Fasting: A Spiritual Cleanse
Fasting Is Medicine
Benjamin Franklin once said, “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.” Although many of us may not associate the founding father with being profoundly spiritual, he was definitely onto something by relating fasting with medicine. According to the various experiments and research conducted, we can use fasting as a holistic form of medicine. In addition to a myriad of health benefits, one can also strengthen their spiritual connection to a higher power by choosing to fast, as seen in a number of religions.
Types of Fasts
For those of you new to the topic, allow me to inform you on what exactly “fasting” means. There are different types of fasts, and each one has unique guidelines. In general, the term means to abstain from food, liquids, and/or both, for a certain period. “Intermittent fasting” refers to a pattern-like schedule of fasting where one will refrain from food for anywhere from 8-24 hours, only to eat again, followed by going without for another 8-24 hours, etc. “Liquid fasts,” allow the individual to consume beverages, but no food; and depending on the type of liquid fast, the person may only drinking water (water fast) or juice (juice fast).
Fasting for Religious Purposes
Religions partaking in an occasional fast include, but are not limited to Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, to name a few. This temporary period is prevalent amongst so many different religions for various beliefs, such as the belief that one can heighten their relationship with the Divine by abstaining from food, or because of the notions rooted in the purification process that takes place.
Going without food requires a ginormous amount of self-discipline, which fasting ultimately strengthens. The focus while on a fast for religious purposes often involves shifting one’s attention from the ‘lack of food’ to the omnipresent abundance provided by one’s spiritual guardian. (Here, it is important to note that fasting is voluntary and that not everyone chooses to go without food.)
Fasting in Christianity
Fasting is a very spiritual force to communicate and come closer to the one to whom you believe and entrust your hopes.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the two days during the calendar year, on which many Christians fast. Going without food on these days is a purified way of reaching God without the weight food in the body. I particularly like this notion of purity, and the idea of cleansing one’s body to be light in order to present oneself without hindrance before the Creator. Just you and Him.
Faith and love typically dictate the personal choice of participating in the the voluntary act of going with food and liquids on these days. And unlike some other religions, fasting under Christian faith is not a commandment of God, but rather a commandment of the church. It is a “spiritual weapon to avoid sin, and all that leads to sin.” (Benedict XVI). Faith and love typically dictate the personal choice of participating in the the voluntary act of going with food and liquids on these days.
Fasting in Judaism
The Jewish religion encourages fasting a few days a year. The most important day of the year, however, is Yom Kippur. Almost all Jewish people participate in an absolute fast (eating and drinking are not allowed) on this day, which is believed to be “the holiest day of the year, when we are closest to G-d and the essence of our souls. Yom Kippur means ‘Day of Atonement.’” Those who are Jewish believe that “on this day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G-d.” 1z
This fast is a medium for reviewing and repenting of sins to spark a change in one’s actions.
Jewish educator Aliza Bulow, shines a light on the subject by saying that “harnessing the emptiness that fasting engenders to bring about a deeper level of repentance, along with the sacrifice that we can ‘offer’ to God, makes fasting a precious opportunity for connecting ourselves with God’s will.”
Do you want to fortify your relationship with a higher being? Or, do you want to improve your health? Maybe you just want to give yourself a will-power strengthening challenge? What ever your reasoning, fasting is a natural cleansing process for the body. When completed, self-reflect and identify how mentally strong you truly are, and notice the amount of self-control you have.
In short, precede the cleansing and voluntary act of fasting with consciousness!