Synopsis: a body cleanse is one way to clear out junk from your system, and to have more energy for cleaning out the emotional junk.
Introduction to the Series
For those of you that have been reading Into the Centre and browsing the website, you’ll not be surprised to see a series of articles appearing over the next few weeks, concerning the ’emptying’ of body, mind and spirit.
For the last 25 or so years, I’ve been exploring what used to be called “Human Potential.” Beginning in the 60’s therapists, educators and mystics of all stripes began to gather together at places like Esalen to study and to promote techniques and understandings the pushed the limits of what was possible.
I semi-fondly remember attending Encounter Weekends in the late 60s, getting locked in and basically hammered with direct, confrontational comments designed to get participants to drop their defenses and simply “be.” You don’t see much of this these days, as we’ve turned into a ‘nation of wimps’ who refuse to be pushed, let alone ‘hammered.’ Most people I see have the backbone of a jellyfish and the willpower of a hummingbird.
More and more, we see scowling or blank faced people, walking slowly and painfully along, carting extra weight around — as a full belly is substituted for a full and meaningful life.
Nonetheless, despite the chaos that is our world, I recognize that there are more and more people that are growing weary of the same old ways of being. The west has the market locked on vertical thinking, i.e. that more or bigger or higher is better. And yet, as time goes by, there is more crime, more pollution, more crap to swallow (and hold on to,) with an attendant almost total lack of real satisfaction.
I’m going to push you to ruthlessly examine your life — ”your vocation, your relationships, your purpose for being, as well as the ease (or dis-ease) of your body, mind and spirit. I’ll be talking about accumulated sludge, both physical and mental, and how to begin to eliminate said sludge.
Today, we’ll start with the basics — with your body and how you can work toward eliminating the toxins that lead to ill health.
An Eastern View of Reality and the Body
We’re going to begin by grounding and balancing your body. While all of the elements of our experience exist simultaneously, it is also true that there is a progressive order to the universe (the linear model.) Human development, for example, goes through predictable stages. Physically, babies “just lie there,” then roll around, then crawl, then walk, then run. None, so far, have emerged from the womb and then won a marathon.
I’ve written about chakras elsewhere on the site, and therefore, I’ll just provide links to further explanations as that seems helpful. The key to understanding the way ‘linearity’ works is to remember that, in our model, ‘higher’ does not mean better. Rather, each phase of growth builds upon the foundation of what came before.
Let’s also remember that what I’m writing about are systems of thought regarding the body, (in this case Indian Chakra theory and Chinese meridian theory. I’m not making these theories ‘right’ and western allopathic medicine ‘wrong.’ I’m saying “Here is another way to look at physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
The Root Chakra (located at the tip of the tailbone, at the perineum) is the Chakra that governs groundedness and issues of security. It therefore has a lot to do with the legs, with stability, and with balance. In human development terms, The Root Chakra “contains” our sense of belonging, our level of safety, and our feelings of security vs. abandonment.
As difficulties emerge in our lives (and this is a characteristic of being alive) we are endlessly given two choices:
- what Ken Wilber calls ‘transcend and include,” — in other words to assimilate the new experience or learning into our sense of self, while overcoming the actual situation, or
- collapse — I define collapse as either shutting down or going “frenetic,” that sense of running around in an aimless circle. This approach is all about fearing change and the unknown, and is marked by tightening down and holding in.
Each learning can be seen as corresponding to a Chakra. For example, the Third Chakra has to do with self-esteem. So, if I do not resolve a personal challenge (say a job loss), my self-esteem (Third Chakra) will suffer. This is felt as “a kick to the stomach,” and will initially have a digestive component.
Now, if I deal with the issue, in a sense re-empowering my own sense of self (I “re-esteem” myself) then no fault, no foul. If I don’t deal with the issue, my body and spirit will then do something to get my attention, first centered in the stomach region, and then moving “downward.”
The next thing to “go” will be our relationships (Second Chakra) and finally, our sense of security (First Chakra). Parenthetically, this is the opposite of human growth:
- Root Chakra — the child realizes s/he is alive, and the eyes begin to focus.
- Belly Chakra — relationships — the child ‘differentiates’ from mommy (prior to this, the child, while recognizing that s/he was alive, still felt somehow ‘connected’ to mom) and also begins to identify and focus on others — me, not me.
- Finally, perhaps as late as age two, the child develops a keen sense of ‘ego identity’ — a sense of not only differentiation, but self-hood (and an attendant sense of being the centre of the universe — in an ego-driven way.)
The first three Chakras are the physical ones, and are therefore the focus of this section on the body.
As we go along, however, you’ll see that establishing a strong, healthy body, firmly grounded and energetically alive, is the ‘base’ upon which mind and spirit practices are built. However, notice the word ‘practices.’ There is no such thing as a ‘non-physical’ practice. So, as we clear and clean our bodies, minds and spirits, we make the space for new, different, clearer practices — which of course are carried out by our bodies.
For example, the yoga practices suggested for grounding the body, called “Restorative Practices,” are postures you will use for the rest of your life, not just during this ‘cleanse’ period. Meditation designed to open your heart and still your mind are essential right now — and for the rest of your life.
I got the idea for this cleanse article because of a series on non-coincidental coincidences. First, my best friend called and reported a series of highly serious medical problems he’d had in 2006. Secondly, Darbella and I gained a bit of weight in the last few months, and were both feeling sluggish. I can’t remember if I wrote about this in Into the Centre at the time, but we did a low carb diet, much like the Medifast diet, several years ago, and lost 20 pounds each. I gained back 7–8, and it’s resisting my half-hearted efforts to get rid of it.
And, of course, stuff shows up my e‑mail, all the time. Lately, it’s been Ayurvedic diet information. Lastly, clients continue to report maladies, illnesses, emotional upset, and lack of focus. The last two friends I talked with both said, “I need Bodywork to get rid of the guck inside.” This guck, I think, is both physical and mental.
We believe the following:
Nothing will change until you do.
I want to talk a little about the digestive tract, from an eastern and western perspective. Both shed light on how this aspect of our bodies contribute to our well-being or lack thereof.
In Chinese medicine, according to the Five Element Theory, the 12 meridians come in pairs –
Wood — Gall Bladder & Liver
Fire — Heart & Small Intestine (Heart Protector and Triple Heater)
Earth — Spleen & Stomach
Water — Bladder & Kidney
Metal — Large Intestine & Lung
The last, the Metal pair — are of interest to this part of our discussion. Both the large Intestine (LI) and the Lungs (L) are responsible for elimination. In a sense, the purpose of the pair is to get the crap out of our lives. When the pair is clear, the ‘feeling’ is open and non-attached. When blocked, the ‘feeling’ is anxiety, grief, sorrow, and anguish. Grasping and clinging are elements of blockage in the pair.
This is exactly the same characteristics as blocked energy in the Root Chakra.
From a western perspective, the blockage is physical, and is expressed in any disruption of the elimination process. This includes constipation, diarrhea, and bowel conditions like colitis. Let’s remember, just as a reminder, that ‘normal’ is one soft bowel movement, minimum, per day. For most, this is not the norm. Pressure from work, environment, and toxins present in food and our air, all combine with the pervasive sense of helplessness that’s endemic. All of this leads to a disruption in the way the body eliminates waste.
Eastern Cleanse Meets Western Herbals
It’s quite common in Indian (Ayurvedic) Medicine to suggest cleanses on a “seasonal cycle.” In other words, we really need to do something to calm, soothe and empty our systems of toxins, and this is especially so for those of us that live in four climate countries. Just like ‘spring cleaning’ the house is a great idea, so is spring cleaning our digestive tract.
A first, great, and simple step, which is taken from Panchakarma treatment (Indian week-long cleanse, see below) is to buy a “Fleet enema,” dump the contents, go to a health food store and buy unfiltered, unprocessed, raw sesame oil. Warm it to skin temperature (use the baby formula wrist temp. check), and fill the fleet tube. Lie on your left side, and get some kind soul to insert the tip and slowly squeeze in the oil. Hold it for 15 minutes, while the same kind soul massages your belly. Expel the oil. This is a good way to begin the usage of a “dietary cleanse product.”
Most of us do not have a week or so to head off to the local Ayurvedic Clinic, so I’d like to make a couple of suggestions. First of all, cleanse kits are available. You can also spend a bit of time with your local Health Food Store proprietor, and ask them for products they recommend.
Diet for a Healthy Body
Follow the directions carefully. Most kits suggest a restricted diet. Recently, I read a report taken from a book called, The UltraSimple Diet by Mark Hyman, MD. He says that most of us are quite ‘toxic,’ and this leads to allergies, being overweight, sluggishness, etc. He recommends a seven day diet restricted to ‘safe foods.’ (Read the book!)
He suggests eliminating the ‘usual suspects’: This means getting rid of bad foods that stimulate inflammation. The long list includes white flour and sugar products, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, additives, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, alcohol, caffeine, fast and fried foods — and, for the first week at least, red meat, too. Because they are potential allergens, Dr. Hyman also has patients eliminate dairy, gluten, eggs, corn, yeast, and peanuts the first seven days.
In any event, a cleanse combined with a change of diet is key.
Allow Your Stomach to have a Break
In Ayurvedic medicine, we come in three body types. Figuring out which you are, and eating accordingly, is seen as essential for long-term health. When it comes to cleaning out our blockages, calming and resting the stomach is essential.
Naturally, there’s an Ayurvedic food that’s perfect for creating this rested stomach state. It’s called Kitchari.
We make a fresh, daily batch of Kitchari, which is a mung bean and rice porridge. Here is my favourite recipe:
Get Yourself Touched
Massage is essential to help with the ‘flow’ of toxins from your body. It’s a good idea to find a massage person who works quite deeply.
Look in your phone book or Google massage therapists, and look for mentions of ‘deep tissue work.’
Emotions are There for a reason, and Need Release
Emotions will need cleansing too, and you may find that this work leads to physical reactions — flu-like sensations, headaches, moodiness. This happens as the toxins leave your body. A good therapist is in order at this time, and of course, we recommend Bodywork. You can read our Bodywork section for ideas.
“Panchakarma (the five actions or modalities) is a collection of purification techniques that Ayurveda prescribes for some diseases and for periodic cleansing. A course of Panchakarma typically includes a short-term dietary prescription, massage, herbs, and may include purgatives, sweat baths, medicated enemas, and nasal cleansing.
Ayurvedic massage is a form of treatment for various age related and other common disorders. Some of the advantages which can be cited are pain relief, improved circulation, stress relief, better sleep, flexibility, athletic performance and emotional benefits. Massage therapy can soothe pain, relax stiff muscles, and reduce the swelling that accompanies arthritis. Advocates claim that, with Ayurvedic massage, deep-seated toxins in the joints and tissues are loosened and released into the system for elimination through natural toxin-release processes.
Link to Wikipedia”