Why I am obsessed with fasting
I recently finished a 4 day fast. Four days without eating, drinking only water, and sometimes one green juice a day. People often ask me, “Why would you do something like that??” Here’s a version of what I tell them.
I had fasted a few times before, but this time was the most challenging for a variety of reasons. Day 2 and 3 were particularly hard. I would see food, think of food constantly, everywhere. Not all that different from my regular life, but I would also have all sorts of thoughts, steering me away from my goal of going 4 days without food — something I knew I was capable of doing and surviving. All sorts of thoughts — loud ones — would enter my mind all day long, telling me things like, I should give up. This is pointless. This is so silly. Is this even worth it? and This is so fucking hard. I almost believed them.
But in between, I would catch myself, and I would be able to just observe the thoughts, just observe that (almost) overpowering desire to act on them, those fierce cravings for food. And I would be able to just watch, with curiosity and interest, and then they would pass.
And then I would realize that nothing was real. That my body was fine, that I didn’t need food (not as urgently as the thoughts would have me believe, using every trick in the book to persuade me). That everything, the excuses, the incredibly convincing arguments were not truth, they were just thoughts.
And that’s when the magic happens. When I am able to step away, observe the thoughts… and giggle at how seriously I took them for a while and how much I believed them (and almost acted on them). And then you find freedom.
After the fast, you go back into the “real world.” (And you’re back eating the chocolate cake again and it’s the most amazing sensation.) And you start to ask yourself… what else is just a story? Next time you have a pressing thought (I need this… I can’t… I’m not… I should…), you wonder if that thought is truth, or not. Real, or just a story. Does it have the stench of a self-limiting belief? Of some story that’s holding you back from achieving your goals? Or from being a better version of yourself?
You can read all sorts of amazing facts about the benefits of fasting, but to me, for my over-active, neurotic mind, this is the most fascinating part of the process and this is why I fast.
Disclaimer: I don’t necessarily recommend fasting to everyone, but I think it’s a great mental exercise. If you are interested, please, please, do some research and do it carefully and safely, and start slow and small. This is not a how-to. This is meant to explain why I personally love this practice.
Obviously, it is not the only way. Anything can be a path to awakening.
Anytime you put yourself in a state of discomfort (no need to chase discomfort, there seems to always be something there to work with), you have a chance to practice. To play.
Maybe you feel the desire for that ice cream and play with the option of not having it. Maybe you go into your next yoga class and really pay attention to what the mind does when you’re in a posture you want to get out of. Maybe you notice when you feel resistant to what is. When you want the external situation to be different, and you practice acceptance and surrender. When unpleasant feelings come up and you feel the fight or flight (or freeze) reflex. Can you just be with the thoughts and feelings for a little while longer? Can we override the reptilian brain that screams “danger” where none exists?
Can we notice the thoughts that tell us that this object, this action, this person, will make us happy, and with time, develop wisdom to consider whether it’s true or just a story. (Spoiler alert: it’s almost always a story.)
And if they are just made-up stories that guide our lives, let’s write our own stories, deliberately. (Or if we can, let go of stories altogether.)