Fasting Tips

Well, now it’s day 8 of my fast, and I’m definitely over the hump. Here are some of the things that are keeping me going.

1) CULTIVATE AN ATTITUDE OF ABUNDANCE. There are these crazed moments when fasting (esp. around dinner time) when I start fantasizing about food and am almost convince myself that there won’t be any left by the time I start eating again. When I come to my senses and realize that there is likely to be an abundance of food when I choose to eat again, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude that this is so, and reminded that this isn’t the case for everyone. That not eating is a CHOICE for me, and that it is a luxury to be able to make this choice. There IS enough in the world, and I don’t need it all right now. I have what I need. I am blessed. Some friends of mine make it a tradition to fast instead of feasting on Thanksgiving, and somehow this seems appropriate and beautiful, if impractical for many of us.

2) PRACTICE AHIMSA, an attitude of non-violence, in this case particularly to onesself. I am doing this as a way to be kind to myself, not to punish myself for all my previous sins. When I was a teenager struggling with body-image issues, I never had the willpower to successfully fast, because my attempts were not out of love and respect for my body but rather out of self-loathing and punishment. It was only after (effortlessly!) losing weight through practice of yoga and learning to love myself that I had the willpower to successfully fast.

3) ENJOY THE OTHER SENSES. I’m continually amazed at how sensitive my other senses are while fasting. Especially the sense of smell (ok, so sometimes this isn’t so great, especially when living in New York it was a bit much sometimes)…but I am finding that whereas a few days ago the smell of my mom’s cooking was enough to drive me mad with craving, now the smells are almost filling in themselves. The same with sight. My eyesight seems clearer and its almost as though I can fill up at the mere sight of food, especially beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. I am more sensitive to sounds as well, and trying to practice a bit of nada yoga each day, just listening…it really does feel like I can see, taste, smell, and hear not just with my sense organs but at the cellular level. Again, this can be overwhelming, so it’s nice if you can be as gentle as possible with oneself (ahimsa again).

5) PRACTICE ASANA! Along with increased sensitivity of sight/sound/smell/touch comes increased sensitivity to the subtle body in yoga practice. The movement of prana in the body is much more distinct and perceptible with the digestive system fully at rest. Also, I’m finding that instead of using my practice to “burn up” whatever I’ve consumed, it actually seems to fill me up at the cellular level. I have been able to keep up my regular intensity of practice, and my body feels  steadier, lighter and more flexible than before. I am also finding exploring a more restorative practice (which I don’t ordinarily have the patience for) extremely rewarding and nourishing.

6) MEDITATE. Not just on the cushion, but all day long. the way the mind reacts to fasting is much like it does when trying to meditate. Desire for food arises (much like any thought) and the choice is presented of whether or not to entertain the desire. Sure, sometimes it’s fun to go ahead and drive myself crazy fantasizing about food…but eventually I find that if I choose NOT to engage, the desire passes! Then it rises again, and passes again. Much like those pesky thoughts when on the cushion. It helps me to realize that its always like this, not just when fasting or sitting, that I can really bring this practice into my life in a useful way.

7) TRY OIL-PULLING. Usually during the first few days of a fast, the mouth can get really funky and the tongue coated with “amma” (the body’s toxic sludge, delightful) as part of the detox process…..but I decided to try this practice (as introduced by Scout in a previous blog), and it pretty much eliminated this problem. Cool.

8) DO THE SALT-WATER FLUSH. Every day. I’m serious. Unless its making you truly ill, in which case you must listen to your own body. This is the first time I’ve been truly diligent about it (I usually just do it every other day, or only for the first 3 or 4 days). this time I’m doing it every day. After day 4 it seemed like I was pretty much done and clean….not the case! Hear I am on day 8 and its like a whole second wave of cleansing is happening. And I feel like I’ve had a pretty healthy diet my whole life. I’m shocked. It’s definitely inspiration to keep fasting until its really over.

9) DRINK NETTLES TEA. This is not part of the classic Master Cleanser protocol, but nettles are packed with nutrients, and aid in detoxification of the organs. Drinking a stout cup of nettles tea while fasting is for me like eating a big salad — really nourishing and refreshing.

10) ENJOY THE EXTRA TIME! Without all that time spent preparing and eating food, there can be extra hours on each day. Do things you “never have time” to do. Take a contemplative walk. Meditate. Sit and pet the cat. Read. Study Tarot. Write letters. Enjoy your Self.