Each time I fast on the new and full moon, I go outside, as I do every morning, and briefly meditate, and prepare for a day without food. But that feels like not quite enough to start this short sacred disruption of monthly routines. So I’ve been thinking about a prayer that could start (and perhaps even end) the fast. I think the below prayer achieves that.*
Gaian Moon Fasting Prayer
Today, I am grateful for the chance
To fast —
To take fewer resources from the overdrawn Earth,
To demonstrate to myself my strength, my resolve, my self-control,
And my resilience, in the face of challenges and disruptions in daily patterns.
I also welcome the chance
To connect —
To Gaia’s primordial and sacred cycles,
To an ancient spiritual practice; and
To others who understand and celebrate that they are part of
And utterly dependent on the Living Earth.
When I break my fast, I will relish the chance
To eat slowly, mindfully, and with gratitude,
To once again receive sustenance from Gaia’s bounty,
To remember that enough is abundance.
This prayer incorporates the many benefits explored in this initial reflection on moon fasting, and in our recent Gaian Conversation about moon fasting—including connecting us to the moon cycle, reducing our consumption, drawing our awareness to the disparity in access to resources, increasing our self-control and our resilience for when we find ourselves with not enough to eat. I welcome you to add some edits in the comments and help make this even stronger (this, after all, is a work in progress). And give it a try next time you fast, and see if it shifts your mind at all, or makes the day easier. (And let the community know its effect if you do.)
On Water and Fasting
Also, while we’re talking about fasting, a new study was published recently that explored the question of how much water we need to drink each day. It turns out that that depends on a huge number of factors: if you’re a man or woman; if you’re athletic or physically active; if you live in a hot or cold clime; if you live at a high elevation; if you’re old or young. I was curious about it as the Washington Post article I first read this in framed it around the old advice of drinking eight glasses of water per day and how that’s not necessary.
But reading the actual article, it is and it isn’t. In the study, males below 30 consumed about 4.3 liters per day while females below 30 consumed 3.4 liters/day (l/d). Above 30, and water turnover dropped to 3.1 l/d and 2.8 l/d respectively. So, if your drinking glasses are about 8 ounces, then that’s about 2 liters of water. You also get about 20-50% of your water from food. The scientists note that the amount is still not fully known and should be studied.
For me that’s the reason I got intrigued by the study. When I fast I sometimes get headaches. And I’m not sure if that’s because I don’t drink enough. As we’re a big soup eating household, we get a lot of our water from our food. So I have to make an extra effort to drink when I’m fasting. Even beyond what my body says I need (scientists start the article by noting that water levels are “tightly regulated” by the drives to eat and drink. But of course, during a fast, one is short-circuiting one of these. Does the other (thirst) become more pronounced or does it also become suppressed?
Perhaps the key is simply creating new routines to add more liquid during your fast. That might be something other traditions already figured out and I just missed the memo. But I think I will try that. I already have a nice morning pattern: some black coffee (usually decaf). Then some herbal tea. But by the afternoon I’m probably not drinking enough. Perhaps incorporating a large drink of water before a midday meditation would help keep hydration in my head (rather than a headache).
But the bigger point I’m trying to make is simply this: drink more when you’re fasting. There’s no significant downside to having more water, other than the obvious one: “If you drink eight cups of water a day, you’ll be fine — you’re just going to be spending a lot more time in the bathroom,” noted Herman Pontzer, one of the co-authors of the study, to The Washington Post. That might not be optimal on a typical day, but when fasting, and that means the difference between dehydration headaches and not, I say grab an extra-large cup, and find ways to incorporate more water and herbal teas into your day.
On Timing Fasts
One other interesting recent study: eating earlier helps your body digest and metabolize foods better. This, it turns out, is a whole field of study called “chrono-nutrition.” The point the article makes is that lunches, not dinners, should probably be the largest meal, or even breakfast, though that would surely entail eating a real meal rather than several bowl of Wheaties (which might be too much of a cultural shift for Westerners growing up on cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, and other less than optimally-nutritious foods). But it’s also interesting as it could help shape how best to Moon Fast.
There is yet to be a standardized Gaian moon fasting pattern, with some practitioners’ moon fasts starting after dinner and including the breakfast and lunch of the following day (two meals—and about 24 hours). Others do a full day from breakfast to bed (adding up to about 36 hours). A few are experimenting with starting by skipping dinner one day and going until dinner the next day (around 30-36 hours). This last option seems wise as I know by dinner on a fasting day my resolve is low (and it’s easy to choose to stop with just two meals), so starting with dinner can be an easier path.
I actually tried my last New Moon Fast this way—and did indeed find that it was much easier. I’m not sure if this study suggests one way or another is better (though keeping in mind not to eat too much when breaking the fast is important—but perhaps less so if that meal is breakfast than if it’s dinner). But I encourage you, as you extend your fast from two meals to three, to try starting with dinner versus starting with breakfast, and see which works better for you. And either way, when you’re done with your fast, pull out a copy of the Gaian Moon Fasting Prayer and give it a read as you sit outside under the full (or new) moon, and close your fast.
*A very special thanks to Bart Everson, Brennan Smith, and Krista Hiser for helping to make this prayer stronger and clearer.