When I was in Seminary I was surprised that many of my fellow students found this to be unusual. I personally found this reaction strange since fasting is widely associated with one’s spirituality. Anyway, let me share with you some of my thoughts on fasting.
Fasting is the voluntary and willful decision to abstain from eating various food items. This leads to a kind of “suffering” by moving us out of our usual or habitual place of comfort. One of the benefits of this intentional suffering is that the physical body can more easily purge and cleanse itself of toxins or other negative factors that accumulate from stuffing our faces.
As I already mentioned, there is often a spiritual component to fasting. We can make sacrifices that go beyond the stomach. As an analogy, eating terrestrial food represents appropriation—because what we eat eventually becomes the very fabric of our physical organism. The human mind however, also eats. It eats ideas. In other words, when we deprive ourselves of terrestrial food during a fast, we can also deprive our minds of various hurtful ideas and compulsions.
This higher psycho-fasting allows a person to purge (purify) oneself of noxious tendencies and thoughts that can cause harm to the quality of our inner reality or spirit and help us adopt more noble principles into the fabric of our hearts and minds.
I have found that when I fast by depriving myself of certain physical foods, it produces a “shock” to my system which allows me to observe my daily actions and manifestations in revealing ways—especially my mechanicality—and my constant inner chit-chatting, which is overly self-centered.
Rather than becoming passive while fasting, I have learned not only to be more physically active (to help the body remove powerful digestive substances from building up), but to also become a more conscious and keen observer of my thoughts, feelings and mental states. What I find to be hurtful to my psyche (according to my conscience) I am given special opportunity to abstain from during this productive period of self-observation and self-examination.
True fasting is both a physical and spiritual activity. Know thyself.