6 Card Dream Interpretation Tarot Spread

Use the following tarot spread to analyze your dreams on a deeper level, to untangle reoccurring dreams or enrich your dream work.

Roughly six years of your life will be spent dreaming.  The amount time you dwell in the surreal world of your unconscious mind makes it as important as the world of your waking life.

If you have a choice of decks, select one with surreal or dreamlike symbolism.  I chose the strange and beautiful Ceccoli Tarot deck, which I fell in love with on my recent trip to Salem, Massachusetts.  The hypnagogic quality of the imagery in this deck fits nicely with the theme of dream interpretation.

dream interpretation tarot spread

Position 1:  Your Waking Life.  This card symbolizes how the events, emotions and conscious thoughts in your waking life underlie your dream life.

Position 2:  The Primary Message.  This card represents what the spirit world is trying to communicate to you through your dreams.  If you are reading for yourself, try using as much objectivity as possible.  Often, we dream about things we don’t want to acknowledge consciously, which sometimes makes this card difficult to confront.

Position 3:  The Bridge.  Stands for the link between your conscious mind and your unconscious mind.  Concentrate for as long as necessary before leaping to any conclusions about this card.  Untangling your conscious mind from your deeper reality challenges even the most self-aware person.  Take your time.

Position 4:  Your “assignment.”  Look to this card for a message about what actions to take in your life to remedy any blockages that cause reoccurring themes in your dreams or prevent you from moving forward into a higher plane of thinking.

Position 5:What to meditate on before falling asleep.  The time just before falling asleep is a period of heightened sensitivity for meditationLook for messages or themes to focus on during this period to enhance your dream experience.

Position 6: What to look for in your future dreams.  This card signifies upcoming themes in your dreams to watch out for and pay careful attention to.

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What I Learned From Floating In a Sensory Deprivation Tank

What do John Lennon, Anthony Bourdain and Lisa Simpson have in common?

Aside from world fame and trips to Japan, they all, at some point, found themselves inside the curious device known as a sensory deprivation tank.

“Floating” in zero gravity sensory chambers specially designed to create the experience of weightlessness has been a thing since the early 1950s, when a neuroscientist by the name of John C. Lily developed them to test its effects on the human psyche.

Since then, the practice made its way into spas and new age facilities around the world.  Some people regularly use sensory deprivation for relaxation, enhanced meditation experiences, or even to treat pain from conditions like arthritis.

As someone always looking for experimental approaches to meditation and spiritual insight, I found this concept intriguing.

So I put it on my bucket list . . . where it remained for years.

But this week, when the folks at Mystic Flow Wellness Center invited me to try it, I felt fate tap me on the shoulder.    No time like the present to dive (or ease?) right in.

Ah, the spa.  The smell of essential oils, the skilled hands of massage therapist, the feel of mud sinking into my skin.  Just the word spa drops my blood pressure.

After 19 months of first-time motherhood, the idea of spending 90 minutes in silence should have sounded like a granted wish.  But  I found myself surprisingly nervous when I arrived in the lobby that morning.

(I distracted myself by wondering how awesome that chandelier would look over my dining room table.)

spa reception

Rose, a friendly, approachable attendant, met me at the door, introducing herself as my “float host.”

Say hi to Rose.

rose from mystic floats

She gave me a little tour of facility before my treatment, swinging open the door to one of the “float rooms” to reveal a space-age-looking machine that glowed with empyrean aquamarine light.

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I wondered briefly if I might wake up in the Matrix.

But Rose assured me that I could, at any time, open the door and get out.

She also promised I’d float beyond any scientific doubt, explaining that the chamber solution contained 1,000 pounds of salt—-a larger concentration that the Dead Sea.

I was provided a robe, some earplugs (apparently, water in the ear canals is a common distraction) and left on my own to confront the alien pod.

sensory deprivation tank feet first

I got in, closed the door and laid back, surprised at my extreme buoyancy.  A robotic-yet-soothing feminine voice welcomed me to the session and the glowing turquoise light faded into oblivion.

My initial claustrophobia faded.

Inside, I struggled with all the things common to ordinary meditation.  My mind wandered.  I resisted the urge to fidget.

But some of the physical discomforts I usually experience during “land meditation”  (like my lower back pain, and tension in my shoulders) instantly alleviated.  After a few minutes, most of my major muscle groups softened.

I started to feel as though I were floating through deep space.

I personally experienced nothing close to the hallucination, but I definitely found my visualizations more vivid and easier to stabilize.

Occasionally, I bumped into the sides of the pod, which briefly jolted me from my visualization, but I found if I centered myself and held as still as possible, I could stay with my meditation for long stretches.

About halfway through the session, I started to lose orientation.  Time became difficult to gauge.  I guessed I’d been in for about 45 minutes when the same robotic-yet-soothing feminine voice beamed through my consciousness to tell me my 90 minutes was up.

I opened the pod to discover that I had not, in fact, been transported to the Matrix.

Rose met me in the lobby and told me to expect to feel pleasant after effects for several days.

She was right.  That night, I slept beautifully.  In addition, I felt the strange but delightful sensation of weightlessness for several hours, like walking around on the moon.

10 Ways to Use the Waning Moon in Witchcraft

As the receding light of the waning moon retreats into oblivion like a great ocean tide, we turn out energy inward to eliminate or re-work repetitive patterns that no longer serve us.  Harness the cleansing power of this lunar phase to clear obstacles and release negative influences.

10 ways to use the waning moon

Try a weight loss spell.  If you’re trying to get in the right frame of mind for weight loss or fasting, ride the “drawing away” or receding energy of waning moon to gain some momentum.

Let go of a toxic friendship.   Use the waning moon to finally release that cyclic, dead-end relationship.   You know the one.   Take any items that remind you of the person and get rid of them.  Write down any residual feelings, then burn the paper in a cauldron with some dried rosemary.  Be free.

Reduce debt.  Instead of using your spell work to increase wealth under the waxing moon, think of reducing debt under the waning moon.  It’s a totally different mindset that moves you towards less consumption, more mindful spending and greater personal freedom.

Make an offering or donation.  I think of the waning moon as a retreating tide coming to collect on the gifts brought to shore by the last wave.  Send blessings out to sea so that the next full moon tide brings them back to you.  Say “yes” when the cashier asks you if you’d like to donate a dollar to a children’s charity, drop a few quarters in the “Give a Penny, Take a Penny” or drop off a load at the Salvation Army.

Using a healing spell to ease grief.  Whether you recently lost a loved one, or you still grieve for one who passed long ago, if you feel ready to begin the healing process, try a spell to let go of a deceased loved one.

Leave your job to start something new.  If you’ve been thinking of transitioning to another position and you have some control over the timing, consider scheduling your last day during the waning moon.  The retreating energy of the waning moon aids in letting go of the past to ready for the future.

Exorcise your home.  If you feel your house bogged down with negative energy (frequent family fighting, excessive clutter or unmanageable chaos), clean your house top to bottom.  Then bring a pot of water to boil on the stove with rosemary, cinnamon sticks and lavender petals to dispel darkness and restore harmony.

Take a waning moon bath.  Fill a muslin bag or tea strainer with star anise, orange peel and bay leaf.   Let it steep in your bathwater and relax in candle light.  Meditate, focusing on any unwanted or residual energy from the previous moon cycle.  Imagine it seeping into the water.  Then, pull the bath stopper and watch your discomfort drain away.

Get a massage.  Nothing beats negative stress stored in the body like a massage.  Most massage therapists are quite happy to let you bring your own oil.  Blend a (skin safe!) mixture of oils for releasing negativity, bring it to your massage therapist and imagine she is massaging away your stored anxieties, fears and tensions.

Reverse a spell gone awry.  Last month’s spell not serving you so well?  You’ll likely need to ride it out.  But reversing the spell by doing it backwards during the waning moon speeds karma along.

What’s New at Moody Moons?

As autumn makes its official debut, Magical Moody Moons presents fresh offerings from the handmade workshop, including a new line of jewelry (more to come!), totem oils and of course, Moody Moon’s signature Samhain items.

Click on the photo to be redirected to the product page for more details!

Back in stock!  Samhain oil!

As dark begins to overtake the light, the witch’s festival of Samhain approaches.

This spicy aromatic oil is blended with organic essential oils and herbs chosen especially for this sacred festival. Steeped and finely strained in a rich olive oil base.

The charm tied to the neck symbolizes the crow, which is said to carry messages back and forth from this world to the world beyond.

Bottle is approximately 4.5″ tall.

Are you a fire sign? A red-headed witch? Someone who considers the fox a personal totem? Or maybe you’re just in need of some of the smokin’ hot, fierce energy in your circle?

Introducing Fox Oil, the first in Moody Moon’s new line of totem oils.

Enjoy the spicy, evocative scent of essential oils chosen for their sacredness to the fox and steeped in an olive oil base.

Use this oil to anoint candles, gemstones and altar items, or burn it to fill your sacred space with the awesome energy of the crafty, wise fox.

Jar is approximately 3.5″ tall.

It’s mid-harvest season, and as the smell of wood smoke and falling leaves fills the air, it’s time to turn our attention inward for personal reflection.

This handmade blend of fall herbs, botanical oils and aromatic spices, including orange peel, dried apple, cedar, rose and thyme is specially crafted to fill your sacred space with the essence of autumn and the Wiccan harvest festivals Lughnasadh, Mabon, and Samhain or Spirit Night.

Place mixture on a charcoal burner in a fire safe dish during meditation, scrying, divination, spell casting or ritual celebrations during the Harvest Season.

Please use caution as the herbs sometimes spark when burned!! Never leave this or any other loose incense unattended.

Jar is approximately 2.5″ x 3″

Gorgeous drop earrings with turquoise and om pendants.

Reputed to emanate natural “chill out vibes,” turquoise heightens spiritual awareness and brings the mind and body into alignment.

Om is an ancient mystical Hindu symbol of a sacred mantra used in scripture, before meditation and during spiritual rites.

Alloy-free, fishhook ear wires.

Drop length: Approximately 3″

Free domestic shipping on all US orders for this item.

Earrings made of the most serene, soothing gemstone in world!

Lapis lazuli’s brilliant, deeply saturated indigo-blue color appeals to the eye and the spirit.

Wear them to sooth frayed nerves, open the third eye and release negativity.

Points are about 1″ long. Earrings have about a 2.5″ drop length. Alloy-free fish hook ear wires.

Free domestic shipping to anywhere in the US.

Moody Moon’s introduces cloth menstrual care.  Don’t be scared!  It’s no big deal!


This 11″ reusable cloth menstrual pad makes a perfect addition to your stash for overnight needs or heavy flow days.

Choose from floral/fuschia or adorable fox pattern on the pad with contrasting orange arrow/zigzag pattern on the wings.

Topped with 100% cotton, terry cloth soaker/absorbent core and backed with PUL (waterproof fabric). This PUL is a little more breathable than some of the more waxy PUL fabrics.

Wings are fully lined with soaker material.

Hand-executed whip stitch on pull-through seam.

Snaps are sew-on (as opposed to the machine embedded snaps).

Pre-soak in cold water to avoid staining, but otherwise, you can feel free to throw this pad in your washer/dryer.

If you haven’t yet made the switch to cloth pads, this one makes a nice starter pad to try. One cloth menstrual pad replaces up to 300 disposables.

This set of two regular absorbancy gray and white polka dot cloth tampons are made of 100% natural cotton flannel with an organic twine pull string.

If you haven’t made the switch to cloth, this set makes a perfect introduction. Everyone thinks cloth menstrual care is “a little too much” until they try it and get hooked!

Unlike designs that are sewed rolled, “roll up” design makes them easy to get them clean for reuse.

Simply roll them tightly before use, then unroll to wash.

A cold water rinse before washing is recommended to prevent staining.

 

 

Pagan Travel: The Green Witch’s Guide to Costa Rica

 

(For all my posts on pagan-inspired travel destinations, click here.)

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In Costa Rica, the locals say, Pura Vida.

Roughly, this translates to “it’s all good,” “no worries,” or even “hello.”

Pura vida, like so many of the best expressions, renders no true equivalent in any other language.

But directly translated, Pura Vida means “pure life.”

When I think of Costa Rica, I think of the pure life, and all the things I love about the wild, breath-taking, adventurous spirit of this beautiful country.

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Costa Rica appeals in particular to Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) and anyone who identifies as a green or Hedge Witch.

Boasting some of the richest biodiversity on the planet, the green witch will marvel at the lush, tropical cornucopia of plant life, and the impressive local knowledge of its medicinal and spiritual values.

 

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The drainage pipe in the upper left of this photo is part of an ingenious system that collects rainwater, redistributing it for use in the beautiful pools and fountains of this guesthouse hotel.

 

Every place vibrates with a certain energy.  This energy is both static and infinite.

As individuals, we “read” this energy and experience it according to our beliefs, impressions, state of being and the context of our lives.

For me, Costa Rica means rest, rejuvenation, and purification.

Perhaps because I love me some spa time.

The ritualism and use of natural herbs and oils to honor the body as a temple deeply to my pagan self.

Costa Rica’s unique access to botanicals combined with its world-class service industry makes for some of the most amazing, quality massages and spa treatments available at a price much more affordable than Europe or the US.

It’s not impossible to score an top-notch facial for $15.

I especially enjoy making magically meaningful beauty treatments at home, so I brought this recipe home for my green witches on the Stateside:

Mint Chocolate Face Mask

*greek yogurt (3 tbsp)
*cocoa powder (1 tablespoon)
*3 drops peppermint oil

Mix it up, and ahhhh . . .

mint chocolate mask

(Or even better!, let me mix up a batch of the scrub version for you personally.)

Stay away from the bigger, more commercial spas at hotels and look for little places tucked in between shops on the charming streets of La Fortuna.

Usually, there’s room to negotiate if you feel comfortable bargaining, but even on the high end, an hour long massage runs less than $50.

hot spring

My inclination towards natural healing and holistic health drew me to the healing waters of the hot springs in La Fortuna.

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Situated near a majestic volcano that dominates the landscape like a great, sleeping giant, the deep fire that roars beneath it feeds hot springs all over the area.  Many hotels even have private natural springs.

sanatorio duran

Many off-beat travelers value lesser known, more local attractions, and I personally enjoy them very much over super-touristy, Disney theme park type stuff

On that note, if ghost chasing piques your interest, check out the little-known Sanatorio Duran.   Built originally to treat patients dying of the then widespread epidemic of tuberculosis, the Sanatorio also served as a prison and a mental hospital.

It’s no wonder local legends abound about this strange and beautiful place.

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(Look forward to more on the Sanatorio Duran, as I plan to showcase it in an upcoming Featured Haunting post.)

Whenever I go anywhere, I take note of the wildlife I encounter.  Every place teems with its dominate species.   In Tanzania, you may think of the mighty lion.  In New York, you may think of less-mighty (yet formidable) subway rat.  For many people, Costa Rica conjures images of butterflies and brightly color tropical birds.

But I think of alligators.

croc

We passed this one on a stroll through Manuel Antonio, where he soaked himself in a natural drainage ditch just 4 feet from the sidewalk.  No barrier, no fence.  Nothing standing between us and this ancient creature with razor-lined jaws.

Oddly, a man stood on the sidewalk, tossing what looked like some kind of hairy palm fruit.  (You can kind of see one right in front of the mouth in the photo below).  The alligator happily ate them—-I always thought they were exclusively carnivores?

crocodile

As a totem animal, the alligator represents primal energy, courage, protection and The Gatekeeper.

I find the eyes especially unsettling, and in them, I see a jarring reminder of the beautiful but dangerous world beyond our five senses.

Speaking of totem animals . . .

baruca masks

Although (sadly) indigenous tribes in Central America continue to shrink, the Baruca people of Central America still carry on a rich tradition.

The above masks made Costa Rica famous for its hand-carved wood.  Baruca people began making these masks 500 years ago to scare away Spanish invaders.

Christian invaders thought the masks symbolized the devil, but in fact, they represented fierce versions of the Baruca totem animals.

Of course, Costa Rica remains largely Catholic, but I love seeing little pockets of living-yet-ancient pagan traditions around the world.

purple flower

Wildflowers in  Costa Rica’s rain forest wonderland burst with a delicate, vibrant beauty.

The orchid—a flower I think of us as impossibly fragile in my own region—grows with particular tenacity in this climate, poking its way through the thick of the jungle in search of sunlight.

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In my childhood, my great uncle visited us from San Jose and brought with him bouquets of orchids from Costa Rica for the ladies in our family.

(How did he manage to get them through customs?)

I still vividly recall the image of his wife standing at our kitchen counter, gingerly flicking water droplets on the exquisite, graceful blossoms with her fingertips to keep them from fading in the drier, cooler air of the Northeast US.

If you live in North America or Europe and keep a pot of orchids indoors through the winter, you know what a marvel it is that this plant actually grows somewhere wildly without any help from human hands.

In ritual, the orchid symbolizes:

*beauty
*femininity
*soft touch
*grace
*elegance

Leave them on the altar or use them in beauty and romance spells.

Perhaps even more than the flowers I know and love, I marvel at all the strange, otherworldly flowers for which I have no name.

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unidentified flower

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unidentified flower 2

For those with a deep love of gardening, I recommend you not leave without a tour of the farms that grow one of the earthiest, most wondrous plants ever gifted to the human race by Mother Earth herself: coffee.

I consider it one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets.  Lesser known than coffee powerhouses like Columbia, Costa Rica nonetheless grows some of the finest coffee in the world, and the growers there know their crop in a way we rarely think of it in the US/Western World.

The indigeneous healers in Costa Rica recognized the medicinal and spiritual value of this magical plant centuries ago and still use it this way today.

coffee plant

At the very least, if you drink imported coffee anywhere, know that it tastes completely different at the source.  The vibes coming off well-grown coffee beans (or “cherries”) on the vine give me a heady, dizzy feeling that ruined me for the ordinary, pre-ground, store-bought stuff.

In spell craft, coffee makes a wonderful addition to rituals for motivation, moving forward, energy clearing, and creative pursuits.  Include fresh, unprocessed beans in mojo bags for these purposes.

For the gardener, touring a coffee plantation opens creative possibilities for sustainable growing practices.  Our guide impressed me with the interesting and unique ways Costa Rican coffee farmers make the most of the land space and soil quality by mingling complimentary crops.

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Sit down. It’s just a yuca leaf.

While coffee plays a key role in Costa Rica’s economy, my visits to Costa Rica drew my attention to the importance of responsible growth and labor practices.   Coffee production impacts Costa Rica’s rain forests and rivers to such a degree that the (exceptionally) environmentally-conscious government often passes laws regulating the process to ensure sustainability.

However, corruption often impedes the enforcement of these laws.

In addition, farmers often exploit cheap labor from neighboring countries like Nicaragua, even employing small children to spend hours picking coffee beans in harsh conditions.

Witnessing directly the devastating effects of child labor while abroad makes ignoring these things much, much more difficult.  I encourage all pagans to look these things in the face and practice less harmful consumerism as a key feature of a nature-based spiritual experience.

I think we all sometimes forget real people live on the other end of our purchases.  Protecting their interests should be a part of everyone’s investment in better karma.

coffee labor

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10 Witchy Ways to Harness the Power of the Solar Eclipse

Even if you resigned yourself to not looking directly at the sun during the solar eclipse because you missed the boat on securing appropriate eye wear, you can still use this amazing astrological event to your ritual advantage.

solar eclipse

Charge your runes.  Runes have deep ties to solar energy.  If you have a set, leave them under the eclipse to absorb this amazing solar energy.

Call the energy of the lion.  For the eclipse tomorrow in the US (August 21st, 2017), the moon will be in Leo, supercharging this zodiac sign’s energy exponentially.  Any spells that the lion might enhance, such as spells for confidence or courage, are best conducted on this date.

Create a human sun dial.  If you will be celebrating the eclipse at a public ritual or with your coven, hold hands in a circle during the eclipse and chant to raise power during this epic astrological moment.

Gather the light.  Leave any crystal points you have to absorb the magic of the eclipse so that you can “store it” for future use.

Make sun cakes.  These are so perfect to pass around for cakes and ale or just as a solar eclipse “party favor.”  If you’ve never made sun cakes, here’s how.

Burn some sun magick incense.  While most blends available at occult shops cater to the moon’s energy, there are incense blends and potions made specifically for the sun’s energy.  This is the perfect time to explore sun magick!

Do a gold glitter blessing.  Any craft store has glitter available in gold tones.  Get some, pass it out right before the eclipse, and then let everyone scatter it like confetti.  It creates a super mystical vibe and is a great way to raise power.

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Place a piece of red jasper or garnet near your heart.  Wear a red jasper or garnet necklace during the eclipse to draw the considerable power and influence of the eclipse’s solar energy towards you.

Pass around a chalice of mimosa.  Orange juice and champagne both have strong solar associations, making them the ideal pour for sacred chalices.  Pass some around during the moment of totality.

Make a wish.  In a spiritual tradition that places so much emphasis on the power and beauty of lunar energy, the power of moon is no more evident than in that rare moment when it actually blocks out the light of a celestial body that is 400 times its size.  Stand in the majesty of her shadow and ask her to make things happen for you.

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I fasted for 40 days to seek spiritual insight. This is what I learned.

A nearly universal feature of spiritual traditions around the world, fasting plays a role in Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and countless other religions.

But with the exception of some pagan reconstructionists, fasting isn’t something emphasized in modern witchcraft or neopaganism in general.

The lack of information about fasting as a pagan or occult practitioner lead me to experiment with it from that perspective.

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Before we go into exactly what motivated my personal experiment with fasting, let’s go over what didn’t:

1.  I did not fast to lose weightI did, of course, lose weight.  And to the extent that I feel transformed physically by the inner revolution of the experience, I suppose weight loss contributes to the sense of “rebirth” into a new body.  But weight loss was not the primary goal. Also, I never left a healthy weight range, although I was on the higher end of that range before the fast, and I am on the lower end now.

2.   I did not fast to debate about the health benefits/dangers of fasting.  All kinds of claims loom around the internet about fasting and its benefits to health.  Some of them are pretty plausible (fasting increases insulin sensitivity) and some of them are downright dangerous (fasting cures cancer).  I’m not here to make any claim about the health risks or benefits.  That’s not what I was out to do.  I’ll let people far more qualified than I deal with those issues.

I ask you not to confuse this article with an endorsement of fasting in general, but simply consider it an account of my experience with the practice.  It really isn’t for everyone.

Fasting powerfully effected both my mind and my body.  I entered this journey with a lot of respect for what I was about to do, and I set limits.  The most important for me:

1.  I planned to stop immediately if fasting interfered with my work, or my ability to care for my child.

2.  I planned to stop immediately if I dropped below a healthy weight.

3.  I planned to stop immediately if I felt fasting seriously effected my emotional or physical health.

3.  I did not fast to support a spell.  But I think that would be interesting.  This fast was not part of a spell or ritual, but I think fasting in place of an offering to add power to spell work or ritual is an interesting idea.  I may try it.

Please note:  Mine was not an absolute fast, or a water fast.  I ate about 500-600 calories once a day, which was enough of a challenge for me.  I don’t know that the exact nature of the diet itself matters, but I tried to stick to simple, humble meals.   Mostly plain vegetables and rice.

Here’s why I did want to fast:

1.  To enhance the mind/body connection.  I tried short water fasts of 2-3 days before this experiment.  Very quickly, I experienced how sharply and directly fasting connects the mind to the body.  I wanted to know if a longer fast might deepen this connection.

2.  To promote mental clarity.  In particular, Buddhism and Hinduism have rich traditions of fasting to aid meditation.  Experienced fasters often claim enhanced abilities to visualize, more vivid dreaming and longer attention spans.  As someone with lots of interests and a notorious tendency to jump from one task to another, the idea of heightened concentration really intrigued me.

3.  To promote and deepen compassion for others.  Please do not misunderstand me.  As an otherwise well-fed person living in the first world, I obviously recognize that a voluntary period of fasting for personal spiritual growth bears no comparison to the hunger experienced by those living in starvation around the world.

However, I think at least exploring the sensation of deep physical hunger opens a sense of greater compassion for those who live without the luxury of daily bread.

Gandhi’s fasts especially inspired me to try fasting as an act of reverence.   Reading about his life during this time enriched my fast.

4.  To strengthen self-discipline.   Self-discipline behaves much like a muscle—the harder you work it out, the stronger it becomes.  I didn’t believe in the beginning that I could really do this for 40 days.  I was wrong.  And being wrong about that makes me wonder what else about my own limitations I’m wrong about.

5.  To change my relationship with food from one of impulsivity and thoughtlessness to one of mindfulness and respect.  Fasting forced me, in a very direct way, to confront the hang-ups about food my culture and upbringing impose on me.

In that way, I found it nothing short of life-changing.

Fasting taught me a lot, and almost all of it surprised me.  Here’s what I learned.

Fasting intensified my sense of mind/body awareness powerfully.  Just becoming aware of the sensation of physical hunger verses “mental” hunger is a revelation in a world where many of us go weeks without ever hearing our stomachs growl.

Even though this wasn’t a true water fast, I think this fast required more discipline than the short water fasts I’d done before.  Whereas in a true water fast, your hunger eventually subsides and stays that way for a very long time, eating once a day means triggering the metabolism and appetite.

Resisting it in that period after a meal really tested me, especially if I was in a setting that encouraged feasting, where well-meaning friends and family pushed food in my direction.  That none of them knew about the fast probably exacerbated it—-but I don’t know.

Knowing may also have made some of them more insistent.

By the way: people are really, really weird about fasting. 
While the acceptance of fasting as a practice varies widely in different cultures, in the United States, people seem particularly unsettled by it.  It’s almost taboo.  If you go around telling people you’ve dropped down to 500-600 calories a day, they usually:

1.  Think you have an eating disorder.  Particularly if you fall on the lower end of your weight range.

2.  Believe that abstaining from regular meals is inherently unhealthy.

3.  Question your mental health or think you are involved in a cult (if you tell them it’s for spiritual reasons).

4.  Do, think or say something equally ridiculous.

For all these reasons, and also because I think silence intensifies acts of reverence, I only told my husband about my fast.

Surprisingly, no one else seemed to notice.

To the annoyance of servers all over town, I ordered a lot of tea and water at restaurants, but I still went out with friends and family.  I continued to teach two yoga classes and two belly dance classes a week.  I chased after my toddler with plenty of energy.  I ran my handmade website without any extraordinary difficulty.

It interfered much less with my day-to-day living than I expected.  Actually:

Fasting definitely sharpened my focus.   In the beginning, it really interfered with my thinking.  A constant state of hunger distracts even someone with laser concentration.  Personally, I’m kind of flighty as it is.  So I struggled.  A lot.

I fought my impulses very hard at first.  I doubted myself.  I rationalized.  I bargained.

But eventually, the hunger goes away.  It’s bizarre.

After about a week, the hunger started to fade.   I read about this phenomenon, but I doubted it completely until it happened to me.

After two weeks, as my stomach began to tighten up and even small amounts of food left me feeling very full, it became almost more difficult to eat than not to.  At first, I found it a little alarming.  It’s so counter-intuitive.

However, once it happened, a fog seemed to lift, and suddenly, my sense of focus and awareness opened up a lot.

Reading, writing, meditation and creative pursuits held my attention much longer.  I often got “lost” in my tasks in a way that more shallow concentration simply doesn’t accommodate.

Prolonged fasting demanded much more from my mind than my body.  Before the fast, I expected to experience a near-debilitating toll on my body.  In fact, I felt energized most days.

Generally, I don’t engage in high-impact exercise.  My regimen mostly consists of low-impact dance, long, brisk nature walks and yoga.  But my active life continued mostly uninterrupted.

In fact, I was able to go deeper into more challenging yoga poses, relax more fully in them and hold them longer.

But mentally, fasting completely reworked my wiring.  I never realized how impulsive my relationship with food was until I spent a month constantly reminding myself: don’t lick the spoon, don’t taste-test the spaghetti sauce, don’t take the chocolate mint on the dinner check, don’t accept the free sample at the grocery store, and yes, a stick of gum counts.

For strength, I left offerings of bread or food on . . . pretty much any altar that welcomed them.  Certain Hindu and Buddhist temples in particular encourage food offerings, although you must be careful to look up the specific customs of what offerings are appropriate (meat almost never is, but in some cases, neither is garlic or mushrooms).

Sometimes, I just went on a walk with dog or baby and left offerings of handmade bread in the woods.  I found this really cleared my mind and kept me centered.

I carried also wore or carried tiger’s eye to remind me of my own inner strength, and I left the 5 of Pentacles tarot card on my altar.

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The Five of Pentacles is sometimes called “The Poverty Card” and symbolizes humility.  It seemed appropriate.

All of these things comforted me as I struggled through the more challenging hours and days of my fast.

On the upside, my one pauper’s meal a day tasted amazing. 

An old English proverb goes something like this:  “Hunger is the best spice.”

Even if it was just brown rice and raw vegetables with no sauce or butter, every flavor exploded on my tongue.  I noticed a heightened sensitivity to spices and salt.

I also found myself much more consciously grateful for food, much more respectful of how I used it, and more aware of when and how I ate it.

I went to the farmer’s market get the freshest possible ingredients.  I rubbed green beans between my fingers and gently squeezed cucumbers, fully appreciating them with all my senses when I made selections.  I prepared almost everything from scratch.

And I took my time eating.  I took pleasure in it.  It took much less to feel satisfied.

One benefit of my fast did not occur to me until I checked my bank statement:  Fasting saved me a lot of money.

Our food bill often creeps pretty high—not because we eat a lot, but because we eat well.  I try to feed myself and my family whole foods, avoid fast food, processed food and mostly either make my own or get it from a trusted source.  This benefits my health, but it doesn’t benefit the purse strings.

I set aside this extra savings.  Initially, I thought about using the money to buy canned goods for a food bank.  But local food banks proved surprisingly difficult to find!

So I plan to donate the money directly to a charity yet-to-be-determined, preferably one that benefits world hunger.

(ETA:  I donated to the organization Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.)

Now, a few reality checks.

While this proved to be a mostly positive experience for me, I want to avoid downplaying the intense and sometimes unpleasant side effects.

I was often irritable.  I noticed some pretty sharp mood swings during my fast.  Nothing super dramatic, but I sometimes felt “blue,” or unable to tolerate minor inconvenience.   This usually passed quickly.

I was cold all the time.  As my resting metabolic rate started to drop, so did my body temperature.  Even on warm spring days, I wore sweatshirts and socks.  I think this type of prolonged fast would be much more uncomfortable during the colder winter months.

I had a hard time sleeping.    Fasting undeniably interfered with my sleep cycles.  Particularly once I entered deeper ketosis, I went at least 48 hours without sleep several  times.  However, I experienced sharp mental clarity and the lack of sleep didn’t seem to impact my performance on any level I was aware of or made aware of.

Simply put, I struggle to sleep deeply, but I also didn’t seem to need as much sleep.

In general, fasting was really, really hard for me.  Like most people, I fought a lifetime of conditioning to maintain a strong fast.

Although I fasted without any serious impact to my daily life, my inner world rocked completely.

To give you a point of reference, I lived under the burden of a pack-a-day smoking habit for more than a decade before I quit 6 years ago.  This 40-day fast tested my will at least as much as the first 40 days I quit smoking.

Having said all that, I definitely want to do it again.

Feel free to leave any questions in the comment section, or share your own fasting experience.

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