Learning from Fasting

Maintaining a weekly 24 hour fast is helping me learn to think about things differently.

A fast doesn’t begin when you’re hungry, it begins with the end of a meal. Mine never begin at an exact time, but after breakfast is finished. When my meal is complete I look at my watch and say, “yes, it starts now.”

It doesn’t start when my will power is lowest, but when I’m sated. I manipulate the timing so that the most difficult hours happen when I’m asleep. There is room both for my strengths and my weaknesses in this pattern.

My body has become accustomed to these weekly fasts, and so have I. I know to drink lots of water, eliminate or minimize sugar the day before. I feel “snackish” more than I feel real hunger. That’s interesting to me, and shows me how my body sends signals to my brain long before my body is actually hungry. In an environment where each meal takes a couple of hours to prepare, it makes sense. In our world of easy food access, it permits over-eating. My impulses to EAT are very strong, very emotional: in the beginning they carried a sort of desperate energy, and a feeling of despair when I knew I wouldn’t be eating for a long time yet.

Now, knowing them so intimately, I am less pushed by the emotion, I find it easier to notice and then just let it go.

During the rest of the week I’ve become more indifferent to meals – if I miss one, I know that it’s no big deal – only a few hours, after all, not 24!

Today, as I finish my comforting pre-fast breakfast and check my watch I wonder what other habits might be more easily controlled using some of the same practices and techniques that I’ve learned from fasting?


I am terrified of fasting.  I’m sure that I will have horrible headaches, nausea, cravings.

Yet I have chosen to fulfill my dream to do a Vision Quest, and the one I’ve chosen to join offers me me the opportunity to Quest, and to fast, for 3 days.

It sounds beautifully organized.  We will each have a whistle for emergencies, and every day we will walk over to a common spot in our pod of Questers and wrap a piece of colored yarn around a stick to show that all is well, pick up our new container of water and go back to our private site.  I suppose it’s possible, in theory, to arrive at the same time as another Quester, and interrupt our solitude, but it’s unlikely and as none of us will want that, I’m sure we will linger at a distance if such a coincidence occurs.

The idea of the fast, however, looms so large in my mind that I can scarcely think of anything else.

I choose to start my preparation 10 weeks in advance, and for the next few weeks I will ease up on a 24 hour fast.  This week I start with 12 hours, next week will be 14, after that 16, and so on.  When I arrive at 24 I will stop increasing the length until it is time for the real event.

I’m told the first 24 hours is the hardest.