Today I am embarking on a 21-day cleanse.
I celebrate the current popularity of cleanses because I know how powerful it is to take time away from our usual habits for deep, mindful attention to nourishment. As well, the ritual aspect of a period of limitation offers beautiful opportunities for self-reflection and connection to spirit.
On the other hand, the popular concept of a “cleanse” can refer to any number of practices which focus on deprivation and often end up being more self-punishing than self-loving. And I don’t really love the term “cleanse” itself. We should be starting from a place of deep self-care and a desire to maximize our enjoyment of life and our ability to nurture ourselves, not from a place of shame or a sense of fearfulness that we may “need cleansing.”
So while I am wholeheartedly in favour of a loving time-out to support our health and assess our habits, I’m less enthused about anything that might promote shame-induced deprivation. And let’s be honest, it can be a thin line.
It’s not so much about the book, diet, or program you choose to follow for your cleanse – it’s much more about your attitude towards yourself, your goals and intentions for the cleanse, and whether or not you have the ability to listen deeply to what your body and spirit really need. Simple self-reflection is the key to getting it right. Here are some questions for you and your journal if you are considering embarking on a cleanse:
- What are my goals for this cleanse? Are they realistic and self-loving? I like goals that focus on positive feelings “I want to feel more bright and connected to nature,” or realistic, attainable and self-loving physical goals “I want to sleep more soundly.” I’m not so keen on goals that focus on soley on appearance “I want to be thinner,” or are unrealistic “I want to completely heal my chronic health condition.” If your goals fall into the latter category, can you think about translating them into positive feelings and attainable baby-steps? “I want to feel lighter on my feet,” “I want to be slightly less dependent on my asthma inhaler.” Honestly, a healthy cleanse will encourage weight loss, and will improve some chronic health problems, and that’s all good! Keep that on your radar! But putting your spirit and your positive emotions at the center of your endeavour will make everything gentler and more loving, I promise.
- Is this the right cleanse for me, or am I trying to do too much, too fast? You know this one – start where you are. I already eat a mostly plant-based, mostly local, organic whole-food diet, so it’s not a huge stretch or me to try 80% raw vegan for three weeks. It would have been a huge stretch, and way too hard on my body and emotions, for me to try this back when I was a fast-food eating city-dweller. Be gentle with yourself! Maybe all you need to do right now is replace your afternoon latte with a green juice. Keep it real and self-loving. Focus on the positive feelings.
- Am I motivated more by love, or by shame? Whew, I know! This one can be hard to look at. The trouble with shame is that we bury it. We hide it from ourselves. This is where it can help so much to pay attention to how your feelings actually feel in your body. You know what love feels like – that softening around your heart, that sense of spaciousness in your rib-cage, your shoulders relaxing and releasing as your lips curl into a smile. This is what loving decisions feel like! Sadly, you also know what shame feels like. That icky sinking feeling deep in your gut, the constriction of your chest, your eyes and chin dropping as your shoulders tense up. That is what shame-based decisions feel like. Listen to your wise body – she will let you know where your decisions are coming from. If you embark on an endeavour motivated by shame, you will find ways to sabotage yourself. You will feel deprived. Your health will not be enhanced. If you set out with love, your chance of success dramatically rises, and you are setting yourself up to feel happy and joyous about your actions. The positive feelings alone will have a good impact on your health!
Later in the week, I’ll be sharing more about my own goals for the next 21 days, and I’ll be checking in regularly here and daily on Instagram, if you’re interested in my progress! If you’d like to join me, consider committing to practice one positive healthy habit for the next 21 days, and let’ see where we can get! (Share it in the comments for accountability!)
About Bronwyn: Bronwyn Simons’ vision is of a world where we are all able to live daily lives of deep connection, purpose, and joy. She’s an artist, writer, teacher, and retreat leader whose work has touched and transformed hundreds of women’s lives for the better. Her next big adventure is the Artful Living in Mexico retreat at gorgeous Hacienda Mosaico in November 2014. The Artful Life Blog provides a daily touchstone for women seeking to live more soul-satisfying lives.