The one thing we can rely on from this mysterious universe around us is change.
And yet, perhaps equally mysteriously, most of us are doing everything in our power to keep things just as they are.
Culturally : Our culture is keen to ignore the ever-changing nature of the world around us, and keep us strapped to a desk, come rain or shine, good mood or bad, shuffling these important bits of paper about.
Medically : Our medical systems are based upon suppressing symptoms so that we remain within a thin spectrum of health, capable of getting up and eating, talking and working.
Personally : And in ourselves, we find a keen attraction to the average, no matter whether this norm is beneficial for us, or even whether we like it or not. But as long as it is within the tiny comfort zone we make for ourselves, then it is acceptable, and even preferable over change.
The idea of allowing the body to relieve itself of its toxic load, is repugnant, & has been hijacked by concepts of sickness, infection and malfunction.
The idea of rest is essentially reprimanded in our busy lives, and seen as unproductive - associated with laziness, weakness and indulgence.
Massively valuing productivity at the expense of rest has one result...
It is perhaps, paradoxically, our greatest ally.
Much like physiological stresses, emotional stresses build in the body, and inevitably break down into toxins in the muscles - ultimately arising as illnesses, which force us to slow down, take stock and succumb to the mind/body's need for rest.
The elaborate hormonal feedback loops in the nervous system are as biological as digestion, and yet they govern not only the body, but the mind as well.
Too much 'on' time will lower the immunity, disrupt sleep, derail a working routine, and cause inflammation just as surely as a bout of flu.
The Emotional Spectrum Illusion
There are essentially two states for the body, despite the palette of words and judgements that we have to describe and colour our emotional landscape.
The Safe, Parasympathetic Doze
This is a relaxed state, indicative of slow blood flow through the deepest networks bringing oxygen and nutrients to these delicate structures.
It empowers the body to perform the more refined biological functions like healing, repair, digestion, immunological work, etc.
Likewise, the brain is imbued with a greater degree of long, slow brainwaves conducive to learning, contemplation, creative abstraction, deliberate communication, and empathy. These are the 'higher' functions often cited as that which separate us from 'lower' animals.
Whether we are enjoying feeling chilled-out, or just utterly bored, the biological state is exactly the same, with all of its mental, emotional, and biological merits, like it or not.
The Unsafe, Sympathetic Shock
We have many names for being 'on'. When we want it, we call it things like 'excitement', and when we don't want it, we call it 'terror', but despite how different these two concepts appear to the mind, for the body, it is just a state of being ' hyper on'
To facilitate this, cortisol and adrenalin are released into the blood from the adrenal glands, and we are kicked into action, driving blood to the limbs and older, 'survival' brain, halting digestion, immune work, deep breathing & higher brain functions. Short, frequent, gasping breaths rise into the upper chest, and we hyper-oxygenate the blood. This high-octane fuel supply is now destined for the outer, skeletal muscles to assist in the rapid movements that would keep us safe, as in 'fight or flight'.
Deeper, survival conditioning takes over at this point, and empathy, diplomatic communication and creativity have no place in this 'everyone for themselves' arena.
Digestion and healing are massively suppressed, as they don't play a role in immediate survival.
Is that a Lion !?!
Thus, we can see from this simplistic model that it is a highly advisable state if momentarily facing an adversary, but constantly running on that kind of energy will deplete all the higher states that the blood is being diverted away from.
The adrenal glands become exhausted, the muscles lose their ability to relax, and the brain adds ever-increasing dominance into the survival systems.
At the front end of consciousness, we become fearful & controlling, as we associate with lower-level conditioned responses, like accumulation of wealth, status and boundaries.
The mind will be dominated with fear-inducing narrative, and even when complete rest is available, it will seek to disrupt and sabotage such luxuries...
No, it's a Lie !
As our cozy little lives don't typically face us with terminal danger these days, we have only the idea of such pressures. We might think that under such luxurious circumstances, we will have become chilled, complacent beings, with lives that look like holidays.
But no, we have successfully replaced the fleeting imperatives of a prairie-based, lion-aware life with one of constant, low-lying, background terror - stimulated constantly by everything from debt defaulting, workplace pressures, endless fear-inducing newsreels, shock-based entertainment, hyper-enhanced food and uber-stimulating drinks to keep us 'on' at all times.
And it is so unnecessary. So counterintuitive, and, ironically, counterproductive.
We need to rest...
And there is no deeper rest than fasting.
When we take away even the background stress, workload and energy drain of digestion, the body goes into an especially deep state of rest. Inflammation starts to recede, once the blood flow it is trying to encourage is actually allowed to happen, bringing fresh nutrients and oxygen to fix whatever problem it has been called to address.
We need to heal...
No greater healing happens than when fasting.
The immune system is now fully resourced - because digestion is not stealing all the enzymatic resources, and so it can go to work on all the soft tissues, stripping out dead cells and recycling them for energy and raw materials.
Repairing ailing DNA and massively boosting the number and viability of stem cells - particularly in the mitochondria, where energy is regulated within cells.
We need to calm...
Retreat & engage with oneself.
The mind settles very quickly, without telephones ringing, deadlines appearing, and children disappearing. This lack of constant stimulation from daily life leaves plenty of space for mental and emotional contemplation, bringing a refreshed sense of direction and purpose, ease and simplicity to one's life.
Warrior or Worrier
This is why it is the most ancient, iconic and effective healing pattern for the whole body.
Especially today when much of our internal healing systems are constantly starved by a fraught nerve network busy dealing with endless stressors.
There are other routes of course. The ancient traditions also cited endless variations on the theme of movement, meditation, breathing, dance, song, positive affirmations, intimacy, nature connection, etc... See more on the benefits here...
We include all of them too on our retreats
And those other routes are ways in integrate what fasting DOES BEST...