As you may have gleaned from previous posts, my work is sometimes focused on the relationship we keep with the body and how we may or may not pay attention to the somatic experience.

Soma is a Greek word meaning “the living body” and my work is informed by the belief that the body and mind are not separate entities but mutually influencing aspects of self.  Within this context, I wanted to share an aspect of my journey in relation to tuning into the above idea and the body-mind connection.

I am sure that most of you have either had or overheard, the ‘detox’ conversation.  Just like bees a-buzzing, modern-day folk like to talk the talk of detox and detoxification.  The word ‘detox’ seems to sit in the vernacular as an elixir for many of life’s minor and sometimes chronic health conditions.

Every other year for the past fifteen years I have travelled to Koh Samui in Thailand to detox the body and re-calibrate the mind.

It wasn’t until my second trip in March 2004 that I really started to tune into what might – or might not – be happening.  Beyond the immediate benefits of giving my body an opportunity to rest and recuperate, I now understand with the gift of hindsight that what I was also engaging in was an age-old spiritual tradition of fasting.  This insight shifted the relationship I had with the body-mind system.  My relationship with the body changed!

A little like tuning into my thoughts and feelings from the feet up, I began to notice that this body sense seemed more connected, more meaningful, more felt and less superficial.

What is fasting?

Fasting as a spiritual practice extends back throughout history in most cultures.  A person who undertakes a fast for spiritual, health or religious purposes will willingly abstain from some or all foods, fluids, or both, for a period.  The variables are many and are dependant on the customs and belief systems of each culture.  Catholicism observes a forty-day partial fast as part of Lent.  Other religions such as Hinduism and Judaism also observe different kinds of fasts.  Fasting is the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam, with Ramadan possibly being one of the most well-known fasting observances.

What was/is my process?

I undertook my first fast in 2001.  Over the years I have taken six significant fasts in Samui of between one week and fourteen days and many smaller fasts under seven days.  I do not fast for religious reasons but as part of my ongoing body-mind development and physical well-being.  As a process, I deepen this experience by adding other self-care modalities to my daily fasting regime such as meditation, yoga, walking and massage.

By stepping outside your everyday experience, you give yourself an opportunity to develop new patterns and new ways of seeing and being in the world.

Why do I fast?

I fast to gain greater body-mind insight.  This for me is a place that inspires and creates.  It is a deep energetic place, and it’s also a doorway to increased awareness, somatic understanding, and presence.

A large part of society is abstaining from conventional religious and spiritual practice.  I wonder if the West’s obsession with ‘detoxing’ is a way to reconnect and come home to the body.  Has detoxing become the contemporary form of fasting for agnostics?  Cleansing and purification through fasting increases the body’s capacity to feel energised and brings vitality to the physical, mental, and spiritual systems.  I believe that fasting and detoxing gently peels away the detritus of modern-day living layer by layer and for this reason, will be heading over to Thailand in April to complete my next fast.

In summary

Please understand that fasting is not for everyone and should not be undertaken without first seeking medical advice regarding your particular situation.  It works for me but may not work for everyone.  I also have spent many years tuning into my body-mind needs and Samui is a bit like my happy place – a healthy holiday ritual – in a beautiful part of the world!  The other important caveat to this discussion is that for me, balance is everything, which includes a healthy plant-based diet and daily exercise and meditation.

As you can appreciate, for the next three weeks I will be offline and not taking new counselling or therapy referrals.  That said, I am happy to follow up on any query you might have regarding your situation or booking your first consult on my return mid-April.  I also welcome questions you might have about my retreat program in Thailand.  Wishing you good health and see you in a few weeks.