Fasting

The idea of fasting comes up in several different religions which makes me think that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Ritual fasting in Hinduism seems to fall mainly into two purposes: pleasing the Gods and focusing the soul.

A lot of the stories show the benefits of currying favor with the Gods. When people perform austerities to an impressive enough degree, they are rewarded with favors from the Gods.

At the same time, the wise men suggest that these austerities, such as fasting, help sharpen our discipline and focus. Keeping steady control of the mind is a skill and there are ways to practice that, such as meditation, but also rituals like fasting.

I have found when I have done fasts (that were for religious purposes rather than just trying to starve myself into a smaller dress size!), an interesting effect was that I thought about God a lot more during that day. Each time I felt a pang of hunger, it reminded me of why I was refraining from food. So that’s quite an impressive reminder!

There are different fasts one can partake in. The most frequent is the Monday fast for Shiva. It is called Somvar Vrat, which basically means Monday rituals. Monday is a day dedicated to Shiva (whose bio will be here tomorrow!).

The fast is supposed to bring wisdom and fulfillment of desires. It is also often sited as a way for young unmarried women to ask for a good husband.

Fasting does not necessarily mean refraining from all food. For some it is not eating cooked food. For some it is eating only fruit and milk. For others it is only water.

I have not done fasts very often, but have found them to be valuable tools to show myself how disciplined I am capable of being.

***

So my goal for today is to do a Somvar fast. Good timing, since it’s a holiday from work here in the States. Gives me plenty of opportunity for prayer.

In order to participate, I’ve looked up instructions online for how to fully do this ritual…

  • Shower and dress in white
  • Puja to Shiva, offering white flowers
  • Om Namah Shivaya is chanted throughout the day
  • An evening puja is performed and the fast is broken at sunset

Any suggestions are welcome!

***

This past week my goal was to find quiet moments to be at inner peace instead of always trying to entertain myself. I found that there were some great opportunities for that at the gym. My smart phone was locked away and I was waiting for my boyfriend to finish in the changing room, and so I just sat and let myself become present.

There’s a really interesting quality to that present moment.

We may wonder at first what is meant by coming into the present moment. Aren’t we already being present? But of course, you and I know that people very rarely are. When one does stop and really listen to every sound and reach out with every sense, there’s a feeling of snapping into a new world where everything is sharper and clearer. It’s so difficult to maintain a connection to that world, but it’s pretty neat to discover the ability to flip between normal existence and that heightened one.

What is your goal for this week?

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • HARRY

    @ Ambaa

    My older sister does this (somvar vrat) because she follows shivism and in our household we follow vashavanism. We do ekkadashi twice a month. Ekkadashi is the day you donot eat normal grains and pulses and also it’s a day you give your system a break from everyday norm.

    Fasting is also known as Uppvaash, upp means god and vaash means reside with, it’s to reside with god that’s what it nets down to. The point of this is very simple, if we didn’t have the set days for this vrat we would not think about the lord and the only way we are reminded to think about it is to have set days for this. When you eat cooked meal you feel lethargic and lazy and feel like sleeping and not doing anything produtive. By doing uppvaas your mind is alert and when your mind is alert you think about food and when you think of the reason why you are doing this, this also reminds you of lord thus that’s the day you will remember him lot more then any other day. By remembering him you reside with him ( Lord ).

    You don’t have to do Uppvaas if you are not well or recieving treatment for something long term. This was only prescribed for young people who have busy life and the lord is easily forgoten in everydays chores. All those unmarried women asking for a good husband after vrat, is there such a thing as a good husband? Wink :) Have a good one.

    HARRY

    • Ambaa

      That’s right, I forgot about the lethargy reason! I was reading something earlier about how a fast can help you focus on God because you aren’t spending all that time and energy focused on what you’re going to eat and preparing it and eating it and digesting it, etc. So much of our lives is taken up with food concerns!

      I don’t feel like I need to do vrat for a good husband, because I have the most amazing man in my life. My boyfriend is more than I could have ever hoped for in a life partner. I think Shiva blessed me even without fasting!

      • Drekfletch

        ++So much of our lives is taken up with food concerns!++

        It’s one of the great Mysteries of life. I’ve seen it linked to Soma/Fire.

  • HARRY

    @ Ambaa

    LOL. When is he making you in to an honest woman. I’m not saying that you are not an honest women, I’m sure you are. I ‘m just using the terminology that’s what people say here when you are geting hitched. Just curious. Or is this too personal. If it is, then you don’t have to answer it. either way I’m happy for you. :)

    • Ambaa

      Any day now! lol. He keeps teasing me that a proposal is right around the corner. He wants to surprise me, though, so he hasn’t done it at any times I met be expecting it.

    • Jeramy

      She’s not an honest woman :P

      I’m totally kidding, Aamba … please don’t hunt me across incarnations :-D

      • Ambaa

        :P

        There’s plenty of things I’m not, but honest I definitely am!

        • Jeramy

          True dat.

  • Drekfletch

    Mindfulness (focusing the soul) is all about point of view, quite literally filling the mind. I know a few Kemetics who use the time spend putting their makeup on for the day to be mindful of Bast (Mistress of the Ointment Jar, among other things). Manifestations of the gods are all around us. It merely remains for us to see them, which is surprisingly difficult for living in a world where everything is one.

    • Ambaa

      What a good idea! I don’t wear makeup much myself, but I think I could find some every day thing that I do and rededicate that behavior to trigger a reminder to think about the bigger picture.

  • Sandeep

    Namaste Amba!!

    I do fasting on mangalvaar (Tuesday) …I try to control my body and will on this day.This day I monitor my action closely…..and spend atleast 1 hour on spritual books…these days i am reading complete works of swami Vivekanada..

  • seeker

    Does anyone else have trouble with rebelling against what you’re told to do, even if you’rw the one doing the telling? Believe it or not, if I decide to fast weekly, I’ll start to find ways not to do it. In my professional life I can be really self-disciplined but when it comes to things that would benefit spiritually I’m a 2-year-old shouting, “No!”

    • Ambaa

      I do have trouble with that. I read somewhere recently that we have limited will power and when we use it on one thing, we don’t have it to spend on something else. So if I’ve used all my will power to make my daily writing word count, I’m in a weakened state when it comes to having the will power not to eat all the ice cream in the house when I get home. So I too find that there are some things I am disciplined in and others I’m not.

      I struggle a lot with being disciplined in the spiritual realm because it feels like my parents’ “thing” sometimes and I do feel that inner child trying to break away and do what it wants. Oh well. Practice!


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