Before the fast, during the lockdown, I had been eating alot of home-made bread and not walking much let alone running. After the lockdown I walked and ran a bit more but my kidney was not working properly, the urine was scanty. So I read about the health benefits of fasting and decided to try it. It started out as an idea for weight-loss, but turned into something I now know I will do regularly to maintain my mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing as I grow older. Determination was the key, combined with being in touch with the signals from the body. I have the habit of meditating twice a day for an hour each time. Now I added fasting to my daytime awareness hours.
The first three or four days I felt very tired and because I had read that it is fine for the routine to have bouillon, I had a cup of mild rasam or bouillon in the evening. I also had more herbal tea than water really during the day. Whether it was the minerals from those inputs or for some other reason I don’t know but on the first few days I had diarrhoea, which felt great, as if the system was emptying itself out. Apparently the body anyway sheds redundant bits of cells during fasting, known in english as autophagy. And apparently it is the switch from glucose to body fat as a source of nutrition that causes the initial tiredness during fasting. Nonetheless on my next water fast I will not take salt or supplements, whether magnesium or anything else. Only water. It is the fact that one has only water on fasting days that makes the body and therefore, mind, behave so differently from during non-fasting days, I think. My mind stopped craving anything. On day 14 I had a glass of champagne to celebrate my daughter Kiri’s engagement. I realised that I had not been hungry during fasting. I also realised I had shed all anxieties, the body was managing itself and so was the mind.
Thereafter, having only water from day 14 to 21 was much more intense than when I was also having salt and herbal tea. In my case the mind lost interest in taste. At the same time taste I realised, also has a purpose: to remind one to eat. I ended the fast because I wanted the feeling of taste for a while, and the feeling of fullness. But the feeling of desire for those feelings has not returned. I barely remember to eat now. How liberating it is to have a body managing on it’s own without desires! Maybe next time I will try 28 days, just because I know I can, and it might be even more fun. The body is a pleasure dome of physical delights and to experience it equanimously through something as simple as fasting is to add an interesting new experience to the myriad of truths one creates for one’s self as one goes through life.
The main truth I feel is that there is beauty and pleasure in being alive. Whatever one eats after fasting, or food one shares, – and the enjoyment of sharing food with others and feeding others grew much during fasting! -, what matters when one adds a fasting practice to one’s life I feel is the autopilot one can put one’s body on, and the experience of wellbeing and health one gets from that. Fasting cures all sorts of previously niggling aches and pains and the mental reactions that go with them. Apparently even serious ones. My kidney is working fine again. Fasting taught me that bodies are miraculous self-managing and self-determining organisms that are a pleasure to experience and of whom each of us can say: this is what it is to be a living being!
Anandi Sharan is an independent writer