There’s something I’d like to share with you. Something that has meant a lot for me and enabled me to do a lot of things that I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t experienced and discovered it. And maybe it can play an important role in your life too. Who knows? Here it goes.
I couldn’t believe it when I woke up one morning, 34 years ago, in connection with a fasting course at Gerlev Sport College by the Danish North Sea coast to find that my asthmatic bronchitis was gone without a trace.
It was my fourth day of fasting, and I discovered it simply by noticing that I was able to breathe more freely than before. Gone was the strain associated with breathing. I was nineteen years old, and I had had trouble breathing my whole life. So this was a wild experience. So wild that I almost lost my breath thinking about how wild it was. So while the others were still asleep in the summer cottage, I threw on some clothes, and off I went into the fresh sea air. I’ll never forget that morning. There was so much more light on the waves, and the colours in the sea and the sky were unbelievably clear.
And I was able to breathe. Freely. Completely freely.
Later in the day, most of us taking part in the fasting course, which targeted very active sportspeople from various types of sports, realized that that we had far fewer infiltrations and knots in our muscles than normal. And something we found fully fascinating and spent hours talking about was that after the first tree days of fasting, when the body has used up its sugar stores and switches from metabolizing glucose to metabolizing fat, we had a huge burst of energy and also had a sense of that our thinking was much clearer.
The great thing is that now, so many years later, there is extensive scientific evidence for the full range of transformations we experienced, on a psychological as well as a physical level.
Following this experience, I have continued fasting one day a week and a least one full week a year. And of course, I wanted to share the good experience and have therefore held annual fasting courses ever since and still do. I do it because I have yet to come across an activity that has the same intense and profound ability to bring me home to myself and help me connect with the things that seem essential in life. And when I fast it is completely effortless. I typically have my best ideas while I’m fasting. And I usually do it in spring or summer, where the weather warms up slightly and lets me ‘come into full bloom’ along with nature itself.
And now it’s springtime, and yesterday I had my weekly fasting day, which gave me the energy to write this. And that is another amazing benefit that I have gained by giving my body and my mind a break from eating and digesting: a huge and fairly fascinating wealth of possibilities for becoming aware of and changing my basic assumptions about how much food I need to eat, how often, and what types in order to function well and remain a kind and caring person without becoming too irritable and impossible to tolerate for the people around me. I have found, as have my many course participants over the years, that we have learned to ‘bear’ and ‘digest’ much of the more unpleasant stuff we all experienced on our path through life by compensating with the stuff we eat. So when we have spent about five days in a safe setting doing an organized fasting process under skilful guidance where we stop eating stuff, the bad experiences gradually diminish and evaporate, and in a profoundly humane and ultimately bearable almost loving way, we are now able to observe the content as it leaves our bodies and minds, freeing us of the stuff that made us feel hurt, sad, bitter and angry.
This has a completely prosaic scientific, biological explanation, which is that virtually everything we experience is also stored as memory in our cells. And some of the most challenging experiences tend to be stored as memory in our fat tissue. So on the third day of fasting, when the body begins to metabolize fat stores, we are actually giving ourselves and our systems a chance to let go of old memories that unconsciously took up a lot of energy and caused us to be stuck in old behaviour patterns – the way we think, feel and act.
And because we can choose when we fast to ingest only herbal teas and organic soup with loads of alkaline-forming substances that help the body get rid of stored acid in the body’s cells, muscle and tissue, that too promotes the gradual physical and psychological cleansing.
No wonder, then, that fasting has been a part of the essential rituals in many ancient cultures. The interesting point is, not least, that neuroscientists can now explain that when we fast the liver produces ketones, which have a strong generative effect on the brain and on the brain’s ability to exercise its neuroplasticity – that is, its capacity to form new neural pathways and networks. This means that our cognition, our focus and our memory improve, and we help ourselves and our brains prevent Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia etc.
I just love food. And still, I look forward like a child before Christmas every time I have an opportunity to fast five days in a row. Simply because it does my soul and body good on every level. So, despite my affinity for good food and drink, every time I’m fasting I just wind up with, ‘What’s not to like – fasting is mind-blowingly great!’