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My first fast came a few months after being newly married.
As a celebratory ritual, my husband and I would cook a lovely dinner together and share an entire bottle of red wine—every evening.
After a few months of what felt like gluttony to me, I decided I needed to check in with my body.
I decided upon a raw fast that was recommended by a close and trusted friend. For one full week, I ate all the raw foods I wanted, along with almonds, water, and a mix of psyllium seeds and bentonite.
The first few days were pretty terrible.
I had headaches, lightheadedness, and so much brain fog. All I could think about was the food that I could not have. I had so many random cravings that surfaced during these few days.
I began to think about the different types of food we choose and the comfort that comes with it. When I felt sad, I craved toast with jam. When I was lonely, I craved chocolate.
After day four, I noticed a new feeling of calm and my hunger disappeared. On day five, I had an increase in energy. My mental state improved and I felt happier. I had succeeded in traversing to the other side of the mountain.
That accomplishment alone—along with the positive feedback that my body was giving me—was a high like no other. The experience of fasting felt a lot like a hypothetical removal of all the false parts of myself.
While in an elevator, a random man complimented me on my eyes. He said they were so clear and beautiful. The other strange thing I noticed was that I was drawn to wearing more colorful clothing. Usually, I wore the same black business attire into the office, but I had this unexplainable urge to adorn my body in shades of reds and pinks. I know it sounds strange, but I had to blame it on the fast.
I kept finding more and more reasons to keep walking down the fasting path.
Sometimes people would say things that were discouraging:
There is no scientific data that says our bodies need to detox.
You are going to die without food.
Have fun with that, haha.
That was 15 years ago, and since then I have been fasting as a regular practice. At first, I fasted for various health reasons, but now I fast for spiritual purposes.
Here are three potent and meaningful side effects of a fasting practice:
1. A clarity like no other.
This is one of my favorite reasons to fast, and I have fasted merely for the simple reason of finding a solution to a problem.
If I am deep in the throes of a life-changing decision, I would prefer to make it while fasting. A possible explanation could be that by clearing away the junk (in food form), we can also connect better with our intuition. A form of discernment is, perhaps, more accessible to us.
I noticed how fasting brought out a stronger version of myself. One that could stand up taller, move without hesitation, and have laser beam focus.
2. Deep sleep and vivid dreams.
Okay, I love this one too. I have been able to sink into the yummiest forms of rest ever when fasting.
Don’t we all love that feeling when we close our eyes and immediately fall into a deep, satisfying sleep? We dream about something fantastically wild and when we wake up, we are slightly fuzzy all day because our dream felt so real. We have to keep asking ourselves if we are really awake or still sleeping.
Fasting and lucid dreaming are probably related, but who knows if there has yet to be any research on the topic.
3. A connectedness with everything.
Once the fuzziness, hunger, and other annoying stuff fall away, the feeling resembles that of complete balance or a sense of satisfaction—for everything exactly as it is.
Honestly, it’s otherworldly and I don’t blame you for thinking I am a little nutty on this one. I will admit that it has taken many years (and a lot of sitting with discomfort) to achieve this feeling. And every fast takes on a new experience, so it is not all rainbows. Sometimes, fasting brings up painful childhood memories that I still need to process.
Originally, I started fasting for health reasons, so the spiritual aspect of fasting is one of those positive side effects that has taken me by surprise.
On one of my fasts, I had an enormous amount of fear. The feeling was so strong that I could barely feel much else for a while. I had to ask myself why this was coming up and let it be me for a while. I had to play it out and honor its message. I had to cry in a heap and hide from the world for a little until the cloud lifted.
Fasts are not something one does to have a sense of control. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Fasting is, more or less, a waiting game we play with our body:
What would happen if I let myself feel hunger?
What emotions arise from lack of comfort food?
Wow, am I that addicted to sugar and caffeine?
So, this is my natural state minus all that stuff I dump into my system on a regular basis?
Fasting can offer our digestive system a much-needed break to let our bodies do its thing. When we stop continually consuming and taking in more and more, our bodies tend to freak out a little bit. If we work with that feeling, we can reach a place where we are peacefully empty.
The most simple things we take for granted in life, like breathing or looking into another person’s eyes, can become so magical and meaningful in a whole new way.
Whenever I fast, I almost always start cleaning and organizing things. I chalk it up to more of that strange and unexplainable fasting behavior that shows up. It’s positive, so I respect the ride and enjoy a new dimension of myself.
I’ll never forget the wise words of my yoga teacher (and friend) who would often say during class, “Be careful with your breathing practice because if you do it in a deeply purposeful way, it may quite possibly change your entire life.”
So, please, beware of the effects that come from fasting.
The potent experience of sitting with emptiness may quite possibly change your life.