Meditation Forum

Vipassana Meditation Forum => Meditation, Practice And The Path => Topic started by: Siddharth on November 26, 2017, 09:44:34 AM

Title: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: Siddharth on November 26, 2017, 09:44:34 AM
Hello everyone,
Recently I came across the benefits and idea of water fasting(consuming only water) in a big way. Though being born in a family that follows Jainism, I have seen people fast for 8,10 and even 30 day consuming only water, including family members, but never did fast for more than a day(though always felt i could go on after a day of fast).

A friend of mine in college did a 7 day water fast and said he noticed a lot about his body during the period.

I am set to go to my second vipassana retreat in 10 days and have a week of free time just before. I am planning to try to do a 6 day water fast and break the fast two days before the retreat to get body normal.

Has any of you guys tried anything similar?  what are your experiences ? is it advisable ?

I wanted to have a discussion from the community to get your opinions before trying this out.

Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: Vivek on November 26, 2017, 03:43:51 PM
I have not tried it but I know people who have tried similar fasting, especially those who are very much into Naturopathy. They have reported it to be a very unique experience and body rejuvenation was said to be assured. I recommend you try it out but ensure you have no medical condition that would present a challenge once you have started fasting. For example, this may not be recommended for those who are diabetic etc.
Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: Middleway on November 27, 2017, 11:00:54 AM
Recently I came across the benefits and idea of water fasting(consuming only water) in a big way.
I have not done anything like this voluntarily and except when I was sick and could not eat solids for a day or two. What are the benefits you are referring to?
A friend of mine in college did a 7 day water fast and said he noticed a lot about his body during the period.

What did he notice about his body?

In general, my opinion is Buddha recommended the middleway after finding extreme asceticism does not help. However, he may have been further into practice that he did not find it useful. For beginners like us, we may get a few insights. I would be curious to know what you find.



Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: Siddharth on November 27, 2017, 01:55:57 PM
Dear Middleway,

the benefits of water fasting are many in terms of health(easy to find across internet) but more importantly from meditation point of view, when body enters ketosis after day 3, people are said to experience deep level of focus and lightness. My friend did too. A lot of different sages and yogis are said to have practised this during their journey. Though ultimately they all turned to the middleway or found the golden middle as they say, I am interested in getting to know my body and mind better by introducing it to new environments, here lack of external nutrients and depending on stored fats as primary source of energy as our hunting and gathering ancestors did.

Ufcourse this is just and experiment and I will only be able to talk about what I experienced if and when i do, but at this point in time for me, it feels almost natural to do it. As if, this is the next step. So i am going forward with it. Hopefully this will help me find a middle path in life starting from what and how much i eat.

Thanks and with Metta,

Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: playground on November 27, 2017, 02:00:45 PM
Hello Sanga,

Water fasting, intermittent fasting & ketogenic dieting have been particular interests of mine
for about the last 2 years.    I went full time on a ketogenic diet in June 2016 (i'm still following
a ketogenic diet).  I did 11 continuous weeks of intermittent fasting; 20 hour fasting (per day). 
I've also done 36 hour and 40 hour water fasts... I've not yet made it to two days.   I'd like to do 7 and 10
day fasts... at some point, in the future,.... and then perhaps repeat them every year (perhaps at lent)

The suggestion that you shouldn't do a fast if you have a medical condition, is doubtless well intentioned
but inaccurate.  There are good reasons for suggesting the opposite,  that if you have a medical condition,
then you should consider going on a fast.  Below i'll explain why:

For millennia different cultures and various religions, have advocated fasting.  The Christians
have lent, in Islam there is Ramadan, the Jews have the fast of Yom Kippur, Jains have the Paryushan festival,
and buddhist monks practice, what we could call today, intermittent fasting: they eat breakfast and lunch
and then nothing for the rest of the day (It's approximately an 18 hour daily fast).  And this practice of not
eating beyond midday is coincidentally recommended in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The cult classic book on fasting is Upton Sinclair's  "The Fasting Cure"
This book is many years out of copyright and is now in the public domain.
You can download a pdf copy of this book from here:
Or you can google for "Upton Sinclair The Fasting Cure pdf" and download
a copy from elsewhere.

This book basically spells out some of the remarkable medical cures that have been achieved
using fasting.  From curing stomach problems, migraines, depression, lethargy, chronic pain,
tumours and cancer, neuropathy, diabetic symptoms .... it's a huge laundry list !

Upton Sinclair had no idea how or why fasting worked... he just knew it did. 
He managed to cure his own medical maladies using fasting.
He practised fasting often (in his middle aged years)... and then wrote a book about it
... offering advice and specifying lots of others' stories of who'd achieved amazing
healings of a huge array of medical conditions.

We now know how and why fasting works.
Our body has a natural detox system for cleaning out the junk that accumulates in our body
over time (junk amino acids, trans-figured fats, semi-metabolised carbohydrates & proteins,
heavy metals, plastic toxins... etc etc).  But there's a problem, this detox mechanism is turned
"off" by insulin. Insulin is produced in response to eating carbohydrates in foods.  So to turn this
mechanism 'on', to encourage your body to rid itself of this garbage, you have to stop eating...
(or... you have to eat a diet which has less than 50 grams of carbohydrate per day
i.e. ketogenic diet)

The body is clever, it can shut down insulin production by turning off hunger signals.
When we're ill, we lose our appetite and simply don't want to eat, or in more extreme cases,
we couldn't possibly face food.  This is when our body is running it's own internal detox process.   
Later, we instinctively know that we're getting better, when our appetite returns... presumably,
the detox process has finished... and our body allows the hunger signals to return.
This mechanism is technically called Autophagy.  There are varieties of autophagy relating
to whether it's intracellular, or extracellular junk that's been cleaned up and excreted.
Look to wikipedia or google for more information on Autophagy.

But anyway, back to the plot ...
The Hindu ascetics, and the Buddha himself, before enlightenment, believed that fasting could
speed progress in meditation, reaching insights faster and facilitating progress to
nirvana.   I don't know about enlightenment, but i do believe the Hindu ascetics and Buddha
were right, that fasting somehow boosts your progress in meditation, and somehow, it's easier
to sit for longer.  On this basis, i've toyed with the idea of doing a fast during a 10 day
meditation retreat.   At first glance, it's a great idea.....   

However, a Goenka meditation retreat is a highly authoritarian environment.
You are made to surrender much of your independence and autonomy during that ten days....
They take away your belongs, and your money!   And you're told, you're not allowed to leave!
I wonder if that's the most propitious environment for conducting a fast.   And of-course, they
lay out food for you, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  That's also not great for someone fasting.

The advice of Upton Sinclair, from his book, is that fasting is surprisingly easy.  All the trouble
and temptation occurs in the first 2 days, after that, you don't think about food at all, until the
proximity of the end of fast somehow leads to 'anticipatory hunger'.

I experienced this 'anticipatory hunger' for myself when i did my 11 weeks of intermittent fasting.
I would wake up, with no hunger, i'd spend the next 17 hours, with no hunger, and then around
the 18 hour mark, only 2 hours to go before i could eat, then i'd start to get increasingly hungry
and i would be increasingly distracted by the idea of food and eating...  And then I'd eat
compulsively for the next 4 hours.

We know that Upton Sinclair fasted often during his middle aged years.  We don't know
about his fasting habits during his later years.   It doesn't seem to have done him any harm
however, it cured him of dyspepsia, grippe and a variety of other conditions.  And he lived
to be 90.... He died in 1968.    I think most people would agree that 90 is a good innings.
For more on Upton Sinclair:

 =>  Fasting has been used for millennia to cure a vast range of medical conditions.
 =>  Fasting allows the body to switch on it's autophagy processes to remove toxins
 and general biochemical garbage, intra-cellular and inter-cellular.
 =>  Hindu ascetics, and the pre-enlightenment Buddha, believed that fasting would
facilitate meditation and enlightenment.  (In my experience it does facilitate meditation,
I can't speak of enlightenment).

I recommend trying fasting with meditation.  If fasting seems too much like jumping in
at the deep end, you might dip your toe in the water with a ketogenic diet.

be happy :)
Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: Matthew on December 05, 2017, 09:34:17 PM
Water fasting can be very dangerous to health. If you are doing any other kind of fast you need additional water to cope with the detoxification process. Other than this, fasting can be beneficial to see through the processes of ego.

Be careful with water. 4-6 pints per day is regularly need. More when fasting.

Be well,

Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: Siddharth on December 06, 2017, 01:57:22 AM
I could only find very positive health effects of water fast on community driven sites like reddit. I just completed a seven day water fast and only drank water as and when I felt the need. I do not feel any bad effects so far (ended day before).

Can you provide any resources that outline the bad effects.
I am off to a retreat today and therefore might not be able to reply soon.

With metta,
Title: Re: Water Fasting before Retreat
Post by: playground on December 10, 2017, 10:22:59 AM

I just completed a seven day water fast and only drank water as and when I felt the need.
I do not feel any bad effects so far (ended day before).

Hey Siddharth,

7 Days... wow!  .. that's excellent. Well done.
I hope to follow in your foot steps in the not too distant future.

Have a nice retreat :)

be happy