In deep healing work with entheogens, we need to cross many vibrational layers before reaching the core where the most impactful imprints are stored. These layers of consciousness may be encumbered with toxic stuff — physical, mental or emotional residue from the unresolved business of living. We experience this as the odd content of ‘tripping.’ Without a clear intent and technical knowledge, it is easy to go no further than our fascination with it.
Its sources are as diverse as the daily frictions we contend with. There are many ways to prepare that can help us bypass this nonessential material and get more out of our work. Some are described on other pages. Here I concentrate on direct interventions on our physical vehicle, the body.
This is actually a vast topic that affects transformational work on many levels. All the evidence I have gathered from working on my own heavy traumas suggests that the ‘physical’ body is ultimately a creation, just as much as a thought or feeling is. Concurrently, the ‘spirit’ cannot be convincingly separated from its basic intent to wed itself to and impact the physical universe. In this resolutely holistic perspective, the phrase ‘working with the body’ should be understood loosely.
The key technique I advocate is the fast. Fasting has always been both a physical health and a spiritual technology — and I would add a learning technology. I shall try to outline its many benefits and present some basic practical guidelines.
I am talking here about the so-called water fast, not any of the cleansing and detoxifying diets that often go under that name. These are very useful in city environments and when one has to handle outer responsibilities like work and family. The complete fast, however, is a more profound experience. In the context of uncovering the hidden energies of our deepest wounds, this difference is no longer a matter of degree. Let me explain.
When you stop eating, you still go on living, and in order to provide for the needs of your metabolism, the organism turns inward for sustenance. It starts breaking down unnecessary tissues and using them as food. This is called autolysis. It appears that living organisms have an infallible instinct for getting rid of their most useless parts first, and then in descending order. Thus tumors, cysts, fibromes, lipomes and other growths, toxins and other deposits that are clogging the system, and then interstitial fat get dissolved. Intra-cellular detoxification is intensified. This is the source of the many seemingly miraculous healings associated with fasting.
Animals in nature fast when they are ill or injured. We do not need that motivation, but this inward shift signals an emergency anyway and it triggers an awakening of the deeper layers of the psyche. This is why fasting has been a treasured resource to meditators in so many cultures. Even on a one-day fast done in proper conditions (I am coming to that), you are able to go deeper into any form of meditation or introspection. If you know where you want to go, it facilitates access to the energetic frequencies of deep wounds and heavy imprints.
Furthermore, it acts as a physiological and psychological reset button, canceling habits and patterns, including addictions, and bringing the organism — as well as its manifestation, the mind — back to a sort of baseline that can be a revelation. In our culture most people never spend a day without eating — usually too much — even when the wisdom of their body is trying to help them through loss of appetite. So fasting is very much a psychedelic experience in its own right.
Fasting is also a teacher. It gets us back in touch with a natural knowing that can guide us in our daily living and free us from dependance on outside health authorities. In the context of extreme healing, I recommend it for two main reasons: as a technique for inner exploration and as preparation for work with entheogens. In both cases, and regardless of its other benefits, it is extremely effective at clearing away the clutter — physical, mental, emotional, vibrational — of our civilized lives. It takes us straight to the playing field where real work can be accomplished.
Fasting before a journey with a teacher plant cleans and tunes up the organism so that the medicine may cross more layers and reach the core area more easily. It makes your interaction with the healing agent more intimate. It allows you a direct perception of its vibrational frequency, unmediated by conceptual systems, be they native or modern. Your natural knowing is activated.
Some authors believe that a complete water fast is inappropriate because the body needs certain nutrients all the time. They recommend various hybrid techniques combining fasting with juices, supplements, enemas and so on. These regimens can be excellent but I disagree with the premise. The total fast takes us back to a very ancient, cellular knowledge which we all possess and which predates all our curative systems. The act of trusting our own biological resources keeps it in a separate category. It is not only about the body.
When you ‘fast’ with juices or other accommodations, this physiological shift only happens partly. It is mitigated by the need to digest the juices, which are foods. This digestion requires energy and generates waste products. Not only is the purification less intensive, the profound physiological rest and inward-turning of water fasting do not really happen.
The logic of fasting is radically different from the logic of remedies, even natural, holistic or homeopathic remedies. In fasting, I basically trust nature, my nature. I surrender to a process that is guided by a huge biological wisdom that no human medical system can approach in sophistication and effectiveness.
This is not meant to deny the value of cleansing diets. They are very useful in their own right and in combination with other healing practices. They are also much better adapted to urban living.
This is not meant to avoid the truth that acute conditions, deficiencies, systemic weaknesses, degenerative diseases and other limitations should be carefully considered, with expert advice if necessary, before deciding to engage on a fast.
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR FASTING
Fasting is done preferably in a natural environment, in peace and seclusion. It looks exceedingly simple but there is a correct technique to learn and there are quite a few ways for novices to complicate it. We need to accurately understand the issues surrounding protection, breaking the fast, re-entering and, generally, relating safely to a toxic world.
In order to fast for one day, you will need two full days. To fast for three days, you need a week-long vacation. The doubling of the time frame is to allow for a reentry period roughly equal to the length of the fast. This is important. You will find yourself in such a state of purification that returning straight to your life obligations without a gradual transition, especially if you are a city dweller, could lead to a very unpleasant shock similar to a ‘bad trip.’ There is a technique to navigating the shoals of our toxic culture and this is part of it.
The easiest length to start with is one day and two nights. If you are city-bound with a Monday-through-Friday job, you would eat lightly on Friday night, stay home all day Saturday and fast, then break the fast on Sunday morning and spend most of Sunday at home doing quiet things. Shorter fasts like skipping dinner or not eating beyond a certain time in the evening are excellent practice and will make you feel great in the morning.
Fasting in nature amplifies the healing power of this process (see working with nature). If you do not have access to a peaceful, natural environment — a backpacking vacation is probably ideal — only a short (maximum three days) fast is feasible in the city. You should stay home and keep electronic devices off as much as your life allows.
I acknowledge that these are only my guidelines. I have seen people go on complete fasts in a large city for much longer, and even work jobs at the same time. Some people can handle it, but I cannot recommend that practice if you are in it to receive the inner gifts of this process. For many people, me included, the level of openness and sensitivity that is quickly reached in a fast totally precludes it. It is about going within, and efforts should be made to create a whole environment that supports that, even if it means rearranging other features of your life, waiting for the right time or expending resources to provide the proper logistics.
Every day of your fast, you will get more sensitive, psychically and sensorially. If you’re in the city, air pollution, smells, visual ugliness, sound pollution, mental vibrations from neighbors in apartment buildings, any disharmony with people you live with, all those things could bother you more and more as the fast proceeds. Try to handle as much of it as possible before you start. Try to do it in the country and not have any lingering preoccupations about work, relationships, money, etc.
You should not fast while under pressing family or professional obligations, under deadlines or under relational stress. You should not fast while upset or worried or in the company of someone you have unresolved difficulties with. Ideally, do not have anyone take drugs of any kind around you. That would include things like coffee and meat. You will become very sensitive.
The ideal framework is to treat it as a full-time project, a meditation retreat or personal growth workshop that requires a break from your daily obligations. I emphasize this because there can be a tendency to regard it as ‘doing nothing’ and therefore leaving space for ‘doing something.’ In my opinion, this is an incorrect approach and it will reduce the benefits of fasting. I believe it is much better to wait for a set of circumstances in which your are free to dive deep into the experience.
People are often surprised to find that hunger is not an issue while fasting, as long as there are no outside stresses. Usually, after the first 24 hours, you are not hungry at all. You have settled into a different metabolic regimen.
Drink the finest water you can find. Drink when you’re thirsty. Do not drink ‘dogmatically’ (following someone else’s advice or a book).
Have some moderate physical exercise during the fast. Do not treat yourself like a sick person, unless you are sick. You can do moderate work, physical or intellectual. Avoid long electronic exposure to TV or computer screens. Take walks in the country. Play or listen to music, do creative work or rest. Avoid intense social interactions with people who are not fasting.
Enemas and colonics are very good as preparation for fasting, but, contrary to widespread opinion, they are not necessary. They just provide an excellent synergy in support of the purification process.
If you are going on a longer fast, reduce the amount of food you eat one or two days before you start. Here is why. That food will get digested and will become dry and hard in your colon. When you break the fast, you will notice it at the beginning of your first bowel movement: hard and dry. If there was a lot in your digestive system when you started fasting, it could be painful the first time. It is not necessary to resort to enemas or colonics to handle that food from before the fast. The intense detoxifying process will apply there as well and make the waste material sterile and harmless. Just eat lightly before the fast.
A fast, even a short one, should be broken with fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Let your instinct guide you. I do not wish to add to the enormous literature about what is good for you and what is bad for you. If you are in a natural environment and you have a variety of foods available, it is unlikely that you will be guided to cooked or processed foods. When you start eating again, all of your senses are heightened. Your experience of food is intensified. This is one of the added benefits of fasting: a deepened perception and appreciation of food.
(Fasting is not effective for weight loss. Your present weight is the result of a complex adaptation, a state of equilibrium, however dissatisfied you may be with it. You will quickly regain the weight you dropped during the fast and return to that state.)
It would seem that fasting itself is easy – there is literally nothing to it. What is less easy is rearranging the circumstances of our lives to make this — apparently — ‘doing nothing’ possible. Usually, that is where most of the effort needs to go in order to reap the maximum benefits from it.
FASTING AND ENTHEOGENS
No drugs of any kind should be taken on a fast, even ‘good’ drugs. Some people combine fasting with ingesting entheogens. They can achieve deep states and peak experiences, but I do not recommend this approach, for several reasons.
First, fasting is a deep transformational process that should be experienced and savored for itself, without mixing. It is worth it.
Secondly, the essential nature of the process is a return of the organism to its own inner resources, a turning away from outer support, even substances that are ‘good for you.’ Taking a drug, an herb or a supplement during a fast is in effect combining two paradigms of health that are mutually exclusive: a belief in our innate capacity for health and self-regulation and what might be called good-for-you-ism, a rampant ideology in our culture that has us forever running from miracle plant to superfood, in a hopeless chase for external salvation that has a lot to do with commercial imperatives. If you are fasting, you are, among other things, investigating experientially the notion that all health and healing is already within you.
Of course, if you have any health issues or concerns and if you are new to this process, you should consult a qualified professional — not a medical doctor — before going on a fast.
Thirdly, you would be ingesting the substance in a physiologically vulnerable state. You may be in a hypoglycemic condition or you may quickly slip into it as the substance would make additional demands on your metabolism. It is likely that you would get hungry and end up breaking the fast. Entheogenic plant medicines contain many alkaloids that make high demands on the liver and the rest of the immune system. Part, not all, of their effect is actually caused by your defenses against this invasion. This too is incompatible with the fasting process which is a turning inward for deep repairing.
There is a wonderful synergy between fasting and entheogens. You can easily experience it by doing a short fast, breaking the fast, beginning your transition back and only then taking the entheogen. If you have any reference points for comparison, you will definitely feel the difference, and you will like it.
You will not find a lot of advice or theory about nutrition here. I agree with those who recommend a mainly raw, fresh, vegetarian diet with minimal mixing and processing, but more importantly, I believe in getting in touch with your natural knowing about your own needs. Different people may thrive on very different diets, for many reasons that would take us far off-topic. Knowing yourself and cultivating your own sensitivity is recommended, and for this, fasting is a powerful tool. Eating or not eating dogmatically, following any system from the head rather than from the belly is not advised.
Exercise is very good and I do not have any original thoughts about it. Inner-focused traditions like yoga and chigung are very good. A hatha yoga, kundalini yoga or chigung session immediately before entheogenic work will yield wonderful results. It will activate the chi or prana, providing added vitality for the intense and demanding transformational process. You will get more accomplished.
Breathing techniques like rebirthing and holotropic breathwork can be powerful healing agents. I haven’t been trained in breathwork, but I have spontaneously developed ways of breathing that have helped me in exploring serious traumatic experiences safely and with positive outcomes. This is also an area where I would emphasize listening within and cultivating your own wisdom.
See also working with nature.
Finally, and this may be evident to some readers and less so to others, avoid contact with medicine and psychiatry, unless you have determined it is absolutely necessary. These systems, while they continue to dominate our culture and attempt to stamp out alternatives to impose themselves as the only existing approach to healing, are antagonistic to genuine betterment, which is what this site is about. From actual observation, most of their patients tend to go on a downward spiral and many never come back up.
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