As I write this newsletter I am still in the process of my cleanse, day 2 to be exact. It’s a beautiful, warm, spring day and I am taking a moment to share some insights from this experience with you. Each year seems to be radically different in some ways and similar in others. Always, however, there are deeper personal understandings that come from such an intentional pause in daily routine and habits.
Building up to the cleanse, I wasn’t able to take much time to prepare or to eliminate foods from my diet slowly. I caught a cold my youngest had had and there were some unexpected schedule demands that required my attention. So I went into the cleanse feeling a little cranky, grumpy and wondering if I could or even should follow through. But despite my bad attitude and physically not feeling my best, I could sense this cleanse was just what my mind and body needed to kick the cold and start to feel better.
To my surprise, I woke up Friday morning and started the cleanse feeling committed to the process. Here are some specific insights that I have noticed over the past two days:
- What I grab to eat is about seeking a certain feeling. It may not be conscious, but what I choose to eat is related to wanting to feel a certain way and usually, there is an emotional drive to the decision. When I am going about my normal routine and thinking about “what sounds good”, I am not generally aware that the food I am choosing is tied to an emotion. Ironically, often the foods I crave in order to feel a certain way actually have the opposite effect in the end. For example, when I am craving a sweet treat, I am seeking the feeling of nourishment, love, indulgence, and satisfaction. But often it just picks me up for a moment then drops me down and leaves me feeling depleted and craving more! Eliminating sugar and all my usual snacks (like crackers!!!) during this cleanse has revealed the deeper driving force behind some of my food choices. Now I can pause and make a more mindful decision before I grab the bag of pita chips.
- Am I really hungry or just mindlessly snacking? While on this cleanse, there is basically one option for a meal: kitchari. I am replacing the kitchari on a couple of mornings with steel cut oats cooked with apples and warming spices but that’s it. So snacking is gone and it’s “eat until you are full” then wait until the next meal time. I’ve noticed in the in-between space the urge to snack because I might be hungry, but when I pause and check in, I am not really truly hungry. Again, unconscious habits are revealed when there is a break in routine.
- Having only one meal choice reduces so much energy output! Each morning I make a pot of kitchari and eat on it for the day and possibly the next day as well. Wow, the amount of time and energy spent on figuring out what to eat, making it and doing it all over again really adds up. Even the mental energy required for food decisions is surprising. So cleansing in this way actually reduces the output of prana. It’s a wonderful way to conserve your expenditure. Life is a little simpler.
- When cleansing sometimes you experience discomfort and that’s ok. I have a hard time with discomfort. Don’t we all? But being ok with discomfort is an essential part of spiritual practice. Why? Because life delivers us lots of discomfort and challenge. If we constantly try and avoid this we suffer. Patanjali, the author of the yoga sutras, actually categorizes this as one of the 5 kleshas or causes of suffering. It’s dvesha or avoidance. We avoid pain and discomfort. I realized that cleansing isn’t just a physical process, it’s also emotional, energetic and spiritual. At times we feel discomfort on all of those levels and pushing it away only exacerbates the difficulty. So relaxing into whatever arises is a practice worth doing.
- Cleansing creates a mental presence. I’m not sure why this is exactly, perhaps its yet to be revealed to me. Somehow everything seems to slow down and I find myself calmer and more aware. It may be because kitchari is sattvic food. There are three main ways to describe nature. They are called the gunas. Rajas is characterized by movement, intensity, stimulation etc. Tamas is heaviness, dullness, darkness, and lethargy. Sattwa is what we want to cultivate through yoga and Ayurveda. Sattva is clear, balanced, luminous, radiant and peaceful. Many different yoga and Ayurveda manuals describe kitchari as a sattvic food because it is easy to digest, high in nutritional value and full of prana (energy). I find myself more present, clear and mentally alert.
I never would have thought I would become an annual spring cleanser. I thought cleanses meant you had to drink nothing but juice for days on end and basically be starving the entire time (a Vata‘s worst nightmare because we become totally ungrounded and scattered). Instead through a more balanced approach, I have found there is a gentle way to cleanse that leaves me feeling good and clear and more aware of myself and my daily choices.
This cleanse is still in my monthly membership and will remain so for a couple of months. Feel free to try it out at your own pace. It includes an overview, the recipe, and a printable grocery list to help you prepare.
Wishing you a peaceful, vibrant and happy spring!