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Thread: Spiritual Fasting.

  1. #1
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Spiritual Fasting.

    Imperceptibly I have found myself drifting into the whole practice of “fasting” by a rather indirect and meandering route.

    Perhaps it was stimulated initially by the TV programme some time back titled “The Greatest Loser.” There was a reprehensible and morbid satisfaction on my part in seeing obese individuals being seemingly starved and put through intense exercise to lose weight. Smug satisfaction, as I sat back in the armchair, a beer in one hand and a chocolate digestive biscuit in the other.

    Then of course upon returning to the UK on home leave and drinking a morning coffee outside a café; there was the daily parade of grossly overweight women, adorned with tattoos and smoking cigarettes as they waddled along.

    Whatever happened to the slim, elegant girls I remembered from my younger days?

    Then one day it hit home that I had myself, put on too much weight; the result no doubt of reduced exercise, enjoying my food, a regular beer intake, and a metabolism that slowed down with age. When tying my own shoe laces became a problem, then reality kicked in.

    So “fasting” raised its uncertain head. At first I looked at it purely from a physical aspect of losing weight. I’d read that fasting allows the body to most effectively remove waste products. The body is in fact designed to fast as we do it every night. Then when you go without eating for more than a day or two, the body enters into ketosis which occurs when the body runs out of carbohydrates to burn for energy, so it burns fat.

    It looked logical, if not difficult to undertake. But then I considered that if I was undertaking this fasting, I might as well explore another experience i.e. spiritual fasting.
    Gluttony is after all, categorized as a deadly sin. The early desert fathers believed that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger & thirst for righteousness. They spoil the appetite for God.

    Fasting thus is like a silent prayer: simply turning away from human sustenance, towards what many believe to be the Sustainer of all.

    I wanted to test what it was all about. From the biblical perspective Jesus taught and practiced fasting - yet, it seems to be the most feared and misunderstood of all spiritual disciplines. Many fear it will make them “too fanatical”

    Also, how far does one go? I had become so jaded by current society that I realized that fasting could not only be about food, but could, and should include; media obsession, people (especially politicians), telephones, I-pads, computers, tweets, (Lord deliver us!!), even talking, and sleep. Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate, in and of itself for the sake of some spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate; but for special reasons in certain circumstances these should be controlled. That to my mind is fasting.

    Strictly speaking the Bible only refers to fasting as abstaining from food. Matt 4:2 talks of Jesus being hungry but not thirsty, Daniel and his companions in Dan 1:12 ate only vegetables, John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey; but then the desert in those times was not exactly the most convenient location to consume “Melanzane alla Parmigiana.”

    If it comes to an absolute fast, then avoiding all food and liquid brings to mind Moses on Mount Sinai. Did such extreme fasts require God’s supernatural intervention?

    Fasting in fact is expected. (Jesus, Matt 6:16-17)

    “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    It is interesting to note here both the commands about how to fast and the promise.

    It also ties in with Matt 9:14-15.

    “Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

    It is worth noting there is no command from Jesus on this occasion on about how often or how long we should fast - it is not legalistic - it is your privilege and opportunity.

    What other benefits, (yet to be explored on my part) are there? We are told that fasting sharpens our prayers and makes us more passionate. It can also be used as a useful outlet to express grief. Perhaps there is also a need to humble oneself occasionally before our God, a physical expression of our humility.

    Finally I cannot help but reflect that perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work or ambitions is our own imagined strength; and in the slow energy sapping fasting process, we learn something of our physical and mental limitations, even hopefully and conversely, our resilience.

  2. #2
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Lose unsightly sin--fast, fast, fast!
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    I am still unsure of what
    spiritual fasting is
    MANICHAEAN.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

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    Registered User tailor STATELY's Avatar
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    I live the law of the fast. In a nutshell, here is a link to explain what my faith follows: https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/fasting

    Ta ! (short for tarradiddle),
    tailor STATELY
    tailor

    who am I but a stitch in time
    what if I were to bare my soul
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    7-8-2015

  5. #5
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Hi Pompey

    In my instance it was a case of " judge not less you be judged!!" Whats your thoughts on extending fasting beyond food & drink. I'd be interested to hear.

    Hi Cacian

    I cannot put it better than as explained in the link kindly provided by tailor STATELY. In its essence, spiritual fasting comes from physical fasting, in that it helps concentrate the mind on getting closer to whatever God you worship.

    Hi tailor

    Appreciate the comprehensive information, especially the objectives. Unfortunately I know so little of the Mormon faith, but you have addressed part of that.

    Best wishes to you all.

    M.

  6. #6
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    The post so nice I made it twice.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-02-2018 at 11:38 AM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  7. #7
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Hi Pompey...Whats your thoughts on extending fasting beyond food & drink.
    I see various forms of fasting as a potential means to closeness to God but not as something holy in itself. By that, I mean it conveys no merit upon the one who fasts. So rather than believing one SHOULD fast in some way, I would say one may or may not find some kind of fasting helpful. Fasting (from food, food, for can sometimes produce a feeling of cleanness. But so can bathing. So can rising before the sun and listening to the silence. None of that makes fasting, ablution, or early rising holy in themselves. It's just what works for some.

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Also, how far does one go? I had become so jaded by current society that I realized that fasting could not only be about food, but could, and should include; media obsession, people (especially politicians), telephones, I-pads, computers, tweets, (Lord deliver us!!), even talking, and sleep.
    Well, go with what works and don't bother with what doesn't. Also one doesn't have to be Levitical about it. I don't watch television, for example, because I find the jazzed up stew of cultural propaganda (mostly in advertising but in programming, too) to be degrading. But my wife watches TV sometimes. I might watch with her, but more likely I'lł go somewhere and read. Who cares? It's not a bean count of spiritual merrit, it's just a matter of what works for me. I don't drink alcohol, gamble, go to movies, buy music, play video games, or use Facebook or Twitter (and I routinely castigate my Ipad, I assure you). Abstaining from alcohol was a doctor's order because of a chronic health condition (not alcoholism, btw), but the rest are just things I choose not to do.

    Not that some things don't fall into a "should not" category--pornography, criminality, and lying to name just a few. But some are slaves to these things and they are still fit to come to God--in fact, none of us is more welcome. That was the prodigal son's brother's problem. People somehow forget that part of the story.

    Finally, you mentioned abstaining from people and gave politicians as an example. I would not recommend shunning any collective identity or class of person. Certainly some some need to be opposed, but that requires engaging them, which is quite the opposite of abstention. Politics itself is more difficult. It seldom produces a feeling of cleanness, but as a member of a democracy I value and a republic I love, I consider it as a duty to join in the worldly slugfest. Not to be sanctimonious, but I owe my country an opinion and my God a death. Admittedly it's nice to take an break from politics sometimes.

    Them's my two, M.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 07-03-2018 at 06:31 AM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  8. #8
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback Pompey.

    Your life seems to be in a state of peace and equilibrium, by which I mean you have thought all the big issues through. I'm not there yet despite coming up to 75 this year!

    Sorry about the drink situation. I must be careful not to write short stories in the future lavishly describing the joys of imbibing.

    Best wishes
    M.

  9. #9
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Thanks for the feedback Pompey.

    Your life seems to be in a state of peace and equilibrium, by which I mean you have thought all the big issues through. I'm not there yet despite coming up to 75 this year!

    Sorry about the drink situation. I must be careful not to write short stories in the future lavishly describing the joys of imbibing.

    Best wishes
    M.
    There's no peace this side of shore, my friend. Don't worry about your stories by the way, or at least don't worry on my account. We'll drink true wine in Paradise. I'll be the one in the bunny suit.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Hello, from the UK, I think every person should have some spirituality. Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to yourself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals, and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person.
    Orchard House Residential Care Home

  11. #11
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ingridcarley View Post
    Hello, from the UK, I think every person should have some spirituality. Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to yourself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals, and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person.
    Hmmm. I always thought that a spiritual person was one who believes in spirits, or the spiritual nature of man (from a Christian perspective the notion that humans are made in God's image and imbued with the Holy Spirit). Of course those imbued with the Christian Holy Spirit are enjoined to love their neighbors as their self, but the notion that one cannot think of humans as non-spiritual animals (i.e. biological creatures whose life is not created by some mystical spiritual force) and love other people, animals and the planet is, I think, incorrect.

    In addition, I'm suspicious of people who say, "I'm not religious, but I'm very spiritual." Huh? What do they mean? Do they simply mean they are good, loving people (as ingrid seems to imply), or do they mean they actually believe in some sort of animated spirits? Since this is a literary board, I'm suggesting that words should have specific meanings, rather than general (almost meaningless) implications.

    Here's Henry Tilney inveighing against a similar evolution of the word "nice" (a battle that has long been lost) in Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey". Catherine Morland is speaking to begin with:

    “But now really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”

    “The nicest — by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon the binding.”

    “Henry,” said Miss Tilney, “you are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you exactly as he does his sister. He is forever finding fault with me, for some incorrectness of language, and now he is taking the same liberty with you. The word ‘nicest,’ as you used it, did not suit him; and you had better change it as soon as you can, or we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair all the rest of the way.”

    “I am sure,” cried Catherine, “I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should not I call it so?”

    “Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk, and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy, or refinement — people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.”

  12. #12
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Nicd one Ecurb - ie the quote from that acute vicar's daughter, Miss Austen.

    "I'm spiritual but not religious" implies to me lack of commitment to any specific tradition or community and probably lack of any discipline as well.

    Nicholas Buxton says in his book Tantalus and the Pelican: "Rather than seeing spirituality and religion as separate – or worse, as opposed – I suggest that if spirituality refers to the innate human instinct to seek meaning and fulfilment, then religion is the formulation of that in a way of life, to which we have a duty to faithful and true."
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  13. #13
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I don't want to be "impertinent" (Eleanor Tilney accused Henry of being so). With the board lacking participation these days, I hope ingrid didn't take my comments amiss. Her notion of honoring "Oneness" might indeed qualify as "spirituality". As a lifetime atheist, I reject the notion that one has to be "spiritual" to love oneself or other people, and the notion of "Oneness" can be seen as "supernatural" but not spiritual. In other words, if "culture" (language, mores, honor, etc.) is "supernatural" (it is, at least, "super-biological") then honoring cultural norms need not involve spirits.

    Also, in hippy-dippy Eugene Oregon (my home) there are a great many people who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious", which, as you suggest, implies a lack of discipline. Just as cultural norms discipline our thoughts in other areas, it seems silly to aspire to spirituality without studying its history and practice in a disciplined way. It would be like saying, "I'm scientific, but I don't believe in studying science." Or, "I love story-telling, but I never read novels." As Newton suggested, we can see farther if we stand on the shoulders of giants.

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