Impure

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It has been a week since I completed an 8-day detox. This was not a stay-at-home and mix some lemon and apple cider vinegar cleanse type of thing, this was a go to a place get lulled into relaxation by the beautiful surroundings then get beaten up by treatments kinda deal.

I may be a tad bit dramatic here.

What I did is called panchakarma. It is an Ayurvedic detoxification process. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga – they kind of grew up together – which focuses on food, the physical body and its relationship to nature. Yoga, is the spiritual practice that is its companion.

You may be confused by that last sentence as yoga certainly seems like a physical exercise and in part it is, but that is just one small aspect of the philosophy. But we’ll get into that at another time.

Panchakarma translates to: pancha = five, karma = actions. There are five actions taken to help the body detoxify, but the actual detoxification is three weeks long (or forever). Here are the cliff notes:

Week One: The week before attending panchakarma I met with the doctor. Based on his assessment of my overall health he prescribed medicated ghee (an organic clarified butter with helpful herbs for my constitution), a powder to mix into hot water and drink before meals, and castor oil to drink at night. For 7 days.

Week Two: Go to the location of the panchakarma and receive the five actions, as well as; participate in breath work, meditation and yoga each morning; eat healthy balancing food provided throughout the day; and attend a lecture each evening.

The five actions in brief:

Abhyanga – a two-person lymphatic massage using a gallon of oil. Two people work on opposite sides of the body, in tandem, to help the lymph move through to carry toxins out of the body. There are other add-ons to the body work that I will share as they happen.

Swedana – Steaming out the impurities either through a canvas steamed dome that is lowered over the massage table or a steam box in which one sits with the head out.

Shirodhara – a continuous warm oil drip onto the third eye. You might see god, it’s that divine.

Vamana or Vierechana – Controlled Elimination. Depending on the individual’s constitution and level of impurities, they are administered herbs to either “gently” vomit or have “controlled” diarrhea.

Basti – enema. Do you want the name and number of this magical retreat yet? There are two types: a 2 ounce oleating enema that mostly gets absorbed into the colon, and the 12-ounce bag (think IV size) that is filled with a personalized prescription of oils and herbs. The results of this one are markedly different from the 2-ounce as you’ve likely already surmised.

Rakta Mokshana – Blood letting. Like leeches. We did not do this one. Apparently the FDA has rules about the health of leeches so we missed out.

Ok, I know that’s six and there are also nasya – medicated oil up the nose, and netra tarpin – eye drops. Just know we got the full package, plus some extras, minus the leeches.

Week Three: During week two diet and lifestyle practices have been discussed and then prescribed for home. In addition, some herbs or supplements may be recommended. And in all honesty, this third week is really a suggested way to continue eating and living for the next three months. Or forever. I am doing the vegan thing until May. At least. To the best of my ability. [Please note: chocolate, wine and coffee are all vegan.]

By now you may be wondering, Why? Why would you do this and why are you sharing this masochistic torture with me?

Because the results are amazing.

It is a complete reset. When I showed up at the center’s front door, I was stressed beyond my capacity to deal with it in a healthy manner, instead I was on the fuck it diet – eating whatever I wanted – and drinking way too much wine. I let go of all my helpful practices and even gave up riding my beloved bike, Ruby Blue. I was just too busy being overwhelmed and important to take care of myself. I was on auto-destruct but powering through.

I had to disrupt all my habits.

I had committed to the panchakarma six months before going. A couple of friends from California were going to do it and invited me join, so I say yes. One of my best yesses, I’d say.

The first few days of panchakarma I was still stuck in my head, anxious without an impossible list of tasks to complete, but by mid-week I had relaxed into the rhythm and surrendered to the schedule. I could feel the stress turning to vapor and leaving my body (it left in other ways too, but I don’t want to spoil it), I could feel my mind beginning to clear and my muscles and righteousness beginning to relax.

By the time I left, I had a clarity and focus I have not had in years. My body felt lighter and more open. I could breathe fully and smile easily. My skin was glowing.

Why would I want to give that up? Why would I ever want to go back to the old uptight pressure cooker I was? I wouldn’t. I don’t. I am doing all I can to maintain my peace and continue to heal body and mind.

What will follow the next few days is my day-by-day account of what I went through. It’s written in real time, as I was experiencing it, so it has all the snark that comes along with a sarcastic, stressed, overweight, toxic, middle-aged woman being asked to get naked so her body can be sanded, slathered and sweated for her own good.

Regardless of what that crazy bitch has to say, this clearer, calmer version of her, highly recommends the process and the amazing therapists and doctor of the Mind Body Wellness Center in Flagler Beach, Florida.

 

Master of the Bedroom

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908. That’s how many items are in my master bedroom before I even count my husband’s clothes. I did count every piece of jewelry, scarves (I have a problem there, for sure) and unmentionables. I counted earrings and socks as pairs.

As I was counting, and getting so sleepy, I pulled some items out and put them aside. There is a lot more I want to rehome. I get into that space that I just don’t care about any of it anymore, just want to let it all go. And then I come across something with a sweet memory attached and emit a tiny little swoon, the angel on my shoulder stroking my hair as I fall deeper into my personal history. Or, on the other shoulder, that snarky devil in a hissing whisper baits me with, “you may need that one day.”

There is no easy way to do this.

I have to touch every single item in my home. I brought them all here, they deserve that consideration before letting them go.

I keep reminding myself that so much stress in the world has to do with the management of things. Aside from actual noun-stuff, this also includes appointments, social media, food, relationships, pets, health and I’m sure I’ve forgotten 437 other things.

So if I have less physical stuff, I am jumping to the magical conclusion that I’ll have more peace. More space. I may even at some point find a way to organize all my computer files, delete, shuffle, file. But that’s for another day. Maybe a whole ’nother year

Nine hundred and eight. That’s a lot of stuff. If you saw the drawer in my nightstand (which you can, above) or my tiny “walk-in” closet you would think that perhaps I already live minimalistically (word?); things are neat and there’s space. My nightstand drawer only has about six things in it now. All necessary, if I may be so bold: 2 eye pillows, my Nook charger, a reading light (for late night nook-less reading), a few emery boards and book marks. It’s really pretty pitiful looking. But I’ve made my peace with the space.

Although…up rises another voice, the interior designer in me that say, “oh you need a cute little box, or maybe several to keep that stuff from slidin’ around.” (She’s from the south.)

In the process I did remove 43 items from the drawer – 29 were book marks. The book monster will appear more than once in this love story…

The objects on top of my nightstand have been there a long time. A candle from Jamaica, a photo of the Lare and I, a mala, a rock from Long Island with a small stuffed animal sitting atop it and a large quartz crystal along with my lamp. And lotion, there’s always lotion.

The photo stays, it’s almost 20 years old. I feel like the crystal is doing some good so it gets a pass, but I could offer the candle to someone who might appreciate its sweet honeysuckle scent. I could gift the little stuffed animal and I could put the rock in my garden. But do I need to or am I being ridiculous?

For now it all stays.

The purging part of this grand experiment comes later. I want to identify my collections, shine a light on where my tendency to hoard comes into play. I have to confess to inordinate number of pillows – 11 just in this room – an excess of potted plants and hand towels. So far.

I know where the desire to accumulate is coming from, but that’s a deep dark secret we all hold. I’m not alone. We’ll chat about that at a later time.

Total stuff count to date: 1,893

Let me remind you that I have not even counted a full room. According to the website Becoming Minimalist, the average American home has over 300,000 items.

This may take a while.

 

 

Juiced Up

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When I first dreamed up this year of the purge thing it included a few components: body, mind, home, life. The results or byproducts of clearing and cleansing those aspects would include, more energy, more peace, less stuff, and higher consciousness regarding things and their impact on the planet and my life.

Oh, and, more time and money for travel. All roads lead to another road to wander down. There’s always an end game. But I am content to be in the process and see where else it takes me.

I’ve been working on the home aspect, having counted a few areas and filled at least one bag for donation, handed off random things to people I thought may enjoy them, and made lists of other items to go. Now it’s ime to switch gears a bit.

Onto the body. A little cleansing of the meat suit. Which brings us to juicing.

I love juicing. I have mentioned this. As far as a way to cleanse the body and shoot it through with energy, I have found no better, kinder way than juicing.

Like all things good for me, I let juicing go for a while. Why do we do this? Why do we say, ‘oh, yoga is great, I always feel so open and calm after I do yoga,’ then not do yoga for a week? Or is that just me?

Anyway, I thought I had unlocked that mystery or at least crafted a workaround where juicing was concerned.

Like all things awesome there is another side.

THE DOWNSIDES OF JUICING:

It takes time. Vegetables need to be rinsed. I remove the stalk of the kale to help preserve the life of my juicer, so that takes some time. I also remove seeds and stems from apples and pears, cut up large carrots and celery stalks. Maybe most of that isn’t necessary, but it works for me.

And money. A mound of greens the size of a Volkswagen Beetle produces about 12 ounces of juice. Organic greens are not inexpensive. I would love to grown my own and hope to plant as soon as it’s time, but until then, I buy.

Plus, juicers don’t come cheap. A good one will be $200 and up.

Waste. Once the liquid is extracted, all the fiber gets shot into the waste bin and it’s a lot. If you don’t have a compost bin, it just goes into the trash. That health fiber could be the start of the aforementioned garden.

Back to time: Most juicers have many parts and they all have to be cleaned. Mine has 7.

THE UPSIDE OF JUICING:

Energy, cleansing, energy. Juicing as opposed to smoothies provides a shot of nutrients because the fiber is removed. There’s nothing to slow down the digestive and assimilation process. I’m a big fan of smoothies too, but if it’s energy in a hurry I want, juicing is my go to.

So how to minimize all this if I’m in a time crunch?

THE WORKAROUND:

Purchasing cold pressed juices I trust. I am partial to the brand Suja. Until, of course, I learn that they have been purchased by one of the major soft drink companies who will undoubtedly change the formulas to include some sort of poison wrapped in a healthy name I can’t pronounce. But, as of yet, this has not happened. I hope. But, these juices come in plastic bottles and that makes me a little sad.

Knowing that 80% of what we toss into our recycle bins ends up at the landfill gives me pause every time I purchase something. It’s daunting. It has to be a process and that’s what I’m in the middle of right now.

Instead of taking the shortcut and buying my energy – and honestly the effect doesn’t seem as immediate with the store-bought elixir – I have to change some habits. I have to be consistent in what time I get up each morning to allow enough time for this important aspect of The Plan.

There is a back-up plan. A back-up to the back-up, if you will.

THE OTHER WORKAROUND:

Smoothies. I have my eye on a Vitamix. I have a 20% off coupon and a $100 gift card that will drop the price to about $350 but that is still an investment. Smoothies also have incredible health benefits with the added bonus of less produce waste and more options. I can throw a banana or an avocado in a Vitamix along with wheat grass powder and almost anything else. And the best part? One thing to clean and it does that on its own.

But it’s another appliance. *SIGH*

This mindful conscious thing is a lot of work. It’s a process. And totally worth it.

 

Where to Begin…

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Okay. So I’ve made this decision: The Year of Living Mindfully or Consciously. Or The Year of Counting All My Stuff. Or The Year of the Purge. Now where do I start? How?

As I meander from room to room in my not at all large home I become overwhelmed with all that I know is hidden. Desks, chests, cabinets, closets, even vintage suitcases are home to “things”. And some stuff is flat out mocking me by boldly sitting out for all to see. I have to start somewhere.

This is where most people get stuck. Where I am in danger of procrastination.

The whole mess put all together, especially if I start thinking about the black hole that is the garage, pushes me backward onto the couch in analysis paralysis. I look around for clues. Stare blankly at a plant. Gaze outside hoping for a distraction. I can clearly see the organization necessary, the putting back of things. I see that this needs to go here and that needs to go there, but the thought of pulling stuff out of their secret little hidey-holes and exposing them to daylight makes me sleepy.

I could start the old-fashioned way: pick a drawer or small closet to tackle first. Use a timer so I don’t overwhelm myself. This would be the advice of the Fly Lady and countless other organization gurus.

I could take the advice of Marie Kondo in the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and compartmentalize my stuff. Start with clothes first, then papers, books, etc. Her strategy is to pull all the pieces of one category together, touch each one, hold it up and ask yourself if you love it, or something along those lines. I did this with my clothes, books, papers, then shifted to spaces like the kitchen. Mostly it worked but I got a little stuck when it came to art supplies, artwork, and memorabilia.

Or I could use the Minimalists tactic of boxing up everything I own. Everything. And as I need something take it out of the box. After a month or two, whatever I didn’t pull from the boxes gets donated or otherwise released.

Or I could simply keep researching the best way and avoid the actual work.

I need to think and start small, the garage IS NOT the place to begin, or even look, until I get this project underway.

I will start with my master bedroom. It’s a simple space. Clean. I’ll begin with the contents of my bedside table drawer. I never open it except to retrieve my Nook charger. But there are other treasures in there.

Or, no. As I contemplate this I am sitting on my back patio. The weather is perfect, there’s a breeze and my bird friends have come to sip from the makeshift bird bath on top of the table. The table, birds and bird bath are all outside the screened enclosure, but the patio itself, inside the screen, is home to 675 square feet of hiding places. THIS is where I’ll begin. Stay tuned…

Making Space for Enchantment

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I have too much stuff. And this is the year I am going to get to know it on a very personal level.

If you saw my home you might not agree with me and I have to admit I love my home, it’s warm and cozy and many – most really – of the objects I own have some sort of special significance or I just fell madly in love with them. But I’m done collecting and storing. I’d like to think.

This year for me is going to be about living mindfully. Consciously. In every way I can without becoming some reformed fanatic and without walking away and giving up when something becomes too daunting or difficult or even boring – there’s magic in those struggles.

I have been obsessed with purging and organizing since almost forever. When I was in middle school I actually wrote down everything I owned on a notepad. Of course I only had one room to catalog. As an interior designer I used the Chinese art of placement – Feng Shui – in every application I could, and still do in my own home. I’ve read the Japanese Art of Tidying and purged over 350 books, bags of clothes and shoes, chatchkes that had lost their charm and broken plates, furniture, etc. I read Minimalism in a day while I was at my brothers and organized his house with a plan for him to finish and my suggestions.

It’s in my DNA.

So If I am always purging you’d think that, a.) I am a hoarder and therefore have an unlimited amount of things to remove from my home or b.) there’s really nothing left for me to do and I’m obsessive compulsive. There is a third option that I’ve wondered about: do I continue to purchase things so I can continue to purge? Am I perpetuating this because it makes me feel good to clean out?

This will be the test. I do not want to simply organize – although I do love that! – I want to eliminate stuff and exchange it for space and clarity.

My plan:

  • Catalog every item in my home. I will start with just my stuff, but eventually get to my husband’s as well. He’s part of my conundrum. While I could live simply with a few precious items, he hauls stuff in on the regular to fix, keep or sell at one of his various antique spaces. Then there is the pile(s) of “I might need this…” stuff. But we’ll address that, and him, later.
  • Purge what is no longer useful or meaningful. Mindfully putting it in the best hands for what it is. Maybe even selling it to pay off that looming student loan (more on that…).
  • Eat clean 90% of the time. We do this pretty well, but I want to become even more conscious of the companies and people from whom I am purchasing my food.
  • Reduce my carbon footprint any way I can. Reducing the amount of plastic and paper we use, how we wash our clothes and our bodies (making conscious choices with shower products), growing some of my own food.
  • Create a mammoth spreadsheet of my stuff, categorize it, tell it’s story and along the way release what I can
  • Ask myself, with everything I do or bring into my home, “Is this the best choice for me, the planet, my home?” “Do I need it?”
  • Reduce my trash and recycles to next to nothing.

I don’t expect to come out on the other side of this with a chair, a table and laptop only. I won’t be reducing my place settings and silverware down to two sets. But I can make some sound decisions and profound changes that will impact my overall sense of well-being, improve my health and be kinder to the planet.

Wanna play along? Comment often with questions or what you’re doing. Let’s make this a practice we do together. It’s not about making sacrifices so much as honoring your own time and energy and creating the space for an Enchanted Life.

 

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 14 – Focus

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I can’t do it all. There I’ve said it. My to-do list on a daily basis would make a Marine quake in her boots. Probably not, but she would surely see that even getting up at 4:00 AM would not help me accomplish the ridiculous tasks I have set for myself.

In truth my list is ongoing, it’s sort of a weekly list, spill into next week, sometimes never get done list. Focus. That magic word has eluded me so much of my Gemini existence. I want to do, see, be so much and believe I can, really believe it. If I focus too intently on one thing, I might miss other awesome things.

My ability to jump from this to that and back again has been a source of frustration to me most of my adult life. Shiny Thing Syndrome. Right now I am actually supposed to be looking for clip art, but I saw the blank page and jumped on it. Hopeless. Others find this to be a somewhat attractive quality.  While I may find the single-pointed focus person admirable and believe I could be that way if I wanted, they may find my ability to let go of the balloon in order to pet the puppy impossible.

My laptop and I have a lot in common. At any given moment there are 5 or 6 programs open, with at least as many tabs and/or pages open within them. No less than 90 files cover the beautiful photos rotating as my screensaver. The more that is open the slower it runs. Hmmm.

I throw a bunch of balls up in the air with the best of intentions only to either become overwhelmed and duck and cover or lose interest all together and wander off. The balls drop, some roll away, the ones that are left will get tossed up again.

It is with age and perspective – possibly an iota of wisdom  – that I have learned to appreciate my way of being. It has its challenges, but I am aware of them now. I have smoothed some of the edges and refined some of the processes. When I get caught up in the list and the lack of check marks I can just shrug a little, promising to do better next time.

Whatever better is.

I know I’m in danger when the list has become the priority rather than its contents. When I let go of a physical list there is always a mental one.

Focus. Let go. Focus. It’s a distillation process.

When I was in India I remember watching an elderly man in the country side from my bus window. He was some sort of shepherd. He had a handful of goats and he seemed to be walking them from here to there. I remember thinking, but what does he do? What I was really thinking was how does he measure his success? Then it hit me. He doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. He is being, not doing. It was such a revelation for me, that someone could be content just by being content.

He has no list, no schedule, no time card. For all I know he doesn’t even have a birthday or a permanent address. What he does have is peace.

I have no goats, but I can have peace, I just have to see through the mirage shiny things. The yoga helps, the writing gets it out and photography brings me present. These are the doing practices that help me be with the rest of it.

Focus. Let go. Focus. Be. Repeat.

[Photo: Catching the morning light making shiny things out of nature. Just add water.]