By The Spiritual Explorer
How many of us in the 60s and 70’s did fasting as part of our spiritual experience, notwithstanding that fasting has been a part of spiritual life forever? However, it seemed that along with meditation and colonics, fasting was a necessity. There was always that feeling that you are purifying your body. You wanted a cleaner and more perfect vessel for God. That was one of the true spiritual benefits of fasting.
Unfortunately, some people are not prepared to fast and some actually become ill. There were others who did 5, 10, and even 30-day fasts. They were what we called the Fasting Warriors; there even seemed to be some kind of competitiveness attached to it. So, whatever spiritual benefits of fasting were to be gained, they quickly went out the window.
Cleaning up negativity one of spiritual benefits of fasting
At this late state of my life, I feel inner cleanliness is an inside job. What I mean is it’s good to clean up one’s negative thoughts and perceptions to await the Holy Spirit. The book The Sacred Art of Fasting by Thomas Ryan gives some good historical perspective for fasting and reasons for the spiritual benefits of fasting that can be very helpful.
Spiritual benefits of fasting for different faiths
Whether fasting is done within the Jewish, Muslim or Christian faith, the spiritual benefits of fasting seem to be quite rewarding. Fasting, abstention from food and often drink for a designated period of time, was practiced for centuries in connection with religious observance. You might justifiably conclude that any spiritual practice embraced so universally has to have true spiritual benefits of fasting.
Those who fast have called it a seeming emptying of the personality and immersion into the soul. When one is no longer compelled to eat, some have said that there arises within them a kind of solitude also. The quiet that accompanies fasting is quite compelling and rewarding.
On the other hand in today’s secular society more people than you might guess engage in rational fasting. It is understood to foster health through the purification of the body. However, the focus of the Sacred Art of Fasting is not just about fasting as a rational method of cleansing the body, but as a religious act.
In the religious experience of humankind, fasting has always been a prelude and means to a deeper spiritual life. Failure to control the amount we eat and drink can disturb the inner order of our body-spirit. Fasting is a chance to focus our attention on something more important to us than ourselves.
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Latter-Day Saints each have a different desire and perspective when fasting. This book marvelously explains the spiritual longing in its unique form of these different religions. It also gives great clarity as to what purity of body and clarity of mind can bring about.
Collateral spiritual benefits of fasting
In the chapter devoted to the sacred art of fasting, we are treated to the multitude of spiritual benefits of fasting. Some see it as a way of identifying with all the suffering people of the world, especially those dying of hunger. Also, through the centuries fasting was used to draw communities of people together. It also provides them with a common experience and the opportunity to share these experiences. These fasting days are Lent, the Day of Atonement, Ramadan.
Fasting was also used to organize groups around social change movements. Many leaders of such groups have fasted as an act of exemplary sacrifice and a way of bringing attention to an injustice. See Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, etc.
A spiritual benefit of fasting is that we can feel what others feel in people’s struggles for hunger. For a short time we can feel a community of interest and shared love for them. That is a truly worthwhile aspiration.
If you have a question about “spiritual benefits of fasting,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer
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