Finding My Inner Hippie
One of my first thoughts, and probably the over arching one that stayed with me this vacation was, “Am I hippie enough for this shit?”. The answer is, yes but just barely! I loved the yoga, meditation and healing, but I didn’t join the trance dance, mushroom consumption or long-winded conversations on existentialism. I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear feather earrings either, though I do think they look pretty…
This ‘vacation’ was actually a 7 night, 5.5 day detoxifying cleanse at The Sanctuary, on Koh Phangan. That means I went to Thailand, and ate pad thai only once…actually ate Thai food only once! Instead I lived on a pre-cleanse diet of fruits and veggies, then did 5 days of fasting on a liquid diet of coconut water, bentonite clay and psyllium husk shakes, herbal teas, vitamins and an evening vegetable broth, before moving into my post-fast diet of ‘sigh’ more fruits and veggies.
The Sanctuary is a Thai tourist destination that offers detoxes, yoga, spa treatments, meditation and a huge number of restorative workshops and sessions. Some of the healing methods I was familiar with; Reiki, Ayurveda, Acupuncture, NLP (neuro-lingustic programming), EFT (emotional freedom technique), Chinese medicine, iridology, live blood analysis, hypnosis, tarot card reading, skin brushing and astrology (this and my general enthusiasm for wheatgrass, spirulina and kefir is what I figure gives me the ‘just barley hippie’ status). Others were new: Phsyc-K, Matrix Energetics, lymphatic and abdominal massage, Rolfing and Yoga bodyworks. It all sounds rather ‘hippie dippy’, but I love holistic healing. For me, these are the methods that have dissolved health issues that my long-term belief and usage of Western healing created (think: antibiotics…oral contraceptives…).
The hippy dippiest experience of them all was ‘Matrix Energetics’, an energy work based on quantum physics. On the outside it looked like a Russian gypsy dancing around me, rolling her eyes back in her head, and moving my ‘energy fields’ with ecstatic prancing and chanting. On the inside, there was energetic re-programing to align celestial power and Source with my intentions (if you so choose to believe!). I had to do some major suspension of disbelief to fully participate in this process (it looked absolutely bizarre…) but you know, it felt great. After, I was dressed me up as a ‘goddess’, photographed and told me that my homework was ‘to have lots of sex’. Not a bad prescription…
Some Fasting Facts ( some paraphrased information from the Sanctuary’s information books and various other naturopathic texts)
If you asked me 4 years ago, would I voluntarily participate in a cleanse (not to mention pay money for it) the answer would have been no. I remember thinking that cleanses were not necessary if you listened to your body, ate intuitively and practiced everything in moderation. Why go to the extreme of not eating? It seemed like it would just stress the body and mind unnecessarily, and I liked food!
Well, I changed my mind. Living in Pakistan has exposed me to environmental hazards and toxins that no doubt accumulated in my system. Drinking filtered plastic bottled water in itself leads to abnormal absorption of BPA and estrogen, not to mention dealing with a polluted atmosphere, black mold, continual use of air conditioning, a growing dependence on antibiotics and limited access to organically grown produce. So I researched and read and then figured that fasting could be my friend.
Many believe that fasting is the oldest, most natural and one of the most powerful forms of healing. It’s said to clean the body of toxins, strengthen the immune and digestive system, improve the functioning of the heart and induce mental clarity. If you think about the amount that we eat (and what we eat!) and how the digestive system is delegated the duty of taking all that enters, breaking it down, absorbing what it needs and removing what it doesn’t, it’s not a wonder that a break would benefit the body. It’s said that 24 – 36 hours after fasting begins, the body uses it’s large amount of digestive energy to ‘clean house’, or detoxify. For example, those multitalented little enzymes keep themselves busy breaking down food most days but when they have nothing to do, instead of holidaying, they jump on the task of dissolving toxins being released from other parts of the body. And trust me, there are toxins coming out. They leave through the skin, colon and any orifice available. For example, on day 5 of my cleanse, I had a couple of sneezing fits. Practicing good hygiene, I sneezed into the crook of my arm. A couple minutes later I noticed that something really stunk so I started sniffing around…and my sense of smell lead me to my arm, right where I had sneezed. Smelly sneezes? Who has smelly sneezes? Detoxers apparently!
The hardest part of a cleanse is breaking it slowly and properly (trust me, this is where I am now and it is harder than not eating!). But it’s also a pretty unique opportunity. After a cleanse, your digestive system is squeaky clean and sensitive. By introducing one new food type at a time, starting with the easiest to digest and moving to the most difficult (fruit – raw vegetables – cooked vegetables – carbohydrates – proteins) and remaining attentive to how they digest and your energy levels, you are much better able to observe what foods you should be eating, based on how they make you feel. It’s also the time to dissolve poor eating habits and instil positive ones in their place, like; chewing food well, practicing mindful eating, appreciating food and where it came from and avoidance of over eating or eating to fill boredom and/or emotional voids. It can be a turning point for your long term digestive health.
Most religions fast. The Bahai during the month of ‘Ala’, Buddhists during intense meditation periods, Muslims during the Holy month of Ramadan, Catholics during Lent, Jains during the eight days of eight days of Paryushan, or the month long Maskhamana and the Jewish on various religious holidays. Hindu’s practice fasting in many ways depending on where you live and what holidays you observe and in the biblical ‘Book of Isaiah’ and ‘Book of Daniel’ the health benefits of an ‘acceptable fast’ is dictated to Christians. Why do religions advocate fasting? Because although eating is an important part of survival it’s also mental, emotional and a source of attachment. Spiritually, fasting has always been a way to get closer to God, Universe, Source…whatever you name it. When we move our focus from denser forms and sources of energy, we are able to tune into the subtler, and more powerful, levels of consciousness. It’s an opportunity to look inward and out word silmutaneously.
Colonics are NOT for the Faint of Heart
If you are one to be particularly disgusted by bodily functions consider this your disclaimer…you may want to skip to the end.
Pooping, one of the universal reminders that we’re animals after all, is so rarely discussed openly. But it happens! And it’s important! So let’s talk about it. Living abroad with all it’s viruses and food poisoning glories, has made me oh so intimate with my bowel movements. It became the key indicator of digestive distress and China mixed with South East Asian traveling, India and Pakistan have brought this in plenty. Some of you may be nodding your head at this moment…it’s a common thing. Our bodies adjust (or don’t) to new environments and foods and they rebel, sometimes quite disruptively. So, over the past 4 years I’ve become much more open talking about and interpreting the pooping process.
Dinner conversations during the cleanse taught me that undigested meat can form a long, taught ropey tangle that sits in your intestines/colon for years and can, generally, only be dislodged by a colonic. These joyful, daily colonics were probably the most revealing component of the cleanse. Us fasters were provided with rubber gloves and the encouragement to ‘treasure hunt’ upon each colonic completion. You see, everything solid gets trapped in a mesh basket and is yours for the exploring. And, oh, the treasures that are found! Seeds, stringy things, goopy, undigested dairy mucus, ropey meat cords and other unrecognizable things. Smell, consistency, and amount…you learn a lot about your digestive system after 6 colonics. Some people take pictures to document the transition from the beginning to the end of their cleanse…pictures of poop! I didn’t go quite that far.
Another fun physical fact about the colon is that it has a lot of stagnant and compacted fecal matter in it from eating difficult to digest foods (meat, dairy, processed carbs), poor food combining and over eating…when the digestive system can’t utilize this material, it produces mucus to protect itself from this harmful substance, which forms Mucoid Plaque. Picture a rubbery tube of dead cells lining the interior of your intestines that prevent the absorption of nutrients from your food. When it’s removed from the colon and intestines it can be long (there are cases of over 10 feet long, where people have to pull out feet of it by hand ‘shudder’) or small (1 -2 inches). This theory, which is not necessarily scientifically proven, makes a lot of sense to me because even though I’ve switched to a healthy, whole foods diet years ago, I felt like I wasn’t properly absorbing all the nutrients I was putting in. That and the fact, that I had some (small, thank god) Mucoid Plaque removal of my own.
To Fast or Not to Fast?
A lot of the background information and research here is paraphrased from the ‘Cleanse and Purify’ series by Richard Anderson (a great resource, although the author is a little too zealous in his dislike of Western doctors for my taste) and ‘Prescriptions for Natural Healing’ by Kathryn Marsden. At this point, I would say that cleansing worked really well for me and would be hugely beneficial for most people dealing with health issues, environmental toxins, energy lows and those who eat the standard American diet of processed, inorganic foods, however, trust your body. There is a lot to be said about intuition…if something here speaks to you, maybe try listening, but don’t jump on the first cleansing boat you see either! Research, read, listen and do what feels right.
Wishing you all the health and happiness you deserve.