Today is Ekadashi, and to me, that means fasting day. I follow the Ananda Marga fasting calendar which prescribes full, dry fast twice a month. Since 1996, when I became a vegetarian, I’ve struggled to fast, with no success. I couldn’t for the life of me go beyond lunch without food or drink. But it all changed when in 2007, my partner in grime guided me towards fasting using this strategy:
First and second fasting – fruits and juices only, I ate and drank as much as I wanted.
Third and fourth fasting – fresh fruit juices only, and I drank as much as I wanted.
Fifth and sixth fasting – water only, I only drank when I totally needed to, I held off drinking as much as I can.
It was extremely helpful in conditioning my mind that on my 7th fast, I would be without food and water for as much as 36 hours, sun up to sun up. You break the fast with lemon salt water and bananas. After several trips to the loo, you’ll be as good as new and ready for a hearty break- fast (pun intended). And my 7th fast was successful, I was even surprised at myself how easy it was. It was merely will power in action.
Later on, when I got used to it, I no longer felt hungry. The worst times would be fasting on a hot and humid day, and during those times I want to just lie down and rest. But most times, I go on with my daily routine, going to work, and on weekends even doing domestic duties such as laundry and cleaning.
Since then, I’ve had an on and off relationship with fasting. But for the last few months, I’ve been fasting again religiously. I continue to fast because I’m aware of it’s many benefits, to my body, my mind, my spirit, and to Mother Earth.
Life is a constant struggle, and I have seen that I am able to fully enjoy the simple pleasures of life because I knew how it is to really hunger, not just for food, but for nourishment for my soul. More importantly, it is the awareness of ‘no free lunch’ that I have gained. If we want something so much, we have to work for it. To keep the hunger for it alive, even if it takes a lot of sacrifice and giving up our comfort zone.
Discipline is the ability to be in control of one’s propensities. The definition seems simple, but definitely the most difficult. How easy it is to just give in to hunger or even the slightest urge to eat, or drink for that matter. As such, the practice of fasting provides immense benefits. The first time I was able to overcome the pangs of hunger and do a complete full fast, I thought all things are possible. I thought if I could achieve a full fast, maybe there are many more things I am capable of doing, if I allow myself to slowly bloom into it. It is not and never will be perfect, as all of us are works in progress. But the key word is progress, and we continue to work towards attaining our better selves.
With fasting, I feel a sense of gratitude for the universe for keeping me living and breathing despite the lack of physical nourishment. I feel a deep respect and appreciation for people who toil to provide us food. I feel empathy for people who live with very little. I know I am at my smallest impact to Mother Earth when I fast. I feel love for my body by giving it time to rest.
Friends and colleagues often tell me being vegan is already too much of a sacrifice, and fasting even worse. But I have seen how being vegan and fasting regularly helps attune me to my highest possibilities. For me, being vegan and fasting are not sacrifices at all, they are simply paths to the destination I want to reach. When this is the perspective, there is joy in the journey.
Will you join me in my fast next Ekadashi? Let me know.