Eating and Fasting –
Going Beyond The Information
This is a little about my experience with repeatedly undertaking the well known “Master Cleanse” (Stanley Burroughs 1976) and other fasts/cleanses. Combined these with other practices from Buddhist and Himalayan yoga traditions has led to experiencing vivid parallels between enlightenment teachings and what one intuitively experiences when going without food.
There is an important relationship between fasting and silence. Also, between the birth/death cycle and the eating process. A universal principle is echoed in any application of that same principle. Not talking, not eating, or going beyond the usual obsessive thinking patterns (as one experiences during meditative absorption), reveals a felt awareness of one same thing. Re-orienting to the formless, compared to our usual habitual identification with the world of form opens an expanded awareness of self, invoking a sense of space and vastness that spiritual masters are attempting to point us toward. This is a hint of the essence of healing and unencumbered happiness.
One may find the concepts of ‘Emptiness” in Buddhism, or even “Consciousness" as separate from ”mind” in Himalayan Yoga difficult to navigate, but during fasting there is the potential to come to these in a feeling kind of way, and experience glimpses of what it might be like to be in the body of a highly achieved yogi or enlightened being. The heaviness of the belief that your body is the main part of you begins to recede. The sense of spirit increases to a point where you begin to know that your sources of energy surely include light, air, impressions and perhaps even something called “prana” as an actual substance or force itself!
I have personally experienced various healing breakthroughs during five or ten day fasts, including physical “resets” or changes to things that were not responding to any other approach. And, once my system was reasonably uncluttered, fasting has become a period of time I look forward to as one of drastically increased physical, mental and spiritual energy –in fact, I have used fasting to overcome periods where I need extra energy to complete a task, compared to planning it when I expect “less” stress.
Chogyam Trungpa was a Tibetan Spiritual leader, perhaps most known for his innovative and insightful interpretations of ancient teachings for a modern world, based on his own highly evolved unfolding. His system of Shambhala training series is a practical and spiritual teaching which involves theory, talks and systematic meditation. Common themes are "shamatha (peaceful abiding), "basic goodness" (knowing one’s true nature) and "windhorse" (how to discover increased power of clarity and happiness when mind and body is synchronized). During one section of this course I simultaneously undertook a slightly modified version of the 12 day Master Cleanse. I was struck with a direct relationship between Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings and the experiential unfolding that occurs during the fasting process.
One may find some of the writing by long-time fasting educators to be rather religious or even fanatical in its adherence to pristine practices and the deeper meanings behind the physical changes. To me this is understandable since the experience is so vivid once a person lets go of the attachment habit. So, best to keep an open mind while reading some of the sources, especially those written In earlier times such as the 1960’s or the 1800’s, two times when fasting was popular among certain communities.
I would like set up some sessions to share this. We will start with silent group meditation, a short talk, then Q & A. At the end we will invite participants to share their own experience. I would welcome skeptics and proponents of fasting from all backgrounds. Together we can try to apply our knowledge and curiosity to the Q & A, or perhaps more importantly, we can try sit in the presence of silence and feel into what this is all about.
Master Cleanse Summary:
Orig Text by Stanley Burroughs
long time faster and hygienic health diet visionary (over 80 yrs old)
Dr. Herbert M. Shelton Physician fasting proponent 1934
Records of many long-term fasting therapies for patients with chronic conditions
Fasting in Ayuveda
Food as a manifestation of God in Hinduism, and how fasting relates
Fasting Connection International Fasting Community Web Site
(retreats, doctor support, cyber group fasts)