Wisdom Cookie: When Fasting Tastes Like Feasting!

By Rachna Chopra

Our whole life we tend to the body like it is us. We dress it, feed it, adorn it, and admire its reflection numerous times a day. Whoever devised selfies tapped into this very fundamental human obsession—that of body identification and self-love. While the scriptures assert that the body is the biggest object of delusion on the quest to realizing the Self—our attention continues to be trapped in it as though we are the body.

Fasting is one powerful austerity, practiced since centuries, to transcend body identification. It is a mechanism to subjugate the whims of the body to the will of the spirit. It is a form of hatha, a yogic practice of obstinacy, wherein you refuse to succumb to the rumblings of the stomach that keep you tethered to believing you are flesh. Fasting becomes easy when you realize that food is a need of the body, it is not a need of the soul. Realizing this, hunger loses power over you. You simply observe it when it erupts, and listen to its growling with amusement, like music that has no more sway over you.

The more you simply observe hunger and not succumb, the greater your power grows. Initially, it is about exerting and asserting your will, but eventually you surpass this challenge, and now hunger comes as a sweet invitation of the divine. It is a signal that you are being recalled to an inner retreat, to a place of rest and recharge. Your body vessel is empty, and in a state of readiness to experience the exaltation of the Self.

In fact, hunger always comes as a divine invitation that we misinterpret as something to be doused as quickly as possible. The same hunger when interpreted differently gives entirely different results. Treat it as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the gross bodily sheath—the Annamaya Kosha. These are the moments that it is clamoring for attention and is most vulnerable. If at this moment you stand apart and witness this demand for food (stuff the body is made of), you are at the brink of something magnificent.

The more you halt at these moments and win, the more fasting becomes pleasurable. It becomes flavorful like feasting, because in the emptiness of the body, you taste the tasteless taste—the soma—nectar of gods. Indeed, there is no other way as powerful as fasting to get closer to who you truly are and experience your essence.

Now sleep leaves you as well as lethargy of repetitive thoughts. All you are left with is abundance of energy, awareness, and a keen sense of timelessness. You arrive at a state when you do not wish to tarnish the joy coming from this freedom from food, and you can fast for days at end without even remembering when you ate last! To be in the body and yet be free of it is an exhilarating experience.

The right way to attempt fasting is slow and gradual; gradually reducing portions, and begin prolonging the gap between meals. This is because the wheel that has been set into motion should be brought to a halt only gradually. One has to go from eating three meals a day to two meals a day to one meal a day, and gradually cross over to fasting.

If you start by fasting straight away, it’s a hard trek, and you miss all the scenic views along the way (reason why moving slowly is emphasized in spiritual practices). Listening to your body will guide you as to how long you need to continue with the fasting, and when to gradually return to your normal diet, which may have adjusted to a new normal.

So let the hatha of fasting begin as a patient experiment to discover how closely hunger is related to our spiritual journey. There are five sheaths of causation (that of food, breath, mind, intellect and the superconscious) to be crossed to meet the in-dwelling spirit, but we need to start with the body. It is the most tangible instrument of sadhana we have at our disposal.

The author of this holistic wellness blog is a modern mystic, and spiritual

travel guide. She guides self-discovery journeys to places of

power and pilgrimage in American Southwest

and South Asia. Web: www.rachnachopra.com, Email: [email protected]

Images courtesy of (Photo courtesy www.healthyhildegard.com) and thesatimes | Welcome to The South Asian Times

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