A Different Kind of Spring Detox
“Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems.
Rainer Maria Rilke
In this part of the world we celebrate the Spring Equinox this week. Renewal, growth and beginnings all come to mind when we think about spring. For the winter-weary, spring brings relief that the harsh weather is close to an end. The promise of spring is fulfilled from the first crocus sightings pushing their way through the remaining snow.
The days are getting longer and our thoughts turn to the outside world. Getting out in nature, planning outdoor activities and planting gardens – these are among the delights of spring.
In recent years, the coming of spring also brings dozens of articles on getting into physical shape, reorganizing closets and doing the ritualistic spring cleaning of our homes. Every year there is more advice available on eating lighter – and not eating at all to fast from winter’s heavier caloric loads.
Though the methods may have changed, the rituals many of us practice at this time of the year have common threads to the ancient world. Take fasting – nearly every traditional culture practices some form of ritual fasting, usually for a religious or spiritual purpose. For Christians, even though fasting during Lent is considerably more lenient than in ancient times (and rarely for 40 days) when all animal products were forbidden, it’s still part of the religious tradition.
In Judaism, there are two major fast days that last just over 24 hours and the Muslim fast for Ramadan (which is either 29 or 30 days) requires abstention from food and drink from sunrise to sundown during that period. In some Pagan and Wiccan traditions, fasting is a way to get closer to the Divine. While the express purpose in most traditions is spiritual, it’s hard to imagine that early civilizations did not realize the overall cleansing and health benefits of these rituals.
In the Hindu tradition called Chhath, the fasting in observance of the Sun God Surya, various steps of purification are meant to detoxify the body and the mind. The process of Chhath is done in gratitude for the sustenance of life on earth and to prepare the mind to receive an infusion of cosmic energy. This energetic jolt can also lead to the experience of Kundalini Shakti – Shakti being the one energy out of which all other energies arise – the ultimate creative force.
While a fast, detox, mental cleanse or ritual purification can be done at any time of the year, there’s something energizing about spring as it pulls us forward with its promise of new life.
It’s a great time for juice detox drinks, clearing out your clutter and even considering a feng shui treatment for your living and work space (many businesses in Asia apply feng shui principles to their design and decor). On a micro level most of us have experienced feeling better after emptying out even a single drawer! But the one thing to place at the top of your Spring To-Do list is put yourself on a mental/emotional fast for as long as you can.
Every Day Rejuvenates You
Mental clutter accumulates. Stresses build. Old worries stick around. Negativity creeps in despite our best intentions. Our thinking gets stale. It’s simply the process of living.
When we do a mental and emotional fast – we begin to clear ourselves of the debris that’s been building up and in many cases, obstructing us from moving forward. We get emotionally sluggish – and need to throw open the windows and doors to let the fresh air and new energy in.
The mental and emotional cleanse is simple – but not necessary easy. It requires you to pay close attention to your thoughts, as they arise, and make a choice not to dwell on any that you decide are “negative.” You’ll be tempted to “problem-solve” some issues – but unless you have to – don’t. The brain loves to figure things out – the fast is a break from compulsion. It’s a stepping back process.
You don’t need an “agenda” to fast. You may want to clear your mind, improve your focus, sharpen your attention – that’s a good thing – and a likely outcome of any mental and emotional cleanse. But you will benefit most from a mental detox if you allow yourself to take a rest from figuring anything out. You will be surprised at what surfaces, without analysis.
If you fast for just one day, you’ll benefit. Every day you fast will rejuvenate you by breaking old thinking habits and getting you off of auto-pilot reactions.
Here’s the Mental Detox Recipe
- Fast from Complaining in any Form. This one’s a real challenge. We don’t even notice many of the tiny things we complain about. It’s a real eye-opener to see how easily we slip into complaining when we do the fast.
- Fast from Blame. This one’s often closely associated with complaining. Someone or something is always to blame for our circumstances or the state of our workplace – our relationships – the world.
- Fast from Criticism. Cold turkey it. In any form. See what happens. This includes self-criticism.
- Fast from Worry. For some, this one’s a real crucible. Chronic worriers may not be able to stop completely, but just notice when your mind takes you to a worry and step back from it. Just choose to let it go. Worry thinking is almost always future-based, so notice how often your thinking goes to future scenarios and then pace it back to the now.
- Fast from Judgment. I always feel the need to clarify here because many people equate judgment to rational discernment. I am referring here to judging people and things indiscriminately. Judgment tends to separate us from our more giving and caring emotions. It often triggers our anger, frustration and resentment. Try curiosity on for size as a substitute – even if just for the fasting period.
- Fast from Labeling & Name Calling. Who me? Name-call? Label people? If you fess up during the fast you’ll benefit even more. He’s a loser. She’s a liar. He’s a nut case. She’s a manipulator. Apply this rule even when listening to the news. (if you choose to watch the news during your fast)
You’ll boost your mental fast if you also do the following:
- Fast from Electronic Stimulants. Tech. Social Media. As much as possible. This includes TV.
- Spend More Time Outside. Research shows that time spent in nature benefits your emotional state.
- Rest Deeply. Improve the quality of your sleep. Do some form of gentle body movement like restorative yoga and Qigong.
- Seek out the Beautiful. There’s a lot of garish, ugly stimulus in this culture. Define what beauty means to you and relish it.
One last thing – if you decide to do a mental fast, don’t tell anyone about it until you’re done. Unless you are sure you’ll get unconditional support from another person, don’t clutter your process with their thinking on the subject.
A mental fast will reveal the content of your daily thoughts. Yes, it’s ok to write what you experience, as long as you aren’t trying to “figure it out.” Just trust the process of doing it. Fasting will help quiet down the incessant chatter of your mind; strengthen your skills of focus and patience. These are the practical components of becoming more mindful.
Enjoy the refreshments!
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, subscribe, share, like and tweet this article. It’s appreciated.
Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants
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