Fasting for Spiritual Energy: Brain Food & God-consciousness

Spiritual Energy & God-consciousness

The journey begins with your spirit, which becomes empowered by God’s Spirit. Every human being has had the sense of receiving ideas or energy from a source beyond ourselves. We speak of being in-spired, a Spirit-word that literally means something has been breathed into us. This means that flourishing — being connected with the Spirit of God — is available all the time. When your spirit flourishes, you are most fully alive. You have a purpose for living. You are drawn to put on virtue and put off sin. [John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be, p. 17].

Does the fuel that the brain uses for energy affect the nature or content of our thoughts? Scientific studies have shown  that certain “brain foods” and supplements can, in fact, heighten concentration, enhance memory and increase our attention span.

omega-3-2The conventional view of which foods are best for the brain focuses on specific nutrients that help maintain the brain’s physical health and that improve memory. This perspective also recommends mental exercises such as puzzles, word games, logic problems  and riddles for general mental well-being.

“Brain foods” rich in omega-3 fatty acid DHA, choline, resveratrol and folic acid are enjoying current popularity, in part as a result of scientific findings supporting their brain-related benefits.  Products such as green tea, cranberries and even chocolate are consumed by many primarily because of these perceived benefits.

But before you dismiss the diet-brain connection as mere conjecture, keep in mind that study after study has found a relationship between what we put in our mouths and how well we can perform important thinking and memory tasks. [The Huffington Post, Brain Food: Superfoods to Improve Your Cognitive Function].

Fasting and Spiritual Energy

“Brain food” is technically the proper term for these products that enhance brain activity. The term refers essentially to proteins, carbohydrates, and fats used in vital processes of the body for growth, repair and energy.

However, when we speak of “brain foods” we can also be referring to “brain fuel” — what the brain “burns” to generate thoughts and produce spiritual work.spiritualbrain

To date, only two sources of fuel for the brain have been identified: glucose and ketones bodies. Glucose is what the brain normally uses for energy. Ketones bodies are an alternative energy source, used when glucose is unavailable, as during fasting or starvation.

Recently, detailed studies by Veech and colleagues of the metabolism of ketone bodies … showed that 5 mM ketone bodies added to the glucose-containing perfusate resulted in a 25% increase in hydraulic work with a significant decrease in oxygen consumption … These data suggest a similar increase in metabolic efficiency in human brain using ketoacids as the principal source of energy in place of glucose … [G]iven the body of evidence already existing showing the therapeutic efficacy of ketone bodies in a variety of conditions … ketone therapy seems warranted. [Richard L. Veech, Ketone Bodies, Potential Therapeutic Uses].

When we eat, our body converts carbohydrates into glucose for energy. During fasting, however, when little or no glucose is available, our body switches to an internal source of energy, ketone bodies: compounds produced in the liver and kidney from stored fatty acids that substitute for glucose as fuel for the brain.

Without any doubt there is something which links material energy and spiritual energy together and makes them a continuity. [Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe, p.86].

Feeding Our Habits

Habituation refers to our brain’s weakened response to continually repeated stimuli. We easily become accustomed to routines and habits that we perform often. Moreover, we often subject ourselves repeatedly to stressful activities that offer little or no satisfaction.

For this reason, improving our brain’s ability to perform common, habitual activities is not necessarily productive. “Brain foods” may enhance brain activity but they do not improve the quality of our thoughts.

Habituation puts to sleep the eye of our judgment. [Michel de Montaigne]

When we restrict our brain’s and our body’s domain to short-term enhancements, we may need to revisit our priorities. Higher consciousness requires spiritual energy that goes beyond mere physical nutrition.

Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervour dies out. [Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 262].

quran-plateFasting can help us recognize our enslavement to worldly cosmetics, and cure our addiction to ephemeral pleasures. It interrupts our dependence on material products to improve our health, and severs our intellectual attachment to faddish remedies promoted by persuasive marketers.

The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return.… The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. [Thomas Merton, Seasons of Celebration].

Quality of Thoughts

The quality of our life depends on the quality of our thoughts. In a fasting mode, our mind becomes introspective. It opens our consciousness to a different perspective, to a different way of understanding — satisfying yet humbling.spiritualbrain2

The distinction between “brain foods” and “brain fuels” is important. Hopefully, controlling our eating habits by fasting can lead to profound lifestyle changes and to a truly inspired thought process.

The beginning of man’s Active Life, says Ruysbroeck—that uplifting of the diurnal existence into the Divine Atmosphere, which confers on it meaning and reality—is a movement of response. Grace, the synthesis of God’s love, energy and will, pours like a great river through the universe, and perpetually beats in upon the soul. When man consents to receive it, opens the sluices of the heart to that living water, surrenders to it; then he opens his heart and will to the impact of Reality, his eyes to the Divine Light, and in this energetic movement of acceptance begins for the first time to live indeed. [Evelyn Underhill, Ruysbroeck, Ch. V].

Metaphorically, spiritual energy represents the eternal glow of Divine light that radiates into all aspects of our reality, and that fully enables our awareness of the transcendent. Our limited senses cannot encompass spiritual energy, so we use metaphors and parables to help us understand. Nevertheless, we realize that it is the creative power by which our mind sees and our heart breathes.

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is, as it were, that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is [enclosed] in glass, the glass [shining] like a radiant star: [a lamp] lit from a blessed tree – an olive-tree that is neither of the east nor of the west the oil whereof [is so bright that it] would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it: light upon light! God guides unto His light him that wills [to be guided]; and [to this end] God propounds parables unto men, since God [alone] has full knowledge of all things. [Quran 24:35].

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Related posts:

Fasting for Spiritual Energy: Holiness, Halos  and Ketone Bodies 

Further Reading:

Andrew Newberg, M.D., How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist

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