For whatever reason, moderation in diet stimulates spirituality. Virtually every religion offers fasting as a way of preparing for contemplation. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the prophets regularly fasted, as did the apostles. Jesus himself frequently fasted, saying that a combination of prayer and fasting was an extremely powerful combination.
In the context of a personal retreat, I think of a one-day limited fast. Nothing radical, but still a manifestation of commitment to making the retreat as special as possible. Don’t be skeptical of the importance of a moderate fast; it is a potent addition to the equation. It will make your personal retreat day that much more special and effective!
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO A SENSIBLE YET EFFECTIVE ONE-DAY LIMITED FAST:
- Moderation in all things is the key. Plan on eating infrequently and in small amounts throughout your retreat day. (Obviously, if you have a health concern, you should consult your physician before attempting even a moderate fast).
- Avoid stimulants, like caffeine. (I must confess that I love my coffee, and so allow myself one cup at the beginning of the day, but no more). Water and pure fruit juices are your best bets.
- Take the “treat” out of your retreat. There are at least two aspects to fasting. The first is that it is a form of sacrifice; if you bring along your favorite candy bar, where is the sacrifice? The second aspect is that taking one’s mind off material things like food helps focus on the spiritual.
- Stay with simple foods, such as bread, cheese, water, unprocessed fruit or vegetables.
- Don’t eat one large mid-day meal which will tend to make you tired. Rather, eat small amounts three or four times throughout your retreat day.
- Exercise will help you to enjoy your sparse meals even more, and also help you keep from getting drowsy.
- Don’t overeat the night before your personal retreat. It is certainly a temptation, but it rather defeats the purpose of fasting in the first place.
- If you experience moderate hunger let it remind you of those less fortunate. For them, their hunger is neither moderate nor temporary.
- Jesus said that we do not live by bread alone but by the word of God, and a moderate fast helps bring this home very clearly.