Detoxing – The Journey (with bumps in the road)
Chances are that most people who are curious about doing a liver cleanse are interested because they want to improve weight loss, clear up their skin or possibly alleviate symptoms of a physical ailment. What we don’t expect or realize is that cleansing can be a very powerful inner journey. I liken it to an internal pilgrimage. It is so much more than a simple physical experience. Yet it is interesting that the initial physical cleanse precipitates this journey. We are forced to face our relationships to food, to our bodies, as well as our strengths and weaknesses.I have never been on a pilgrimage, but a friend of mine has. She later laughed at her enthusiasm, even idealism bordering on the naive, about her ideas of how her pilgrimage would bring about spiritual transformation. Her pilgrimage did bring about spiritual renewal but little did she know that her journey would force her to face her demons, her insecurities and leave her feeling vulnerable and isolated as she walked her journey in solitude while she was completely dependent on the goodwill of others to provide food.
Cleansing is not an easy process either physically or emotionally. It is a journey into ourselves that is similar to a pilgrimage. It is a sacred time in which you dedicate the next two weeks to nurturing, honoring and re-discovering yourself. A cleanse should not just be of the body, but of the mind as well. The next few weeks should be a time of purification on all levels. Find gratitude and see the beauty in each moment and be aware of the gift in every experience (even the more difficult ones) as a life lesson and an opportunity for further growth. Remain present, follow your breath—make the mundane, sacred.
I have found that with each cleanse I do I go deeper into myself. The first time I did a cleanse, I failed. My aspirations to do a one week cleanse lasted a few days at best with me caving and eating pizza and butter tarts by the evening of my third night. I think I would have had greater success if someone told me that while I wasn’t going anywhere, I was going on an internal pilgrimage, that I needed to be gentle towards myself, as well as forgiving. I didn’t know I had to do the ‘work’ and find ways to work through the cravings, the initial flu-like symptoms and the emotions that came through.
I have done many cleanses since then and I find each one easier than the previous. So if you ‘fail’ or cave, don’t beat yourself up. Move on. Get back on that proverbial wagon and continue the process (but try really hard not to cave!). The feeling of accomplishment is indescribable when you actually see a cleanse through.
Just remember that cleansing is similar to the experience of spring cleaning our home. At first we dread the idea, then when we find the initiative and start plundering through the rubbish we arrive at the midway part where we think it is worse than when we started. As we rifle through the debris we find old articles, letter and pictures–parts of ourselves that we had packed away. We reminisce and mourn and then we decide what to discard and what to keep. When the house is clean we are left with so much more than the physical. We are left feeling lighter ourselves, more relaxed, more clear. We are renewed.
Other Measures to Stimulate Detoxification
Contrast Showers – This is actually not something new. Many cultures have practiced going from hot to cold extremes. The aboriginals regularly swam in ice cold waters in the winter believing it strengthened their constitution. Likewise the Swedes did the same with saunas. There was wisdom behind these practices. Going from one extreme temperature to another (as long as you don’t have heart problems) stimulates the lymphatic system to pick up wastes and toxins. Alternating hot and cold showers increases circulation and is a simple, effective way to improve your metabolism. Start with 3 minutes of hot water followed by less than one minute of cold (as cold as you can stand–it should be uncomfortable–not torture). Repeat this at least once and always finish with cold. It might not be as relaxing as a hot shower, but it is extremely invigorating once your shower is over. When you switch to cold, keep your upper body and torso away from the stream of cold water at first and get your arms and legs accustomed to the temperature. Immerse the rest of your body next. It feels great on the scalp.
Dry Skin Brushing – With a soft brush or loofah prior to bathing, start at the feet and hands, working your way up and always stroking towards the heart. This can be done every day all year long. It is great for anyone who has any skin issues or when you are sick. This helps to clear toxins from the skin (through the lymphatic system–the largest detoxifying organ in the body). This is great for getting rid of cellulite since cellulite is caused by toxic overload.
Castor Oil Pack – You can buy castor oil at any health food store. There are two ways of doing this.
1) Soak a flannel square (about 1 square foot) in castor oil and place it over your liver for 30 minutes to 1 hour every night while you watch TV or read. Place some saran wrap over the flannel so the oil doesn’t stain your clothes (or wear an old T-shirt). Castor oil is absorbed through the skin and pulls toxins out of the body and improves elimination. I rub a little castor oil onto my throat whenever I feel a cold or sore throat coming on.
2) Rub some castor oil directly onto your skin over your liver before bed and wear an old T-shirt. This method works but is not as efficient as the one described above.
Rest – Adequate and proper sleep is essential to allow your body to detoxify and heal. Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night and take naps if you can. Listen to your body.
*The liver does its best detoxifying during the hours before midnight. (Yes we are animals and operate on cicardian rhythm). This is why you feel sick sometimes when you are up late because you have interrupted the detox cycle.
Mental and Emotional
Many people are surprised to learn that all kinds of old memories and emotions can arise when they are cleansing. While in the West we like to think that memories and emotions are ‘imaginary’–they are in fact very real. Recent proof of this is the interesting phenomena of organ recipients who experienced the donor’s feelings, preferences and dislikes and even the memories of their donor. Our emotions and memories are stored in every cell of our body (called cell memory). Since memories and repressed emotions are stored in every cell of our body don’t be surprised if old hurts come up or even a mild depression. This is a good thing–it means it is being released!
Journaling is a great way to not only track your progress while on a cleanse, but it is also a great way to work through emotions, thoughts and feelings that do come up during your fast. Reflect on your day–the positives and the negatives–and what you are uncovering about yourself on this journey.
Remember that this cleanse is about taking care of yourself. Restoring yourself. So really go all the way in protecting yourself during this vulnerable time. Food holds a great sense of security for all of us and omitting or denying the foods that comfort us can be challenging to say the least. Avoid people who will not support or understand your choices during this time. Realise that subjecting yourself to negative people (even if they are your dearest family members) is important to avoid putting yourself in a more vulnerable or impulsive state.
Don’t just cleanse your body, cleanse your entire being. Avoid negative people, influences, experiences and media as much as possible. We often discount how much these things affect us. Be mindful of the thoughts you are thinking about yourself and others. Ask yourself if they are true. Most of them are not. They are simply stories you have created–assumptions at best. Watch these thoughts without judgment and then let them go, knowing that you are not your thoughts.
If or when you have the energy consider using the excess energy to clean house: clean your closets, cupboards, sheds etc. Clean your work space and desk–don’t forget your computer.
Many people find that they have greater energy and creativity once they get past the first few days of fatigue. Work and be creative; keeping busy can help greatly to sever our connections or addictions with food. Immerse yourself in a hobby or a good book.
As I mentioned in the beginning I believe that a cleanse is a spiritual experience whether we are Atheist or Buddhist or Christian, whether we are cleansing our bodies to simply lose weight faster or have clearer skin. Spirituality is not about what you believe; it is about how you live, how you ‘be’. Choosing wellness and health is an awareness that we can be better still in the bodies we have. During a cleanse we are offered the opportunity to uncover much about how we ‘be’ and how we live, what choices we make and how our connection between our spirit and our body is inseparable.
Meditation and relaxation are important aspects of cleansing. Just as our liver is processing and eliminating the toxins in our body, meditation and relaxation is useful for processing the thoughts, feelings and memories that are released as our liver eliminates them.
Continue any spiritual practice and take the time to start any practice that you have been meaning to. A spiritual practice does not have to be church on Sundays or chanting at dawn (though it can be fun!). A spiritual practice can mean taking time to drink your tea in the morning as you set the intention for the day or taking a few moments to be grateful for all that you have. In the evening try falling asleep feeling grateful for all the tiny miracles that happened throughout the day (like someone let you squeeze into their lane during rush hour).
Three simple things that I like to do in the morning or evening is:
1) Set my intention for the day (or evening)
2) Think about five things I am grateful for
3) Three people that I need to forgive.
Cleansing is not an easy journey, but as one continues most people feel more energized, lighter, less blocked and clearer or spiritually attuned. But regardless of the challenges you encounter remember that this is a journey and you may go off your trail. Be gentle on yourself. We’re all in this together. 😉