With fasting we refer to many forms of self-restraint from aliments:
there are fasting where one focuses on excluding certain types of food and fasting when one focuses on decreasing the frequency or the amount intaken.
Fasting is present in every major religion and spiritual tradition and is considered a tool for purification, to prepare for a period of deeper meditation, to prepare for some ritual ceremony or period of prayer, or simply as a practice of faith and willpower.
Nowadays many are rediscovering the power of fasting as a tool to detoxify and heal the body.
In our modern culture, we consume too much food and most of the time of poor quality, grown with chemical processes, without respect of natural times, and the situation is even worse with regard to the industry of meat and dairy.
With fasting, we give a break to our overly stressed digestive system and in this space, the body can reset and heal itself: the body will start to consume at first what it doesn’t need and start eliminating all the accumulated toxins and the stagnation from the body.
At the emotional level with fasting we can also have a very strong purging and transformative effect: consider the emotional factor of our over/eating: when we feel stressed, depressed, when we want to run away from that silent and empty hole we feel inside, when we want to cover up some emotion we relay on addictions: we take our phone, we go out, we find any way possible to distract ourself.
Potentially anything can become an addiction when it is used as a form to escape ourselves and what is happening inside of us.
With food it is difficult to imagine how emotionally dependent we all are until we experience fasting.
Food is filling, with it, we literally fill up the whole of sadness, unworthiness and unsatisfaction in our life.
When we restrain from food we will often experience strong emotional outbursts normally during fasting when one’s emotions are fine and stable he or she will normally fell surprisingly not hungry but when some negative emotion arises one will feel a strong and sometimes quite disturbing urge for food.
This shows that in that situation if we wouldn’t have restrained ourself, we would have used food as an emotional cover-up.
When we fast and we discard this possibility we are forced to face ourself and our suffering and in this process, healing can happen: we can come to understand, accept our pain and finally understand the lessons behind our pain and grow.
This process is deeply transformative and can happen even at a quite unconscious level. we can come to access stagnant emotions that are very deep and difficult to access even with a regular and solid practice of meditation.
Mental and Spiritual benefits:
While fasting we become lighter, the body has to spend less energy on digesting, which is one of the most energy-consuming tasks in our body.
in this state, we can feel more rested, more calm, more energic and our mind will become more clear and ordered. Our thinking starts to clear up and to set on more coherent lines.
we can feel like a great deal of weight has been removed from our shoulders and we can look around more freely, with more freshness.
In this state our meditation will be greatly enhanced and it will be much easier to enter in stillness, to perform energy work, to connect with outer sources and to do work of introspection of any kind.
This is the main reason why so many spiritual traditions include fasting as it naturally enhances our spirituality.
With a more advanced practice of fasting, it is possible to clearly observe how it removes karmic weight from us: we can feel we can move forward in our life more easily, we have less heaviness and obstructions, we have less self-sabotage and we are more clear about what we want and how to get there.
After this brief and still reductive explanation of the benefits of fasting we will proceed with explaining different types and modalities.
Types of fasting
1.Restaining from types of foods
In this phase, we are not going to discuss the amount of time a certain restrain is being carried on: some can be for a limited time of days or weeks, some can become a life choice.
In my opinion, the most basic level of elimination of certain foods is the adoption of a vegetarian or vegan diet.
This practice can have already a very profound transforming effect in our lifes. When I first became vegetarian i didn’t really notice so much the profound effects it had on me, when I then became a vegan and I could feel more clearly the benefits of eliminating certain types of food, looking back on my past I could see that actually the vegetarian diet played not little role in my development.
We can say that every step forward in the elimination gives exponentially stronger and more profound effects.
After the elimination of meat and dairy, we have the elimination of many other types of foods for example wheat, salt, sugar, spices, onion, garlic, processed foods, any type of grain and many other types of food types. this category is difficult to discuss here as it is vast and has many variations. I will just say that spicy food ( including chilly, garlic, ginger, onion) is not very compatible with meditation practices as they stimulate the inner fire and the flow of qi and blood they oppose stillness. Also, i can say that any type of wheat, especially white refined wheat is quite heavy to digest especially as many of us do with very regular consumption of it.
Also in this category, we can put fasting on soups, which I consider a very good and effective way to fast especially if the soups are quite plane as this allows many nutrients from the vegetables to be absorbed but still be very light.
Another category in the restrain of certain food types are all types of mono diets.
This basically means to restrain oneself to only one aliment ( as for example coconuts, apple, banans, carrot juice) or to one dish ( for example the red rice). This is also a very powerfull type of fasting that the digestive system can get used to that aliment and rest for a while in the lack of variety. also this type of fasting is good because it bring naturally to the gradual reduction of quantites of intake also because the desire of food is gradually lessened.
the next big level of restrain is to avoid cooked food, this is the level of the raw diet.
personally i cannot say much about the raw food diet as i didnt explore it a lot and i often found it difficoult to digest many types of raw vegetables: this may be due to my natural constitution or on my lack of experience and knowledge with this type of diet: i do very much enjoy eating salads and some types of raw vegetables which i found confortable for my digestive system. Nevertheless i am sure that this type of diet has many benefits and i have witnessed many people experience very good results with it.
After this is the level of fruit: this level has a special place in my heart and i become more and more fond of it the more i explore it. Fruit is light, nutrient, full of good water and extreily energizing. When on a fruit diet one can feel at the same time very light and very active, the natural shugar in fruit gives a state of excitement, of inspiration, a sense of strenght and empowerment. If i want to maintain this diet for longer periods of time i have to practice a quite considerable ammount of meditation in order to be able to administrate the enormous ammount of energy i have in my body. When a proper meditation practice is enstablished one can enjoy the benefits of having a lot of energy, accomplishing many tasks, performing physically at a surprising level, feeling more rested and with less need of sleep and at the same time grow spiritually in an accelerated and joyfull way. With this diet it is important to take care of our teeth with frequent brushing expecially at the beginning for the high ammount of sugar and also it is important to not mix messily big quantities of differnt fruits in your stomach ( which may lead to gas and diarrea), with experience you can find out what mixes of fruit work best for you. Also it is said that fruit is the most karmick free type of solid food as it doesnt imply any type of killing ( as opposed to vegetables) and the plant offers the fruits spontaniously. I think in a sense fruit is to vegetables what dairy is to meat. vegetables are the body of the plant and fruit are its offsprings. With the prolongued consumption of fruit one becomes more and more accostumed and in able to enjoy more and more the flavour of fruit, it doesnt tyre you, instead it becomes more and more delicious and even extatic experience to eat delicious and fresh fruits. Also this diet suits better warm climates, it can be contraindicated for some types of people who are more cold in nature ( from a chinese medicine point of view). Also in this category we include dry fruits as nuts. (artificially dried fruits as for example dried bananas are not ideal in my opinion as they contain a lot of sugar and much less water can be more aggressive on the theeth).
Fruit was the last of the solid foods, now we enter in the cathegories of liquid foods:
the first level of these are smoothies. With smoothie we intend blended fruit or vegetables.This modality allows the creation of very delicious cobinations and in my opinion their good taste is one of the main benefits. In truth one common misconception about fasting is that is a type of self torture to restrain from the good taste of many foods. Actually it is quite the opposite, all my life i have enjoyed food a lot (which is also due to my italian education) and with fasting i came to enjoy it even more, to become more aware of its taste and the elimination of certain foods for certain periods of time really allows you to appreciate the amazing qualieties of other and more simple and basic aliments. I personally dont know if by blending we improve the qualities of digestion of the foods. Defenetly one negative aspect is that excluding chewing one also produces less saliva and therefore ingests less and the saliva, as we will see forward has great benefits for our digestion. In a way certaintly blending is like a form of deconstructing the food before it is ingested and this makes the work easier for our digestive system. It is also important to note that it is best to consume a smoothie or a juice in the first ten minutes after it is prepared otherwise it wil start oxidation process and also loose some nutritional quality.
Next level is juicing. While juicing we eliminate great part of the vegetable or fruit and we squeeze out of it the most nutritional an rich part of it. This is a very efficient way to fast as it is even more light and carries very condensed nutrient value. For this diet it is very important to buy 100 percent juices with no additives. The ideal thing would be to buy a juicing machine so that you can be sure which fruit and veg you use and also you will be able to consume it while freshly made.
Coming to the end of our list we have water fasting which baically means to consume only water. This is one of the purest form of fasting and water is the most essential of aliments, it is the base of life on our planet, it is a pure and highly elevated spirit. On a water fast one can experience very high level of purity, stillness, peace and oness with the universe, one can learn to understand the power of this incredible element and to apreciate its healing qualities, in this way one can develop real and deep love for water, which is ever present, supporting natural force in our life and in the life of our earth. The more we learn to love water the more we are able to get nourished form it.
The very last type of fasting in this cathegory is dry fasting, which means the total abstinence from any type of solid or liquid source of nutrition. This is the most radical form of fasting and the most strong. Its purification and healing power is the deepest, its defies our understanding and transforms us at deep and essential levels. Functioning for a while with absolutely no nutrition one experience a great freedom and a great level of union with the cosmos.
2.Limiting quantities and frequency
After those distinctions we can speak about the secon type of distinction that is limiting the quantities and the frequency.
It is difficult to cathegorize the limitation to quantity of food as it is a very relative topic. If one is used to eat three plates of pasta per meal then even eating just two plates would be a form of restraint. This type of restriction can go as far as having one berry or one grain of rice as a meal. Reducing food quantities can be very beneficial and depending on the radicality of the restriction it can have all the benefits than the fastings that we listed above. Even a mild restriction from food can be very benefitial for our rest, energy levels and vitality.It is easy to notice how eating to 100 percent creates tierdness and heaviness especially for the first couple of hours after food. One of the most common longevity tips from the chinese culture is to eat only until you are seventy percent full.
More easy to speak about is the limitation in the frequency. This is the topic of intermittent fasting.
Our normal nutrition is of three meals a day, most people also make many snaks in between, some people even get nervous when havent eaten for more than one hour. In this way our digestive system is virtually always at work. The only bigger window of time it has to get some rest is between dinner and breakfast.
In intermittent fasting one reduces the frequency of eating tipically to one or two times a day.
Also some intermittent fasting methods imply haveing a limited window of time for eating during the day ( for example from eleven to three o clock or from when you wake up to midday).
Those type of fasting are very beneficial and easy to integrate in everyday life.
If the body has a certain minimum ammount of hours of rest in a day it can enter in a deeper resting and regenerating state and the whole body can feel more energyzed.
This can increase the quality and decrease the quantity of sleep and give more strenght and vitality during the day. this also increases considerably our overall productivity, and state of awareness. Like with any type of fasting you can feel more awake.
Also one of the good sides of this type of fasting is that you can continue eating what you like what you like while still enjoying the benefits of fasting.
How to fast efficiently
The last topic that we are going to treat is how to facilite and support a fasting so that it gives us the maximum ammount of benefits.
For this it is important to understand the nature of nutristion.
Our nutrition comes from different sources: from food, from air, and from energy.
To make an example of what it means that we nourish of energy we can observe that when someone is falling in love, or when there is an inspiring and stimulating project or turn in life, that person will tend to eat less than nornally and sometimes even forget about eating but still would feel very energized, waking up with no effort, running around carrying out tasks more easily, generally feeling in a wave of inspiration and energy where everything seems more beautiful and what before was considered impossible or not even considered become possible and at hand.
This type of inspiration is manifestation of energetical nourishment, this can be practiced and enhanced beyond our immagination.
We all feel that we have a immense potential laying deep inside ourself, improving our way of nourishment is the way to access it.
In this sense everything we do is nourishment, watching movies, working, our romantic life, our friendships, the way we breathe, and ultimately our thoughts are our nourishment, and as the famous saying states: we are what we eat.
Overcoming the obstacles
While fasting we will encounter many types of obstacles and difficulties.
A succesful fast relies on our ability to nourish from positive energy, our habit of eating so much hides an inability to connect with what feels trully good, inspiring and nourishing to us.
As we said food can become the mean for us to fill up the whole of sadness, unworthyness and unsatysfatction in our life.
When we restrain from eating we will be brought forward our inabily to nourish on energy and the limiting toughts and beliefs about ourself that limit us will come to the light.
In this case we can become more sensible to emotions and our buttons will be more easily pushed.
In this scenario we can come to face very strong emotional discharges of fear, anger, frustration, sadness and so on.
In this situation it is foundamental to maintain an objective mind and understand that this discharges represent a great chance for growth.
Take the time to allow these feelings to manifest, to observe them, to sit with them.
Eventually you will consciously or unconciously come to some realization that will make you understand the limiting belief that is behind that suffering and that you dont need to carry that belief if you dont want.
In this way you will be able to remove obstacles in your personality and access greater portion of you true natural potential.
Another tipe of difficulty manifests at a phisical level.
In a very similar way the disconfort that manifests in our body represents places where we hold blockages that limit our potential of expression.
Also in these cases it is important to remain calm and observe the physical pain.
Observing the physical pain we can observe which type of emotional reactions in stimulates in us and once we do that we can treat this condition as the previous one, observing, accepting, integrating, moving forward with gratitude and love.
When these disconforts manifests it is important to have an honest eye and to not take challenges that are too great for ourself. If something manifests that we feel we have not the capacity to overcome it is important to take a step back and interrupt the fast or maybe just make it more light or simply distract a for a while with a nice movie, a read, some activity or some sleep.
It is important to make steps at a sustainable rythm, otherwise we may even more injure our self and nourish even more our deep traumas and limitations.
Facing difficulties in the process of fasting ( and not) is training our ability to heal ourself with the power of our mind, cultivating love and acceptation, practicing the skill of listening inside and following the line of what trully resonates as more fulfilling of the innate qualities of our original nature.
Nourishing on light
Nourishing on light is the true ultimate goal of the practice of fasting. In our meditations, in every moment of our waking life, we pursue true and genuine nourishment for our whole being. Energy practices play a great role in this type of work. Becoming more aware of different types and qualities of energy, opening up to listen to the teachings of the universal forces of nature we open the ground for being nourished by the highes and purest sources.
The more we can connect with high and true sources of nourishment the more we can fast, the more we can fast the more we become relaxed and open to connect with even greater energies.
This brings in an upright spiral that brings us in a very concrete comunion with the universe and with our higher self.
Following our inner nature, appreciating the nourishing energy of a friendly smile, of the mountains, of care between two people, of a sincere and inspired project that will benefit others, of the limitless sky and the bright stars.
Fasting is a form to cultivate deep rooted happiness.
Practical tools and advices
A fasting can be carried out in a more soft or hard way. If it is more soft we will experience more the well being and the benefits of the fasting, if its more hard we will exprience more of the deep purging and purification.
It is important to be concious of our rythm and as we said before, this has to be sustainable to be fruitful.
A very important element to have a successfull fast is to procede gradually.
In a first point of view if you never experienced fasting it is good that you start with very light methods, your body is very used to consume food regularly three times a day and changing this too violently will create too big of a schock. Every fast you will notice how your body reacts better and goes more easily through the process ( unless obviously some strong external factor).
The second and even more important aspect of this gradual approach is that a fast needs preparation time.
This means not to jump straight into the fast but to start gradually eating less for some time before.
The preparation time can vary but i advice never to make it less than a day of transition.
Not only we need to prepare before but equally as important is to transit slowy out of a fast.
In the transition day one can use a more light form of fast than the one you intend to use.
For example if you want to do intermittent fast of one meal a day for 3 days you can transit by having two meals a day or one meal plus one lighter or fruit meal.
If you want to do a dry fast this is the one that needs more prepraration, in this case you can take a few days slowly going down to less meals and lighter foods, then liquid only and then dry. Repeat the same on the way out.
Actually a very fruitfull way to make a fasting is to make it very gradual: in this way you will be able to make a longer and deeper fast and your body will be able to follow more smoothly.
Also it is important to note that fasting is different for everyone and its difficulties can vary dramatically from one person to the other.
Fasting is a yin type of practice so that it supports peace and tranquillity.
Individuals who are naturally more calm will have generally less difficulty in fasting.
On the other side people for whom fasting is more difficult are the ones for whom fasting is most beneficial.
Also usually people with slower metabolism, elder people and females tend to fast more easily than people with faster metabolism, younger people and males.
So dont get frustrated if you are fating with an older lady and she is totally smashing it while you are haveing such a hard time since very early stages.
It is an unique and personal process and comparing with other can be unfruitful, it is important to concentrate on our work, on overcoming our obstacles and in our goals.
Also if you are in the period of your menstrual cycle you should take it much more easy with fasting as the period is already depleating a lot of blood and nutrients.
Actually some wemen find that some light for of fasting really helps to have a smooth cycle and even to heal some related issue.
if you are going to attemt this type of practice i suggest you to make further research first.
For example i know that in this case is good to consume foods that nourish the blood and are rich of minerals and iron as for example spinach and bitroot.
In the end there are countless possibilities and methods for fasting: some fast for a day a week, some fast occasionaly, some adopt a vegan diet or a routine of alternate fasting for a time or chronically.
I encourage you to experiment with yourself with different foods and different methods, make research on the topic if it attracts your interest, be patient and careful and explore the limitless possibilities of your body.