- cleanse the body, mind and soul
- refocus one's energies on what's essential
- prepare the self for difficult labor or service
- express kinship with, and support of, those who are suffering under the yoke of oppression
- reclaim or assert power
- leverage public opinion
- wield moral authority
Fasting in unity with others can be quite powerful. So here at Fast for the Earth, we embrace both solitary and shared fasting as we seek to transform ourselves and our civilization's relationship with Mother Earth.
How We Fast. Fast for the Earth welcomes any kind of fasting that is consistent with the goal of defending the Earth. However, our primary emphasis is food-fasting. If for medical or other reasons you would rather do a different type of fast (e.g., not using your car for a period of time), please do so.
A three-page guide to food-fasting (downloadable PDF) is available here. It briefly describes:
- what fasting is
- who can fast, and who shouldn't
- different types and durations of fasts
- some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to fast
- how to prepare for a fast
- how to do a fast
- how to break a fast
- common physical symptoms during an extended fast
- physical benefits of fasting
Fasting for Self-Transformation and Social Change
"Whenever there is distress which one cannot remove, one must fast and pray." (Mohandas Gandhi, Young India: Sept. 25, 1924)Imagine a map of the planet showing all of those places we humans have destroyed (like the lifeless area around Chernobyl or the oil-polluted lands left in Ecuador by Chevron), and all of those places we have damaged (like the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill or the lands and waters contaminated by the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima), and all those places we are either plundering (like the tar sands oil fields in Canada) or putting at risk through our exploitation of Earth (like the aquifers beneath the proposed Keystone XL pipeline).
Can you see it? This map, so crowded with pushpins, helps us recognize how completely Earth is being ravaged, and how all life is increasingly in jeopardy.
The engines of this destruction are many and powerful, including our own participation in a culture of materialism and waste. In the face of these powers, many of us resign ourselves to Earth's ruination in despair and silence.
But some of us refuse to be silent, or to despair. Instead, beginning August 1, 2012, we will engage in an age-old practice used around the world in times of spiritual need: the fast.
Fasting is a discipline for purifying the self and for calling society to its best behavior in order to avert harsh consequences. Depending on our background, we might think of those consequences as the judgment of God, or as karma, or as the natural results of our poisoning Earth's air, water and soil.
Some indigenous people in the United States and Canada have recently engaged in fasts to protest tar sands mining and the construction of related pipelines, such as the proposed Keystone XL. They do so out of deep spiritual kinship with, and concern for, "all their relations." We would follow in the footsteps of our native brothers and sisters.
We who are Jewish might also consider how Moses fasted twice, each time for 40 days, that the Hebrew people might be able to understand and follow the way of Yahweh. Or how the prophets Joel and Jonah called for fasting in order to avert the judgment of God.
We who are Christian might recall how Jesus, like Moses, also fasted for 40 days and resisted the principalities and powers with all of their temptations. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament fasting was an accepted practice for strengthening one's spirit and commitment to ethical values.
We who are Muslim will note that the Fast for the Earth, beginning on August 1, will occur during the month of Ramadan. All of the faithful are encouraged to fast during Ramadan from sunup to sundown, when they break the fast in fellowship with one another. Fasting is not only a physical discipline but a mental, spiritual and social one as well.
We who are Hindu have a long history of fasting on special holy days. Often, too, one day of each week of the year is set aside for the practice.
We who are Buddhist will remember the Buddha's admonishment to avoid eating after the noon meal for health and well-being. The practice of fasting also prepares us to exercise self-discipline and to increase our compassion.
Someone who can speak in a compelling way about fasting and its ability to transform the self and society is Mahatma (Mohandas) Gandhi. He was able to incorporate fasting into his life in such a way that it communicated both interior and exterior change and growth. Listen to some of his thoughts on the subject, forgiving the gender-exclusive language of his generation:
"No matter from what motive you are fasting, during this precious time think of your Maker, and of your relation to Him and His other creation, and you will make discoveries you may not have even dreamed of." (Young India: Dec.17, 1925)
"There is nothing so powerful as fasting and prayer that would give us the requisite discipline, spirit of self-sacrifice, humility and resoluteness of will without which there can be no progress." (Young India: March 31, 1920)
"If a Satyagrahi [someone who practices nonviolent "soul force" or "truth force"] once undertakes a fast from conviction, he must stick to his resolve whether there is a chance of his action bearing fruit or not. He who fasts in the expectation of fruit generally fails. And even if he does not seemingly fail, loses all the inner joy which a true fast holds." (Harijan: May 21, 1938)
Coupled with a prayerful concern for the healing of the earth, fasting can strengthen us to resist the principalities and powers that close our eyes, seal our lips and harden our hearts to the devastation going on around us. Join the Fast for the Earth for as long as you are able, as often as you are able.
A three-page guide to fasting (downloadable PDF) is available here.