Right at the beginning, my husband, who also participated, asked me, “What is the point of this?”. This was when he was deciding whether or not he was going to forgo his morning coffee. For reasons of privacy, I will let you speculate on his final decision….
But let’s get into this question of why. For me, “why” is always the million-dollar question. Why matters because it will have a big impact on how you go into the process, how you experience it, and what you get out of it. It gives you the motivation to keep going when you are struggling or suffering at any point in life. It is such an important question that books have been written about the power of this one word.
Generally, we schedule detox weeks seasonally. These have several different purposes. In the case of last week’s, there were 5 distinct themes.
First, our primary reason for detoxification is to make meditation easier. Those of you who participated will have already understood that we are not only referring to our diet when we do a detox week. For others who did not participate, let me explain. To meditate with ease, we must maintain a firm and comfortable position. This requires a strong, healthy body and digestive system. We need a tranquil heart, and we need a quiet mind. Detoxifying is first and foremost about cleansing the body, emotions, and mind of toxic foods, toxic emotions, and toxic thoughts. We are taking a load off! You are not “doing” something to yourself, but rather, you are letting go of things. Hopefully, this is actually very pleasant (maybe not in the initial throws of caffeine abstinence). This means easing your digestion and giving it a break. Concurrently, identifying and letting go of external stimuli and internal attitudes, which cause emotional distress, and decreasing “white noise” and stimuli that may cause mental instability are also fundamental parts of the detox process.
“Within every block of stone lies a statue, it is the sculptor’s task to discover it” – Michelangelo
I like this idea as a metaphor for the clarity of vision that comes through regular meditation practice. It is a way to reveal our true, immutable inner-self. For our context, detox is first and foremost in the service of this end.
“You are the only relationship you are going to have for a lifetime”. – Edith Eger, “The Gift”
Second, we cannot and should not avoid suffering. Edith Eger, psychologist, Holocaust survivor, and author of “The Gift,” reminds us that the only permanent relationship we have in life is with ourselves. I referred above to “taking a load off.” Detox should be perceived as a form of self-care and self-love. It is part of our hygiene and can be enjoyable. Massage, for example, is an excellent example of this. Detox should not be perceived as a punishment, restriction, or discipline but instead letting your body rest, relax and recharge. Who doesn’t like that? Now let’s be honest, change is hard, and our bodies will often revolt at the beginning. But trust me–I think everyone in last week’s group will attest to this–you are actually doing yourself a favor. When the aches and pains, cramps, and headaches pass, everyone acknowledged more energy, better sleep, better mood, and more enthusiasm for life. When the negative talk begins, ask yourself if you are acting with love, if you would talk to or treat someone in your care, like a child or a pet, in this way. If the answer is no, then you have your answer.
Third, detox is also a marvelous way to develop a deeper level of self-inquiry in a safe, “laboratory-like” setting. When we change how we do things, stuff comes up–sometimes quite surprisingly–and it gives us a great opportunity to observe and ask questions. It can be an emotional experience, especially if the changes in place are radical, like letting go of coffee, spending more time quietly, or switching foods. These changes tend to evoke quite strong emotional responses and inner dialogue. You might break down and have a piece of chocolate. What is your internal conversation when this happens? Do you enter into a state of self-deception? Perhaps you start to berate yourself as weak? Do you think you should quit because you “broke the rules,” so there is no point in continuing? How does this affect your relationship with those around you? Does this shift in mood make you argumentative, impatient, short-tempered? This is the time to question what statements you are making to yourself and ask yourself if they are true. What if they are true? Who would you be if you didn’t accept these statements as true? What would the world look like to you if you let them go? This new level of self-awareness can then be taken out of the safety of the “detox lab” and put into practice in your everyday life, with, I hope, greater insight into human relationships. This brings me to how we approach to change that shapes our perception of the experience. These encounters allow us to experience this consciously so that we can live our lives less reactively.
Fourth, our bodies often feel much better when we have given our digestion some attention. We like to do this seasonally, keeping ourselves in rhythm with the changing climate, day length, and seasonal foods. The difficulty depends on how great the changes are and our inner attitude. I have done many cleanses over the last twenty years, and this was my easiest. Not because it was “easy” but because the changes that I needed to make to my regimen to adhere to the framework were minimal. Nonetheless, like everyone in the group, after 5 days of nutritionally dense, unprocessed, light food, I experienced better sleep, felt more energetic, more flexible physically and mentally. All this without any stress on my system. It is unnecessary to starve, take a holiday, or sleep all day to achieve these results. Of course, when our resolve was tested, it is important to understand that results are not gained only through pain. Overall, I think the majority would agree that this was a pleasant, enjoyable experience with reaped great rewards.
The fifth reason for participating in a group detox is to make new friends, build community and understand the power and energy of the collective. Now more than ever, after over a year of living in isolation, this experience allowed us to support each other when we felt it wasn’t going so well and see how quickly that positive support resulted in a will to carry on.
After detox, the idea is to maintain some of the new habits and build on them. After all, when you understand that certain changes to your daily life result in positive changes, why not adopt them more permanently?
When I think about detox, I think of a time to examine what’s working and what is not in my life, and then I try to consciously let go of “stuff” that is no longer serving me. That’s why I call it the “Undoing.” I have a mental picture of untying knots and strands and letting them fall away. Afterward, I feel lighter, like I took a load off.
Let us know what they were, and please share your favorite recipes. Perhaps the detox inspired you to do something new or let something go permanently. We hope you will join us the next time around for those of you who did not get to participate this time.