As important as any physical cleansing, water fasting also challenges you with emotional and spiritual blocks, bringing you face to face with your ego and fears. In a way, your journey through water fasting mirrors the entire spiritual path: both within each fast, as well as from fast to fast over the years.
One of the most important things in your spiritual development is how you relate to your ego. By ego, I mean that aspect of yourself which feels isolated and alone in the universe, that aspect of yourself which tends to make judgements about everyone and everything you come into contact with. (Yes, it’s the ‘me, me, me’ element of your being!)
Either you like someone or you dislike them. Either you want something or you don’t want it. Buddhists call this the cycle of ‘attachment and aversion’. By incessantly weighing up the world around you, you lose the ability simply to be: honestly accepting the world for how it is without the need to try to control it to your liking. In short, your deeper self – your soul – remains buried and lost beneath the ego’s petty dramas.
Water fasting will help change this.
Why? Because we all want to eat. We like it. It’s a basic survival instinct: something which has steered every human being since the day they were born. When you fast, however, you make a conscious decision not to eat. This provokes a deep psychological-emotional-spiritual reaction from within, unearthing hidden fears often extending well beyond those relating to just food and the lack of it.
To be honest, it isn’t always easy coming face to face with these fears – especially during your first few fasts, and especially during the first few days of each fast (before your digestive system has finished switching off). Normally, we don’t even notice how much the ego directs our lives. We simply fall into our daily, ego-driven habits. In fact, most of us are so immersed in our habits that we hardly even notice that we are alive. When was the last time you really appreciated the gift of life? While fasting, though, your ego is everywhere – especially in its thoughts of and demands for food. Without the daily rituals of mealtimes and eating, your ego is left exposed on an existential level.
The ego becomes painfully transparent while fasting, but it is just this clarity which helps you to see it for what it is: a petty dictator and nothing more. Habits and the fears which cause them can now begin to peel away. With time and experience, you’ll come to understand – not just intellectually but also physically in your body – that you won’t die by temporarily denying yourself food. You’ll appreciate that the ego’s desire for food is just that: a desire and nothing more. And along with this, you’ll realise that all of the ego’s desires are just desires.
As is true for any desire, ultimately it’s your choice whether or not to act on it. In other words, instead of your ego controlling you, you begin to control your ego. You are empowered. You gain freedom. The freedom to be, without the ego steering you according to its whims.
As the ego releases its grip on you, emotional traumas from the past may resurface. But here, too, you’ll experience them from a new perspective. For in letting go of your ego and its desire for food, you also gain the potential to let go of the way that the past defines your present. You’ll simply be more rooted here, now, in the freedom of the present moment.
Once you’re able to be, your whole relationship with the world begins to change. Instead of fear dominating your life, love can begin to blossom. This, in turn, will naturally begin to lead to deeper states of consciousness, both within each fast and more gradually in your everyday life as well (more info here).