As Spring has arrived and warmer weather approaches here in Southern Oregon I find myself trying to psych myself up for my annual 10 Day Ayurvedic Spring cleanse. I say psych myself up because I don’t find this cleanse particularly easy to do. In fact sometimes it feels almost unbearable to me mentally, emotionally and physically. I start to dread the challenge ahead. I’ve had years where I haven’t even been able to finish a cleanse. Well, why do it? I can hear you thinking. You should be easier on yourself. Maybe your body’s trying to tell you something.
Maybe...it’s just my instinctual body/mind sometimes called the lizard brain, otherwise known as resistance, trying to tell me it doesn’t feel up for being challenged in this way right now. Yes, part of me deeply resists the idea of a period of self-induced dietary restriction, mental challenge, physical discomfort and a disruption of normalcy. Not to mention the drinking of liquified ghee (think butter) blech! But more on all that later :)
There’s a part of myself that doesn’t really feel like making the concerted effort to challenge myself for change. I’m just a little too comfy as I am.
But then there’s another quieter but persistent voice of inspiration…the one that reminds me that sometimes stepping out of the comfort zone is exactly what might be needed to shift into deeper levels of well being.
Life thrives in balance, sometimes we actually have to make great effort to find a certain level of ease. What a paradox it is! We need focused periods of engagement, challenge, practice, discipline and exertion so that we can enjoy feeling truly ~ rested, nourished, rejuvenated and satisfied and vise-versa, on and on.
Just like our houses needing a deep Spring cleaning so that we can clear out any dust and stagnant energies and enjoy the beauty of fresh inspiration and renewal, so might some of us benefit from an inner cleansing on the physical, emotional and mental levels too.
Spring and Fall are traditionally thought in the Ayurvedic healing system to be optimal times to cleanse the body and mind. The belief is that when the digestive system rests, the body can focus its energy on processing and releasing the impurities that have built up during the Winter or during periods of overindulgence or illness. Resting the digestion with a reduced and simplified diet allows the body, mind and even the emotions the optimal environment to heal, and recalibrate to new and vital levels of well-being.
I’ve realized many of the big inner changes I’ve made in my life have been proceeded by some kind of outer shift in my habits or a conscientious change of an outmoded way of living or being.
So, the funny thing is - at the same time that I’m fully allowing myself the feelings of trepidation and downright pre-cleansing dread, part of me is also thoroughly looking forward to the challenge! That’s the part of me that over many years of studying and practicing yoga has learned to actually enjoy doing things I don’t particularly “like” doing. Weird isn’t it? But that’s what discipline or tapas is sometimes about. (sorry, no we're not talking about 'tapas' - as in Spanish appetizers, darn it!).
Tapas is a yogic term sometimes translated as a kind of heat or fire, like the kind of fire that can transmute dross into alchemical gold.
We might think of a dietary cleanse as a process of working with our own spiritual tapas to create an inner alchemy. We take the simple base materials of a plant based diet and a simple yoga or movement practice, add in some Ayurvedic herbs, medicated oils, lot’s of liquids, a strong intention and deep breath - throw it all into the fire of our digestion and slowly, slowly turn all that base into gold.
It’s all metaphor of course, but I do believe we have the capacity to take even our dross challenges (the muck and the mire of life) and transform it all into radiant spiritual insight and luminous, shimmering soul growth.
So, in the end (and even in the beginning) a dietary cleanse really isn’t simply about the physical body after all, it might even be character building! No small thing in a culture that is abundant in overindulgence of every kind.
I will be soon embarking on my annual Springtime cleanse…so wish me luck. I may finish it this year, I may not. Right now, I don’t know. What I do know is that I will persevere regardless, in my greatest on-going practice of all…the practice of deepest self-love and acceptance. Not because I’ve figured it all out, finished everything I’ve set out for, perfected anything or got it all just right…but just because…I am.
I invite you to be...too.
**Oh, and if this didn’t scare you off completely and you too want to experience the classic 10 Day Radiant Rejuvenation Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse, I would love to help guide you through it too! (plus you'll get to experience the ancient Ayurvedic practice of drinking liquified butter, otherwise known as ghee...wheee!) You can see more of the details here :)