Psychological Effects of Fasting
The physical and psychological benefits cannot be separated. Fasting purifies cells all over the body, including those in the brain. Negative mental states such as anxiety, boredom, loneliness, tension, and fear, to the some extent, can be said as the mental expression of a physical state. When the brain is free of toxic poisons, the mind is liberated both physiologically and then psychologically. Although psychological drugs only temporarily alter the mental states by affecting the brain, fasting may free the brain forever (Bragg & Bragg, 1999). In the last 50 years in Russia, therapeutic fasting has been found to be the most effective treatment for schizophrenia. As early as 1972, Dr. Yuri Nikolayev, director of the fasting unit of the Moscow Psychiatric Institute, reported on the use of fasting to successfully treat over 7000 patients who suffered from various mental disorders including schizophrenia. Now Nikolayev after 30 year’s experience fasting over 10,000 patients says, “seventy percent of those [schizophrenia patients] treated by fasting improved so remarkably that they were able to resume an active life” (www.fasting.com).
Many fasters report that their mind is sharpened and focused. This is explained by the fact that the cleansing process of fasting actually gets rid of cementing and intrusive particles of the nerve tissues. As a result, a greater number of our brain cells come into contact with purified blood and the improved flow of blood to the brain helps to clarify our mind. An Irish literary critic and dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, attributed his successful works to the effect of fasting (www.fasting.com).
Spiritual Effects of Fasting
People fast not only for health and youth, but also for spiritual illumination. Fasting is a rite in all religions; the Bible alone has 74 references to it (Bragg & Bragg, 1999). Prolonged fasting was practiced by the Bible saints, Ahab, Anna, Esther, Hannah, Ezra, John the Baptist, the Apostles. Christ, Daniel, David, Elijah, and Moses all did 40-day fasts. Moses received the Ten Commandments after fasting for 40 days. Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert before starting His ministry. Great religious leaders knew that abstaining from food led them to focus on God and also opened their mind for spiritual perception and understanding (www.fasting.com).
We can find Christ teaching about fasting in the Dead Sea Scroll found in 1947: “Renew yourselves and fast, for I tell you truly, except you fast you shall never be freed from the power of Satan, and from all diseases that come from Satan” Similar teachings can be found in Matthew 17: 14-21. Great saints of our history approached and some reached to “the truth” with their focused mind and spirit that were attained through asceticism including fasting, probably not only by special grace (Ehret, 1966).
In this modern world, we know that a great number of people fast for religious reasons.
For example, one billion Muslims fast daily during the entire month of Ramadan. Nearly 14 million Jews fast during the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), as well as on other special occasions. About 800 million religious Hindus fast on the Ekadashi day, on Janmashtami, and in the month of Shravan.
Gandhi, who led India’s nonviolent movement for freedom from Colonial England, initially tried fasting as means of self-restraint and realized its far greater benefits: “detoxification, heightened clarity of consciousness, and spiritual enhancement.” Gandhi concluded: “There is no prayer without fasting,” “The light of the world will illuminate within you when you fast and purify yourself” (www.fasting.com; cited in Bragg & Bragg, 1999).
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