So I started fasting finally. And to top it, I chose a water only fast. A Guruji of mine had been persistently insisting that I should do fast on Saturdays to pacify the ill effects of the lord Saturn. I didn’t buy it initially as I saw no connection between fasting and pacifying these ill effects of the lord (Saturn is not a lord I thought). But soon I started to realize(although loosely) that each day carries a specific vibration and that human field is influenced by many things. If this were not the case, the sun signs and the star signs would not have any accuracy attributed to them. This, in addition to the fact that fasting actually has positive effects on the health as well, made me buy the concept and the requisite strength to be mentally prepared to fast. I looked forward to the next available opportunity 3 days later.
Come Saturday and here I am all ready to fast – excited and looking forward to the regimen in hope of a better me. I had browsed through a lot of sites as well prior to it and each of them motivated me further to do fasting with utmost diligence. When it comes to fasting here in India and especially in the community of Gujaratis, you find a lot of leeway in fasting. They are a lot more flexible in a sense losing its meaning. So for e.g. some people can eat during fast with the only caveat that the food should not contain salt. Or some people could fast but eat 1 time giving them the opportunity to stuff up and cheat. Then in some cases tea and coffee are allowed, etc. For me all of this was like ‘cut the crap’. A fast is a fast and your body has to go without being this liberal. I decided to take it a step further when and make it a water-only fast. This inspiration came from hearing the experience of a friend’s father who after seven days of water only fast, experienced feelings of love and forgiveness. He called up people whom he had bitter relations with and ask their forgiveness. This came from deep within, from a deeper realization of oneself and the soul. Finally spirituality is supposed to take you towards this direction, isn’t it? “So were fasting and spirituality related?”, I thought.
1 day water fast was indeed a challenge for me. I tend to chew things pretty often, no matter how small or big they are. By the time it was 11 am on Saturday, I could easily feel the acidic beast in my stomach screaming and growling for food. I doused it by drinking some water. And every time it raised its voice I dowsed it further. I went on with my regular routine and stayed put despite the smell of the street food caressing my nose and despite frequent reasoning popping up to have some juice at the least. Finally at night I overcame one last temptation of having some milk and soon to my relief, Sunday arrived after a good night’s sleep. No kidding, had a really tough Saturday but could pull it through. I could feel a metallic taste in my mouth on waking up. I discovered that this phenomenon happens as the glucose stores of your body exhausts and the body is further compelled to take up energy from the fat. Fat is where the toxins are actually supposedly stored. This process is called Ketosis and the metallic taste is supposed to mean that your fasting is heading in the right direction. The toxins are now being ejected out of your system. However the water fasting had only started and ideally one should continue for a few days for this ejection to start having a larger effect. Not that I didn’t have the will to take it forward, but I decided to stop. Somewhere, somehow, things were not appearing natural to me.
Some further research and intuitive analysis revealed to me that you need not really go so hard on your body. Obviously it is not that your body is releasing toxins only when you fast. It is a continuous process and through fasting we are only trying to give space to the body to expedite this process. If there is a great urgency and you have to get all your toxins released in 10 days or your boss fires you then is a different ballgame and you might want to take it head on. Else you can take it with ease and let the process of fasting build on gradually.
I think a fruit fast or a one time light meal fast are not bad options to go by – the so called ‘leeway’ that is given in some communities / religions. I now realize that this non-strict fast is pretty well thought out. It is about gradually acclimatizing your body to these famine periods as well and introducing a balance. Our ancestors who were essentially animal hunters needed this mechanism as food depended a lot on their successful catch. Remember agriculture started only 12000 years ago. But Home Sapiens have existed for over 2.5 lac years. Days could go by without a successful hunt. And their was no whey protein or muscle mass supplements they could rely on. Hence their body got a chance to balance itself. Life is a lot about balance. No matter what you do, you need to maintain a fine balance of it – neither neglect nor overdose. However in current times we do not get this opportunity and we keep stuffing ourselves with food and in turn abuse our digestive system. So look at it from this perspective. Introduce a famine period in your life. You can pick up a day. And make sure you have had the period when you went without food which you otherwise wouldn’t. Even if you start a one time diet say at 12 pm and then directly eat the next day morning at 8 am, this 20 hours is also a good period. The food gets digested in 2-3 hours and so you are giving your body the next 16 hours to balance itself. If it gets hard you could still eat simple fruits which require less energy for digestion. So on one hand you don’t have to compete with a great deal of hunger while your body still gets a chance to do it’s balancing work. Just have the larger purpose in mind – maintain balance in eating so that the digestive system gets a break. Think of every aspect of life and this word ‘balance’ will come out even more prominently in your life.
If you look at it from the above point of view, things will not be very confusing. This is one of the most confusing and contradictory topics. Some scholar will call fasting a myth. Some will call it God’s miracle. There is no real scientific and authoritative answer to this debate. But if you look at it from the above point of view, you will get a convincing answer. Remember every cell in your body is equally intelligent as you are. What would you do in your free time if your room is messed up and once you are done with all the other important work? You would clean it right? That is exactly what the tissues and the cells in your body would start doing. They would make their space cleaner. But to what extent? Would you continue cleaning the room for days at a stretch? Or would you like to have some biting and then get back to the cleaning work? That is precisely what your cells need as well. Without food their efficiency will decrease and will not be at their best to clean up the mess. Even they would stop working and zombie around. They might start to work again but with a lesser efficiency. So yes it might lead to more internal cleaning in the long run but at some cost of inconvenience and at a lesser efficiency. I would prefer the approach of intermittent fasting wherein the efficiency of cleaning is high and when I do not have to go through much. It is finally about your preference. The spiritual benefits will accrue even in case of intermittent fasting and not necessarily a prolonged water only fast. In fact if you are eating right, your body is already being cleansed through it. It is best to eat sensibly on all days, still introduce a famine period on specific days and your body will keep working at its peak for a much larger period of time. It is finally about ‘balance’. And not speculate, personify or complicate things.
Also know that different body types have different responses to fast. Like in Ayurveda, if your body type classifies as Vatta-Pitta dosha, it is best to avoid water fast and go to intermittent fasting or juice fasting. Fasting for such people can trigger intense stress response and excess cortisol production would only do more harm than good.
So, I am not really onto the idea of a rigid water only fast. Next I am on a fruit fast coming Saturday. And I guess would like to continue with that for coming Saturdays as well. If I discover something new, will surely drop in a word.