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Why are meditation and fasting often associated with each other?

answered by Rob Hanna

It’s easier to meditate in the fasted state.

Perhaps the reason it is easier is that fasting into the fasted state removes obstructions within us – mental, emotional, physical. Fasting makes it easier to meditate, layer by layer and bit by bit.

The fasted state is not easy to enter quickly unless you’re already ketoadapted (i.e. already practiced in attaining the fasted state before you arrive to meditate). If not, you’ll just end up being cranky, distracted and perhaps hangry, wondering why the hell folks are trying to sit still for so long… “when are we gonna break for food!” Without achieving the fasted state it’s far more difficult to drop the monkey-mind (or quiet the noise in your head that is the signature rise and fall of blood glucose metabolism) long enough to meditate with any evolution of awareness.

If you are ketoadapted, then you may easily experience the more sublime aspects of the fasted state quickly, which include clarity of mind and an ability to effortlessly see and sense things as they are without attachment.

Contrary to commonly shared professional opinions and lay beliefs, the brain does not totally depend upon, or somehow prefer, blood glucose as fuel. Blood glucose is a one-off jackpot of energetic density in an otherwise parsimonious landscape of hardscrabble calories. It’s great to have sugar once in a while, but do it all the time and you'll create a metabolic pain in the ass (and perhaps gut, thighs and chin):

  • the body must contend with being forced to digest hyper-glycemic foods near continuously throughout the day;
  • overstimulation of our endocrine system includes continuously clearing post-prandial glucose from the blood by secreting insulin from the pancreas;
  • without being able to clear dietary glucose from our bloodstream our brain, organs and muscle tissues become damaged.

And that is why the body actually creates and prefers a saturated bloodstream of ketones and free-fatty acids for energy, hormone production and epigenetic signaling that are naturally arising in the fasted state. Ketones and the fasted state:

  • do not tax the endocrine system;
  • do not force the pancreas to work overtime;
  • do not impel the brain to constantly be whipped into mania and then a funk between meals (ketones never produce those narcoleptic tendencies in the late afternoons);
  • use free fatty acids for energy that doesn't produce lactic acid by-products;
  • is actually hydrating to the body, thereby enabling you to sit still for lengthy periods of time and not cramp or get thirsty.

Since few to none likely know these details by direct experience, it is unlikely that they are what drive such decisions to make meditation and fasting co-occur at retreats. It is more likely that it’s commonly realized fasting is a proven heuristic, handed down for thousands of years, that actually works to help improve meditation practice.

It is also much cheaper and easier to run the retreat without having to cater it and deal with all those nit-picky dietary restrictions everyone and their dog now have… but that's a different story.

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