Saturday, March 31, 2007

Love and Intuition: Heeding Oneself

In the past several days, I've had a series of revelations of the sort that should seem fairly obvious in the first place. They haven't been because I guess I wasn't paying attention. The first came a few days ago when I decided to go back to the ear acupuncture clinic because of my sinuses. When I was about a half block from the bus stop, I had the following distinct thought: "I have a weird feeling I'm about to miss the bus." I actually thought that sentence to myself and in the same moment had to literally refrain from running. Ten to fifteen seconds later, the bus went rolling past, and I missed it. Of course, I was instantly annoyed with myself. "Goddamn it," I thought, as my next thoughts turned into a diatribe about how long I might have to wait now and how much sooner I could have reached my destination. But the more I thought about it, I started to grasp the bigger picture, which is that there's intuition that one follows and doesn't think twice about and there's intuition that one second guesses.

For example, if I'm walking down a street at night and I get the feeling that I should cross the street or turn instead of going straight, I never doubt it. I just do it. I never argue with myself. I never even bother to wonder what might have happened. I just go with it. But there are other times where I'll get a premonition or forewarning that I won't heed—like the aforementioned bus incident. The distinguishing feature seems to have something to do with language and immediacy. When I feel the need to cross the street, it usually happens in a split second in which there is no time to think it over and also the languge is something like "turn here" or "I think I should turn here." But it happens so quickly that I don't even realize there was a sentence or directive. I just do it.

But every now and again I will "hear" these sentences that start with "I have a weird feeling that..." and those are the kind I will tend to dismiss. I guess these things are less urgent, and I am more aware of the fact that I'm talking to myself. Except now I wonder about the true source of this information, because clearly this is intution though I have failed to recognize it as such. I guess what this really means is that during the periods of time in which I have felt as if I am cut off from my intuition, I probably have been fed or have generated plenty of intuitive self-instruction but I have been closed to it for one reason or another. Too distracted. Too tired. Too dense.

The second revelation has to do with love or the nature of love or specific with the reason that spiritually love is so important. By spiritual love I mean the "love your neighbor" kind of love that suggests we are all one. It came to me as I was watching Tibet: The Cry of the Snow Lion. My heart literally hurt as I listened to all these monks describing the various tortures they'd endured at the hands of the Chinese. Mortifying things. And of course the movie talked about the Dai Li Lama, and nonviolence even at the hands of the oppressor and the need for forgiveness etc. I thought about atrocities that have been committed from the beginning of time and that are being committed even today by my own country. Right at that moment a monk was describing being smeared with urine and feces by those who had taken him prisoner and a nun described being electrocuted in her vagina, and I almost had to stop watching. I kept asking myself, "How can people do this to each other? How can anyone treat anyone else like that?" Then the voice of my intuition explained the obvious to me. If people don't love each other, then they hate one another. When you hate someone you allow yourself to see the other as "the other" instead of as human or even as a fellow living creature. After that it's probably fairly easy to do things that we otherwise would never dream of doing to one another.

I was really struck by that. And yet, the next day, it was a real stuggle to keep myself from falling into old patterns and not to view msyelf as separate from those around me whose appearance or behavior I may have disliked. I guess that's the practice. But I had never really thought about it that way, and I think it's good. It puts a whole different slant on the nature of this existence.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 12

Mmm mmm. Two days ago I made it out of the Master Cleanse woods. I never wanna see another lemon again. Actually, I had some lemon juice today but it was mixed with some new things.

Monday was the last day of the strictly "lemonade" diet. Yesterday, I traded in the lemons for oranges, choosing to break the fast with fresh squeezed oj. The rationale is that oj stimulates the digestive system. I don't know by what mechanism that works, but it's what I read in the Master Cleanse book by the guy who invented it. M., who is two days behind me on this fast, balked at the idea of strictly orange juice, feeling it would be too acidic. I had similar thoughts the last time I fasted, but I had no problems with it that time or this time. Plus if you think about it, how much more "acidic" can you get with lemon juice and cayenne pepper.

According to the Master Cleanse, there are two ways to break a fast. One is to drink orange juice for two days and then the third day following the cleanse, drink oj in the morning followed by raw fruit for lunch and fruit or a salad for dinner. The next day you should be fine to eat normally. However, that's for people who are vegetarian. We poor omnivores and carnivores are to follow a different strategy. The first day after the cleanse, one drinks only orange juice and extra water if desired. On the second day, one is to drink several glasses of oj and then in the evening, it's suggested that one have vegetable soup—mostly the broth, although the vegetables can be eaten sparingly. Burroughs also says that rye wafers may be consumed with this meal but no bread or crackers. The next day, one should drink oj in the morning, at noon have more soup and for dinner "whatever is desired in the form of vegetables, salads or fruit. No meat, fish or eggs; no bread, pastries, tea, coffee or milk." Normal eating is resumed on the fourth day.

Now the ways to break a fast are as myriad as are the ways in which to fast. Every school of thought seems to disagree with all the others. I've read that a fast should only be broken with fruit or specific kinds of fruit or melon. I've even seen that it's popular in some camps to break a fast with a couple tablespoons of unsalted, unbuttered popcorn. The one point of agreement is that breaking a fast should be done slowly, some even advocating that it should take half the time of the actual fast. By that logic, a ten-day fast should be broken in five days.

I see the wisdom in that, but my ascetic whims are fading rapidly. What I'm doing now is kind of winging it. I had grandiose ideas about 21 days, but I've reached my limit. I really want to eat—out of pure desire not hunger. Five days makes sense, but I don't have it in me. Three days was what I had originally planned and that's what I'm sticking to; but I also planned on three days of strictly fruit and vegetable juices. I just can't do it. I can do it, but I don't want to do it. So after slurping down some oj in the A.M., and enjoying a 16 oz. "I AM RICH," i.e. oj, carrot, beet, lemon juice at Cafe Gratitude in the afternoon, I went grocery shopping. I returned home all sorts of goodies: carrots, red cabbage, spinach, kale, parsley, a handful of tiny red and white potatoes, a turnip, beets, a yellow onion, garlic, and a handful of dried pinto beans, the latter of which I promptly set aside soaking. I also bought two brands of vegetable broth/stock: Wolfgang Puck's organic style (more savory) and Kitchen Basics' low sodium vegan version (sweeter). I threw everything into a pot with some sage, basil, and seasoned black pepper. I also added about a half a can of organic black beans. I simmered them until the carrots and potatoes were easy to cut through. Then I left the house, reminiscing about an old childhood favorite: "Stone Soup."

I've read that people have the tendency to go hog wild when they begin eating again. That wasn't my intention, but I'm really over the whole liquid diet thing, especially juice type liquids. So one tip I read is to eat whatever that first thing is, at the evening meal so that you go to bed and ostensibly you don't eat again until the next day, which keeps you from overdoing it. So when I returned to the house later in the evening, I grabbed a bowl and filled it mostly with broth. I also got a little piece of everything—a tiny bit of potato, literally three beans, a slice each of carrot and celery, a smidgen of wilted greens, and a tiny bit of beet and turnip. All together, I don't think they would have amounted to much more than a tablespoon of food. I was, of course, more generous with the broth. Then I sat down and tried not to inhale the whole thing. It was nice to savor, actually, as the entire ensemble tasted righteous.

I can't wait to indulge in more tomorrow. I made enough soup for an army, so I'll definitely be enjoying it for lunch and dinner, with increasing amounts of solids in the mix. I think I'll go get some rye wafers for an additional treat with dinner. Then Saturday and through the weekend, I'll try to stick to the mostly raw foods idea, but all my planning is starting to fall by the wayside. On a positive note though, I continue to feel very, very good, and although I am slightly disappointed that I haven't stuck 100 percent to my original intention, for the most part I am congratulating myself. I feel clean and lean and now I'm ready to pollute myself again. By next Wednesday—V.'s b-day—I will be ready for an all out feast.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 9

The end is near! Truthfully, I can't wait for it to be over. The difficult part this far into it is mere boredom and the knowledge that although tomorrow is my last day on the Master Cleanse, I have a few days yet before I'll be eating solid food and several days before I'll be back to eating "normally. " I can't comment on whether it's been worth it until I've completed the entire regimen, but I think no matter what there will have been some benefit—all those that I mentioned in the previous posts.

Day 7 was the most difficult by far. I'm not sure what triggered what, but I felt pretty ill late in the day. I think I pushed myself and the process too hard. I'd gotten a shiatsu massage the previous day and went the ACTCM Auricular Drop-in Clinic for free ear acupuncture clinic on the morning of the 7th day. I'm sure that both of those things boosted the detox process. I also drank some tea at the clinic, but I don't know what kind it was. I'm sure there was nothing bad in it, but may have been a shock to my system after only lemonade and laxative tea for the preceeding six days. I think the real culprit is that fact that immediately after returning from the clinic, I did a salt flush. It was probably just too much to do after everything else I mentioned.

As the day wore on I found my energy waning for the first time since I began the fast, and my stomach felt bloated though I was eliminating almost pure water almost the entire rest of the day. I had several moments of nausea and started to feel a little panicky about the whole venture. In the evening I had a cup of Traditional Medicinals' Easy Now herbal tea blend, which is a mixture of chamomile and mint for the tummy and lavender and passionflower to soothe the nerves, and the combination didn't let me down. While laying in bed, I did a little energy work on my stomach and decided that if I still felt bad in the morning, I would break the fast early.

Yesterday I awoke with a slight headache, but I've been having that happen for at least a week even before the fast began. I also slept about 11 hours and was suprised to wake so late in the day. However, once I got up and started moving about I felt fine. I even ran several blocks to BART because I was late in meeting a friend, but the running didn't seem to upset my body in any way. We went to see Barack Obama at the Oakland City Hall, which meant being on our feet for at least an hour. Shortly after he took the stage, I felt an urgent need to use the bathroom, but I couldn't deal with the idea of a port-a-potty and then trying to fight my way back to where A. was standing, so I clenched and made it through. It was another hour before we got home, but somehow I survived the minor ordeal. After taking care of business, it was all good.

Today I feel totally, 100 percent good, and I'm excited about only having to drink this stuff for one more day. I was talking with M., who is also fasting and is two days behind me. We agreed that the harder part will come while breaking the fast and then beginning to eat again because the temptation will be to immediately eat all those things we've been denying ourselves—the garlic fries, the calamari, the meat balls, the pizza and even stuff like beer and 420. It's not like any of those things comprise my normal daily diet but knowing that I "can't" have them makes me want them a lot more than usual.

Among the many reasons for fasting is to gain insight into one's natural tendencies. For example, I often feel like I'm a sugar addict, but when I think of the things I miss right now it's not donuts and cake or any of the other treats I tend to dream about. Maybe it's because of the maple syrup, but I think what I really miss right now is the variety of taste and different sensations and textures. I don't care about sugar at all right now. I miss the act of chewing. But I also feel super super healthy. I know I've done something really good for body and my spirit. I also know I have no desire to ever fast longer than 10 days.

I've been calling this a 21-day fast. In reality, my proposed breakdown at the start was 10 days on the Master Cleanse, followed by 3 days of fresh fruit and vegetable juices, ending with 8 days of a 75% raw food/25% cooked food diet. If I stick to that, then I will end on March 30, with the last day of the month being the first day in which I resume the freedom to eat whatever I want—hopefully sticking to healthier choices but able to have something not so healthy if that's really what I desire in the moment. However, V.'s birthday is on the 28th, and she's been pretty bummed out at the idea that if we go out for dinner, I'll only be able to eat salad. Sooooooo, between her birthday and my honest desire to be done with this already, I'm only going to do 5 days on the 75% raw food diet and then on the 28th, I plan to go hog wild—in a very restrained fashion, of course : ) I can hardly wait.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 6

I am patting myself on the back because this is the first time I've ever gone beyond five days on a fast. The last time I fasted, I felt I could have gone beyond the five-day mark, but I had a time constraint known as Thanksgiving in the way, and since I had invited myself to my brother's, I felt it would be rude to show up and not eat. Poor timing. Timing is the whole key.

Today M. and I talked about how much one's mindset plays a role from the onset. If you have any sort of resistence or regret about what you're about to do, it's a sure fire guarantee that you won't reach your fasting goal. I've definitely experienced that. Once on the second day of what I had intended to be a three-day fast, I had an event to attend. When I arrived, I was stunned to discover that they had a sushi buffet with every kind of roll imaginable. That was the end of my fast. Another time, I was not even 12-hours into a fast, when I decided I just didn't feel like it. I finished out the day and decided to do it again another time. Completing a fast is impossible if you don't have the will, and I don't believe it's worth forcing myself, so sometimes I just bag it.

This fast is going remarkably well, though. Still, I will admit that I had a little bit of a freakout last night. It started late in the afternoon. I was sitting in the living room of S., and we were chitchatting. All the sudden I started tripping out on the fact that he had no idea that I hadn't eaten in five days, and I began thinking how weird that was—that one could just nonchalently say, "Oh, I haven't eaten since Friday night" on the Wednesday that comes after it. The more I thought about it, the more I started pysching myself out in a really bad way. I tried to ignore myself but by the evening I began having a genuine hypochondriac reaction. My head hurt. My organs hurt. I imagined all kinds of terrible scenarios resulting in my having to be hospitalized and the doctors standing over me shaking their heads, saying amongst themselves, "She hasn't eaten! Why would someone do this to themselves! Now she'll never be well, tut tut." It was ridiculous. I felt queasy and faint. My inards ached. I became dizzy, and my fear expanded into other realms. I thought I heard tapping on my window, rustling at the door. I had bad dreams, dreams in which dogs came into my living space and were slobbering and sniffing around me....

I awoke with my tongue pasted to the roof of my mouth. Looking in the mirror, I was happily disgusted by the thick white "fur." During a fast, the process of detoxification causes one's tongue to appear white, sometimes yellowish. This is a good sign that things are proceeding nicely. In Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine, the authors explain that state of the tongue is considered one of the "most useful and reliable" methods of physical examination. They say that the fur, i.e. the coating on the tongue, mirrors the "digestive Fire" or Qi of the stomach. " Qi (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Chi") is basically one's life force: "Qi is both the foundation of structure and the catalyst of transformation and movement." There are many ways to understand Qi, and there are types of Qi, but suffice it to say that a Chinese Medicine practitioner can give incredibly accurate and detailed diagnoses of one's health simply by looking at the color and shape of the tongue, which in addition to indicating what's going on in the stomach, "also reflects the intrinsic strength and functional capacity of the individual." In a disease state, the color, texture, moisture, size and shape of one's tongue [are] affected; but "as illness [or detoxification] improves, the quality of the fur and color of the tongue become more normal."

Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine in India, also uses the tongue as health indicator. A whitish tongue indicates a specific sort of imbalance and mucus accumulation and any sort of fur or coating may indicate the presence of toxins in the stomach, and small or large intestines. In fasting, the ideal is to fast until the tongue returns to a normal, healthy pink color, ostensibly meaning that the cleansing and rebuilding process is completed. Unfortunately, this usually does not happen in a conveniently pre-determined three- or five-day period. While it varies from individual to individual and from fast to fast, I doubt ten days will do it for most people either. All I know is that I don't have the gumption or wherewithal to push myself beyond what I set out to do this time around. Maybe I'll give it a shot in the Fall or next Spring. In the meantime, I've got a tongue scraper, and I take heart in the fact that that my nasty looking tongue is a sign that what I'm doing is not in vain.

I am really starting to get bored with my diet, though. Today M. sent me a recipe for Tuscan Bean Soup. She's also fasting and though she's only on Day 2, she's already planning what she's gonna make as her first meal. Since I will be easing into it with the raw food part of my 21-days, I don't have as much to be excited about. However, I think anything that doesn't have lemon or lime in it will make my day.

I still feel great though. Yesterday I walked up to the Haight and back—about a 4-mile jaunt—during the day. I brought the juice with me, so I was fine. By the time I got home I was very tired—tired but not weak. Later in the evening I had to talk myself into spending half an hour stretching, but I'm glad I did as I discovered my hamstrings were extremely tight.

Unfortunately I'd run out of syrup, so I had even less of the mix yesterday than I'd had the preceeding day, and that's a trend I do not want to continue. I'm sure it contributed to my mini-nervous breakdown, although I didn't have as much as I would have liked today either. I think I've had about 40 oz., the past few days. I'd like to stay more around the 50 oz. mark, more for my head than for the rest of my body. As time goes on, it does freak me out that I'm surviving so well on next to nothing. For the Western mind, this just does not compute. I think most people are raised to believe that the human body starves to death in a relatively short period of time. It's a bit of mind fuck to realize that you can live extremely well for a period of time on a few pinches of hot pepper, three or four of lemons and a quarter cup of tree sap a day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 4

I'm happy to say that the fast is going quite well so far. Yesterday, I experienced a bit of hunger but nothing that threw me off. I was stressed out about things over which I had no control, which translated to hunger. Fasting is a good way to learn what type of role food plays in one's life. I'm not the sort to eat a pint of ice cream because I'm sad or upset, but I do like to eat when I'm stressed, and I'll eat anything, preferably junk. In fact, I almost always only eat junk food when I'm stressed out. Note to self.

Knowing that I was stressed I decided to de-stress by taking a sauna. I spent about an hour at Osento. As it was a gorgeously warm, sunny day, the steam heat was particularly potent. I mean it was HOT inside that barrel, but it felt really good. I used my custom de-tox blend—dead sea salts, epsom salts, clay, baking soda, juniper, rosemary and some other good stuff—to exfoliate, and I also threw some Olbas on the rocks a couple of times. I brought my bug juice with me but also drank Osento's filtered water with quarters of fresh lime in it. I'm usually in the sauna for 2 hrs, but I felt tapped at half that and knew to listen to my body.

I went home and relaxed for a couple hours before going back and giving my first energy massage to a woman I'd met at Osento a few weeks ago. That went relatively well—she exclaimed, "You have amazing energy!" Then she talked me back into the sauna for another half hour or so, claiming, "There's no such thing as too much sauna." Obviously that's not true, but again I listened to my body, and it was nice to do it a second time in the same day.

Later in the evening, I did notice that my stomach was gurgling an awful lot. It was loud and rather non-stop. I wasn't in pain and didn't feel weak or anything else untoward but it was something different than I've experienced in the past. I gave more thought to the salt water wash.

While doing this fast it's imperative to remove the released toxins from the body either by drinking laxative tea twice a day or by doing a salt water flush. Otherwise, as Burroughs states, "It would be just the same as sweeping the floor around and around and never removing the dirt from the house." I have always been afraid of doing the salt water flush; it sounds like it would lead to barfing. You haven't eaten for hours or days, and you're drinking salt water? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. However, Burroughs prefers this method to the laxative tea alone, explaining that the salt water cleanses your entire digestive system from top to bottom. The idea is to use uniodized sea salt. That's very important; regular table salt will not work properly. According to Burroughs, "the salt and water will not separate but will stay intact and quickly and throughly wash the entire tract in about one hour." He adds, "The salt water has the same gravity as the blood, hence the kidneys cannot pick up the water and the blood cannot pick up the salt." All I know is that saline can be used to clean a lot of things from pennies to contacts to sinuses, so the concept makes sense to me.

But I awoke this A.M. knowing that I would give it a shot. I drank 32 oz. of luke warm water mixed with 2 tsp. of the right kind of salt. To be honest, it tasted good after three days of maple lemon taste. I was under the impression that I would immediately expell this concoction but it takes several minutes to move through the digestive tract. I didn't feel nauseous and didn't experience any cramping, the latter of which I do sometimes get from the tea. Instead, after about half an hour of laying on my side, I decided to get up and do jumping jacks. I don't know why. I guess I was remembering watching someone clean a bong—you shake it. After that I still didn't feel very different. I went to the bathroom simply because I didn't know what else to do with myself. There was no physical sense of urgency. However, once I sat down a mass of "stuff" was released—mucousy stuff. I won't get any more graphic than that. I was rather pleased; the trick had worked.

The subsquent eliminations—of which there were many during the next three or four hours—were less pleasant. It was basically like peeing water out of my ass, and I didn't like it all, especially considering that the bug juice recipe also includes cayenne. I'll just say that a certain part of my body felt singed and chaffed. But the salt water flush works. I will probably do it again in a couple more days, but I will make sure that I ease up on the cayenne content during the preceeding day.

By mid-afternoon, the water faucet had turned off, and it was back to the regular business of fasting. I decided to give limes a try instead of lemons and found that it makes for a nice change of pace. I can't say that I like one better than the other; they're both pretty tasty. Tomorrow, I'll try combining them.

My energy has remained as high as it's been the past few days, though I can't say I tested it much today. The most strenuous moment other than squeezing the limes was walking to Dolores Park to read and nap in the park. It's been so nice here the past several days. V. said the weather has been reminding her of summer in Greece. Vitamin D sunshine was just what Doctor M. ordered, and I made the most of it. But now I'm curious, as I head into Day Five, of whether my energy will wane at any point.

In the third edition of their book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Phyllis and James Balch inform us that "a three-day fast helps the body rid itself of toxins and cleanses the blood. A five-day fast begins the process of healing and rebuilding the immune system. A ten-day fast can take care of many problems before they arise and help to fight off illness, including the degenerative diseases that have become so common in our chemically polluted environment." I'm excited about that. I've never gone past five days.

I've also never had a fast go as smoothly and easily as this one has so far. To be sure, I've never usually found them overly difficult, but I have felt more "wired." I'm not sure if that's the right word. Regardless, I don't feel any different than if I weren't fasting, and that's a real surprise. I feel clean and healthy, but I don't feel like anything is intensified or heightened, and that's part of why I do this—the spiritual aspect. Cleanliness is next to godliness, right? I write that tongue in cheek. I've also read that every two or three days, the body goes into a deeper phase of cleaning and that it's possible to experience fluctuations in energy because of that. We'll see.

I do miss food because I love food and much of my normal days revolve around food. Frankly it's a little boring not to be eating. I continue to amass a list of things I want to eat or places I want to go to eat or things I want to make to eat. I grilled V. about the pastrami sandwich she ate next to me in the park. She laughed, thinking it was too much temptation but I was just curious. I've never had pastrami as far as I can remember.

But all in all, I am happy I am doing this. I don't have a scale so I don't know if I've lost any weight. I do look leaner though. Today I flexed my biceps for V., and she was shocked. She said I look like a bodybuilder. A puny bodybuilder of course, but there's definitely more definition becoming evident. My little belly chub doesn't look like it's going anywhere, though. Weight loss isn't one of my goals so it doesn't matter, but I suspect the chub will drop because the other interesting thing I've noticed is that I'm "eating" less and less ever day.

On the first day I drank 64 oz. of the concotion. The second day I probably drank about 55 oz. or thereabouts. Yesterday I had roughly the same amount, give or take 5 oz. Today I had 40 oz. This is not by plan; I simply don't feel like taking in more than that. I had the 40oz. and a couple of 16 oz. bottles of spring water while V. sipped vodka tonics at the bar, and that's been fine. I'm about to have a cup of laxative tea, and that's it for the day, and it's all good.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 2

The pain in my head was undescribable yesterday, but my headache finally faded during the last half of That Obscure Object of Desire, which I watched while laying on the couch last night. I was a bit exhausted by the ordeal but decided to call my dad anyway, which was a good thing; however we were on the phone until 3am my time. It's important to get adequate rest while fasting; when we hung up, I knew I'd kind of blown it as far as that goes. I also knew I was in for little sleep since I was planning on attending a meditation class at 10:30 AM. I missed the transition to Daylight Savings Time and the class, so I got some rest after all.

I decided that rather than mope around the house, I should get out and enjoy the stellar weather with which we've been blessed the past several days. I mixed up a batch of bug juice, transferred a diluted amount into my water bottle, then took off on my bike. I rode about 16 miles and burned about 900 calories over the course of two hours despite not having eaten for more than 24 hours, and it was great. With the headache lifted, I had energy to burn, though I didn't push myself to do so. I felt fantastic! We had clear skies, warm sun, and an occasional cooling breeze. The day was pretty much perfect. This is one of the indicators that fasting is healthy for me: I felt good mentally and physically.

Last night I started reading Stanley Burrough's The Master Cleanser for the first time. It's odd that in all these years I've never done so, and I'm sorry I haven't. Burrough's originated the recipe that I use, and his little pamphlet is chock full of ideas. I don't agree with all of it, but it's giving me a new perspective on what I'm doing. One idea with which I do firmly agree is his belief that "to be complete, a healing system must be able to cover the entire field of human experiences—physically, mentally and spiritually. Any system which denies any part of this trinity fails in its attempt to heal to the same extent to which it denies any part or parts." He goes on to admit that "many of the principles that are presented in this book may be completely contrary to everything you have believed and studied." He then urges his readers not to dismiss his theories outright but to use one's own judgement. This is pretty much how I live my life anyway.

For instance, I strongly disagree with his statement that honey "must not be used at any time internally." He believes that it raises the sugar content of the blood too high, too quickly, just like alcohol, forcing an overproduction of insulin, which then causes the blood sugar levels to drop below normal. Burroughs states that regular use of honey can create "constant imbalances," whereas maple syrup and cane sugar are balanced and don't affect the body in the same way. I'm not scientist or doctor, so I don't know if these statements are true. But whether or not "it is one of the most overpromoted, overpriced product[s] being sold to gulliable health foodists," as he claims, I also know that lots of non-gulliable people believe in the health benefits of honey, particularly raw honey as opposed to the cooked and filtered honey that is found in most grocery stores. I use honey from time to time, and I'm not afraid of it after reading his thoughts about it. I don't think having a spoonful of honey is the same as knocking down a shot of Maker's Mark or pouring a couple packets of sugar in my mouth. In my mind and in my own experience, nothing is worse than processed sugar, and even if it's not as healthy for humans as some people believe it is, I don't think honey is a health culprit of nearly the same level. By the same token, I would never deviate from using anything other than the ingredients Burroughs suggests for his recipe.

His version of his recipe is interesting. I was surprised to learn that one can use either lemon juice or lime juice, freshly squeezed of course. I've never done it with limes and am intrigued by the thought. I also thought that Grade A maple syrup was a total no-no. While the darker grades are preferable, he says that all grades can be used. Burroughs notes that freshly extracted sugar cane juice works well instead of the maple syrup, but it's hard to come by in the United States. Pure sorghum, or molasses is another "possible but lesser replacement" in the recipe. His original recipe calls for "medium hot water," though "cold water may be used as preferred;" and he doesn't indicate a preference for spring vs. purified (distilled) water. I've always used spring water in the past but bought steam distilled drinking water this time around. He calls for a lot less cayenne than I tend to use, but I have a higher tolerance for it than most people, and the recipe says 1/10 tsp (per 10 oz. glass) "or to taste." I like it with a kick.

A lot of my friends ask me what the cayenne is all about. In addition to warming the body, the cayenne is an adaptogen, meaning that it invigorates or strengthens the system. Its purpose in this diet is to break up mucous in the body and add trace amounts of the B and C vitamins. Though I said I never deviate, I do sometimes add sage to the recipe. This is not sanctioned in his book, but sage is a member of the mint family, and Burroughs does say that mint tea can be used occasionally during the fast for "a pleasant change and to assist further in the cleansing. Its chlorophyll helps as a purifier, neutralizing many mouth and body odors that are released during the cleaning period." So I far I smell as fresh as a rose (wink), but one's breath does tend to "rot" during a good fast. As for the sage, I think I used it during my winter fast because it helps to clear the sinuses and lungs. I don't think I will use it this time around because it also stimulates the appetite. Though it didn't trouble me, it seems counter-productive.

In general, the fast has been pretty easy so far. The biggest challenge was this afternoon when I hung out with D. after my bike ride. I joined him while he demolished a giant empanada. We were surrounded by people eating heaping plates of chicken and rice that smelled delicious. It was torturous, but I was in no real danger of caving. In the beginning, everything that's been sworn off calls your name, but it's mostly a mental game. Usually by Day Three, the temptations diminish. I have two things on my list for next month, though—an empanada and a shrimp and scallop crepe with tomato sauce. Dios mio!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 1

Today's the first day of what I intend to be a 21-day fast. In the past few years I've been doing one or two fasts annually. This is the first year that I am committing to a full schedule of seasonal fasting, which means 4x per year—March, June, September, and December. The March and September fasts—Spring and Fall—are the most important and the Spring fast is the most important of all, hence the longest. Probably my Summer and Winter fasts will be three to five days long. In the Autumn, I'll do a ten-day fast.

Conflicting information abounds when it comes to the subject of fasting. Some authorities claim that it's highly dangerous, others will claim that it will cure everything under the sun. The ways and means of fasting are also a matter of contention. I only know what has worked for me and what makes me comfortable. Each time I fast, I stick to what I know, but I'm always learning as much as I can and making adjustments accordingly.

Almost every source will recommend a pre-fast for a day or two, whereby you eat only fruit and vegetables. Again, some will say this and some will say that. What I did yesterday was to eat only fruit in the morning and vegetables in the evening. So sum total, yesterday I had: a banana, some blueberries, some strawberries, a plum, lots of grapes and some freshly squeezed oj. For lunch I had half a bag of baby carrots. In the evening I had a decent-sized salad with mixed greens (mostly romain and butter lettuce), tomato, green beens, carrots, corn, red cabbage, radish and red onion. I did succumb to the bread and butter, but I didn't feel even the slightest bit guilty about it. I was at a restaurant watching my friend devour a shrimp and scallop crepe with wild mushrooms and tomato sauce. So I had a bit of bread. So what?

Today was Day 1 of the Master Cleanse portion of this venture: grade B maple syrup, fresh squeezed lemon juice, steam distilled water, and cayenne pepper. The idea is to drink half my weight in ounces each day. For me that's 64 oz. I can also have a cup or two of herbal tea. Today I didn't care for it, so I didn't have any although I will be drinking an herbal laxative every night during the liquid portion of the fast. That's it for the several days.

I'm not the slightest bit hungry today, although I do have a raging headache. Some people will suffer discomfort in the form of headaches and other complaints, such as cold-like symptoms, during the first portion of the cleanse. This is due to the process of detoxification. I have never suffered any of that. Unfortunately my headache started three days ago, even before my one-day pre-fast, so it has nothing to do with the fasting. I think it's mainly sinus pressure and also the stress of the past few months. I thought about holding off for a couple days, but I decided to stick to my original plan. This is an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. I think the fast will actually help heal my sinuses. One reason they got inflamed is I haven't been drinking enough water lately. During the fast I'll be very well hydrated. Also since my system will, in effect, be resting, my body can turn its attention to taking care of any ailments in the works.

Unlike Beyonce, I'm not doing this to lose weight, though probably I will shed the elusive one or two pounds that keeps me from being able to wear a couple things in my wardrobe. Again, some sternly warn that exercise is a no-no during a fast. I have found that the Master Cleanse leaves me more than enough energy to do a light-to-moderate workout. For example, three days into my Spring fast last year, I joined my group in a 5-6 mile run. I had no problems whatsoever. But you have to know your body. A day prior to that, I had to walk about 20 blocks in the rain, and I felt very faint and shaky. My gut feeling is that running isn't the best option, but like I said, that day I was raring to go. I plan on doing lots of yoga and stretching and some moderate cardio such as biking and walking. I believe the activity is not only good but essential.

I'm also seeking a spiritual and mental focus and will be using this time to read inspirational material, bolster my meditation and prayer practices and study more about energy/healing modalities. I look forward to these fasts, just as I look forward to breaking them when I've reached my goal. Right now I've got 20 days to go, and I feel great about it.