Psychological Fasting

Article - Psychological Fasting


O you, who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.” (The Holy Quran, 2:183)

There are two kinds of fasting. The first, physical, is where we abstain from eating, rest the body and rejuvenate all its biological processes. The other is psychological fasting, which purifies our emotions and uplifts our psychic nature.

This psychic structure is a mass of habits and patterns, many of which are negative. Psychological fasting frees their hold on us and, over a period of time, transform them completely.  When we feel an urge to criticise someone or put him in his rightful place, it is a psychological hunger – something within us is asking to be fed. The moment it is satiated it gives us a feeling of elevation - “I got the better of him” kinds. When we get such urges, if we pause, do not feed this hunger, and leave the desire unfulfilled, then this urge would die (over time with regular practice) and we experience a deep joy and freedom.

Many of us love to hear about scandals; even a distant whisper makes our ears stand up and we definitely enjoy adding our own fuel to that fire. Can we starve this hunger for scandal?

Another is complaining, which is second nature to us. We complain about everything – the weather, the government, the cricket team, and even our last root canal. We don’t realise that every time we complain, certain acids are produced in the body that could lead to arthritis in the long run. Is it possible to stop feeding this compulsion to complain?

Some of us just cannot help making other people laugh, and sadly, usually at the expense of someone else. We derive great pleasure in passing witty comments and devouring people’s attention when they laugh. This is a disease, an impulse that needs to be starved.

One of the exercises the Guru gives the disciple is not to use the words “I” and “my”, unless absolutely necessary. Can we imagine not saying ‘I did this’, or ‘this was my idea’ or ‘I gave him that job’?  This simple exercise creates new pathways in the brain and the old psychic structure starts crumbling.  Yes the essence of fasting is not singing our song.

The Bible talks about Christ’s forty days’ fast and the temptation the devil offered. There was NO way the devil could tempt Christ. Is the Bible giving us a hint? Could it mean that if we practice psychological fasting for forty days we will be free of the devil within us? Let’s try.

- By Rajen Vakil