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Why you don’t have to be religious to fast for Lent

Deep down we all know that less is more, and the introspection induced by fasting will help rediscover that within ourselves.

Christians generally, and Catholics in particular, have this religious period called Lent that beckons us to fast, and re-examine our beliefs.  As world citizens too often we are driven by a belief that more is better, for example, more money, more knowledge, more power, more friends…even more vegetables if you are overweight, or more medicine if you are sick!

Lent and its relationship to fasting is timely because it gives us reason to pause, shift gears and slow down. An opportunity to do more than just cruise through life doing what we always do without thinking.

During the Christmas holidays I over-indulged.  I can say I was stressed.  Nonetheless, eating in this manner compromised my digestive system such that I had no choice but to fast.  Four hours into my fast and bored out of my wits with my time freed up from fetching, preparing and eating food, I decided to research the practical benefits of this spiritual practice. I came across an article on the Huffington Post titled, “Why even the non-religious should try religious fasting,” 

It stated:

    “fasting  is much more than just the physical act of refraining from food.  At its core, fasting is a discipline of broadening and strengthening, not withholding and waning.  It is exercise for our spiritual muscle.”

All major religious traditions have some ritual of fasting.There are many different ways to fast, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be from food. Interfaith Author, Thomas Ryan in ‘The Sacred Art of Fasting’ suggests a host of different forms of fasting that could be of interest to both religious and non-religious alike. We can fast with our eyes, by watching less TV, fast with our ears by being attentive to the words of others, fast with our hands by giving to those who have less than us or fast with our feet by resisting the impulse to always be on the go, you can also fast from anger or  judging others.

Fasting is a time to take a break, a pause from our routine. As expressed in the Huffington Post article, “simply put, fasting is a time to think and make space.”

If you are non-religious you can still benefit from the “art of fasting”. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy ‘Pancake Tuesday’ or  Christmas, so why not embrace some of the traditional rituals as well? When we keep in mind that it is a time to take a break from the humdrum routine of life, how can we, religious or not, not appreciate the benefit of that!

About Brigitta Wohlmuth

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