The Benefits of Fasting
You have duties to fulfill even with regard to yourselves. Our self does not belong to us, but the Creator, our Lord; and this self is but a trust confided to our care, and we are responsible for its well being.
SENSE OF FASTING (Spiritual aspects)
Experience shows that a blind man generally has a stronger memory, and certain of his senses are more developed than those of an ordinary man who has sight. In other words, if certain faculties are not utilized, they may strengthen some other faculties. Similar is the relation between the body and the soul. In the weaking the body there is strengthening of the soul (spirit), even as the pruning of the branches of a tree procures more flowers and more fruit.
When an individual fasts, his conscience pricks him in the face of evil deeds, and he is more able to resist temptations. Further, the fasts make him think of the Creator more, develops his inclinations for charity and makes him taste the sweetness of obedience to the Lord.
Students learn for several months continuously, then they get a summer vacation. Employees work for six days of the week, the seventh day being a holiday for leisure and rest. Man expends mental and physical energy the whole day, whereafter the repose of sleep renovates their faculties for the next day. Even the machines and tools require relaxation, and we observe this for motor cars, aeroplanes, locomotives etc. It is, therefore, not reasonable to think that the stomach and the digestive organs do not also require rest.
In fact, modern medicine has also reached the same conclusion. A large number of doctors in Switzerland, Germany, etc., prescribe for various chronic diseases, fasting, for longer or shorter period according to the exigencies for the sickness and the physical capacities of the sick person.
They have also found that various glands secrete certain acids in the stomach on account of hunger and thirst. These acids kill many germs which produce different diseases. Statistics have also shown that several digestive and other diseases are less abundant among people who have the habit of fasting every year.
We know that man requires a change of climate, air and water from time to time. Patients recovering from illness are sent away from convalescence to a place other than their habitual living place. The more fortunate among the Westerners pass a month of summer vacation outside their home. In other words, it is necessary to change the normal habits from time to time. This is also a kind of rest. We see, for instance that cultivators use their fields alternately and give "rest" to the soil. Continuity being harmful, it is forbidden to fast during the whole year, even for those who want spiritual benefits thereby. Experience has also shown that if one fasts for ever, it becomes a habit, and a second nature, and does not profit by it as does he who fasts with intervals. In fact, if one fasts for more than a month it does not have much effect.
To terminate this discussion, those who fast on medical prescription or even under compulsion as a discipline, do get the material benefits inherent in fasting; but there being no intention of a spiritual search, they do not benefit thereby spiritually. Believers fast with the intention of complying with the command of The Creator. They therefore have its reward for their piety, while not losing the physical and material benefits of the fast.
FASTING FOR FITNESS
Aside from the spiritual values of fasting, there are Physical rewards that come to you by our not eating for a short time. These rewards are reaped not only by the over plump person, but by anyone who fasts.
The general well being of a person on a fast has been noted by physicians. Many doctors advise fasting for patients tussling with gout, heart disease, skin disorder, general intemperance to food and drink, or excessive smoking.
Fasting is good for mental discipline and it effects spiritual uplift. The brain benefits greatly. If you are doing heavy study, preparing for a speech, or otherwise engaging in deep concentration, you do better if fasting. Fasting sharpens your mind and makes you alert and sensitive to mental effort. You concentrate more readily if your stomach is empty and not drawing blood from the brain to digest food.
Many public speakers know well that eating before speaking reduces mental acuity and cuts down on the force of speech. They fast before an important speech and eat later. They know the brain benefits by a fast.
Digestive Distress Relieved:
Other organs that are relieved by fasting are the digestive organs. The stomach, liver, pancreas, and intestines often are overworked. When the digestive system is given a vacation, eating becomes a greater joy.
Rejuvenator and Skin Freshener:
Fasting has been called by a great restorer of youth and prolonger of life. This idea stems from the fact that people who fast acquire a clearer skin, a rosier tint to their cheeks, and more youthful complexion than they had before.
People troubled with skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, or recurrent skin infections are often advised by their physicians to eliminate sweets and fats from their diet. How much better to eliminate all foods for a time periodically, and let the skin pores have a chance to clean themselves and be free from the effects of too many sweets and fats.
Boon to Smokers:
For anyone trying to stop smoking or drinking, a fast can be a boon to the body. By stopping tobacco, alcohol, and food intake for a time, a person helps the body return to normal.
Once the body is "scrubbed clean" inside, the smoker and drinker feels so alive and alert that he does not have any desire to return to his unwise habits.
A more nearly normal appetite follows a fast, and simple foods are enjoyed with greater relish. Heavy use of condiments-pepper, spices, mustard, and ketchup, is no longer needed to make food appetizing.
If you are a heart patient you will find that a fast takes a load off your heart and your circulation. If you have been short of breath, a fast improves your breathing and by elimination of salt and water from the body, reduces tissue edema. This condition may make it possible for you to sleep easier and with fewer pillows.
Some minor discomforts are noted at time during fasting. The person who fasts may be subject to headaches; if so, he needs the fast. Other side effects of fasting, such as a feeling of weakness, palpitation of the heart, and drowsiness late in the afternoon, usually minor, disappear with a little rest.
If the person who wants to improve his diet by cutting out meat, highly seasoned gravy, rich cake, and sugary preserves goes on a fast, he hurries the process of changing. After eating heavily of these foods for sometime he cannot immediately enjoy a plain wholesome diet. His taste is so perverted that he cannot enjoy good fruit, whole-grain bread, and vegetables.
Such a fast proves more benefit than medicine, for the abused stomach finds the rest it has long needed. Genuine hunger can be satisfied with a plain nutritious diet.
For spiritual uplift, try a fast. You will find that it draws you closer to the Creator in prayer. It makes your character stronger by the self-discipline and humble experience of denying yourself food. The double benefit is your feeling of well being, with a clearer eye, sharper brain, springier step, and greater efficiency for your work. It has been often said: "The man eager for success has the lean, hungry look". A bit of starvation can give you that eagerness in a hurry.
Try a fast for spiritual and physical fitness!
Adapted from: SalamIran Magazine- December-98