Stimulating techniques: some forms of Yoga and Meditation, Holotropic Breathwork, Rebirthing, Bioenergetics, Entheogens.
- Past Life Regression: uncovers unconscious materials rooted in past lives. It is based on the belief that the unconscious carries past life memories, as well as forgotten childhood events and archetypal material; and that the unconscious can release this material at a pace that we can assimilate.
- Psychic methods: clairvoyant counseling, channeled teachings (e.g. Michael, Hilarion, Lazaris). Here we try to access information from inner planes that provide insight into the roots of a person’s block or difficulties, and reveal the secret design and direction of the individual’s life.
The use or recommendation of the above methods does not automatically make one a “transpersonal therapist.” Bogart emphasizes that the transpersonal therapist must integrate personal and transpersonal development. Referring to the work a transpersonal therapist must do, Bogart notes, “Our task is a complex one. We are to learn to go up and down.
We access higher states of consciousness though meditation; and we dig into our unconscious material, unresolved trauma and emotional blocks through dreamwork and personal therapy.” In addition, says Bogart, the transpersonal therapist must be able to relate to ordinary suffering. Similarly, modern mystics face the same challenge. The move toward conscious awareness requires evolution and integration on all levels of consciousness.