What Really Needs Cleansing


A couple of weeks ago I did a spring cleanse where all of the usual things that I might eat were laid aside for 5 days of eating a mono-diet consisting of rice and greens. Morning, noon, and night. Personally, I love both. But I have to tell you that at some point, it gets old. Really old. Where all you want to do is to rip into something truly satisfying like a cheesy pizza, a fudgy brownie, a turkey burger with avocado and mayonnaise or a glass of ginger ale. At least this is where my mind went to as I contemplated another round of rice and greens.

Interestingly enough, I couldn’t even tell you what was a legitimate call from my body, craving something it truly needed, and what was the fabrication of my mind born out of boredom, old habits, and food choices used to dull emotional experiences too difficult to be with. And this is why I cleanse. I cleanse because I recognize how often I lie to myself about what I really and actually need in the food department. How much it is that my body requires, and which choices would serve it best.

You might think, as many of us do, that this is about right or wrong, good and bad foods, rules, caloric restriction, shame and guilt. It’s not. It’s about honoring ourselves. It’s about being honest and true to ourselves. It’s about showing up for ourselves in caring and supportive ways.

It puts me in mind of something a friend recently said. That being, “When you stop lying to yourself, you start to see what you are all about.” How many of us hate liars, but lie to ourselves every day about what and how we are eating? How many of us make promises to ourselves about what we will change in this department, but never seem to get there? Beyond guilt or shame, can you take in the message you give yourself every time you do this? The disappointment. The let down. The betrayal. Not intentionally or consciously done, but done just the same every time we lie to our one and only self.

What would it take to change this? What would it take to give yourself a chance to really see what you are all about? I’m a big fan of every once in a while shaking things up around how you eat, not as a punishment or a deprivation, but as a way of seeing what happens when you take something out of your diet that you do all the time. For instance, how about sugar, coffee, take-out, alcohol, or anything else that you use for less than nourishing reasons?

And then, watch what happens. Count on being distressed. It could be a little. It could be a lot. You might even think of the amount of distress you are experiencing as being the equivalent of how much this food choice is helping you to lie to yourself. If you notice this, try not to do so with criticism, but more with a sense of what might be possible if you let yourself discover what is underneath this choice or habit.

What I am proposing here is not easy. We all develop maladaptive habits for very good reasons. Often because, quite frankly, this is just what we have always done. Perhaps we do not even know we have the capacity to do anything else. Challenging something long-standing like this by going without for a time becomes the very place where the magic happens. For when we choose something different, and are able to do it, even for a moment, we create a new pathway. We set the template down for a possibility that did not previously exist. A new way of being presents itself. An opportunity to see what we are really all about arises. Along the way, we might even surprise ourselves in the process.

And if you really want to add some power to this, set an intention for the experience. For instance, “I willingly set (fill in the blank) aside today in the service of being more honest with myself about who I am.” Make it big. Lofty even. Putting a focused effort behind anything we do, creates a kind of strength to hold us through the difficult times, while serving as both the space and the catalyst for seeing what we are all about in bigger and more unexpected ways.

Giving Up


I recently heard a woman say that she had given up, giving up coffee. (Give yourself a moment with this one.) When I heard her say this my whole being lit up. At first I went to the most obvious thing I have been intermittently, over the years, trying to give up. That being sugar. When I wondered what would it be like to give up, giving up sugar, I immediately felt great. It was as if a weight had been lifted. And right behind that, a permission, an opening, to actually enjoy something that I actually enjoy.

How often do we engage in our little “guilty pleasures” in ways that do not, in fact, offer any pleasure because we are far too busy feeling guilty? But it gets even better.

I could give up beating myself up that I should somehow know better. Do better. Set a better example. I could give up acting as if this one small act blows up all the amazingly nutritious and delicious food that I make and eat every day. I could give up feeling as though this is somehow bad, and by extension, that I am somehow bad because of it.

We do this all the time. We equate something we are doing, that we don’t think we should be doing, with who we fundamentally are. And while certainly our cumulative actions over time point to how we have decided to live in this world, the sum of these actions is but a fraction of the totality of who we are. In essence, we are way more than whether or not we choose to…(Fill in the blank).

There is such a fine line in life around how we do what we do. On one level, there is nothing wrong with improving. Nothing wrong with trying to do “it” better. Certainly, we could even make the case that in many areas of our world, we would all be better off if we all put some more time into changing the aspects of ourselves that bring harm and disharmony.

But this cannot be the whole story. For this is only one side of a two-sided coin. The other side holds that it is just as valuable to give up trying to give up what we think is wrong with us. Unsightly. Unseemly. Unworthy. Shameful. To give up running on the never-ending treadmill of not enough. Not doing enough. Not doing it right.

On this side of the coin, we do not need a reason, justifications, a set of credentials, a right way of living, or a tangible list of the good deeds that we do to justify why it is that we get to just be. Here. As we are. As is. To do what we do. To love what we love.

What would it be like to experiment with, on the topic of your choice, giving up, giving up how you truly feel, or what it is that you really want, but that somehow you have not been able to give yourself because you believe it will mean something about you that you do not want to be?

Isn’t There Enough For Everyone?


I am talking one day with the carpenter who is helping us finish up the last part of construction on our home. We are conversing about vegetables and fruit trees; swapping stories around how we are struggling to get some of the harvest before the animals take it all. He tells me a funny story about a relative who sits, day by day, poised to kill anything that takes even a single piece of fruit off of one of his trees. Shaking his head, he says to me, “Isn’t there enough for everyone?”

My God, what a concept.The resonance of this simple question strikes deeply within me. Not just the words, but how he said it. As in, why do we ignore this truth? Why do we act as though there is not enough for everyone? Why do we make insuring that meeting everyone’s basic needs is more difficult, political, and judgmental than it actually is?

While I love many of the basic tenets around capitalism (not something, by the way, we have at this point in time), for a long while now I have been realizing it is not enough. That it needs to be supplemented, not legislated, with a philosophy that includes heart, soul, and human scale actions. Personally, I really resonate with the idea of sharing, and in my mind, this is very different than charity.

Sharing comes when I take what I have, and naturally and spontaneously spread around what I have as I encounter others with a need. It is an exchange between equals that has nothing to do with elaborate giving plans, tax write-offs, or “the “have’s and the have-not’s,” but instead is born out of the moment and from a call within that is looking for nothing in return; other than a chance to give. It is a kind of “what goes around comes around.” A loop, where I am both giver and receiver at some point in the cycle.

Charity, on the other hand, implies a hierarchy, and a hand out. A way where one of us is below, and one of us is above. Pity, guilt, resentment, and desperation are often the companions of charitable one-way “exchanges.”

What if we all took stock of what it is that we have more of than we need? And then decided to look around for where we might share that abundance. This is not done as a way to save anyone, or to boost a sense of ourselves as being “the generous one,” but as the purest recognition of how resources are meant to be available for all. And how that spreading of resources can initiate from anyone, and at any time; no matter their circumstances.

What do you have more of than you need? What could you intentionally plant, create, or generate more of so that you would have some left over to share? How about your time, understanding, patience, or willingness to be with someone if even for a moment? Not because you feel bad for anyone. But because you can. And because it matters.

Can you imagine a world where we fed one another out of generosity and abundance? A kind of continuous back and forth reciprocal relationship with those we come in contact with? Not something we do because we are looking for anything, but because it is truly the most natural way to be with one another, and with what is available.

Prioritizing Abundance

Raspberries, peaches, apples, tomatoes and more. All bursting and all coming at once. It is a magnificent sight to behold. At least it is on this day when I have the space and the time to give myself over to it. Lingering among raspberries, bees and hummingbirds, I pick up the same musky scent that has sent my dog off in hot pursuit of something. A bear? I would be honored.

I cannot help but realize that when we carve out space for the activities and ways of being that most support our basic human needs, we flow with abundance in body, mind and spirit. Why is it that things like doing what it takes to eat well, getting the rest we need, or carving time out for what most feeds us are seen as dreaded have to’s, indulgences or something that we have collectively agreed to ignore? We do this at our own peril. For within the “mundane” daily activities resides what is most important; that which structures, holds and lifts up our lives. Why do we so often act as if there are more important things to get to? Why do we squander our true abundance?

Each Day We Decide

My yoga teacher once said that each day we choose how we want to feel based on what we eat. Truer words I had never heard. I watch the way this plays out in my own life; whether it be using sugar to knock down feelings that are more than I can bear or the choice to fast from sugar for a month before going on retreat because I want change more than I want to numb out. I see the way my life rises and falls daily based on what I put into my mouth. It is that simple.

Food was my very first consciousness practice. And while initially I began for reasons like losing weight, that slowly but surely evolved into a desire for greater personal and planetary health. And quite unexpectedly, another tremendous change began showing up in my life; I began to think differently. I began to feel differently. Like some invisible force working on me, I began to see myself in a different light, and with that came a very, very different life. Without the food changes I made I would never have had the courage to get out of a lifeless marriage. I would never have had the nerve to let go of a PhD in the 11th hour, after 10 years of work, when I discovered that I was on the wrong path. And I would never have had the energy to make significant changes in our home around how we live. This is the short list.

I was away on retreat recently. And even though there were many, many things to choose from at each meal; a way to satisfy any food craving you were having or food experience that you sought, it tempted me not. Why? Because before I had even left my house, I had already chosen how it was that I wanted to feel. I had already committed to feeling all of my feelings, whatever they might be; joy, grief, connection to All That Is, rage, you name it. And because of this I was very, very systematic, intuitive and thoughtful about what and how much I put into my body. In that sacred time that I had created for myself, I wanted the chance to feel what I was feeling without distortion. Why? Because when it is all said and done, I am better for it. Always.  It has been said that feeling a feeling has never killed anybody, but not feeling what is there, well, we all have our examples.

If this makes sense to you, I encourage you to begin by getting clear about what it is that you want from your life. Then, begin to watch all the ways you sabotage your energy, your self-esteem, your health, your relationships, and your potential with what and how much you put into your mouth. The only way that this does not reduce down to an exercise in self-abuse is to be very, very kind to yourself as you look as clearly and closely as you can at what you are choosing to feel based on how and what you are eating. And while this is not easy, it is that simple.

In The Beginning

Food was the very first consciousness practice I ever engaged with. In the beginning, I was 30 pounds overweight; stuck in a vicious ping pong match between binge eating and exercising. My first pass was to get rid of the scale and begin the very long journey of looking into why I was stuffing down feelings with food. This has been a decades long process that began in suffering and has found its way into a celebration of nourishment and nurturance. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure.

Food is the Mother. It is what sustains, comforts and enlivens. It is what creates us over and over and over again; ever-bearing the possibility and the potential of healthy bodies, clear minds and open hearts. We all know which foods and eaten in what ways diminish us. Begin there. Be willing to start. Anywhere. For if food does anything other than to satisfy, connect and energize you, you are missing out on one of the most powerful practices for living well. It is well worth the effort to begin.