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Sunday, January 3, 2010

About Fasting



Eating and drinking is a basic craving in us. It is a need for us to eat and drink for survival. But other than those people who have not enough food and are starving in life, for most of us who live in a well developed nation where food and drinks are easily available, eating and drinking is no more just for survival but as an enjoyment in life with likes and dislikes, cravings and aversions. It is not just a need but a “want” with lots of diversities and choices. There is nothing wrong at all for anyone who wants to enjoy life and enjoy food and drinks; and be happy by eating and drinking for pleasure or to fill up the emptiness in life. It is better than doing something that will hurt others for fun and enjoyment; and to fill up the emptiness in life with lots of harmful activities. As long as we eat with great gratitude and appreciation is just fine; as well as if we know how to appreciate this life and this body to do something meaningful and good for humanity and other beings, especially engage in spiritual path towards enlightenment.

But if we do not know how to have control over the craving for the taste that we like and aversion towards the taste that we don’t like, we will be experiencing dissatisfaction, irritation, frustration, and other negativity in us. And if we are being controlled by our greed and desire for food and drinks; being lead by our cravings and aversions, and then we won’t have peace most of the time. Because our mind will always be agitated or disturbed by the greed and desire; cravings and aversions.

Fasting for a day or a few days once in a while under great care and correct methods is a good purification process for the body and the mind. It is also one of the ways to control our greed and desire; cravings and aversions; as well as developing strong willpower and determination.

When a person reduce the food intake (energy), the entire body system is actually having a break from unceasing overload work. It is an overhaul for the entire body system. At the same time, the mind will slow down as well. And this is a good time for us to learn and to know about ourselves or to recognize what is the mind, the ego and the intellect?; How does the mind work?; How does food and drinks affect our mentality and emotion?; How much food and drinks had taken our time and effort in life?; How strong is our cravings controlling our mind?; How do we behave when the desire and craving is not being gratified?; And how strong is our willpower and determination?

Fasting is also allowing us to experience the suffering of those people who are starving without food; and to develop appreciation, gratitude, detachment and contentment in us; as well as compassion towards other beings that are not as lucky as we are.

But most important is whether the motive behind fasting is having the correct attitude or not. Whether it is for self-development and spiritual growth; or it is for enhancing the ego and attachment towards the physical body because we want to slim down our body to have a desirable body image. Some people are fanatic about the body image and starve themselves – Anorexia.

Fasting without correct understanding and correct methods will not bring any spiritual growth but will be harming the condition of the body and the mind as well. Some people will get into depressing mood if not eating correctly or fast for too long. Some people get too low energy and the mind is dulled and can’t function properly (can’t think or memorize or work efficiently).

Eating healthy food and less amount in every meal is better than not eating at all for a long period of time. It is not so good for the body system especially when after the fast finished, we tend to eat a lot more than usual to replace the loss of our food intake or to gratify the body craving for food after many days not eating enough.

When we eat without the attachment towards the body and the ego, we are offering the food to the deity of fire which governs the digestive system in the body to maintain the life of this physical body for us to evolve spiritually and to attain enlightenment.

There are many reasons why people fast. For religion practices; for protesting something; for purification; for health; for penance; for developing divine qualities; for body image; for detoxification; for self-control, and etc. No matters what is the reason for fasting, may all be happy and appreciate this body and this life to do good and be kind to ourselves and to others.

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My husband and I run ongoing yoga retreats in Langkawi Malaysia. We teach traditional Hatha Yoga - a combination of Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) and relaxation, that has given benefit to millions of practitioners over thousands of years. Our yoga studio is situated in Langkawi. We also run yoga retreats in Europe and India.

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