The Art of Fasting

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I started experimenting with fasting as a way to cleanse my body from a young age. However, my first few attempts turned out to be quite unsuccessful. I would skip breakfast, lunch and by mid-afternoon, I would be so rotten that I would head to the kitchen and eat until I felt better and then lament about my incapability of resisting the temptation of hunger even for a single day. Such was the toxic state of my mind—weakened and dispirited it would easily give in to the pleasures of food. Eventually, when I was eleven, I managed to fast for a day but I felt so sick the next morning that my mother had to drag me to the doctor’s. Actually, the truth was that I lacked sufficient will-power to undertake a task of self-penance. I would often wonder as to how saints and religious leaders were able to fast on a regular basis and resist the need for food. Over, the course of five years, I completely gave up on fasting and soon forgot about it. However, I decided to fast for two days and become a true transcendentalist. On day one, my mind was filled with apprehension and fear for I had read about people fasting and then freezing to death. I did not know what to expect—the task seemed insurmountable, uphill and utterly impossible. Just an hour after waking up, a fierce protest commenced in the pit of my stomach. I let it rage. My pessimist side said, “Anokhi! This is a serious waste of time. Staying away from food is not going to make any difference.” But my optimist side did not let its enemy win, “You can do it. Have faith in yourself.” Sometimes, I do not know who to listen and I just let my thought armies battle. At 12 0’ clock, my stomach groaned and I unconsciously walked up to the refrigerator. My mother had made delicious daal for lunch. I opened the dishes and sniffed. The fragrance of food permeated my mind and it was like I could no longer resist. “No! Don’t!” screamed my Optimist side. His enemy laughed for his soldiers had just won a tiny battle. I shut the door with a frown and let my stomach moan. After an hour or so, I decided to sleep. Rest is the best medicine to an unsatisfied stomach. I did not realize that I had slept like a log for five hours and when I woke up, I felt even worse. I had wasted a day, not doing any homework, procrastinating everything for tomorrow. Mother was at my side when I woke up and patted me gently, “You should eat something, my dear. This is not good.” My mother was concerned for I am an anemic patient and my RBC levels tend to go down when my brain does not get enough food supply. I considered my mother’s advice and ate some rice and dal. The dal tasted like the best thing in the world. I realized that we learn to appreciate food and material belongings more when we have learnt to live without them.
Moving on with day one of this fasting experience, I learnt that day two would be even worse. I felt all right in the morning and decided to finish up my math home work. I had already made plans of doing my chemistry homework in study hall and probably lunch. I sat down at my study table and went through all the problems. My mind refused to work but I had to. “Mrs. Werner will kill you if you don’t do your homework.” “You have study hall in the morning. Don’t do it. Chill.” My bad side won the battle. I shut the textbook and went to sleep. I woke up at 5 0’clock. I never realized that I was capable of sleeping for so long. I felt as though someone was punching me in the gut. My body was angry at my mind for not letting it eat. I sat up and ate a granola bar, and my stomach felt relieved. I had hoped that fasting would give me a new perspective on my life and help me overcome by the problems that have been plaguing me for years. On the contrary, it did otherwise. My health worsened and mind felt weak. All I could do was sleep. Maybe, that is what my mind wanted—it wanted to rest after dealing with the pressures and stress of meeting the expectations set by others. It did not want to think about school, college, grades, career or any other serious issues that children of my age go through every day.
Taste is a man-made choice and a pleasure for self-fulfillment which when denied becomes non-existent. Fasting teaches man the pleasure of food and other basic necessities which are often taken for granted. As a man “simplifies his life, the laws of nature will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness” (Emerson). Furthermore, the act of fasting requires great self-penance and determination to live without food. “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind” (Emerson). As Emerson says, fasting requires strength and utter conviction to remain true to one’s ideals. Great men and women in the past lived a life of self-penance and minimalism to reach enlightenment and an understanding of oneself. Buddha, Gandhi and several others whose names fill our history textbooks used fasting as a means of punishing the body for greed and envy that led on to committing sins. In today’s world of materialistic values and insurmountable greed of men, the idea of fasting appears obsolete and worthless. However, it is still heavily practiced today in various parts of the world. Fasting is a transcendentalist practice that teaches man that he must clean himself from inside rather than blame the outside world in order to achieve true enlightenment and a deeper understanding of his soul.





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WhittyKitty This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm
I found this article very interesting. I've never fasted before or even thought about it but after reading this, I would like to try it some time just to see if I could do it. This article was well written, and although your thoughts and points seemed somewhat scattered at times, you wrote in a way that was captivating. Well done.
 
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