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The Ancient Art of Fasting

by

Terri J. Andrews

Throughout the centuries fasting, or abstaining from food and/or drink, has been a way to cleanse the body, open the mind and free the spirit. Itís therapeutic values are one of the oldest known to man. Dependable, safe and effective, fasting was endorsed by innovative medical greats such as Hippocrates and Galen - and even today, alternative healers consider it one of the best ways to heal the body and de-stress the mind.

Native American Indians knew of such benefits and would incorporate fasting into many sacred ceremonies, often times as an offering to the Great Spirit, the Creator of all things. Such ceremonies would be conducted at various times of the year, during certain phases of a persons life or randomly, when the community or individual deemed it necessary. In many tribes, fasting was an vital part of marriage rituals, rites of puberty passages or prior to a Vision Quest. By cleansing the mind and the body, the individual was free to experience powerful dreams or visions that were interrupted as omens or messages from the Great Spirit.

Fasting was and is still considered to be "powerful medicine" - meaning it can bring about healing properties, a sense of personal power and individual strength. It allows the participant to connect with their "humanness", unfolding their own potentials and life meanings.

According to modern claims, fasting benefits include:

* loss of excess weight and water

* flushing the body of toxins while cleansing the digestive system

* gain energy

* allows the body time to rest, recover and rebuild the immune system

* clears the mind

The Vision Quest

A Vision Quest is a time when an individual becomes more aware of their body, their dreams and their own sense of self. It is a sacred ritual, a personal test, that requires patience, endurance, and a strong will. The goal of the Quest is to purify the body of negative thoughts, substances and feelings. When completed, the individual is left feeling energetic, alert and healthy. The Natives used this practice as a way to connect to their supreme being - to be open to the messages of the spiritual deities.

Your Own Journey

It is possible to incorporate the ancient rituals of the Native Vision Quest within a modern fasting program by following similar ceremonial practices and techniques. Here is a basic plan which consolidates the two. This quest can be sustained for one day, but can be extend as long as ten.

Before you begin:

* Consult with your doctor.

* Purchase the juices that you will need (any juice aside from tomato and orange juice), bottled water and lemon juice, and herbal teas (dandelion, golden root, nettle, echinacea, red clover, peppermint, chamomile, rose hips, alfalfa, and milk thistle are good choices. Some participants choose to mix 2 parts tea with one part cranberry juice.)

* Clear your schedule so you will not be disturbed.

* As the toxins move out of your body, you may experience side effects, including: headaches, cramping, cravings, fatigue, bad breath, hunger, frequent urination, minor mood swings, dizziness, skin eruptions, anxiety, diarrhea and nausea. Do not be alarmed. It means the detoxification is working.

* Reintroduce solid foods slowly back into your diet. Following the fast, start with soups, fruits and vegetables. Do not eat meat for three days.

Tips:

* Drink through-out the day, rotating the water (with lemon juice), the teas and the juice.

* Include 1 acidophilus 3 times a day; 1-2 tablespoons of psyllium seed twice a day; and 3 capsules of spirulina 3 times a day

The Quest

Morning:

Upon waking, slowly stretch for 15 minutes and breath deeply for 10.

Smudge yourself and your home by burning sage sticks or the leaves and allowing the smoldering smoke to purify your being.

Take a long bath

Drink!

Mid afternoon:

Take a walk through nature. Enjoy the day, the sun and the weather.

Find a place to rest and relax, while outside. Read, daydream or nap.

Connect with nature. Take a souvenir from your spot to remember the day.

Drink!

Evening:

Drink!

Massage your legs, your arms and your neck.

Relax with music, a good book or a comforting movie

Before retiring:

Drink!

Repeat the morning routine

Place your souvenir next to your bed and reflect upon the day.

Pray