Abstention, Detoxing and Fasting

Fasting through history

The concept of fasting and abstention is evident throughout civilisations, societies and religions, particularly related to food consumption, which makes a good example for our relationship with technology.

In the book, ‘Conscious Fasting’, Rudiger Dahlke believes that eating and fasting are in fact two sides of the same coin, like breathing in and breathing out.

However, fasting and being hungry are often mistaken as the same thing, when actually they’re very different. Being hungry is also known as craving.

In previous times, humans regularly had periods of less food (hunger) but not necessarily intentionally. Looking around us, we live in a society which has more than enough food and there is never a period when one cannot eat. We could eat all day all long.

A gluttony of information

The same is also true of information – ‘info-glut’.

As Nassim Taleb wrote: for humans, “an overabundance is more difficult to handle than a scarcity”, and this certainly applies to the multitude of offerings for distraction and dopamine hits as we have explored in earlier chapters.

There are thus many similarities between the concept of fasting for food and fasting from digital usage.

Dahlke explains that fasting with consciousness and intention should be a positive – and even enjoyable – experience with a positive outcome. This should be reiterated: It shouldn’t be a grim chore (hence also the inclusion of the principle: embrace the world).

Fasting or abstention can be seen, on one hand, as a physical endeavour towards an objective (losing weight, gaining more time, achieving better concentration, etc.). It can also be seen as a spiritual and psychological endeavour. Unless the consciousness has updated itself to cease its addiction and deal with the underlying issues, then any physical change as a result of the fast will quickly revert to the prior state once the fasting has concluded. Fasting can, therefore, be seen as another way to deal, spiritually, with the underlying desires and to ensure that, psychologically, we are making the transition. The focus should be on the spirit and mind, rather than the physical.

This was a key insight that we understood only after the digital detox. We could only sustain new habits once we had resolved the underlying issues (the spiritual and psychological transformations that we need to make and continue to work on). This is why we cannot detox from technology without an understanding of the anxieties which cause the initial addiction in the first place.

Intermittent ‘dopamine fasting’

Recently, intermittent fasting has become popular, particularly in sports circles, essentially with a ratio of 8:16 – eating within an 8 hour period followed by 16 hours of fasting. The short fasting period causes sufficient stress on the body to cause it to adapt. The digital detox is fairly similar in approach. We are not partaking in a full digital abstention for 30 days; it’s almost impossible, but we do need to stress the system.

It is through the stressors upon the body that we even prompt the human system to adapt. Without any stress, the body has no incentive to make the costly adaptions towards the new state.


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