As I was recently completing my seasonal house cleaning, packing away clothes and other items to contribute to Goodwill, I started thinking about the meaning of "cleaning house" and the importance of applying this cleansing method to other aspects of our lives. As I went through closets and drawers and put aside the items that were no longer useful or no longer had special value, I couldn't help but think, shouldn't we be applying this cleansing process to ourselves as well? Wouldn't we be healthier and happier if we could regularly clean out the clutter in our bodies and our minds?
There is a lot of information available on various short and long term digestive cleansing programs. While I am eager to reap the health benefits, I've been reluctant to try a cleanse. I didn't want to feel deprived or set myself up for failure. And then I read Kathy Freston's book, Quantum Wellness. She describes a cleanse program that includes real food and won't leave you feeling starved. She recommends avoiding only five things for 1-2 weeks: meat and animal by-products, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and gluten. I believe it's important to be realistic about what you can accomplish and I've found that taking small steps is the best path to success. I've been leaning into a vegetarian diet over the last two years, and while I still eat seafood occasionally, I've gradually given up all other types of meat. I don't need caffeine to get me through the day, and natural sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar are already staples in my cabinet rather than refined sugars or artificial sweeteners. Gluten seems to be in everything these days, but there are also quite a few gluten free breads and baked goods on the market. And while I still enjoy a glass of wine or other cocktails, alcohol is not a daily habit for me. Giving up all animal by-products (including eggs and dairy) can be challenging, but some surprisingly good vegan substitutes are available. My goal is to start with a seasonal cleanse, giving up these five things for at least five days, and to build from there and continue to lean into healthier eating habits all year round.
In addition to cleansing my digestive system on a regular basis, I've also realized that I need to work on clearing my mind of unproductive thoughts. Our fast-paced culture has us constantly on the move and thinking about what's next on our "to do" list, but we often neglect to take advantage of the present and enjoy where we are now. I've read that the health of our digestive system is directly related to emotional health, so it makes sense to work on cleansing our bodies and minds together. I've started going to acupuncture sessions to assist with keeping my digestive track flowing properly and in bringing overall balance into my life. I've learned that the goal of meditation is not to always turn my mind to a blank page, but to be able to acknowledge stressful thoughts and let them go. "Let Go" has become my mantra for relaxation. Whenever my mind starts to wander to other responsibilities or commitments and my thoughts start spiraling out of control, this is the phrase that brings me back to the present moment; the right here, right now.
Just as cleaning house becomes easier and more effective when done on a regular basis, we can also reap the same benefits by regular cleansing of our bodies and minds. The yard and exterior of your house may be immaculate, but if the inside isn't maintained, it will deteriorate and lose value. Likewise, it makes us feel good to look nice and present ourselves well on the outside, but it's critical to attend to our insides with the same thoughtful care. Take a few moments every day to reflect and connect with where you are; relax and let go. Eat consciously rather than mindlessly and consider if the food you are choosing is actually providing nourishment to your body. You can tear down a house and rebuild or leave an old house behind for a new one, but you only have one body in this lifetime. A cleansed body, healthy mind, and strong spirit will help to sustain you for many years to come.