The spiritual practice of fasting is the deliberate abstention from a general or specified activity (most commonly, eating) for a specified length of time. Whilst this is not the most popular spiritual practice in the modern world of consumerism, it still has many benefits which the Seeker may wish to take advantage of.
Types of Fasting
There are various types of fasting which are undertaken by spiritual practitioners, and those that are the most common are described below:
– A Total Fast means not consuming food of any kind for a specified period of time. A short fast might last from 6 to 24 hours, whilst a longer fast might run for several days. This is perhaps the most arduous form of fasting, and should be practiced carefully – and ideally only after obtaining approval from a physician – in order to avoid any potential problems.
– A Partial Fast involves avoiding a particular type of food or drink for a specified period of time. Christians often go on a partial fast for Lent, cutting out a particular food or drink (such as chocolate or alcohol) for the 40-day duration of the observance.
– An Activity Fast involves abstaining from a particular activity for a specified period of time. Common activities which people choose to refrain from during a period of fasting include computer gaming, watching television and swearing.
Why Practice Fasting?
The aim of fasting is often to help the individual to strengthen his or her sense of control over a particular substance or activity, and to focus instead on spiritual matters. This is, of course, far easier said than done, and one of the biggest benefits of fasting is helping the practitioner to see just how attached they are to the food, drink or activity that they have chosen to avoid.
In the case of a Total Fast or a Partial Fast, the process can be physically cleansing, and some say that forcing the body to go without certain substances (for example sugar, animal products, alcohol, nicotine and so on) can help to reboot the physical system and thereby promote healing of pre-existing conditions.
In the case of an Activity Fast, the process can free up a surprising amount of time, energy and money which might otherwise be spent (or wasted, depending on your point of view) on the activity being avoided.
In all cases, practicing fasting will help you to develop greater self-discipline, and enable you to put various aspects of your life in their proper perspective.
How to Get Started
The benefits of fasting are as personal and unique as those who adopt the practice, so if you are at all interested in discovering more, I would encourage you to study the topic in more depth and consider trying it for yourself at some point. Starting with an Activity Fast is a fairly safe way to begin, and would allow you to get things underway even before you have studied the practice further, so do consider that as a possible next step, and feel free to report back on your experience by leaving a comment.