The Cosmic Way of Fasting

spiritual development

There are many books and traditions on fasting. People fast for health or for spiritual development. The
benefits of fasting are all true, but like anything else in life, there’s a time and a place for it. The saints
fasted regularly as a means for getting closer to the Divine. In times of crisis (even to the present day)
religious leaders would declare a national fast period. Every religion has mandatory fast days and even
fast periods. So there is a lot to this. The ancients knew something that moderns haven’t yet learned.
Fasting is like giving the digestive and elimination systems a holiday. Well deserved. Generally these
systems are overworked. This releases energy for healing, cell repair and general rejuvenation. We don’t
need as much food as we think we do.

In a prolonged fast, once the cell repair is completed, the extra energy goes to the mind. Solutions to
problems are seen. The origins of problems are seen. New ideas come (they were always there but
couldn’t be accessed). The contents of the unconscious are more clearly seen. They become more
graphic and real. Thus they are easier to confront and discharge. A greater mental clarity emerges.
During a fast, it is shocking to see – graphically – how much of our time and energy is devoted to the
stomach. This is not just about digestion. We are thinking of our next meal. What will it be? We are
thinking of the shopping, the preparation, the clean up etc. Even those who eat out (as I do) are thinking of
what restaurant or what kind of food we would like. Now in the midst of a fast, these thoughts disappear.
The mind is free for a time. Thus it can be turned to spiritual things – like prayer, meditation or the focus on
the Divine. Hence its usefulness for spiritual development. The call of the material world is lessened and
thus it is easier to focus on the spiritual realities.

When I grew up – in the Orthodox Jewish Tradition – there were many mandatory fast days. These were
generally not enjoyable. Doing this involved considerable will power. There was a feeling of suffering and
deprivation and when the fast was over you couldn’t wait to launce into the big meal that inevitably
followed. And, towards the end of the fast, all you were thinking about was eating. While this is better than
nothing and does show the power of the will over the body (at least for a time), it is far from the cosmic
way. These practices also led to the concept that spirituality was about “punishing” or “denying” the body.
This could not be farther from the truth.

In the Cosmic Way, the fast is not some arbitrary thing. It comes from the center of BEING. It is as if the
Divine itself called the fast. There is simply no appetite, no desire, for food. There is no sense of lack or
deprivation and no sense of “gritting the teeth”. There is no human will power involved at all. It just
happens. While its going on, it feels like the “most natural thing in the world”. Not eating feels as natural as
eating. The end of the fast is also natural. The appetite, the craving, returns – as suddenly as it had
disappeared – and this tell tale signal lets you know that the fast is over.

We never know when the Divine will declare a fast. Nor do we know how long it will last. It isn’t necessary
to know. But when it happens, it will be natural, painless, and normal. This, I have learned, is the correct