Spiritual Practice: Fasting
To fast is to step away from something you normally do for a span of time, in order to pray, or free up time, or cleanse your body or soul.
I’ve tried many kinds of fasting over the years. I’m not good at it, but I keep trying, which I guess it important. Here are the fasts I’ve tried:
Food: I can usually fast food for two meals a day. Not sure I’ve ever made it to three. It’s good for me to do this occasionally because I love to eat. So, when I do fast from food, it’s usually when something is very heavy on my heart and I want to be reminded to pray about it. Food fasts remind me to pray every time my stomach growls or every time I want to reach for food.
Sugar: This is a toughie. Like any addiction, fasting from sugar will mess with you. I broke my sugar addiction and now I can taste the sweet in regular foods, my cholesterol is much better and I’ve lost weight. Fasting from an addiction, like coffee, cigarettes or sugar comes with a period of depression as the body tries to find a new normal. It is important to have good support for this kind of fast.
Technology: I also have a really hard time fasting from technology, but I think it’s good for my soul. If I can unplug myself from my computer and phone I can settle and let my thoughts wander and generally get clarity. This is a beautiful fast that I try once a month. My fingers twitch to my phone and occasionally I cheat, but when I succeed, it is marvelous.
Talking: The first time I tried to fast from talking I about went stir crazy. I’m an extrovert, you see. But, I’ve learned to appreciate this kind of fasting which I call “silence and solitude,” and I have found it quite enjoyable. When you stop talking you can listen, to your heart and mind, to great books, to nature, to God.
Behavior: I’ve done fasting from behaviors, like gossip and negativity. This can be fun, but it’s hard for me to remember day-to-day. So, some sort of reminder like post-its around the house and in the car, can help.
For a year or so, on every Wednesday, my husband did something he called, “Peace Fast;” he based it on a passage from the Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 58: 6-8
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
What would it mean to do THIS kind of a fast? At this time in history I think this is the kind of fast we need. For the next two weeks, I’m going to read this passage every morning and try and look at the world through this lens. Perhaps I will discover a new kind of fasting that will help make the world a better place or at least make me a better person. Who’s with me?
*For a fun way to learn more spiritual practices check out my new book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening.