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?

Guest Post: From Atheism to Hinduism
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Visiting in MA
The Paradox of Prayer in AARP Magazine
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.


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