Three Day Fast – Fourth Day

Hooray it’s Thursday morning and I can eat!

I started this fast on a Monday morning so I am now on my fourth day of fasting which is the day that I’m going to break the fast. I’m going to have breakfast at Carluccio’s to celebrate.

That isn’t counter-productive, it’s what I promised myself to help to keep me going! What I will do is to avoid any carbohydrates.

Yesterday, I began to really notice some unhelpful mental effects of the fast. I taught three times for about seven hours in total yesterday and did a couple of hours of admin on the energy equivalent of about 1 innocent smoothie which is 86 calories. What happened is that on the last of my three teaching sessions I found myself lost for words by not remembering a specific word twice, though they both came to me when I stopped trying to retrieve them of course. In addition I was almost lost for words once. These things aren’t entirely unusual but to have three memory retrieval problems in one 2 1/2 hour session is a first.

Meditation was also interesting. With the teaching and my personal practice there was quite a lot of meditation. Probably two or three hours in all. Mystics use fasting as a way of bringing them closer to mystical experiences. During one of my meditations yesterday which was with with a student, and because of the company is invariably extremely powerful, I found that my mind was slipping into something like a dream state which actually wasn’t a dream state… I know what it feels like to drift off into semi-sleep whileI’m meditating and this wasn’t it.

Images arose that were like fast forwarded still photographs taken over time. A bit like amateurish time lapse. In addition, there was a moving images of crowds and so on. Not an experience that I can say I remember having, even during deep meditations.

However, putting those minor hiccups to one side, I didn’t feel hungry at all yesterday and I felt that I had sufficient energy.

Today, interestingly, I feel even less hungry. Eating breakfast this morning, although in a relaxing enjoyable way, will be an addition of nutrients and not a fulfilment of need.

Last night at about 3:45 I woke up with two solutions in my mind. One was a solution to a minor problem which is just something that I haven’t confronted yet and the other was a complete solution to a problem I didn’t even know I had! It would have arisen over the course of the next few days though. I was able to lean over and type the solutions into my mobile and go back to sleep. It was as though my subconscious mind had decided those things that I most needed to smooth out my next couple of weeks and provided me with clear and actionable solutions to them. One for the most urgent thing, and the other for the highest priority thing.

I also had some incredibly deep insights. I was talking through a problem and talked my way into the solution to it. It was a very, very big problem.

I also only had about 7 1/2 hours of sleep last night which is fine but I’m aware that I usually sleep longer during a fast so I feel a little sleep deprived.

Lessons learnt

Fasting clearly changes the nature of the operation of the mind.

On or after the third day the lack of energy is noticeable with poor memory retrieval.

The nature of deep meditation can change on or about the third day. Could this be the mystic visions or is it too early?

It is possible that fasting is a source of incredibly useful insight.

All in all, this fast was a fascinating and useful exercise and something that I absolutely will repeat at some point.

Three day fast – Second and Third Day

11am on the second day

I woke up this morning after a deep sleep and I wasn’t hungry when I awoke and I am not hungry now at 11am. What I do feel is ever so slightly woozy which I put down to still having a bit of a cold when I started the fast. I also, however, feel calm and relaxed.

On day one I stuck to my fast but I did start the day off with a small innocent green smoothie and a single shot coffee. I also had a single shot coffee later in the day and didn’t feel like it upset my stomach in any way. Late last night I had a herbal tea mix from T2 called Relax which was based on camomile. I was pretty tired when I went to sleep at 11 but it wasn’t a particularly demanding day.

The mental calmness is notable. It has been a while since I fasted and I forgot how good it is so hopefully this article, if I read it again, will remind me.
I shall check in either later or tomorrow.

8:45 on the third day
I slept for eight and a half hours. I had a very deep sleep and I feel refreshed. Yesterday I was struggling for energy so I had another small innocent green smoothie at about 5:30pm and a single shot coffee. I am drinking about two litres of water per day so drinking the occasional coffee or smoothie doesn’t seem to upset my stomach in any way. I am teaching all day so I expect I may need to have some coffee and or small smoothies to stay alert. I will try to limit/avoid that though.

Today I feel great. On the third fasting day, I have found in the past that the mind clears a lot and it feels in many ways similar to the third day of a solo retreat. Calm and clear mind with natural mindfulness.
I don’t feel hungry at all. I almost feel that if I was given food I wouldn’t want it. I may need to have one or two smoothies today to see how it goes and I have a large innocent smoothie in the fridge for that eventuality.

This feeling is the main reason that I fast. The sense of calmness and clarity is significant.

Fasting also clarifies my relationship to food. In our culture, temptations to eat are all around us. We are immersed in messages about foods that contain more simple carbohydrates than we could ever find in our natural environment. There are ubiquitous advertisements, smells wafting out of bakers that now have fans pushing the air out on purpose and freshly cooked pastries are in stalls everywhere. This triggers the emotional brain to reward itself which is what I notice when I am fasting. I am able to observe this trigger directly and, of course, ignore it and also observe the results of ignoring it.

Craving for food at this point of a fast, for me, isn’t actually hunger in that there is a sense of not having eaten. It is more a desire for something to taste. It seems it is the habit that is being denied rather than the need to eat.

Today is my last day and I shall add another article either this evening or tomorrow morning.

Day One of my three day fast

Every so often I fast for three days.

I have done three day fasts about ten times or more over the years.  I fast for a number of different reasons: to boost or kick-start diets, to detox and for spiritual reasons as the mind absolutely becomes calmer and clearer. I seem to remember going on to a fourth day while fasting on a solo retreat and found the mind’s response very interesting and slightly different to day three. Day three is different to day two and so-on.

Usually, I eat breakfast on day one and an evening meal on day three. This is because in the past I have focused on motivation and it doesn’t ‘feel like’ one has to go so long without food. I have found it difficult not eating in the past. Craving for food kicks in at some point on day two and I find myself wistfully observing others eat or looking into the windows of food shops. Whatever, my strategy has worked as I have never broken a fast and always seen through the three days.

For some reason, this time I don’t feel that motivation will be an issue in the slightest as it feels to right to be doing it now so I haven’t bothered with breakfast on the first day. Instead I have bought myself a green smoothie.

Over the years, this is what I have learned.

  • Hunger, if how you feel after three days of not eating is hunger, isn’t quite how one would think it is. There are occasional cravings that arise but it doesn’t stay in the forefront of your mind. I expect that over longer periods that changes.
  • The craving to eat is more common at the beginning of the three days.
  • The monkey mind will say. “OK, you can’t eat but you can drink!” and all sorts of suggestions for that will arise from coffee to smoothies that are like eating in any case! I did this once and it really didn’t help as my stomach churned. For this fast I will only drink water and if I do drink anything else it will either be herbal teas or very smooth and high quality filter coffee.
  • I need to sleep at least an hour more per night to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Mindfulness increases. The business of the mind most definitely diminishes.
  • There is always some realisation or insight. I always learn something about my inner experience. I can see why this is a spiritual experience practiced in many religions as we are replacing the usual business of thought with a calmer experience and reconnecting with our bodies.

I hope to have the time to blog each day of this fast though I may blog on the day after so you can get an idea of how that day went.