Cleansing and Clarity

Okay, so I slacked off on my blog for quite some time.  Initially this was because I was on vacation in Mexico (as you might have noticed from the videos) but then it was a result of what has essentially turned into a month-long (and still going) cleanse.  Which has, of course, created all sorts of insights and fodder for blog entries, so I should be on a roll here for a while…

My co-owner at YogaTejas and friend Cate Stillman is, in addition to being a Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor, an Ayurvedic Practitioner and authority on the cleansing process. Cate’s recent interest in living foods has inspired her to more fully incorporate juicing and raw meals into the process.  I have to admit that I have had a great deal of skepticism around the raw food diet, for a couple of reasons.  One, I have always had a very “vata” (the dosha – or body type – associated with the air element) digestive system which does not handle a lot of raw food very well (read: epic gas!).  Two, as an anthropologist by training, I know that human evolution really took off when we started eating cooked food – brain sizes increased, we had more free time to think and create, etc. – why should we step back in evolution?  On the flip side, I had been reading and hearing loads of evidence for transitioning to raw food, a lot of which was very compelling.  Stories about people curing themselves of chronic diseases abound, as do reports of increased energy and stronger athletic performance.  And, it seemed like yogis everywhere were doing it.  I figured I’d give it a good try for a couple of weeks.

I drank only water for 2 days, then juiced vegetables for 5 or 6.  After that I added fruits and some more fats to my juices and moved into smoothies (chunkier than juices, prepared in a blender) and raw soups (ditto, only slightly warmed).  Now, a month later, I am still consuming liquids for one or two meals a day and making wraps or salads or various more interesting raw food creations for the others.  So, no meat (not a challenge for me), no cow dairy (a bit more of a stretch, but I am eating a little goat cheese and kefir), and no grains (okay, quite a bit tougher).  And nothing cooked.

The New Breakfast!

And the verdict?  I feel great.  Really.  I had a few days of lightheadedness during the heart of the cleanse – in part from detoxing, but also from this transition to fewer – but more potent – calories.  But as soon as I ate more fruits and fats the weakness went away, and I have had loads of energy since.  My yoga practice has bumped up to a new level. I lost 15 pounds.  And I feel “clear.”

What the heck does it mean to “feel clear”?!!!  People say this all the time, especially during and after cleanses, and it sometimes drives me crazy simply because it’s so, well, unclear!  So I am going to try to define it – for me – using some specific descriptors.

– I feel more stable.
I am less thrown off by little events in my day.  Yoga has helped this for years now, as has meditation, awareness practice, and the variety of other little things I do to keep my ego from hijacking my reality for every minute of the day.  But the addition of a dietary change seems to have helped me to iron out the glycemic (read: sugar-related) undulations in my energy level, taking me one step further away from reactivity.

– I am realizing how many assumptions operate under – and then questioning them.
In Tantric philosophy we use the Sanskrit word “maya” to describe the “dust on the mirror” that our vision can become clouded with.  You can think of is as smudges on the lenses of your glasses, or blinders that restrict your vision.  For me, maya often takes the form of assuming things and doing things the way I have always done them.  I have always thought that I was pretty good at questioning assumptions once I see them.  But what I until now didn’t realize is that I am making a lot of them, and not seeing them.   Meanwhile, these unrecognized assumptions are restricting my sense of options and freedom.  If you don’t see the dust on the mirror, it’s hard to clean it off.  But once you see it, you can try to look somewhere else, where it’s clearer, or better yet, remove it.  Then a host of possibilities emerge, and that feels like clarity.

– I feel lighter.
I lost weight, so I’m lighter.  Duh. But it’s more than that, I think.  It’s a sense of “lightness of being” to quote an over-quoted book.  It is related to the sense of stability; being grounded and steady and feeling less rocked by the fluctuations of life seems to make walking through life easier.  It makes smiling and laughing easier.  It makes putting work down to go out to the garden easier.  It makes taking a seemingly frivolous vacation easier.  It’s as though additional lightness allows me to more frequently hover above myself, watching my life from a different vantage point.  From this place, details get smaller and the big picture grows, creating a new sense of what matters and what doesn’t. And being in the garden, taking trips, and smiling matter.

– I feel more present in conversation.
I work 3-4 jobs at a time in order to be able to teach yoga and own a yoga studio in a small community.  Juggling the tasks related to all these jobs makes for a very cluttered daily schedule, which in turn makes it easy to feel busy and on-the-run at all times.  In this state, when I run into people, I sometimes find myself rushing the interaction, in an attempt to keep moving – a practice which devalues both my and other people’s time and energy.  The “clarity” that has come about in this arena is a stronger intuition around when I really do need to keep moving and when I can stop and truly be with the person.  And then when I acknowledge the difference between these two situations for myself I can do the same with the other person. If I don’t have time, I can say, I’m sorry, but I really can’t chat right now, can I call you tonight….etc.  Or, if I am going to stay in the conversation, I can commit to really staying in it until it runs its natural course.

– I am seeking richer interactions and activities. 
When you cut filler out of your diet, it somehow seems to follow that you cut filler out of your life.  Think about it – what’s the social or media equivalent of french fries?  Or sliced, store-bought bread?  You probably know intuitively what it is.  And you probably know exactly when you partake in it.  At some point, it becomes about as satisfying as store-bought bread, and you find yourself seeking out something else.  Sometimes that something else is really rich – like a one-one-one meal of carefully prepared food with a good friend.  Other times that something else seems to be nothing at all – silence, stillness.  It’s as though there is as much richness in empty space – sitting, walking outside, looking at flowers quietly – as there is in a packed interaction or big day trip.  The key thing is that neither of those choices tries to fill empty space with low quality material.  Best to either fill your time with quality or let it go empty.

Which of course, is more or less the philosophy of cleansing. Put quality nutrients into your body, or don’t put anything in at all, and respect and feel into the emptiness.  Maybe it is this balance that fosters what we might call “clarity.”

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~ by bridgetannlyons on June 1, 2011.

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