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Vajra Fist

In praise of fasting

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I started alternate day fasting a few weeks back and I think it's absolutely brilliant. Waking up in the morning, 36 hours after last eating, my head is so clear. I have laser-like focus on meditation and yoga.

 

Does anyone else fast for mental/spiritual benefits? If so, what schedule do you follow and what benefits have you seen?

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I do a 36-hour fast once a week as part of my sleeping qigong practice. It gives more clarity and qi flow, and also helps create brown fat if done with cold showers. Circulation really improves too.

Edited by Earl Grey
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There is something to be said for sleeping on an empty stomach. I know in Theravada temples the monks take their last meal at noon and fast until dawn each day. 

 

No problem if you don't want to go into too much detail, but how does the fasting activate your sleeping qigong? 

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36 minutes ago, Vajra Fist said:

There is something to be said for sleeping on an empty stomach. I know in Theravada temples the monks take their last meal at noon and fast until dawn each day. 

 

No problem if you don't want to go into too much detail, but how does the fasting activate your sleeping qigong? 

 

It doesn't activate it; it's just a supplementary practice that enhances sleeping qigong and is taught near the end of the beginner's level. At higher levels, we can hibernate for weeks and stay up for weeks, and when the body is digesting, especially meat, which can take up to three days, it wastes a lot of qi. 

 

When sleeping during fasts, I can turn off cravings and hunger, and I can stand for hours in Zhan Zhuang the day of and the day before. 

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Vajra, how many days per week have you been doing the all day fasting? Or is it just every other day?

 

I followed the Warrior Diet (ages ago) for several years but it wasn’t terribly practical, and didn’t emphasize variety enough for me. Felt imbalanced to stick to a similar schedule every single day. I prefer Art de Vanys approach where he randomly skips dinner (and the following breakfast sometimes) 1-2 days a week.

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26 minutes ago, nyerstudent said:

Vajra, how many days per week have you been doing the all day fasting? Or is it just every other day?

 

I followed the Warrior Diet (ages ago) for several years but it wasn’t terribly practical, and didn’t emphasize variety enough for me. Felt imbalanced to stick to a similar schedule every single day. I prefer Art de Vanys approach where he randomly skips dinner (and the following breakfast sometimes) 1-2 days a week.

 

Started pretty recently, about two weeks ago. Before that was doing one meal a day for a few months, which is similar I think to the warrior diet. Looking back though it didn't really feel like fasting, which is almost an altered state of consciousness where everything is really vivid. Alternate day fasting is better supported by the science too in terms of cellular repair and neutropic benefits.

Edited by Vajra Fist
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Are you familiar with the Mahayana fasting practice called Nyung Ne (or Nyung Nay)? 

It might inform your fasting practice with greater clarity re. the spiritual benefits from a Buddhist perspective. 

I've attended a couple of Nyung Ne fasting retreats years ago.

These are very short retreats, like around 2/3 days, but its believed that

the benefit from doing one Nyung Ne retreat properly is equivalent to doing a full 3 months retreat. 

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1 hour ago, C T said:

Are you familiar with the Mahayana fasting practice called Nyung Ne (or Nyung Nay)? 

It might inform your fasting practice with greater clarity re. the spiritual benefits from a Buddhist perspective. 

I've attended a couple of Nyung Ne fasting retreats years ago.

These are very short retreats, like around 2/3 days, but its believed that

the benefit from doing one Nyung Ne retreat properly is equivalent to doing a full 3 months retreat. 

 

How does a nyungne go? Do you just fast for 2-3 days and do specific meditation with it or what? 

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It's devoted to the Thousand-Armed Chenrezig. As I recall we did the sadhana 3 times per day- the sadhana takes a while because you're doing the long dharani (namo ratna trayaya…) 108 times along with some very complex visualizations and a ton of prostrations. I still remember the dharani after all those years because we did it so many times. I think in addition to the sadhana we did some hymns and recited the 37 practices of a Bodhisattva.

 

On the first evening we were introduced to the practice and given some kind of empowerment (I think it was temporary?) and took a vow. The  first full day we ate breakfast and then fasted from food; on the second full day a water and speech fast were added to the food fast; the morning after we had tea and some kind of liquid breakfast and went home.

Edited by SirPalomides
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36 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:

 

How does a nyungne go? Do you just fast for 2-3 days and do specific meditation with it or what? 

 

 

Its a practice centred on purification and healing, supplicating Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) as the main practice deity,. 

Nyung Ne roughly translates as 'abiding in the fast'. 

 

On the first day intro. including taking Mahayana precepts. One light meal at lunchtime. Tea/water can be consumed until evening. 

 

The 2nd day complete silence and total fasting is observed. Sadhana of Chenrezig is performed throughout the day/night. Basically lots of sessions involving prayers, chanting, prostrations, guided meditations, and visualizations - till 9am the next day. 

 

Soft breakfast to end the retreat. 

 

 

 

Edited by C T
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3 minutes ago, C T said:

 

 

Its a practice centred on purification and healing, supplicating Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) as the main practice deity,. 

Nyung Ne roughly translates as 'abiding in the fast'. 

 

On the first day intro. including taking Mahayana precepts. One light meal at lunchtime. Tea/water can be consumed until evening. 

 

The 2nd day complete silence and total fasting is observed. Sadhana of Chenrezig is performed throughout the day/night. Basically lots of sessions involving prayers, chanting, prostrations, guided meditations, and visualizations - till 9am the next day. 

 

Soft breakfast to end the retreat. 

 

 

 

 

Complete fasting, including no water at all, or just water is okay? Because in my own fast, we can only take water. 

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No water on the second day. I think that's the part that really made it rough for me. The next morning I felt very weak and groggy; the first sip of tea felt like a jolt of energy. Most of the others seemed to be doing fine though, so I suspect I'm a big baby.

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3 minutes ago, Earl Grey said:

 

Complete fasting, including no water at all, or just water is okay? Because in my own fast, we can only take water. 

 

Water allowed up to evening of first day (time depends on retreat leader - usually up to 8pm, but varies). From then on its total fasting until the morning of the 3rd day. Its fairly extreme because of the nos. of sessions throughout day 2, plus no sleep lol. But the retreatants would be relatively experienced practitioners, so everyone knew what to expect. 

 

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5 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

No water on the second day. I think that's the part that really made it rough for me. The next morning I felt very weak and groggy; the first sip of tea felt like a jolt of energy. Most of the others seemed to be doing fine though, so I suspect I'm a big baby.

 

Did you attend another one after that? 

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I believe lots of retreat centres throughout the world are in the midst of Nyung Ne now. :) 

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1 minute ago, C T said:

 

Did you attend another one after that? 

 

No, I definitely had bitten off more than I could chew. I didn't really know what I was getting into- I had just started attending that karma kagyu center for about a month or two (actually the Karmapa's official US residence, though I don't think he ever lives there) and the very nice people told me, "hey, we're having this nyungne thing this weekend, come try it out." I was definitely not an experienced practitioner of anything. At the end I felt glad for the experience and that I didn't bail out but the thought of doing it again scared me. I'm sure it would have been easier the second time. I've heard of people who do it every two weeks or something crazy like that.

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15 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

 

No, I definitely had bitten off more than I could chew. I didn't really know what I was getting into- I had just started attending that karma kagyu center for about a month or two (actually the Karmapa's official US residence, though I don't think he ever lives there) and the very nice people told me, "hey, we're having this nyungne thing this weekend, come try it out." I was definitely not an experienced practitioner of anything. At the end I felt glad for the experience and that I didn't bail out but the thought of doing it again scared me. I'm sure it would have been easier the second time. I've heard of people who do it every two weeks or something crazy like that.

 

haha its a pretty daunting practice alright, but you did well for not bailing out despite being a newbie and all. The second one still tough, but with the experience, at least one knows what to prepare for before entering the retreat. A fellow attendee at the first one I attended turned into a devoted long-term NN practitioner/adept now. At one point, he became very ill, even on the verge of dying... not a direct result of the practice, but he had some underlying health issues. He persisted though, with the help of his teacher who really cared for him extra during that precarious phase, and now he's flourishing! Last I heard he's gone on to be a hermit in some beehive hut in the West of Ireland, subsisting on a just a few spoons of rice, honey and water a month. 

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It is so great to hear about your nyung ne experiences! I always kinda wanted to try, but unfortunately my center stopped doing nyungnes like month before I joined them. :D

I have heard that doing nyung ne is quite powerful way to purify karma and after 12 or how many nyungnes one does not have to fear falling down into lower realms. 

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32 minutes ago, Miroku said:

It is so great to hear about your nyung ne experiences! I always kinda wanted to try, but unfortunately my center stopped doing nyungnes like month before I joined them. :D

I have heard that doing nyung ne is quite powerful way to purify karma and after 12 or how many nyungnes one does not have to fear falling down into lower realms. 

 

You can always do an informal one on your own, Miroku. :) 

Wishing you an wonderfully auspicious Vesak! _/\_

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In the past, when I used to attend yoga classes, I would adopt the following routine. Eat at noon, finish work at the office and go attend the yoga class in the afternoon. Skip dinner, meditate before going to bed on an empty stomach, wake up and take a cold shower. 

 

The combination of fasting, yoga/meditation and a cold shower gives me a high.

 

Of course I am all for balancing things out, so the next day I would eat both lunch and dinner and go for strength training between the two meals.

 

Sufi masters say you must first subdue the carnal desires of the body before you can make some headway in spirituality and one of the foundational methods they propose is fasting.

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In recent years, my body began craving emptiness the way it used to crave certain foods.

 

I've been intermittent fasting, eating my meals within a six hour window each day and then skipping days according to body's urging, not abiding any hard schedule.  Been doing this for a few years now.

 

Although as I've learned, true fasting does not begin until the bowels empty completely, with my gastro-colic reflex, it takes me a good 36 hours to empty, so skipping a day is not usually getting to a fasting state for me, yet it's still seems beneficial.

 

Then a few times a year, I'll fast more intensely and completely, 5-9 days usually, length dependent on the reaction.

 

Day two after complete emptiness is usually the hurdle, when the toxins in the system peak.  After that, the bouyancy and neutral bliss are invigorating, almost intoxicating.

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I've been told that fasting is a strong method in aiding to heal old and nagging injuries.

The thinking as it was presented to me is that, when the body is constantly receiving food, it's resources are used to process and allocate the food into the body and through the waste system.

 

Once empty however, when there is no food to process, the body shifts and that energy goes not to food processing, but healing and replenishing.

 

anecdotal, but intriguing.

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8 minutes ago, silent thunder said:

I've been told that fasting is a strong method in aiding to heal old and nagging injuries.

The thinking as it was presented to me is that, when the body is constantly receiving food, it's resources are used to process and allocate the food into the body and through the waste system.

 

Once empty however, when there is no food to process, the body shifts and that energy goes not to food processing, but healing and replenishing.

 

anecdotal, but intriguing.

 

There could be truth to that. In times past, Nyung Ne was a healing protocol for those suffering from leprosy and other diseases that were rampant in the Himalayan regions. 

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Healing also requires good nutrition, adequate protein, adequate vitamins, so for fasting to help heal I think it's important to start from a well-nourished place. 

 

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