I’m in a fasting period right now, wrestling through a lot of issues.
Have you ever fasted?
Fasting is a tradition in many religious and spiritual practices, and has even seeped into wellness circles as a therapeutic means for certain illnesses because of surfacing research. "Intermittent fasting" has grown pretty popular, actually.
The concept from a traditions perspective is centuries-old and bound in the principle that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. Detaching from the physical world, be it in terms of not eating or drinking, or abstaining from the usual physical habits in a conscious way, does seem to enliven a part that exists beyond the bodily frame — let’s call it spirit or soul.
I have indulged in the Baha’i Fast for over 25 years. I see it as an indulgence and not a deprivation because magical realities surface for me during this time. I find when I put myself in close connection with what is beyond this physical world, or deeply internal for me, an awakening takes place. This year, I'm admitting that I'm not super sure I like the woman I am right now. A pettiness has crept into my everyday. A constant fretting over small stuff that doesn't really matter. I'm struggling a little, as the soul microscope gets turned on.
“[T]his material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.”
Staying connected to that deeply powerful space of Spirit opens me up in ways I seem to be shut away from when I'm running around on the hamster wheel of my life. A detachment takes place. A freedom. When I close the door of expending energy to satisfy my body’s appetites, other interesting doors open.
Closing that door of routine, however, has never been easy. Before the fast, I have profound anxiety. I start plotting and planning. What will I eat to sustain my energy? Will I get my caffeine fix? How will I work out? And there’s no way I can maintain those daily habits. It all has to shift because I can no longer go mindlessly into my routine. Everything stops and finds new direction. Forcibly so. At first, I kick and scream. NO! I love my habits. I’m good! I’m ok rushing around for work, pulling over for my afternoon coffee, busying my mind and body with all things physical. I’m good!
But if I allow this shift and acquiesce a little to the new routine, something beautiful takes place. I relax into a trusting mode, something much larger than my ego, a place of mystery that knows even better than I do what is best for me.
It is in that connection to the Greater, I find a more sustainable joy than I could get from shopping or eating or any of this physical world’s fleeting offerings. So I begin to rest here for the time being and try to allow my “ego” to burn away and give space to a peace. No yelling at the guy who cuts me off on the highway. Detached! No freaking out when a work issue rears its ugly head. Detached! (Well, working on that.) No frantic concern about the infinite conflicts in the world right now. Detached! (Well, actually, I'm not at all detached from that, but praying for severity in compassion for all people, and asking to be guided in a constructive, less contentious, direction.)
What good am I to anyone if I’m locked onto my hamster wheel of routine, frantic all the time? This time forces me to go a little deeper, "Why have I clung to this hamster wheel for dear life?"
So I jump off, take this time to refresh, and end up looking at everything from a new and different perspective. I usually end up asking myself, "How did I get to this obnoxious place?" Lol.
And then I try to cherish the perspective from this new place, shift some things around and see the experience a a gift.
Some important notes about fasting:
- If you have an eating disorder, don’t even think about fasting! Have the sense to know yourself and not mistake a spiritual time with an opportunity to starve yourself. Also remember that going without food can trigger brain chemicals for anorexics that result in highs that are physically addictive. Again, not the point.
- Consult with your physician before embarking on a fast. Some doctors think the whole thing is crazy and unhealthy so be discerning in whom you consult with. Be sure they understand the concept from a spiritual perspective. On the flip side, no fasting if you're physically ill, elderly, pregnant, having your period, traveling. Fasting is physically rigorous and not for everyone. Again, know yourself and don’t be stupid about it.
- Find a community. Sharing the experience with other people can be encouraging. I have a few friends I connect with during this time. Also, FB pages I’ve joined that connect people from all over the world can be an amazing experience.
- Allow what happens. In this spiritual space, stuff — self-realization — comes up. It’s not always pretty. Maybe you become more aware of a behavior or an attachment. Don’t judge yourself. Let this time be encouraging and nurturing of your deeper Self. We all have to clean the dross off our mirrored selves. Wipe away and find that glorious place that reflects the Light within.
- Indulge your spirit. Write. Pray. Meditate. Relax. Do something to help someone else today. Walk into that coffee shop and pay a coffee forward for someone else. Sing, even if you suck at it. Dance unabashedly. Listen to someone with opposing political views from your heart. Really listen. Tune into deeper and deeper connections until you hit the big question. Why are you actually here in this world? What is your purpose? Take the time and go there. Get the answer and just do it once and for all, whatever comes up for you.
Who actually is this spirit having a physical experience?
Go and find her (or him)!