Since last year, I had been curious about water only fasting. Today, my curiousity was satisfied :)
On Thursday afternoon, I met a Jain friend for lunch. She told me that she, her husband and their entire extended family were doing annual fasts that last from 8 to 15 days. I was inspired. On Saturdays and Sundays, I invariably go for hikes. Sometimes, there is a birthday party or get together to attend. Luckily, there were no social commitments for last weekend. Plus my right leg is injured. I am hobbling around these days. So hiking was ruled out. I sensed a golden opportunity to experience a 3-day water fast :) My last meal was on Thursday evening. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all I had was water. Lots of it!
Traditionally, fasting has been considered curative and therapeutic by many cultures worldwide. The article Benefits of Fasting (1977) by Paul Martin traces the history of fasting. My motivation was not to detoxify myself or cure myself or to feel divine. I was driven mostly by curiosity.
In February 2012, I had seen the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (freely available online). It had inspired me to do a 10-day juice fast, which was a life changing event for me. I jotted down my experience in an article: Juice Fasting for Calmness and Clarity. In the middle my juice fast, I had learnt that juice fasting is a modern concept. Traditionally, many cultures worldwide have done water-only fasts. Ever since, I had been curious to know how that feels.
Last year, I had also watched Fasting - Safe and Effective Use of an Ancient Powerful Healing Therapy (55 minutes) by Dr Michael Klaper. This is an awesome video by a medical doctor who supervises fasting. It answers many questions like: how many days should we fast? what symptoms should we expect? when should we break a fast? who should fast? who should fast only under medical supervision? If you have a medical condition, then you must definitely watch this DVD before you do any sort of fast. From this DVD, I had learnt that anybody in good physical condition who is not on any medication can do a three day water-only fast without supervision. That gave me confidence.
Went to office. Did regular work. In the evening, I went to the gym and did warmup exercises, some Yoga stretches and some core exercises. I felt just fine. Didn't have any hunger pangs. In the evening, I set up a NetFlix account and watched a lovely movie Children of Heaven (2007) which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Movie.
At 9:30, went out with a friend to a restaurant. I drove. My friend had breakfast. I just had some water. We talked. Then we saw an Indian movie Shuddh Desi Romance. During the movie, on a couple of occasions, I felt drowsy. I realized that I was feeling weak. Upon reaching home, I rested. Thereafter, I stayed at home until Monday morning.
In the evening, I watched Departures, a heavy and poignant Japanese movie that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2009. In the movie, a cellist loses his job. Through a quirk of fate, he takes up the job of performing the last rites for those who just died. It involves cleaning the body, decorating it and placing it a coffin. These rituals are performed with great love and respect for the departed. Why was I watching this movie while fasting? I have no idea.
While watching the movie, at one point, I imagined that many of the people I know are no more. I was surprised at who popped up in my memory :) At another point, I remembered physical objects that I have kept with myself in memory of people I know. These are some of my attachments.
By night, my mind was churning. It was a combination of physical and mental exhaustion. I felt like talking to some friends. A good friend was up on the mountains, climbing. I felt drowsy and disturbed, as if I was losing my mind. I even thought of breaking my fast. I had bananas right at my table. I wasn't sure if I should continue. Then I made a list of people to contact if I become desperate. Finally, I decided to employ an antidote to mind churning: meditation. Luckily, after 5 to 10 minutes of meditation, my mind calmed down. I lay down and within a few seconds, I was sound asleep. Woke up a couple of times at night to urinate.
Spent the entire day at home. A lazy day. I felt weak and sleepy. Watched some YouTube videos, skimmed through a math book, wrote a few articles at my blog, and posted a couple of updates on FaceBook.
I remember spending a couple of hours in bed, not doing anything. Not even thinking much but aware of my surroundings: the beautiful grass outside, the bookcases near me and my personal belongings. The last time I had spent time like this was in childhood :) Ever since, I have always been busy doing something or the other.
In the evening, I felt dizzy getting up from my bed to walk around! I started getting up slowly.
Got up by 8:00 in the morning. Bought two coconuts from Whole Foods. I drank coconut water at 9:00 and 10:30. Took a shower, got ready and went to office.
At noon, I had a mixture of brown rice (white rice was not available), two bananas and a cup of blueberries. Yummy. I ate my lunch slowwwly. This is the second time in my life that I was focused on each and every spoonful that I ate during a meal. I chewed well. The food was nourishing.
By evening, I felt quite hungry. So came home office early and prepared quinoa and lentils for dinner.
I had two bowel movements on Monday, in the morning and in the evening. Both were blackish. My first regular bowel movement was on Tuesday afternoon.
I had no bowel movements except Friday morning and a little on Monday morning. Looks like my stomach was mostly clean from Friday morning onwards. I had no unusual experiences like headaches, rashes, constipation or foul breath. Nothing except emotional disturbance on Saturday evening which I would attribute to exhaustion and watching "Departures", a heavy movie.
For the last eighteen months, I have diligently followed Plant Based Diets and I exercise regularly. Plus I'm generally cheerful these days, with no emotional baggage bothering me. So I imagine that my body and my mind did not have much to detoxify. That's good news :)
Overall, the summary of my experience is: weakness, an emotional hiccup on the second evening, and dizziness on the last day. Otherwise, the fast went smoothly.
I heard that some Jains do seven to ten day water-only fasts. During such fasts, they go to work! I could not have done that. I felt quite weak. I'm now curious to figure out how the Jains do it.
What did I get from this fast?
I don't quite know :) For sure, I felt very calm on Monday. My lunch was slow and relaxed. My skin felt clearer. That's all. Now I'm pretty confident that I can do a 7-day or 10-day water-only fast. But I'll do those only if somebody convinces me that there is some benefit to such long fasts.