I did not keep the fast for religious reasons. I most definitely did not keep it to mock or belittle the fasts of others and hopefully no one assumes that. My reasons for fasting were personal. On a whim, it was an experience I wanted to put my body through. I wanted to see what sort of resolve and abilities I had. Also as someone who does not believe in fasting, I wanted to see if the human spirit could sustain a heathen.
Here are my daily experiences:
For the longest time I perceived the Ramadan fast as cruel and unusual. No food or water was a pretty strong expectations - especially the no water aspect. Most Hindu fasts do not expect absolute abstinence, but abstinence from most lavish foods. They prescribe a very light frugal diet. I've always been a major foodie. So the thought of no full square meals of the day was really down for me. But more than food I love water. I drink water all the time. I'm bored - I drink water. In fact I used to drink so much water that people would joke that if they sliced me water would flow instead of blood.
Anyway, I sustained the fast for seven days and could perhaps do more. The fast is by no means cruel. Unusual, definitely yes. But it is doable. I kept it on one meal a day. With a morning meal and plenty of morning water it should be doable up to 18-20 hours in my estimate. Children, sick and elderly are not expected to fast. I do hope they give due consideration of those hacking and chocking on their own spittle consideration. The tickle in the throat, the niggling cough made it worst for me. However, health is a caveat. Regular eating is the key to good health. A fast maybe an exception - but after the fast people should go back to normal healthy eating. Not undereating - nor pigging out to compensate.
What a fast does -
- It instill discipline
- It helps you discover resolve and mental strength you never had
- It makes you appreciate food
- It makes you appreciate what thirst and hunger feels like and empathize with those who have less
- Weight loss (only if you stick to healthy eating after. Also my family does not celebrate this month. So my end of fast meal was very ordinary everyday food, except Chinese one day)
- Makes you sleepy all faster
- Upsets your tummy, its more the lack of water that causes digestive issues. It could also be a me thing as I am highly dependent on water.
- For some reason it really boosts self respect
- It creates deeper understanding into fasts kept by others
- It helps you treat other fasters with respect and discipline, rather than pity or shock.
What it does not do -
(Of course this is from the perspective of a heathen)
It does not you holier or a better person
It does not express love or devotion. This is a purely physical endeavor. Love and devotion are of the mind and need to be ingrained in consciousness.
It does not connect one with God or the force. Again it is a physical endeavor and one needs to tap into spirit and consciousness to accomplish this.
It does not make one calmer. In fact it makes one more irritable.
People cite health benefits etc. I am yet to see. My sleep patterns, mood and other things have indeed been messed up. It also could be since I am a first timer.
Fasting most definitely does not improve relationships, those need other efforts on part of people.
Fasting most definitely is not a way to say I love you or extend the life or loved ones.
Fasting most definitely does not get you good karma or heaven brownie points. Its a pure physical endeavor of will and for this you genuinely need to be a good person.
The Dark Lord's Prescription -
As a heathen I cannot mandate fast for any reason. Religious fasting like Ramadan or for love like Karva chauth is up to free will and what people believe. However, I do recommend that everyone try such fasting at least a few days every year. It is a unique experience in self awareness.
The other emotional and spiritual aspects of my fast are between me and the force.