In my teens and early 20s (1990s) when all I bothered about was – foolishly – mostly my looks and fat percentage, I took on the Divine challenge of fasting on Mondays. I didn’t know which God I was doing it for, but some noble persons had said that fasting is good for the soul. What better way to achieve two birds with one stone – Divine Grace and a slimmer body !! And it worked for a few months till I fell very sick with an illness that required me to gain weight !! Out went both the Divine challenge and the slim body !!

I somehow blamed my sickness on the fasting and never fasted for years together till last year. I sincerely tried to do a Navaratri fast on Swamiji’s guidelines. No grains, just moong dal cheela, nuts, paneer and milk + buttermilk, fruits and vegetables made my meals. In addition to chanting 2.5 hrs a day. By Day 2, I had a constant dull headache and by day 3 I was angry and irritable. From Day 4, I was always hungry and the rest of the days went in dreaming about food and waiting for the rest of the days to get over quickly. I was very restless even while chanting. The self purification I was aiming for during this very precious time just went for a complete toss as I muddied my mind with all the food I would gorge on after the 9 days were over. Needless to say, I was very disappointed with myself.

A few months down the line when Navaratri came up again, I was better prepared. I made a deal with the Gods. I will eat normal food, and I will try my best to keep my mind free of thoughts, I said. Though I barely fulfilled my promise about keeping my mind free of thoughts, I was not obsessing over food like I had done the previous time, and I was definitely better humoured and less restless during my chanting. That was surely a small win ☺️.

I realised that the trick to calming my mind – is to keep my stomach happy. For most of us, we don’t realise that food gives us the minimum dose of happiness that nothing else can give. Being without food – particularly carbohydrates – for a few hours makes most of us hangry – hungry and angry. If you want to have a discussion on a touchy topic with your spouse or parents or children, do it after you feed them well. It really works !

Like Swamiji said, if you are denied something, the most human reaction is to crave it. If the fasting is achieving the opposite effect of what it is meant to do, like it did for me, what is the point. Maybe I have to evolve spiritually to the stage where it doesn’t matter to the body and mind whether I am eating or not. I am not yet there and I am ok with it. I cannot do Grade 10 maths while in Grade 1. Right now I am happy being in Grade 1 and looking forward to going to Grade 2.

With Swamiji’s Grace and guidance, one day I will surely graduate – because I am still doing the chanting happily and calmly this Navaratri. Not fasting.

Eager to know your challenges too 😄🙏.

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Anitha Om

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