Planting our Garden

Life as most of us experience, or perhaps, all of us experience it contains some amount of suffering. It is also very likely that there is no way out of our suffering, and that it is best for us to drop this struggle against it. There is no winning. The more we fight, the more we sink. There may be occasional moments we are removed, whether they are healthy or not (drinking, drugs, lustful sex). This can play a big part in our ability to sustain ourselves in the long run. Will the escape just be a temporary leave from our prison, or will it be a stepping stone out of it? That stepping stone out is place by loving ourselves despite the pain we feel inside.

It is imperative to understand that loving ourselves does not mean that the pain will go away at that very moment. I repeat, loving your SELF will not ensure that the pain will go away immediately. But, what it DOES ensure is that you will have made space for positivity to flourish within you, instead of partaking in behaviors that are likely to perpetuate your suffering. Like a good gardener, the more we tend to our garden, the more likely it is to resemble what we want.

Say for instance you like Kale. You are a kale fanatic! But there is no clear space to plant Kale in your yard because there are so many weeds. These weeds are blocking you from what you want. But, with some sweat, blisters, sore muscles, and tedious attentiveness you make some room. It may not be a fun process — in fact, it might even be painful, but you’ve cleared a space for the beloved Kale. And how sweet it is to be planting into the ground, exactly what you wish.

Or, the opposite of this option would be to ignore your desires, and allow the weeds to go to seed, multiplying in number… Until your garden is not a garden, but instead a place of squandered potential. All you’ve got is potential, but no action to achieve it.

I find that my mind is no different than a garden in this way. I can let the “weeds” in my mind cloud my thought process and keep me from what I truly want in life. I can either sit with my self and tend to it, weeding out those little stickers that crop up, or I can not. There will be times of pain in this process. Yes, oh yes, there will. But, if it is the path of humility and compassion that I am walking, I will be led to something far more infinite than I could ever imagine. And yes, at first, it is difficult to have compassion and faith when, in life, we cannot see our end goal…and sadness and pain feel far from anything pleasurable to “work” toward.

Why would anyone in their right mind be working with the self, sitting with the self, observing the self, if all it yields is pain, sorrow? Good question. Understanding that there is no guarantee for anything in life, the answer is: because this is the way out. Why would anyone in their right mind work on the garden, knowing that they will develop blisters, sore muscles, and spend hours doing the most tedious work? Because it leads to something they love. And the things in life that are worth anything, require us to experience these blessed hardships.

Imagine the person who refuses to work their garden because they don’t want to develop aches and pains. Deep down, this person really would love to plant a beautiful floral garden, but because of the difficulties they must go through to obtain it, they ignore it by staying occupied with work, TV/sports/movie (entertainment), and other such things. Each season that passes, the floral garden dream gets further. Weeds proliferate, and their inspiration dissipates. This person may not be miserable, but, there is a good chance that they hold a certain emptiness within them — for the spot reserved for what they truly wish for in life.

Obviously, what you wish for in life can be anything. It doesn’t have to be a garden. It can be a new career, a new hobby, or a way of communicating emotions. You name the action that sparks joy within you…long-standing, healthy joy. Joy that comes from the heart. And if it is met by fear of the pain, blisters, and hardships that accompany it, then compassion must be allowed to flow in. And, at times, the most compassionate thing we can do is keep on moving through that pain, seeking to understand every possible aspect of it, having the trust that we will soon have a place within us to plant exactly what it is that we want.

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My Notes on an Unofficial Juicing Cleanse

I have done a couple different kinds of fasts/cleanses and am by no means an expert in this field. In fact, I believe, even when the “experts” explain the details it really comes down to your own personal experience with it. Interact with it. Observe your body. Watch what sensations arise within you. Take it easy on yourself, both emotionally and physically. And most of all, know you are powerful.

First, because I am on a juice cleanse (in my case, drinking between 75-128 oz. of juice a day depending on my body’s desires) does not make me weak. I have felt periods of questioning whether I will be okay on this cleanse (almost feels like withdrawl symptoms), however, the more I move into the cleanse the more I feel like I am actually the same. And remember, at any point during a fast you can return to your normal diet — it is not like being on a cruise ship out at sea, you can come back to shore when/if you want.

Keeping this in mind can dissolve fears surrounding our connection with food. We have been conditioned over many, many centuries that we need solid foods to survive; not only that, but we need a LOT of it. In the United States, we have access to a wide array of meats, produce, and grains. And what has happened as a result is a “craze” about combining foods together.

We have processed grains with processed sugar being combined with meats and produce like potatoes, broccoli, etc. A classic American meal: Burger (meat) on buns (grain flours, sugars) served with fries (potatoes in heavy oils) and soda (sugar, water, caffeine). What you have is, “indigestion.” “Not me, I eat healthy,” you may think. A classic healthy American meal: A salad (vegetables) with nuts (protein) and fruit (tomatoes/avocados). This is a less destructive form of indigestion, but still the same. This may not be noticeable every time, or may not even happen every time, or even to every one, but chances are your body is being taxed with keeping up with this barrage of diverse food. It is secreting enzymes and other acids to break down this in your stomach and small intestines, all to get just the vital essence from food. Imagine cracking open a boulder the size of a car to get the nutrients the size of a basketball as a parallel to our eating habits.

With this said, there are two things juicing does that I would like to point out:

It makes the vital essence of food easily available for the digestive system to absorb. When this is done, the body does not have to work for calories, protein (yes, juice has protein), natural carbohydrates (sugars), and best of all: vitamins, minerals, and precious antioxidants!

It is an automatic boost in fruit and vegetable intake. Mother always said, “eat your veggies,” and plenty of scientific research is out there reinforcing the incredible health benefits (vitality boost/longevity, weight loss/balancing, heart disease recovery, liver disease recovery, cancer recovery) of increasing your produce consumption. Regardless of these stories, the question is, “how do you feel?”

For everyone, the last question will result in a different answer. It all depends where you are in your “health” evolution (I put health in quotations because I wish not to create an argument that fruits/vegetables and juicing are the way to health — there is no singular way, this is just an option to explore). Because we are all at different stages, I recommend doing juice cleanses multiple times before you make a conclusion about how it works for you. The first time I tried a cleanse/fast, I found it incredibly difficult not to eat food; not because of hunger pangs, but because of the daily ritual of going to the refrigerator or cabinet. By the 3rd or 4th fast, I began to feel the detachment from food’s control over my subconscious mind.

I found one helpful way to respond to those oral cravings was to make myself a flavorful juice. Often, the fixation would disappear immediately. At times, my mind would tell me I was being weakened by this cleanse, and that I needed food in order to get myself back to being strong. In these moments I would lay down or take a nap: honor my body in some way other than eating. “That sounds like self-denial!” you may think. Yes, it sure does sound this way. Our mind is a powerful — and I mean, POWERFUL being. Once we realize this, we can realize the “tricks” it plays on us based on our conditioned behaviors (voluntary behaviors that we are used to repeating over and over). And, further, once we realize this power, we can learn that denying it for the sake of mental strength and clarity is invaluable. We will no longer controlled by what we “don’t” think. By this, I mean, we are no longer stuck in a conditioned behavior that actually requires no thought, hence, “what we ‘don’t’ think.” It is a reaction based within the mind telling us why any other way of thinking is absolutely wrong. This is a big reason why fasting/cleansing may actually be a great way to honor the body — treating the body as a temple, a god.

In our culture, we often disregard the body’s needs and desires. And often, we do this by ignoring or suppressing it in one form or another. Caffeine stimulants and “energy” drinks are a way to suppress exhaustion… yes, EXHAUSTION. Our bodies are exhausted, and crave healthy restoration, but we have stimulants intended to push it forward. Our mind and our culture has become the slave-drivers of our body. Another disregard for the body are drugs and alcohol. They suppress our fears and discomforts in the world: our inhibitions. And inhibitions are nothing more than conditioned behaviors; ways for our mind to hold us hostage from the simple things we truly want. And strangely, when we deny ourselves in this way, we become upset. Our mind becomes upset because we denied ourselves something simple. A strange conflict exists within us.

It has been said, alcohol is a way to energetically release what we are withholding; a way for us to honor what we want. For many, exists sexual repression and an inability to cope with the cravings for it, men and women alike; when one consumes alcohol, suddenly what has been repressed is released. Some get angry when they drink. Unable to express their discomforts openly in a sober state, alcohol releases it. Some get chatty, laugh, and have fun much like a child (they play). Unable to do so in a sober state, alcohol releases the inner child. Unfortunately, alcohol also wreaks havoc on our body. It destroys our liver as well as deadens every cell in our body with it’s acidic nature (ph balance of anywhere between 3-5.5).

Our culture suppresses the body’s essential needs! And, it is my belief that we suppress healthy practices. Observe, while you are on your fast, what things your mind will say that are in direct conflict with the body’s needs. Often, your mind will speak based on its own fears: not being accepted, not being loved, not being successful. These are not body-based-needs, these are mind-based. Mind-based fears will rarely harm you, but body-based fears are worth paying attention to (such as standing on the edge of a 5th story balcony with your eyes closed: probably a fear that speaks to your body’s need of not falling 100 feet to a cement surface). Mind-based fears will rarely, if ever, hurt you. Find them. Move into them. Move through them. Listen to your body. Honor it. And while you are cleansing, know that you are completely safe and healthy.

It will take some time to transition to a liquid diet. If you find yourself getting hungry, honor yourself! Do not let your mind take charge of being the fasting-police. It will be happy to play that role if it is a way to make you miserable. So make yourself a small, simple meal that involves little food combining. And, by personal preference, I recommend organic or healthy live foods. No Big Macs or “Happy” Meals. Laugh, if this does arise. I had a craving for Burger King when I smelled it one day on the fast. My mind’s memory finds this to be quite a joyous place to eat, but my body’s memory knows this to be indigestion heaven! Above all though, trust yourself. Know that whatever you are doing is beneficial for you… we are all progressing at a different rate. And after you satisfy your body’s craving for food, return as you were to your juice cleanse. Just because you had food does not mean you cannot continue on with the enlivening experience of juicing!

As a last note on exiting the fast. Be sure to gradually move out of your cleanse. Try not to bombard your digestive tract with a large quantity of food after this period of rest. If you feel like you have bombarded it, this is okay; love yourself, and know that all is well, and all will be well. You have already taken steps to honor your body with more awareness of its needs: there is more growth on the way, and you hold the power to continue this growth.

H-U-G-S

Can we ever get it right, people? I don’t want loosey, goosey, sloppy joe hugs anymore. I don’t want hugs that feel like I am holding a statue, either. I don’t want our waists to suddenly have polarized magnets around them that push them far from each other. I don’t want you to lead in with one arm — hitting me square in the chest with your shoulder. I might not even want to talk while we hug, but I know that I’m asking a lot already.

I want a real hug! I want an EMBRACE! If you are feeling particularly courageous, I’d like to hold you for a moment longer, long enough to feel your chest expand out with an inhale, and collapse with an exhale. I’d like to feel your body gently move into mine. I’d like you to wrap you arms around me. Heck, if you are feeling really daring, I’d like it if you leaned your head in to the right instead of the left, that way our hearts line up during the embrace. If you’re feeling excited, give me a squeeze. If you’re feeling sad, fall into my arms. If you’re in a hurry, stop.

I want a real hug!