A Nice Cup of Hot Water

Glass Cup of Tea

Day Five

Today is Big B Day. Basti – you remember, enema. (I just want you to know I typed that last word  s u p e r   s l o w l y  with my face all scrunched up.)

I decide to start my day right, with the routine Dr. Jain recommended.

  • Tongue scraping
  • Oil pulling
  • Teeth brushing
  • Hot water drinking
  • Pranayama
  • Meditation
  • Yoga

Let’s unpack a few of these a little more, shall we?

I briefly explained tongue scraping and oil pulling in yesterday’s blog and I trust you understand teeth brushing, but maybe you don’t see the appeal of “a nice cup of hot water”. Honestly I don’t either, or didn’t, but it’s not so bad.

Hot water with lemon was grandma’s old remedy to get things going in the morning. That’s still its purpose. Hot water stokes the digestive fires or maybe wakes them up. Mostly one cup will do, but if you’ve cheesed it up the night before or went to bed with a hamburger, maybe add a second cup. The idea is to drink the hot water until you eliminate.

Drinking hot water throughout the day keeps the plumbing happy. Dr. Jain recommends lime instead of lemon, and just a little bit, if you’d like to flavor your water. I wish I could remember why, I know asked him no less than 20 times. But a little of either would be fine.

Pranayama, our next step in this process, is a fancy Sanskrit word for breath work. Here, we are doing three different kinds.

Bastrika or breath of fire – forcefully inhaling and exhaling through the nose. We’re guided to do as many rounds as is comfortable and feels beneficial for us. Mostly we seem to be doing 2 sets of around 35. Between each round we take a moment to allow the breath to come back to normal.

Nadhi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. This is an amazing technique that balances both hemispheres of the brain and is great to do before meditation or bed. It is done with a mudra (hand gesture) so that each nostril can be closed off to switch back and forth.

Kappalabhati or skull shining. It might be my favorite. It is also a forceful breath, but just on the exhalation. It takes a bit more practice to master as it involves the snapping in and up of the diaphragm on that forceful exhalation. The inhalation happens on its own. We do several rounds including adding in the kicky alternate nostril bit along with it.

All of these breathing techniques are done in this order and slowly with awareness of how they are making us feel. This part takes about 10 minutes.

The breath work clears the mind to prepare it for meditation. Here we sit for about 20 minutes, followed by a gentle yoga class.

This is my new morning routine, maybe an hour, hour and 15 each day. Fingers crossed.

My treatment is scheduled early today so I will forego breakfast. Skipping lunch yesterday had the pleasant consequences I was hoping for, so I’m trusting my gut. And leaving it empty. It will all be emptied out for me anyway.

It is Big Basti Day.

I want so badly to share the details with you but I fear I will lose you forever, so let’s just leave it at this: It cannot be done wrong, at least not with these kind and loving therapists. I imagine no matter what happens they remain encouraging and tell you what a great job you’re doing.

I can tell you that the bag they use is scary. It is big and full of oatmeal colored stuff. (Imagine an IV drip bag half full.) Each basti is tailor-made to the individual. I have no idea what is in mine but it has a yellowish tinge so I’m assuming turmeric is among its ingredients. They all have some sort of oil base, like coconut, olive or even ghee. There are tiny specs of things floating around in the bag which I take to be healing herbs.

Thank you. This is good for me.

It wasn’t humiliating or as bad as I thought. It did produce the desired results and after about an hour I felt pretty amazing. And I get to do it all over again tomorrow! (There’s sarcasm in that exclamation point.)

Most of us are walking around lighter and glowy as we meet for dinner. It is a free night, and a movie on Netflix has been cued up for us. It is not by accident that we are going to watch What the Health. It’s food education after all. The movie is clearly shewed toward Veganism with all the right doctors and statistics. But it offers a lot of useful information. We wince and oh my god at all the right places and vow to become vegans, at least until we leave here. After the movie we engage in a lively discourse about what we have just watched. We offer our opinions as well as debate certain facts. We listen to each other and agree or disagree kindly. All movies should be viewed this way, with a group of people who are like-minded but may have differing opinions. This art of conversation seems to have been swept away with the tides of civility not so long ago.

I head to bed with the stories of the three people in the movie that went from death’s door to glowing health in just two weeks, the pleasant feeling of being empty and a text from home that the kitty I’m fostering is a monster.

This should make for some interesting dreams.

Food Intuition

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Why is food such a challenge? I’m not sure when marketers started getting involved but I suspect that’s when we all became confused. We believed what we heard because [mostly] men in white coats were telling us what to do. Celebrities who looked amazing drank diet soda and ate lettuce for dessert, so we did that. No fat, all fat, no carbs, only carbs, no meat, lots of meat. It’s much more conflicted now. Information is moving quickly and the desperate need to get it in front of the right people has created a whole new business culture involving metrics and algorithms. Plus, those with the most money win. The meat and dairy industries throw an enormous amount of capital at advertising – and often misdirecting and making false claims – while the little organic kale farmer can barely pay crop insurance, let alone extol the virtues of cruciferous vegetables.

But then again, maybe it’s all genetics.

But beyond blaming the big guys (or maybe because of them, but let’s take responsibility back now, people) we have lost touch with our body intuition. I know I have. Mostly. As a teenager, Weight Watchers and Seventeen magazine directed my dietary needs. Then came Dr. Atkins and Scarsdale. Then joining a sorority at a southern university and eating the cooking of an amazingly talented southern black woman who cooked with passion, love and lard. Then all the alcohol that comes with college. Then vegetarianism, veganism, paleo, Mediterranean… I’m getting exhausted just typing this.

I needed someone else to tell me what was good for me. I lost trust in my gut.

So, it will probably come as no surprise that I just completed the Whole 30 plan (I just can’t use the word diet anymore). It was good. It is how I normally eat when I am behaving and when I am capable of listening to my body. It follows my particular blood type. (Yes, I did that one too, maybe the only one that really made sense and felt good. So why did I give it up?)

In the end I lost maybe 6 pounds. A small win, but a win nonetheless. I attribute that entirely to no sugar and no alcohol. Mostly no sugar, I had all but given up my red wine habit months ago, opting only for special occasions. Like a normal person.

I didn’t move enough. I have a million valid reasons but really that’s just a pretty way of saying excuses. If I had moved more that weight loss number would likely be higher. But moving is coming.

I have learned throughout this year so many valuable things about my tendencies and my experience of life in general. One of those is: Life will always get in the way. In other words I will always have a valid reason NOT to do something. No sleep, disrupted schedule, travel, sick pet or person, but so what, that is life.

Life cannot interrupt life.

It takes commitment and self-prioritization. And I know that once I get just a few days into a healthy routine of the gym or yoga or walking, my body will beg me to keep going.

Back to intuition. I like the premise of the Whole 30 diet as I do almost any elimination plan. If it’s taken seriously and done correctly it can offer a lot of information about your body’s capabilities to digest and assimilate certain types of foods. It creates and environment of forced intuition that can help rebuild that innate muscle.

It’s as simple as this: Pay Attention.

How do you feel when you eat certain foods? Energized, sluggish, asthmatic, itchy, bloated, nauseous, calm, jittery? These are solid clues.

I know my body is not fond of grains – in particular wheat. It does not take kindly to legumes and it gets very congested on dairy. It LOVES sugar, or maybe that’s all in my head. To be honest, even juice can make my heart race, so sugar isn’t so much my friend as my energy dealer.

But I have discovered that I can tolerate a small amount of any of those things once in a while. I can have a fully loaded cappuccino on a rainy afternoon every so often. A piece of birthday cake does not affect me if I’m not eating wheat and dairy on the daily. Black beans in my burrito bowl are quite tasty, but less is better. Cheese is seductive, but being able to breathe and, well, perform other natural functions, now wins. No cheese. I have also learned that there is such a thing as too much meat for me. I would love to be able to be a vegetarian but without legumes or soy it’s very difficult to find a worthy protein source. Instead I limit my animal protein to eggs from a friend’s happy chickens and some responsibly, humanely, organically raised beef and chicken from a local farm. If I had to catch and kill my own dinner I would live off eggs or learn to like fish. Perhaps a plan for the near future.

Oh, wait, Ayurveda…

 

 

Sugar Troll

Stone bridge over a canyon at the Trolls path in Norway

It’s amazing to me how I can go from gobbling sugar in various forms to not having any at all and being okay with it. It’s like a switch is thrown, but until it is I am stumbling down a long, dark hallway with no windows in the middle of a moonless night groping for it, picking up a piece of candy and maybe a glass of wine along the way.

I don’t fully understand the triggers.

In the book, The Whole30, the authors speak of slaying the sugar dragon. I find this an unfair assessment of dragons of which I have great affection. I know of no such dragon, but I am more intimately acquainted than I’d like to be with the Sugar Troll. He’s ugly and creepy and short with rotten teeth and thick black fingernails. His posture is atrocious and he emits a smell I can only compare to too much cotton candy. When he’s close to me I am disgusted. It’s usually after we’ve just polished off a pint of ice cream or a bag of m&m’s. It’s not often. Mostly he lurks around corners and behind draperies encouraging just a little more sugar in my coffee or another piece of dark – the good for you kind – chocolate.

I don’t want to slay him so much as help him find his bridge. I’m not a violent person.

For the past three days he’s been on vacation. I asked him to go, told him he deserved it. He has after all been working really hard the past few months, and if I’m totally honest, more than the past fifity years. I don’t know how he does it. He works so hard for these intense bursts; bringing me bags of Werther’s and butter rum Lifesavers. When we go shopping together at Michael’s he always insists I pick up a pack of Razzles. It’s a candy AND a gum and big piece of my childhood. I deserve the memory, he winks. He loves parties, admonishing me if I try to avoid the birthday cake, it would be rude not to have a piece. And wine, I should have lots of wine, the red kind, it’s good for me. Like dark chocolate.

And then he hibernates for a while and I back off the cavity-maker in self-abasement. Then, just when the tiniest stress begins to build because of… anything …he’s at my door with a box of gluten free ginger snaps from Whole Foods.

He’s a cheeky bastard.

We’re having heart to heart conversations these days. He‘s taking my desire for him to move out pretty personally. He’s trying to understand, but he’s hurt. There is nothing sadder than a crying, snotty sugar troll. Pitiful. I explain that he could find a nice sugar troll mate and they could fall in love and eat candy together forever.

It’s been four days and I haven’t heard from him. I hope he’s kicking back on the rocks by the stream daydreaming and sighing contentedly a lot. I really don’t want to see him again, but it’s not his fault.

We’re just in two different places. And I’d like it to stay that way.

Travel Enlightenment

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Aaaaannnd, we’re back!

Not that I actually ever left, but there were many distractions and disruptions that led me physically,  mentally and emotionally away for a bit. Now that I have returned I am ready to pick up where I left off and maybe start over a little on some things.

My time away (I led a yoga retreat to India for two weeks and took a week for fun in Spain) revealed a few things to me. It always does, this is why travel is so important to me. (If travel is your thing too, you can read about my wanderings here: allisonswanderland.)

A few nuggets for my own consideration:

Whenever I’m in India I eat completely, 100% vegetarian. And I feel great. I have “been” vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and every other named dietary follower before. And I never truly stick with any one thing for long, but I have learned a lot about my tendencies, likes, dislikes and what my body appreciates.

Conclusion: I am going 95% vegetarian for the summer. Why not 100%? Because one of the things I’ve learned about my body is it doesn’t process legumes well and it loves protein, so eggs, yogurt and a bit of cheese will be my primary sources, not beans. If I get lethargic I’ll need to add a bit of meat for medicinal purposes. [Please note: there was no intention of sarcasm in that medicinal comment. I truly believe that almost any food when eliminated can be added back in, in small doses as a benefit to the body.]

Traveling also always reveals to me that I have an irrepressible need to be outside and to walk. I love to walk. Walking in cities fills me with wonder and purpose. I have also learned through my travels that I can stop in the afternoon for a pick-me-up of a fully-loaded cappuccino and half a creme brulee and still lose 10 pounds. From walking. About 10 miles a day.

But Florida’s summer heat makes me edgy and lazy and the lack of hills makes me a little sad. So I’ve crafted a plan to walk to the gym (about 1.5 miles one way) every morning super early, walk the hills on a treadmill for 30 minutes then walk home all sweaty. By the way I will be passing a Starbucks and a Panera so… can you say incentive? Maybe some days I’ll even strap my laptop to my back and stop at one of the aforementioned places on my way home to pound out a few blogs. Who can say for sure?

I cannot control anything, [insert eye-rolling emoji here] except my reaction. I ALREADY KNEW THIS, but it has been thrown in my face over and over and over again with unnatural force recently. What I continually attempt to control is my environment. I want my house to be certain way, have structure, be organized. I want the same for my office and the studio (I own a yoga studio with two other magical ladies). This is important to me, not for the unexpected visit from Elle Decor, but so I can have head space to be creative. If there is stuff everywhere I feel so tired and uninspired.

Having just acquired most of my mother’s belongings, there is nothing if not a lack of structure in my home. Getting upset about it only hinders the process and there’s so much to learn in the process.

Organizing things, sorting, compartmentalizing and yes, purging, all make me very happy. It’s this weird internal sense of things clicking into place, and it only works with tangible objects. I cannot feel satisfied by sorting through files on my computer. I have to touch and move actual stuff. The Universe has gifted me a tremendous opportunity to go to this happy place, I just need to see it as that and not the furniture and stuff shaped mound of frustration I’ve made it.

There was more wisdom imparted to me but this is plenty to work on and adopt so I’m sticking with these three. To review, I will:

  1. Eat a 95% + Vegetarian diet throughout the summer, which is about 6 months here.
  2. I will satisfy my need to wander through hill and dale (while not meandering abroad) by walking to the gym and climbing on equipment.
  3. I will take my time and practice mindfulness while organizing and continuing to purge stuff from my various environments.

I am also still deeply committed to minimizing my personal carbon footprint by reducing my trash and carefully considering all purchases.

It feels good to have a plan, some structure and goals. As soon as I finish integrating whatever I am keeping from my mother’s gifts I will resume, and in some cases restart, counting all my objects.

It was actually quite therapeutic.

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.

 

Cluttered Mind

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The whole idea of cleansing is a mental one. Amassing stuff, weight, debt – all stemming from the same root cause by the way – happens first in the  mind. We feel a sense of lack on some level so we eat, purchase, expend undue stress and energy.

Your mind created it. It can fix it.

If clarity is what you’re seeking a dedicated meditation practice is all you need. Really.

But if your mind is so occupied with thoughts about work, the kids, aging parents, cleaning, cooking, laundry, car trouble, illness, I forgot to exercise again, etc. how are you expected to quiet your mind enough to meditate?

If losing weight and getting healthier is your focus, simply changing how you eat, what you eat and moving more should take care of that.

But if you are stressed and your body is constantly “on” in flight or flight – and believe me it probably is – the weight will be stubborn. It’s quite comfortable right where it is. Giving up often seems like the only clear option.

If creating more physical space by decluttering and purging your stuff is your goal, that’s simple enough. Go through your things and get rid of whatever you no longer need or want.

But what if you uncover some attachments to weird things. An old handkerchief becomes a memory of a long passed grandmother, the broken chair was the one your dad always sat in. How are you going to release anything at that rate? And what if your partner, kids or other housemates just keep bringing more stuff home?

The reason behind the purge has to be solid; it has to be enough to keep you going. You know you will feel lighter and more open to possibility if you have less stuff, more time, and get healthy. That clear picture of the results – the space – has to become crystal clear to keep you moving forward.

Start slow but steady and determined. Habits will try to remind you how everything was just fine the way it was.

This is ultimately a mental cleanse; the clearing out of old habits and they will fight back.

I highly recommend meditation, yoga, walking, juicing. They’re all powerful tools for clarity.

We have 12 full months to turn this ship around. Just take one step today. Just agree with yourself that you are going to create space for clarity and magic then let the ‘hows’ unfold.

Still chomping to get started or whining a little?

If you did a little internal groan at meditation might I recommend Yoga Nidra? It is a meditation practice that is guided. You are laying down and simply listening. Doing this practice everyday or even twice a day for a month, or less, will change everything. Well, it will change your perspective of everything.

If yoga or walking prompted an eyeroll, just do some research on your local studios first, find a truly gentle class and start there. The big secret: Yoga is less about physical flexibility and strength (although that naturally comes) and more about mental flexibility and clarity. Or go for a walk. In regular old street clothes and some comfortable shoes. Take your phone – not to talk, try to be completely present to everything around you – to take photos of magic. You’re bound to see a beautiful flower, a bird, a sunrise. Capture it, it’ll get you back out there tomorrow.

fullsizerender-20If juicing sounds like yesterday’s hot thing or pure quackery, give it another chance. It takes a little more work. First you need a juicer and lots and lots of raw veggies and a few not too-sweet fruits. Or do you? There are some high quality cold pressed juices out there. I’m a big fan of Suja. I’m a bigger fan of juicing myself. Smoothies are great too, but with juicing you get a shot of nutrients right to the blood stream without the time it takes to digest the fiber of eating a whole bunch of kale or a carrot. If you don’t have a juicer, start with the store bought variety or make yourself a healthy smoothie in your blender. Just get some more high-quality raw veggies in that amazing body of yours.

“What about all my stuff?” you may be thinking. Take that one step at a time as well. We’ll be talking in great detail about physical objects and clutter. For now take a look around your home and determine where to start. For most it will be inside something. My own home neatly hides tons of mysterious secret stuff: drawers, closets, desks. Maybe start somewhere simple and mostly neglected. Or maybe you’ll choose to start with a category of things like clothes. There are as many techniques out there as there is stuff, we’ll go over a few that seem to be gaining some traction in the coming weeks. For now, just observe. Notice how things make you feel.

None of this has to be started today. Or ever. Remember your goal? Your reason? It’s yours, it’s personal. If any of these things can help you get on your way to more clarity give them a shot.

There will not be just one answer, one solution. It takes a village of ideas and practices working together – along with a support system – to feel safe enough to drill down and begin to create a shift.

With clarity comes enchantment, freedom and purpose.

Wait, purpose, what?

 

 

Enchanted Elephant

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Forgive me, it has been two weeks since my last submission. I have not gone without writing, that would be the true sin, I have gone without posting while I allowed the dark forces of busyness to overtake me. But something magical and enchanted has happened while I was spending time in the vortex. I got published. In Elephant Journal.

For those of you unfamiliar with Elephant Journal, allow me to enlighten you. It is an online blog stuffed with great articles and blogs about mindful living; everything from yoga to spirituality, and nature to food. It’s a great place to read different perspectives on the same topic, to cry with compassion or to get your buttons pushed, all in the name of growth. I highly recommend a leisurely Sunday drive down the  many avenues of Elephant Journal.

I’d also love it if you’d check out my published piece http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/11/i-invented-yoga-allison-l-andersen/ . I encourage you to leave comments; good, bad or indifferent either here or on Elephant Journal. They’re important for your growth and mine. Thanks for taking the time!