Fasting and meditation

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    Bob M

    I am looking to restart a meditation practice, which after 6-7 years of daily practice somehow fell apart over the recent 7-8 months, mainly due to great distraction caused by recent political turmoil.

    At the same time, I recently conducted a 10-day water-only fast, motivated mainly by curiosity about potential long term health benefits (cancer prevention and immune system stimulus, among others). In my early 60s, with generally quite good health, I found this fast to be much easier than anticipated, and overall a quite pleasant and interesting experience. I expect I will do this again, perhaps maybe a 6-7 day fast once per year.

    Among other aspects of a water fast, I noticed two things which might make fasting compatible with a stint of sitting more intensively than usual, sort of a DIY retreat experience. Firstly, freedom from food shopping, cooking, eating and cleaning up gave me significantly more time available for other activities each day, and secondly, there were frequent periods on most days while fasting where I felt a degree of greater-than-normal mental clarity. At the same time, for my recent fast, I had arranged my other activities so that I had lessened obligations to work and family matters, in case I experienced diminished energy. (though this proved not to be a problem.)

    I would like to hear what experience and insights others on this forum may have had in combining fasting with a period of intensified meditation.

    (of course if possible, I would like to avoid this turning into a thread about the health benefits and risks of fasting, so please let’s limit this to a discussion about meditation and fasting for people for whom fasting is suitable and conducted properly.)



    I fasted recently for 3.5 days, for the first time in a couple of years. It was rather difficult, due to my waning health (at age 65) and consequent heavy elimination symptoms (including emotional). I was open to going a few more days but opted out in the interest of safety. Meditation was not easy or satisfying; it was effectively like trying to meditate while sick. Also, the lack of sleep made for much dullness.

    This is not to imply that there is no benefit to combining fasting and meditation. I suspect that some of us need to go longer and get past the initial heavy elimination symptoms for enhanced meditation to happen. If one fasts regularly, I’m sure this gets easier.



    Years ago (in the 90s), I used to do a 24-hour water-only fast on Fridays. Knowing I was fasting, and trying to maintain focus on a spiritual object or symbol, I felt this combination enhanced my meditations.

    Last year, I was living in Thailand and decided to start fasting again. However, this time, I didn’t notice a particular enhancement to my meditation.

    My guess is that your object of focus (a spiritual symbol, your breath, a sound, word or chant) probably has a bigger impact on meditation when you have a special relationship with or connection to the meaning of the object of focus. I wasn’t focusing on the same spiritual symbol and didn’t get the same results out of the combination of fasting and meditation.

    I tried varying the length of my water-only fasts, including a 3-day fast (my longest). But didn’t notice any particular changes in my meditation sessions.

    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by  Scott.
    • This reply was modified 6 months, 3 weeks ago by  Scott.

    Gilbert R

    Given how far out the mind can go on meditation retreats, combined with potentially intense psychological purifications, I would not generally recommend fasting on retreats. Fasting can act like an unknown variable that the mind can perseverate on in an unhealthy manner. Obviously, your mileage may vary. I do think that fasting can be beneficial for some people in some situations.



    I did a 6 day water fast while starting a meditation practice. I don’t recommend it if you are just starting. The majority of your gross distractions will be how you want to eat. (At least in my experience). I would probably do it again when I get to stage 6 or 7.

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