It’s that time of the year again. Navratri, Durga Puja and Dussehra…celebrations and pujas, fasting and overeating. Those nine days have it all…
Last Navrātri I fasted the whole nine days. You can read about it here. I also compiled the Devi Mahātmayam series during this time. Days pass fast, don’t they?
Anyway, I was researching on the types of Navratri fasts, and it seems that there are many different methods of fasting. Some people have fruits, others exclude certain items from their diet, yet others only take water the whole day. There seem to be a whole lot of rules for fasting, and not much consensus on what passes and what not.
Sometimes I wonder if we fast because of the rules, or because we want to achieve something more. I mean to say, why can’t you determine the mechanism? Of course, not on some whimsical basis, but after carefully analyzing what would help the most…
When I told someone this, he thought I was speaking of dieting. Again, the western mindset tends to have a linear approach to everything, whereas eastern philosophy is always circular. And so fasting does not mean just controlling your food, but also your desire, the wants of our lives (as opposed to the needs). These nine days give you an option to reset, and the days are chosen in a way that they coincide with large-scale seasonal changes. This makes it an ideal time to start afresh.
And to start afresh, one has to give up. Bad habits, life’s excesses, a total physical, mental and spiritual cleansing so that you emerge victorious on Dussehra – when the Rāmā inside you wins over your inner Rāvanas.
This is why I feel more thought should go into the individuality of the occasion. Spend a day or two contemplating what needs to be changed, and then chalk out how you want to go about it. Don’t fret about the kind of flour that is permissible to be eaten – the Devi has better work to do than monitor your chapatis. Don’t stress about the nitty-gritty of the rules around Navrātri.
Lay some ground rules (vegetarian only, no onion and garlic, fasting during the day and light meal at night etc.) and focus on the changes that you want to effect in you.
Break the nine days into three stages – destruction (of the bad bits in you), rebuilding (the good bits in you) and maintaining ( keeping up the good work). It takes 21 days to make a habit – or 1 day. The difference lies in the willpower and the dedication that you put to the task. This is the best time to do it – take advantage of it and make a difference.
Not to anyone else, but you.
I will be writing on all nine days – my experiences, my thoughts, my sādhanas. Do write in with your comments and thoughts as well.
जय माँ दुर्गा!