Whenever I am sick with a major or minor illness I fast, sometimes for one or two days, but usually for three days. I do not run to a doctor nor take medicines of any kind, even those recommended by well meaning friends. I believe that my body has awesome wisdom and power to heal itself. To help the body to do the healing work I do a few little things such as; eat only fruit and vegetables for a day or two, change quantity of my diet, or find and eat proven herbs growing nearby. Sometimes I try just to obey my true palate and eat what it craves. But if the illness persists, I fast for 3 days. I eat no solid food; drink no coconut water or fruit juice. I drink only plain water and rest in bed. I avoid reading, talking, walking and physical work of any kind. Unless it is the middle of summer and I feel hot and uncomfortable I avoid taking a bath. Sometimes, when necessary, I just rub my body with a wet towel once or twice a day. For about 20 years I have done the above quite faithfully and have succeeded marvelously in enjoying good health.
My first healing fast was 8 days long. After that, for 20 years, my fasts have not been longer than 3 days. March 3rd 2009 I was going to start a 5-day fast. Despite my strong positive experience and conviction that fasting is good and fairly easy, I admit, I was apprehensive.
Monday evening March 2nd I ate a light supper of two slices of bread, some cooked veggies and a small helping of finely cut salad. The total amount was about 3/4th of what I normally eat. The thought of ‘no food for 5 days’ was big in my mind. One reason is that I like to eat. I have eaten foods of many cultures, and have liked them all, of course not equally. My wife never tests any of her preparations on me because she thinks I will say it is good even if there is no salt in it. She exaggerates, but it is true that out of respect for the cooks and appreciation of generosity I praise what is given to me. Growing up in a Punjabi family I learned to eat heartily. Till age 30 it did not show on my strong, trim body. But then a little paunch began to show. It was partly due to rich American food that contained lots of cheese and some meat. I had to reduce my intake of food slowly to about half.
Early morning the first day, March 3, about 5:30am I went out to my outdoor dry toilet. This is my normal routine. My stomach emptied with perfect ease and so completely that for the next 5 days I did not have to go to toilet. This, in my view, was a good beginning. I felt elated. The day began well with a cheerful mood. I rested in bed all morning getting up 2-3 times to drink water or/and to urinate. Changes in the timing of my toilet routine do not worry me for I trust my body to adjust in its own time the best possible way.
Early afternoon my mood changed for the worse. I began to have negative thoughts about fasting. ‘Why five days, why not just three or even one?’ ‘What is the need for it?’ ‘I am not sick.’ For all this I had only one good answer; I have not fasted for 7-8 months and it will cleanse and tone up my body. But the mind kept repeating its complaints till late in the night till I went to sleep. I slept well all night and woke up feeling rested, calm and so cheerful I took a short walk. I washed my hands and face, took some deep breaths and lay down.
Morning of the second day my mind was still bickering, but only half heartedly, for it knew I would not relent. But all kinds of unhappy past memories kept popping up. Most of them were of silly little mistakes I had made in the past. On top of it I was famished all morning. I was thinking of food and eating. My hunger pangs were real but towards the evening they began to weaken. I had several short and long naps during the day and by late night about 10:00pm I fell asleep and in the second night of fast slept like a log.
In the morning of third day I felt fine. My hunger was weak and my mind resolved. The day passed quite easily as I dosed most of the time. During waking times my mind kept hearing the goings-on inside the body. I have a small callus near my right eye. I felt it softening and melting. There were groans, heightened activity, slight pain, itch in different parts of the body. But there was no severe pain or discomfort. A couple of time I felt mild head ache and light fever but they did not last.
On the fourth day my mind was occupied with fear of two more long days of fasting and inactivity. I was not very hungry any more. Yet thoughts of food and its taste kept coming to mind. By this time members of our community were thinking of me with a sense of sympathy and anxiety. Ananthu ji’s mother, oldest in our community, came to visit me. She was happy to see me cheerful, but I could see that she worried over me. She told Sudesh and Gopalan that I should be persuaded to drink a tender coconut. Gopalan’s mother agreed and added her weight to the elder’s recommendation. Feeling the awesome strength of their concern and my heart’s secret desire, I succumbed and drank a coconut in the evening of the fourth day. This I had never done in my earlier fasts.
As expected, I was persuaded to drink another coconut in the morning of the fifth and last day of my fast. The coconut water tasted like nectar but I feared it might hinder the healing work of the body. It is difficult to tell, but it seems the body kept right on working as if no infringement had occurred.
At about 5:30pm I was given some steamed ridge-gourd, which I relished like divine food. At suppertime I ate a small helping of cooked vegetables. On 8th March I ate all three meals but in smaller quantity than usual. My stomach began to move like before the fast. My body strength returned to normal very quickly. I felt that my facial skin had become smoother, eyes brighter, and sight clearer. Also, I felt cleaner and a bit lighter inside.
The Gain This Time
Twenty years ago when I fasted for 8 days my intestines were thoroughly scrubbed. I felt that my digestive system began to work very smoothly. I was absorbing nutrients more efficiently and as a consequence needed less food. I felt lighter, cleaner and transformed. The good effect is with me to this day.
This time my gain is of a different sort. I came out feeling sedated. It was as if I had been given a dope. I was hearing less and often forgetting things. Several times in the last 20 days since I broke the fast I have sat at the computer and gone blank. For several minutes I could not know which keys to punch and how to move the cursor. I just walk away and come back partly recovered. I am then able to work. These blackouts still keep coming but they are fewer and with longer gaps.
I know for sure that my hearing power has weakened in the last 2-3 years, especially in the left ear. I often do not hear clearly enough to understand what message the faint words convey. But now dopiness is added to my hearing disability. It feels as if the sounds comes through a double filter.
This seems to be the effect of the fast. It does not alarm or frighten me for I think the change is most probably not permanent, but I hope recurrent. For the body is trying to rein the mind. It seems that I am being instructed to try to listen to the body, i.e. the gut, and not the mind all the time. This may sound like autosuggestion of the mind. But I look at it differently.
I know for sure that body has its own wisdom that it draws from the Divine Spirit. The two are directly linked. Mind works with memory, past, thought and its ego needs. It can decide to put wrong foods into the mouth, and indulge in myriad temptations of the world, but it cannot enter the body and directly interfere in its working. For inside the body the gut is the ruler. We seldom feel it because we can neither see nor converse with it. All of us get so used to hearing and learning through words that we become deaf to the ‘sounds’ of the gut.
My body doped and dulled my mind so I could turn my full attention to listening and learning from inside where the Great Wisdom resides. This language is subtle and without words. It works in quantum leaps and with composite bunches of related realities. Learning in this fashion is of a different, unfamiliar order.
I feel that fasting led my body to wield its mace to awaken me to itself. There were many clear messages and more keep coming every morning. I have no reason to think that this communication will not continue for every morning heralds a brand new day.
Here is a sample of my gifts from body’s wisdom. It teaches: 1.Learn to be quiet. For with words you can neither teach anything worthwhile nor change anybody. ‘Being an old parrot’ there is no chance that you will learn to say the right thing at the right time. But you can be quiet. 2.The world is okay as it is, other things being equal. As the Vedic Rishi said, ‘it is purna,’ (complete) given what came before to shape it. So, do not bang your head against stonewall. Just live by the gut and do the best you can. 3. Love all. It will smoothen your path. 4. Speak always the truth for it will simplify your choice making.
Gut’s teachings are simple and direct. They are just right for my weak mind.
Partap, 21st March 2009