Recently, about 30 of us participated in a group detox; apologies to anyone who disagrees, but I would say that it was a worthwhile experience! Along the way, there was some humor, some headaches, some aches and some pains but together we got through it. This is an opportunity to reflect on why we use this technique, what it is and how it works at DeRose Meditation. I hope that if you could not participate, you may find this interesting.
Right at the beginning, my husband who also participated asked me, “What is the point of this?”. This was when he was deciding whether or not he was going to forgo his morning coffee. For reasons of privacy, I will let you speculate on his final decision….
But let’s get into this question of why. Why matters because it will have a big impact on how you go into the process, how you experience it, and what you get out of it. For me “why” is always the million-dollar question. It is what gives you the motivation to keep going when you are struggling or suffering at any point in life. It is such an important question that books have been written about the power of this one word.
Generally, we schedule detox weeks seasonally. These have several different purposes. In the case of last week’s there were 5 distinct themes.
First, our primary reason for detoxification is to make meditation easier. Those of you who participated will have already understood that when we do a detox week, we are not only referring to our diet. For others who did not participate, let me explain. To meditate with ease, we must maintain a firm and comfortable position. This requires a strong, healthy body and digestive system. We need a tranquil heart, and we need a quiet mind. Detoxifying is first and foremost about cleansing the body, emotions and mind of toxic foods, toxic emotions and toxic thoughts. We are taking a load off! You are not “doing” something to yourself but rather, you are letting go of things. Hopefully this is actually very pleasant (maybe not in the initial throws of caffeine abstinence). This means easing your digestion and giving it a break. Concurrently, identifying and letting go of external stimuli and internal attitudes, which cause emotional distress, and decreasing “white noise” and stimuli which may cause mental instability are also fundamental parts of the detox process.
“Within every block of stone lies a statue, it is the sculptor’s task to discover it” – Michelangelo
I like this idea as a metaphor for the clarity of vision which comes through the practice of regular meditation. It is a way to reveal our true, immutable inner-self. For our context, detox is first and foremost in the service of this end.
“You are the only relationship you are going to have for a lifetime”. – Edith Eger, “The Gift”
Second, we cannot and should not avoid suffering. Edith Eger, psychologist, Holocaust survivor and author of “The Gift” reminds us that our only permanent relationship we have in life, is with ourselves. I referred above to “taking a load off”. Detox should be perceived as a form of self-care and self-love. It is part of our hygiene and can be enjoyable. Massage for example is an excellent example of this. Detox should not be perceived as a punishment, restriction or discipline but instead as letting your body rest, relax and recharge. Who doesn’t like that? Now let’s be honest, change is hard, and our bodies will often revolt at the beginning. But trust me–I think everyone in last week’s group will attest to this–you are actually doing yourself a favor. When the aches and pains, cramps and headaches pass, everyone acknowledged more energy, better sleep, better mood and more enthusiasm for life. When the negative talk begins, ask yourself if you are acting with love, if you would talk to or treat someone in your care, like a child or a pet, in this way. If the answer is no, then you have your answer.
Third, detox is also a marvelous way to develop a deeper level of self-inquiry in a safe, “laboratory like” setting. When we change how we do things, stuff comes up–sometimes quite surprisingly–and it gives us a great opportunity to observe and ask questions. It can be an emotional experience, especially if the changes in place are radical like letting go of coffee, spending more time quietly, or switching foods. These changes tend to evoke quite strong emotional responses and inner dialogue. You might break down and have a piece of chocolate. What is your internal conversation when this happens? Do you enter into a state of self-deception? Perhaps you start to berate yourself as weak? Do you think you should quit because you “broke the rules” so there is not point continuing? How does this affect your relationship with those around you? Does this shift in mood make you become argumentative, impatient, short-tempered? This is the time to question what statements you are making to yourself and ask yourself if they are true. What if they are true? Who would you be if you didn’t accept these statements as true? What would the world look like to you, if you let them go? This new level of self-awareness can then be taken out of the safety of the “detox lab” and put into practice in your everyday life, with I hope, greater insight into human relationships. This brings me to how we approach change that shapes our perception of the experience. These encounters allow us to experience this in a conscious way, so that we can live our lives less reactively.
Fourth, our bodies often feel much better when we have given our digestion some attention. We like to do this seasonally, keeping ourselves in rhythm with the changing climate, day length and seasonal foods. The difficulty depends on how great the changes are and our inner attitude. I have done many cleanses over the last twenty years and this was my easiest. Not because it was “easy” but because the changes that I needed to make to my regimen to adhere to the framework were minimal. Nonetheless, like everyone in the group, after 5 days of nutritionally dense, unprocessed, light food, I experienced better sleep, felt more energetic, more flexible physically and mentally. All this without any stress on my system. It is not necessary to starve, take a holiday, or sleep all day to achieve these results. Of course, there were moments when our resolve was tested, but it is important to understand that results are not gained only through pain. Overall, I think the majority would agree that this was a pleasant, enjoyable experience with reaped great rewards.
The fifth reason for participating in a group detox is to make new friends, build community and understand the power and energy of the collective. Now more than ever, after over a year living in isolation, this experience gave us an opportunity to support each other when we felt it wasn’t going so well and see how quickly that positive support resulted in a will to carry on.
After a detox, the idea is to maintain some of the new habits and build on them. After all, when you understand that certain changes to your daily life result in positive changes why not adopt them more permanently?
When I think about detox, I think of a time to examine what’s working and what is not in my life, and then I try to consciously let go of “stuff” that is no longer serving me. That’s why I call it the “Undoing”. I have a mental picture of untying knots and strand and letting them fall away. Afterwards, I feel lighter, like I took a load off.
Let us know what they were, please share your favorite recipes, perhaps the detox inspired you to do something new, or let something go permanently. For those of you who did not get to participate this time, we hope you will join us on the next time around.