Juice cleanses are for pussies. Naveena Shine, a 65-year-old British transplant to the Pacific Northwest, is in the middle of a 100-day fasting marathon during which she’s only consuming water, tea, air, and something she calls “light,” a nebulous spiritual substance that she believes will sustain her. Naveena, who began this experiment on May 3, is loosely following the tenets of breatharianism, which is the belief that humans can survive on light alone. Previous practitioners have died of starvation, but Naveena seems to be more practical than them (she’s drinking tea, after all), and she’s used to feats of mind-over-body endurance—she was in the 1997 Guinness Book of World Records for walking across a 1,751-degree fire. You can follow her project, which she calls Living on Light, on Facebook and YouTube, and she's recording herself constantly with eight cameras that are set up around her home in Seattle, Washington. I called her up on Friday to see how it was going.
VICE: How’d you come up with the idea to do this?
Naveena Shine: My whole life has been surrounded by questions like “What is truth?” and “What’s real?” and “Who am I?” When I came across this particular possibility, that maybe it really is possible for a person to live on light, I recognized the importance of it should it be true. Everything I’d wanted to do in my life, I’d done. I put out to the universe the question, “Is there anything the universe wants me to do now?” The answer started coming to me a couple of months later, exactly the same time as Hurricane Sandy. I recognized that this really is important in our world, and this was something I could do. So here I am.
Where did you first hear about breatharianism?
Well, I’d heard about it all of my life really. I actually know one person who lived on light for three years. I had a pretty clear picture that it’s probably possible, so why not go for it?
You’ve now gone about seven weeks without any food. How are you feeling?
I’ve had some difficulties with bile in my stomach. Some days I don’t feel good, most days I feel fine. The last few days I’ve been feeling really alive and alert. I think changes in my body are of course going to create issues, but none of them have been serious.
A lot of people would want to know how you’re still alive at this point.
Well I don’t know the whys. It’s 36 days now [without eating]. I’m not experiencing what everybody else seems to think I ought to experience. Sometimes I don’t feel well, but I seem to be getting more energy and I’ve felt really fine for the last few days. What’s to say? I think it’s a lot to do with consciousness: I don’t ever think I can’t do it. I know that I might not be able to and I’m kind of fine to go with that, but I think it’s really possible. Everything I’ve done in my life, other people would have said, “No, no, you can’t do that. You’re going to kill yourself, you’re going to harm yourself.” But I never do, so why go with their ideas of reality and not with mine?
Other than the obvious hunger aspect, what’s it like living without food?
I love food. I like the social aspect of it, I like the elegance of it, and I like the taste. And that’s actually not changed. I don’t feel like I want to eat at the moment because that’s just not what my life is about at the moment. I don’t have any intention to not eat for the rest of my life, it’s too important psychologically. But those things are not impacting my experiment.
This experiment seems like it requires a lot of willpower. Do you have a daily schedule you follow?
No, I just do what I feel like.
Are you worried about the physical consequences of this process?
First of all, I don’t think there will be that many consequences. I’m certainly not going to go to the place where I damage my body, and I will stop if I find that I’m not thriving, that I’m going downhill or my organs are starting not to work. And I’m sure I’m going to know that—if people are dying from starvation, I think they must know beforehand that they’re not very well.
Let’s hope so. Did you consult any medical professionals about the experiment?
A doctor’s picture of life is not in tune with living on light. They simply can’t see it; it’s just not in their paradigm. I don’t think a doctor would suggest walking on the hottest fire in the world on bare feet.
Good point. But do you keep the deaths of others who have tried similar experiments in mind?
I don’t know what was going on with them. I don’t know why they didn’t notice [they were dying], and I don’t know why they didn’t do anything about it. I’m sad that they died, but, yes, I knew about [them].
What do your friends and family have to say about all this?
They’re not very happy. Nobody has ever tried it in this way, and everybody thinks it’s not possible and people think I’m going to kill myself and all of those things, but you know what? Maybe they’re wrong, and maybe they’re right. That’s the idea of an experiment.
What’s the next step if you succeed?
If I do this for 100 days, it’s past every point where people have died, and I think that’s going to be worth investigating. All I’m interested in doing is opening up the door. I don’t know who I’m going to be on day 100. When you’re eating food, that gives you one kind of way of looking at life. I will have different thoughts, different ideas, and different tastes if I’m living on light. And what that’s going to mean in my life I simply don’t know. As far as the public, they’re going to do whatever they’re going to do with it. It’s really about getting the message out into the world that this is possible. And then the world needs to just take it and do whatever the world needs to do with it. I think it can save this world, but if the world’s not interested, that’s its business.
More experiments in strange ways to live: