Fasting Shifts Attention Beyond Material World

As chaplain at the University of Victoria, I regularly come across students who quietly admit that they are fasting.

A young Buddhist simply said that he could not share in a meal because he was on a three-day fast. Another student, a Baha’i, was participating in the 19-day fast prescribed by his community. A Christian student was participating in a 30-hour fast as a fundraiser for world hunger relief. A psychology student, not identifying with any particular faith, talked about being on a fast to strengthen awareness in mindfulness meditation.

During Ramadan, Muslim students participate in the obligatory month-long fast, each day breaking their fast only after the sun has set. Just last week, five students absented themselves from our regular student soup supper because they were fasting.

Virtually every major world faith tradition values the benefits of fasting as a form of spiritual practice. Christians fast during Lent, Muslims during Ramadan, and Jews during Yom Kippur.

Originally appeared in the Times Colonist on March 24, 2012.

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