When fasting is starvation…

Fasting without feeding your spirituality is starvation.

All it does is make you feel hungry the whole day and crave for food, when you should be working on developing your spiritual capabilities instead.

Navratri fasts are a bit different from other fasts. Depending on where you come from in India, the rules vary. Some days are no-rice days, others are no water days. There is no one set rule, and that also contributes to the beauty of the fast.

You can choose the way you want to observe it.

But whatever way you choose, merely starving yourself during the day will not do anything for you, besides make you lighter – that is, if you don’t stuff yourself afterwards.

Navratri is a chance for a reset. Yes, it began yesterday, so if you by any chance missed starting out yesterday, or couldn’t control yourself today, it’s ok. Try again tomorrow. It’s hard work, and we all deserve a chance, or two, or three, or how many ever it takes to get it right.

There is no harm in trying again and again, if you don’t repeat your mistakes the next time around.

The key thing is to not give up. It’s ok if you could manage only one day out of nine – you get two chances in a year – so the next time, make sure you clock at least two days. Self-improvement is not easy, so don’t feel the pressure of getting it done.

Take your time. The Navadurga are not going to be cross just because you had normal food today.

That being said, don’t give up that easily as well. All I am saying is that don’t do it for the sake of doing it.

I leave you with a piece I wrote last year on Navratri. Hope you like it:)

A myth illustrates elusive truths that are difficult to express by more conventional means, because it ventures beyond the realm of fact, into the realm of meaning. It is an effective ancient method of teaching. What cannot be conveyed through extensive philosophical discussions and debate, can easily be transmitted through myth and metaphor. It does not matter if the story actually took place, or the events actually transpired. That is besides the point.

You would have heard of the story of the Guru who was teaching his new students to paint. “Today, we will draw the moon”, he exclaimed, and then pointed to the moon that was visible outside the window of the ashram. “That is the moon.”

The students dutifully drew a beautiful painting…of his finger.

At one level, the Devi Mahatmyam speaks of these external battles between the divine and the demons…on another level it also speaks of the battle of life, and our inner battles – between the good in us and the bad in us. The Devi is our true Self, the part of us that we do not know, or realize. We keep trying to identify ourselves with things, thoughts, emotions and beliefs, but even after all that, we don’t seem content. Surely there is more to us than the “I, me, myself”.

The wise have called this part of us our common divinity – one that we share with every living being, plant, animal, thing, every part of this vast Universe – we are all part of the same commonality. We just are not able to see it, due to our tendencies, the gunas (tamas, rajas, and sattva), that manifest in us in varying degrees.

Navratri is an inner pilgrimage, where we take a hard look at our inner demons, and begin a process of cleansing. There are three steps – one for each guna, and one for each part of the process that has a beginning, a middle and an end, where the Devi acts as the creator, preserver and destroyer.

So, on a basic level, you have three aspects of Shakti, each fighting a set of asuras – Maha Kali who takes on Madhu and Kaitabha, Maha Lakshmi who fights Mahishasura and Raktabija, and Maha Saraswati who wins over Shumbha and Nishumbha.

On another level, the three-step transformation of the sādhakā is presided over by Maha Kali, who helps overcome tamas, Maha Lakshmi, who helps overcome rajas and Maha Saraswati, who helps overcome the effects of sattva.

The result, is VijayaDashami, or Dussehra, a complete transformation of outlook, attitude and constitution of our being.