Amy Thinks Deep

philosophy for the curious soul 

Mindfully Fasting in the Now

Recently, my partner and I have started fasting weekly. We started at fasting for just one day. This week we are fasting almost three days. 

Fasting has been a significant spiritual practice for myself. Not only does it cleanse the body, but it challenges and cleans the mind and the spirit. For a glutton or someone who eats because of emotions, it is quite an insightful practice. 

I recently had an insight from this week's fast. In the midst of planning for a roadtrip at the end of the fast, we have been debating on when exactly to break fast on the third day. Suddenly I noticed that I was focused on the future, concerned of what to eat, when to eat, etc. I thought, isn't the point of the fast to deny the body of it's present desires? Here I was with my tummy rumbling (honorable reference to Pooh Bear) and I was consumed by the concern of when and how to satisfy the desire that my body feels now.

Fasting is a practice that should bring us to the present moment. In the rumbling of the stomach, the body aches for the habitual presence of food to satisfy the rage we call hunger. As the hunger pains persist, I need to bring my awareness to the fact that what we call hunger is only the stomach begging for more sustenance to digest. Naturally, a fast denies the stomach of its purpose in life.

Animals go into hibernation. Ancient homo-sapiens, or even those who practice survival lifestyle today, don't get food everyday, and they must burn many calories just to get the food that they do get to eat. I have plenty of stored calories on my body, according to the weighing scale. In a holistic perspective, my mind dominates over my body and must coordinate with my body to use those calories accordingly. Realistically, there is no immediate need to get food. This useful information (mind over body) comes almost second-nature to me now, now that I consider my multiple opportunities to fast.

I remind myself when I fast, as well as other times, that it isn't historically or biologically "normal" to eat so many times a day. Before the 1900s, food was thoroughly worked for on a personal or tribal basis and/or traded. My ancestors, along with their neighbors, according to the U.S. Census of various years, listed themselves as farmers. This means they didn't have a weekly grocery list. They lived off the land, ate with the seasons, and probably traded as they could. Even today in Alaska, some choose to live this lifestyle. I imagine that what we consider today as "intermittent fasting" was back then a simple aspect of daily life, waiting for the next apple or squash to ripen or go out and hunt/fish for meat.

Fasting food reminds us that we need calories to survive, but is not immediately necessary as we think of it today. Fasting motivates us to cleanse out what is necessary in our lives. In my current case, it is about renewing my vision among the days of fasting: to stay in the now and acknowledge the hunger pains as they come and resist concerning myself with thinking of the future. Staying in the present/now has its benefits: conscious thinking, less hunger, mindfulness. 

When one stays in the now for fasting, the hunger pains dissipate much faster. When I get a hunger pain, I tell my body that it's okay to be hungry, that it's doing its appropriate job - alerting me to my habitual and timely process of consuming calories. Though the body tells me it's time to eat and that I am past my normal wait time for food, my mind tells the body that it's okay to go a little longer and my well-being or survival isn't a worry right now.

Because of these insights, I wonder if hunger is an emotion, rather than a bodily feeling. It has appeared to me that hunger works just like an emotion as listed in psychological processes. Furthermore, I have also learned that when you allow yourself to feel the pain, the pain dissipates and isn't stored away (what true healing is about). Allowing myself to temporarily feel the hunger pain has made it leave that much quicker. 

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