Fasting—Voluntary Hunger According to the Mind

July 30, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
Lemon water, the worldwide traditional beverage used while fasting. (photos.com)
Lemon water, the worldwide traditional beverage used while fasting. (photos.com)

A look back at one's own energy resources and the origin of man

Many people, living in this era of superficiality and lost amongst the quest for material happiness, associate the term "fasting" with the desire for weight loss. More often than not the reaction is "Do you want to lose weight?" A survey in the German magazine Star revealed that one in five Germans practice some kind of restraint, at least during Lent. Many voluntarily give up drinking alcohol, cigarettes, sweets, watching TV and overeating. Some take this further and forego meat, eggs and dairy products. But most people still eat the traditional foods, but eat less and with awareness.

Wants and Giving In

Today's people ask questions that were historically never asked—"What's in it for me if I fast?" and "What would I gain?" Some have even found answers to these questions, citing: "body clean-out, getting rid of waste products, and weight loss, or mental freedom, and having a better sense of self."

Those terms did not exist during those historic times when almost all cultures worldwide held a tradition of fasting. Some religions even proclaimed fasting to be a divine law. Almost every founder of a religion set aside time during which they took little or no nourishment at all. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness with only a jug of water and a loaf of bread, but we don’t know if these served as nourishment or as an offering. In any event, legend tell us that all those who fasted experienced the world around them through their breathing and thus achieved a cleansing of their spirit that allowed them to discover their true self and their purpose in life, and to overcome any fear.

Fear is also the Fear of Death

Siddharta, Shakiamuni's royal son—later known as Gautama Buddha, or simply Buddha – is portrayed as an ascetic being, similar to today's anorexic models—mere skin and bones. One can see his spine from the front. After a long time it occurred to him that he had gone to extremes and that this could not be the state meant for human existence. He abandoned his ascetic lifestyle and taught "the middle way," combining and harmonizing the extremes. He did not achieve enlightenment until many years later, stating that the quest for knowledge of the truth alone is insufficient, that such a search must be accompanied by righteous actions that validate these kinds of truths. He taught his disciples for 49 years, forever deepening the meaning of the principles he conveyed to them, according to the disciples' comprehension.

Jesus had only four years to convey his message, but his teachings also changed the world. Some considered him a revolutionary and point out that hungry people have more "bite," perhaps meaning that they tend toward impatience and aggression, a medical principle that could be likened to "having to capture and slay one's prey or one dies of hunger." Those thought processes follow the principles of "wanting to have." This is a complete misinterpretation of the situation.

Faulty Quest—Always Needing More

People in former times did not display such egoistic mentalities that are so prevalent today. The frenzied desire to "wanting to possess" and "wanting to be recognized" have already become second nature, and everything deviating from this is flawed.

Psychologists teach us how to exude self-worth, how to listen to one's gut, how to assert one's personal space, and how to "be somebody" but once these goals have been achieved, then what? Midlife crisis, burnout—symptoms of deviating from the center—and also a demonstration that "wants" do not lead to peace of mind or contentment. Even grand achievements in the world of work cannot replace the loss of center that is guaranteed to happen when one concentrates merely on the superficial. One cannot find meaning this way.

Granted, some can fool themselves into thinking these superficial achievements can temporarily fill the void. But only those things that are illegal, immoral and lack virtue give one a temporary "high". It begins with children and never changes: the lure of the forbidden!  The longer one travels along this path, the harder it will be to return to health and well-being.

Spiritual Experiences—Humility and Altruism

It is now rare to meet people who think of others first. They are the ones who would say, "I am only happy as long as those close to me are also happy." These people are the ones who arrange their lives around the needs of others and never ask what they would get in return; they don't seek respect or recognition; they act where and as necessary and then move on without complaint or drawing attention to themselves. They are the ones who never use the helping hand they extend as a means to grab power over another and who don't inflate their ego at the expense of others' weaknesses.

The Courage not to do Battle

Such actions are based on a deep faith that permits humility. Humility requires much more courage than any other act, because it is compassion and tolerance to trust in the righteous and forego a battle. Such action is the willingness to tolerate the world and the people and to do one's part to make both better.

Hunger Strike for Human Rights

Fasting/hunger striking is a well-known, peaceable, silent tradition to point out the above-named attributes. Utilized correctly, fasting/hunger striking has overcome the fear of cannons. Those who can overcome fear can overcome anything.

So it is likewise with the peaceful world-wide hunger-strike to alert people to human rights abuses in mainland China, an effort that was begun in February 2006. Anyone wishing to participate could have joined via Internet registration. No fees were charged and no certificates were issued. But the awareness is present that fasting/hunger-striking can give one's life meaning in a deeper sense. It also provided solidarity with those in China who are persecuted, tormented, tortured, incarcerated and slain, simply because they refused to buckle under the injustices foisted onto fellow human beings. It also meant solidarity with those who still carry the banner of conscience, altruism, righteousness, morals and virtue, rather than knuckling under to the communist regime and its oppression.

Once truth has been established, it makes people free! And compassion, caring, goodness and tolerance will follow. Good always makes the good in people emerge, though not everyone might immediately recognized it as such.