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9 Reasons Why I Cleanse

Updated: 6 days ago


Okay, so what’s the deal with cleansing, anyways? 


Is it just another diet fad?


Are we starving ourselves to lose weight? Or to “detox”? 


Is cleansing something I even really need to do?


...I totally get all the confusion around cleansing!


First of all—no, you don’t need to cleanse.

 

Second, there are several potential benefits that can come from an occasional gentle cleanse.


In this post, I’ll share some of the many reasons why I personally choose to do a seasonal and occasional Ayurvedic cleanse.


 

The cleanse I do the most is a short 3-5 day Ayurvedic cleanse where I eat  three meals a day and make other holistic life shifts around tech use, sleeping times, and daily activities. 


This type of cleanse is not a recent fad but comes from what’s considered to be the world’s oldest wellness tradition that’s as old as 5,000 years (while I can’t say exactly when this cleanse arose).


And to be clear, this isn’t the same as a “fast” which is a type of cleanse that usually involves abstaining from food and/or liquid altogether.


Please note: I DON'T think this cleanse or cleansing is necessarily right for everyone and recommend consulting your physician and your own wisdom before doing any type of cleansing.


I also am a fan of doing things that create balance in our lives. 


This means, if you tend to be rigid, controlling, or anxious around your eating, schedule, or life habits, a "cleanse" for you might actually look like doing some of the opposite of what you normally do. :)


What’s great is that many of these benefits can be gained through any period of intentional pattern change!




Why I Cleanse


Okay, now let’s get into it!


Some of these points do indeed overlap, but each one highlights a different aspect. 


Some of the reasons I do this Ayurvedic cleanse are to:


  1. Practice the skills of transformation. While some changes can happen quickly, others require us to perform consistent, small, daily actions over time. It’s the skills for the latter type of change that I get to practice during the cleanse, which I consider to be awareness, compassion, and choice. I cultivate awareness as cleansing “wakes me up” every time I think of eating or drinking, etc.—and you’d be surprised how often that is!—because I can’t do the normal mindless or habitual action. This is like training an alarm clock that keeps waking me up off autopilot in daily life again and again. From that awareness, I can be compassionate towards my cause of seeking or reaching for something: fatigue, stress, an uncomfortable emotion, sleepiness, anxiety. And last, I practice making a choice that I might not normally make. By the end of the cleanse, I’ve gotten LOTS of reps in that can help me use these skills of transformation in other areas of my life.

  2. Strengthen my sovereignty. Related to the first point, we are bundles of habits. I see my favorite type of donut on the counter and I put one in my mouth. It’s time for lunch so I grab my computer to catch up on emails while I eat. My days consist of a similar set of stimuli and responses: X happens and I do Y—kind of like Pavlov’s dogs (and related to samskaras or psychological impressions/knots in yogic philosophy as well). Cleansing requires me to pause before acting and break conditioned responses. In a world that can be both inflammatory and full of things designed to capitalize on my primitive and unconscious impulses, training this pause brings me back into the autonomous choice that is my power and freedom. As the inspiring Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl says: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

  3. Gain confidence and will. If the word “willpower” makes you cringe as it feels too rigid, effortful, or unforgiving, I can relate! That’s why I often like to think of it as “aligned action”. To me it’s the ability to commit to the things I want to do in this life and the choices made for my highest good and to NOT get pulled off course by every cookie, cell phone ping, YouTube recommendation, or 37th excuse my persuasive mind concocts as to why I definitely shouldn’t do the thing I intended to do. Practicing this ability to hold fast to a higher vision and not get swayed by fleeting cravings or aversions helps me feel confident that I can stay aligned with what’s important to me.

  4. Become comfortable with discomfort. “Become comfortable being uncomfortable and the world belongs to you.” This was spoken to me by a near stranger in a wonderful random convo whilst traveling many years ago, and it speaks to how human potential is limitless when we aren’t overly attached to comfort. I also think it’s a civic duty to learn to be with uncomfortable emotions and sensations as the inability to do that leads us to do all sorts of wild stuff—and in my opinion relates to many of our large-scale problems. (I’ve witnessed people ruin lives by withholding information for years for fear of a single uncomfortable conversation, as one small example.) To avoid temporary discomfort, humans tend to do what’s easier or more comfortable in the moment, even if it might be to the detriment of self or others down the road. Small daily examples include deceiving, avoiding, reaching for food, a substance, or a device; we all do some of these things sometimes—self included of course! Wouldn’t it be nice to not fear discomfort and do what’s better for everyone even if it’s hard? As I practice being with some discomfort in the cleanse in the form of cravings, emotions, sleepiness, hunger, or simply living differently (this discomfort is typically much less than fasts and cleanses without food), I feel better able to handle life’s challenges, to leave my comfort zone, and to take the kindest course of action, even if it’s uncomfortable.

  5. Declutter my mind. It’s fairly shocking how much time my mind spends thinking about eating and drinking. What do I feel like eating? When should I eat? What can I make? Do I need to go to the store? Can I have another cup of coffee? Or some chocolate to wake up? ...Were you annoyed even just reading that right now? Me too! That’s why reducing all that mental noise has become one of my favorite parts of this cleanse. The reduction in decision fatigue around eating and other life habits is a much welcomed —sigh— of simplicity and sweet relief in my mental space.

  6. Hit the reset button. Have you ever gone on vacation just to find yourself still wired the whole time and unable to relax? Or notice that if you’re inactive for a while you find it hard to get going again? Me too! We can gather a sort of momentum in our systems as our body-minds are wired for efficiency, which means we can get “stuck” in modes of thought, emotion, and behavior. Changing my food helps me shift gears and break that momentum so that I can consciously reset my rhythm, intention, or direction. Plus the cleanse helps me reset my palate, cravings, caffeine tolerance, and perhaps reward pathways to help me start to release unhealthy addictions (anyone else have a sneaky sugar problem?) so I can consciously decide what behaviors I wish to carry forward.

  7. Grow my self-understanding. Food is profoundly holistic. This means that not only is what I feed myself the foundation of my physical wellness, but it also affects me mentally, emotionally, and yes, even spiritually. When I change what I eat, I have a chance to learn more about myself: what I crave and why, what I mask or avoid with food, how food might correlate with my moods, my natural unmodified thought/emotion/energy rhythms, how to discern between my body’s signals of hunger and emotional cravings, and how what I normally eat actually makes me feel once I go off the cleanse. I’ve heard that self-understanding is key for having more peace with and love for ourselves. I certainly think it’s a solid foundation for those things and I love the awareness and clarity I receive during the cleanse.

  8. Halt the hungry ghost. The “hungry ghost” is a concept from Buddhism that refers to an entity that is constantly tormented by desire and is never satisfied. Sound familiar? When I pay attention, I can see when this hungry ghost is active in me—that feeling and story that I just need a little “more” and then it will be “enough” and I’ll be “satisfied”—a better car, more free time, more money, space, possessions, experiences, trainings. The story says I need to constantly DO MORE in order to HAVE and BE ENOUGH, and so I become habituated into an acquiring and doing trance fueled by the primitive brain’s need to protect and defend as well as the common cultural “productivity ideal”. Counterintuitively,…it’s actually this mode that can keep me stuck in the feeling of separateness and deficiency. “Doing” and "wanting more” aren’t problems unless they’re problems, and to me it’s all about cultivating agility over rigidity—being able to be in “doing mode" because I consciously choose it as opposed to being stuck there out of fear or conditioning to the detriment of self or others. This holistic cleanse invites me to slow down, do less, care for myself in different ways, and to cultivate a sacred pause, as Tara Brach calls it, where I can come out of the hungry ghost and trance of doing and reconnect with that underlying sense of contentment (santosha in Classical Yoga philosophy) in simple being where I already am and have enough.

  9. Cultivate balance. Last but not least on this list is what pertains specifically to an Ayurvedic cleanse. From an Ayurvedic perspective, a seasonal kitchari cleanse can help release held emotions and reduce symptoms of imbalance in the three doshas (and more!) Some examples of these symptoms include anxiety, sleeplessness, headaches (Vata excess), irritability, hyperacidity, acne (Pitta excess), depression, lethargy, and weight gain (Kapha excess). For me, after the cleanse I feel lighter, more grounded, clear, and energized.



Since I could literally keep going, I will stop myself here for now. Feel free to reach out with questions! :)

 

I hope you feel empowered knowing that you can reap some of these benefits just by making small shifts in your routine from time-to-time!

If you’re curious about this specific cleanse, I love to share it and you can check it out here.


Much love and happy practicing,

Monica






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