As we continue our journey, we are making sacred space in order to receive the gifts of the Graces, by exploring the many traditions that encourage sacred renunciation at this time of year. During this transition time between late Winter and very early Spring, many people chose to abstain from all or specific food items by undergoing a regimen of fasting.
Many religious and spiritual traditions encourage fasting for a variety of reasons, such as penitence, preparation for ceremony, purification, mourning, sacrifice and union with the Divine, and the receiving of knowledge and powers.
This is obviously important, but fasting also has many physical benefits. Fasting simply is a rest from food. It can be very surprising how a simple fast, or just eliminating certain foods for a period of time can affect your energy and focus. Fasting seems to be linked to having a longer, healthier life.
Its proponents point to how fasting provides a period of physiological rest, especially to the digestive system. A healthy digestive tract helps to protect the blood and inner organs against a variety of environmental and metabolic toxins.
And during a fast, the body is able to repair and strengthen damaged organs. The process of fasting also allows the body to cleanse cells of accumulated toxins and waste products. As I mentioned several days ago, this is why it is imperative that, while fasting, your normal fluid intake should be maintained, or even increased.
Dr. Elson M. Haas, one of the pioneers in the field of Integrated Medicine, notes that animals instinctively fast when they are ill. He declares, “Fasting is the single greatest natural healing therapy. It is nature’s ancient, universal ‘remedy’ for many problems.
“Most of us living in Western, industrialized nations,” suffer, he writes, “with both overnutrition and undernutrition. We may take in excessive amounts of potentially toxic nutrients, such as fats and chemicals, and inadequate amounts of many essential vitamins and minerals. Juice fasting supplies some of these needed nutrients and allows the elimination of toxins.”
The purpose of fasting in order to detoxify is to engineer an optimal environment for our bodies to use their own natural healing processes. When we detox, what we are trying to do is stop cramming toxins into our body, which in turn will allow the body to eliminate the accumulated junk from our past habits. Truly, as so many wisdom traditions know, this is a spring cleaning of the body.
There are thousands of websites and articles that offer varying opinions about the best ways to fast. Of course, you need to be aware that people can experience unwelcome side-effects from a detox fasting program, so it is important to consult with a trusted medical expert, especially if you choose to undergo a prolonged or major dietary change.