Meditation & Health No 14 - Table of Contents


Spontaneous Fasting
A Natural Phenomenon

      In today’s society, delicious ready-to-eat foods are everywhere and too tempting to resist, driving many food-lovers to feast throughout the day. Coffee breaks and snacks are enjoyed on top of regular meals — our digestive systems never rest. This excessive food intake causes fats and toxins to build up in the body, resulting in many people suffering from various diseases. The World Health Organization reports that between 1980 and 2008, the number of people suffering from obesity globally doubled. As of 2014, there are half a billion people worldwide (seven percent of the total world population) who are obese and suffering from obesity-related diseases. A hieroglyphic warning found in an ancient Egyptian tomb is still relevant: “One-quarter of what you eat keeps you alive, the other three-quarters keep your doctor alive.” Remember this before your hand reaches for those tempting foods.
       Because of the opportunities many have to overindulge in food, various types of slimming therapies and methods for improving health have emerged. One of them, fasting, has a long history and has gained modern attention as an effective method of weight management, detoxification and overall wellness. Different religious sects prescribe it for physical and spiritual health. Buddhists routinely practice fasting, as do Christians, Muslims, Native Americans, Taoists, and Zen practitioners.

Intermittent Fasting:
The Self-Initiated Approach

       Intermittent fasting generally refers to self-initiated periods of refraining from eating. A sufficient intake of water and nutritious fluids must be maintained during the fast. Many countries around the world have adopted the intermittent-fasting method for the treatment of illness. Increasingly, there are cases of successful healing and slimming effects reported by hospitals and clinics. This approach allows the body to self-cleanse, enabling disease prevention. A book, The Secret of the Fast Diet: Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, and Live Longer With the Simple Secret of Intermittent Fasting, published in 2013, has created a revolution and prompted more people to adopt this fasting approach to achieve better health and weight loss.

     Research on intermittent fasting has yielded  many encouraging results. A study done by the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California shows that through fasting, the concentration of the IGF-1 gene (insulin-like growth factor 1), which raises the risk of cancer and diabetes, was reduced in mice. At the same time, the risk of cardiovascular diseases associated with high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides was also reduced. These findings were published in the June 2014 issue of the journal Cell, titled “The Search for Antiaging Interventions: From Elixirs to Fasting Regimens.” The same issue also featured results from another study indicating that cancer patients who fasted for 72 hours before undergoing chemotherapy experienced less side effects and a faster rate of recovery.

       The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging in the United States have found through experiments that cycles of intermittent fasting stimulate the brain and the growth of the hippocampus (the part of the brain system that is responsible for spatial memory and navigation), while improving positive emotions and controlling the feeling of anxiety. These findings were published in 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences.

      Intermittent fasting is not as simple as stopping the intake of food. It should be done with professional guidance.


Spontaneous Fasting:
A Natural Process


       Spontaneous fasting is somewhat similar, yet fundamentally different from intermittent-fasting therapy. What is spontaneous fasting? The founder of Bodhi Meditation, Grandmaster JinBodhi, explained that spontaneous fasting is a phenomenon that may occur during meditation, and it is not a process that can be forced through willpower or personal choice. It is a naturally occurring process whereby one eats much less than usual or does not eat at all, yet is neither hungry nor thirsty. During this natural and spontaneous process, one is still filled with energy and vitality and both the body and mind are more relaxed. For some people, this process can go on for a few days; in some special cases, this natural process may go on for weeks, months, or even years.

       There are two types of spontaneous fasting: full and partial. Full spontaneous fasting is a natural process in which one does not eat any food or drink any water, although some may drink a small amount of water. In partial spontaneous fasting, a very small amount of fruits or vegetables is consumed, for example, a banana a day or half a cucumber, adjusted according to one’s needs; much less, in general, than a normal meal.

       There are similarities and differences between spontaneous fasting and intermittent fasting. Firstly, during spontaneous fasting, irrespective of full or partial, eating or not comes naturally. One will eat or drink only if one experiences hunger or thirst. This natural experience has been considered a safe and beneficial process in many traditions. Intermittent fasting has to be done under the guidance of professionals, the amount of food intake is controlled despite hunger, and it may carry a certain amount of risk.

       Secondly, one cannot force spontaneous fasting to happen, and in view of its unpredictability, spontaneous fasting has yet to be studied by the scientific community. Conversely, the positive effects and potential drawbacks of intermittent fasting have been observed by some in the scientific community.

Spontaneous Fasting:
An Ancient Culture of the East

     The Chinese word for spontaneous fasting, bigu, literally means “avoiding grains.” Articles on spontaneous fasting can be found in ancient Chinese records. The most beautifully written piece is in the Chinese literature titled Mending Nature, Free and Unfettered, and it says: “Far away on Mount Kuyeh there dwells a saint whose skin is like congealed snow. He neither eats nor drinks and as he travels across the Universe he inhales the wind, drinks morning dew, and rides on clouds and dragons with grace.”
      Details on spontaneous fasting can be found in a Chinese book that was unearthed in the third Han tomb in the region of Hunan Changsha. Titled Spontaneous Fasting Through Energy Intake, the book contains specific information about spontaneous fasting dating back to the pre-Qin period, estimated to be more than 2,000 years ago.


The Health and Detoxification
Benefits of Spontaneous Fasting


     Today, many of Bodhi Meditation’s students across the globe have had personal experiences of spontaneous fasting and the detoxification benefits it can provide.

      In May 2014, about 70 out of 160 students who attended a Bodhi Meditation Health & Happiness Retreat in Singapore experienced spontaneous fasting, with more than 10 of them fasting for longer than seven days. A variety of effects resulted from this: weight loss, brightening of the skin, rosy face,  ease of the body, and quieting of the mind.

Why Spontaneous Fasting Works

      Just like a river, the intestinal system is filled with impurities and waste products over time. Grandmaster JinBodhi explained that spontaneous fasting is the intestinal system’s natural cleansing process, and this cleansing can help to reduce illness.The experience of natural, spontaneous fasting is a blessing.

      “A person’s intestinal system must be continually cleansed for him to attain longevity,” an ancient Chinese saying tells us. A healthy intestinal system means a normal metabolic rate and the ability to remove toxins from the body. Spontaneous fasting is the body’s natural way of cleansing and detoxification, bringing it back to a balanced state of health.

     Qiaozhen Lin from Singapore used to weigh 74 kilograms, but after a year of regular meditation practice and spontaneously fasting seven times, she lost a total of 21 kilograms. She stopped taking diet pills and her health improved substantially. She is now more cheerful and confident.

      Hong Yang from Ansan, Korea experienced spontaneous fasting for a few days in 2013 after attending a Bodhi Meditation Dharma Session in Seoul. During those days, she felt that discomfort and illness were being expelled from her body, leaving her feeling light and refreshed.

      Meilian Guo from Taichung, Taiwan also experienced spontaneous fasting for a total of 15 days during a Bodhi Meditation Health & Happiness Retreat in April 2014. In June, she spontaneously fasted again for seven days during a Bodhi Chanting Retreat. She lost a total of nine kilograms.

      Fanshi Zhen from Toronto, Canada started spontaneously fasting at a Bodhi Chanting Retreat, and his fast lasted for three months. During that fast, he saw marked improvement in his health condition. He was no longer passing blood in his stool and he felt happier and healthier.

      These are just a few examples of students at Bodhi Meditation who have experienced spontaneous fasting through meditation practices. Spontaneous fasting has helped a multitude of people improve their health, lose weight, and boost their immune system.



Meditation & Health No 14 - Table of Contents