Spiritual fasting in Lent (or any other time)

25th February, 2020
Tomorrow marks the beginning of what for many people is the most important time of the year in terms of spiritual fasting. For Christians, Lent constitutes the 40-day period prior to Easter, serving as a reminder of both Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert as well as the final period of his life leading up to the crucifixion. It is a time for introspection and reflection on life.

Whether or not you are a Christian, water fasting naturally supports this shift towards looking inside ourselves. By giving up food – the elixir of life for our physical body – we become able more naturally to identify with that deepest part of ourselves which has no need for physical sustenance: our spirit, our soul, our innermost Self.

Reaching the point of opening up spiritually through fasting isn’t always easy. It requires surrender. Surrender not just of food, but also surrender of our ego which wants to eat the food, which wants to find comfort and love in food. It takes a huge amount of courage to let go of all that wanting, to let go of our comfort zone through eating.

So long as we are engaged with that struggle with ourselves and our egos, engaging in spiritual practice is next to impossible. While fasting, it’s easy to think that we ‘should’ be feeling closer to God, that we ‘should’ be happily meditating or praying, but the truth is that often the opposite is the case. We can feel far removed from God, and the idea of meditating or praying can create mountains of resistance inside us.

The beautiful irony, though, is that when we finally do let go of our comfort zone and truly surrender to the fast, we find that the love we crave is already there within us: within our own soul, one with the universe and God. Just as food is for the physical body, this love is the elixir of life for our spiritual ‘body’.

Until we reach a point in the fast of surrendering our ego, it’s easy to feel down or inadequate, to feel guilt or even self-hate. Instead, please, please try and be kind to yourself. We’re all only human. Even if you never reach the point of fully surrendering yourself to your fast, it was your spirit, your soul, your innermost Self which called you to fast in the first place. Sometimes it takes time for the clouds to clear and for the sun to shine. So stick at it! Sooner or later you will feel the warmth of golden rays on your face.

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6 responses to “Spiritual fasting in Lent (or any other time)”

  1. Would water fasting during the day and having one meal a day count?

    1. Tallis Barker Ph.D. Avatar
      Tallis Barker Ph.D.

      Hi Silvia,

      If you’d like to fast this Lent there’s no single ‘right’ way to do it. I once heard of a monastic order which water fasts for 40 days every year (unfortunately I can’t remember which)! If this is on the rather extreme side of things, something like giving up chocolate or sweets would be more manageable for most people. If what you suggested feels right for you, then go for it! The important thing is that it should feel like a challenge but yet sustainable to do for the next 6 weeks.

      All the best,

      1. Thank you so much Tallis 🙏🏾
        Yes today felt good and although I was hungry it wasn’t unbearable. One day I’d like to do a 21 day water fast but until then, the occasional 3day fast and at the moment 1 meal a day with water fasting during the day.

        Thank you again for all the videos you share and articles, they really are so inspiring and informative.

        Best wishes


        1. Tallis Barker Ph.D. Avatar
          Tallis Barker Ph.D.

          Hi Silvia,
          That sounds like you have a good plan and know what will work best for you. The most important thing, I believe, is doing something sustainable for the long term, because this is where the benefits of fasting truly show themselves!
          Best wishes,

  2. Thomas E Lalevich Avatar
    Thomas E Lalevich

    Thank you for the very timely newsletter.

    1. Tallis Barker Ph.D. Avatar
      Tallis Barker Ph.D.

      You’re welcome!

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