Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons from a Coastal Thanksgiving

A post-Happy Thanksgiving to all! I just got back into Seattle a few hours ago from 3 days of being down at the Oregon Coast. I had the privilege of spending a delightful 3 days with Charlie and his immediate & extended family. I ate so well (yes, the cleanse has been over since November 22nd, a blog post to come about that later), and got a ton of much needed R&R.

Well, all that was great and all but after picking up the dog and then getting a letter from the cell phone insurance people accusing me that I did not send my old busted blackberry back (which I did, like 25 days ago), I immediately flew off the handle for basically no reason except the anxiety of what reality brings after a vacation. I bolted out of Charlie's house, in a heated temper tantrum, slamming doors, and driving speedily up Greenwood avenue. Yikes!

I pulled into my apartment complex, my building completely dark because for some godforsaken reason, they can't fix the lighting. Arghhhhhhh! After making 4 trips back and forth, my car was empty. I dumped stuff, turned on the laptop to run some updates, changed into gym clothes, and headed to the Y. Ahhhh...sweating is exactly what the doctor ordered.  After my workout, I was centered in bliss again. I came home, started a fire, heated up some leftover vegetarian chili, and plopped down. Hmmm...what a crazy couple hours. I had to seriously take a look at myself in the mirror. What the hell just happened?

For starters, I was sad. I just left a beautiful home on the ocean, no obligations, no sense of time, no bills, no v-mails, nothing.

Secondly, I was ambushed when I came home and it was nobody's fault but my own. I get to choose how to be about everything, including travel and holiday stress. I get to choose my emotions and I get to be responsible for my boundaries and my self-care.

Being thankful for every opportunity came up a lot this week. I look back over the past year and grin ear to ear because I look around me at all that I have. I have a wonderful man in my life, a family who cares about me, a wonderful community in Seattle, a cozy apartment, good food, warmth, comfortable living amenities, and health. I am one of the luckiest women alive and I apologize to the Divine for the temper tantrum I had. I apologize to the man who just hosted me at a wonderful holiday celebration. I apologize to myself. Everything can be worked out with communication and I needed a refresher on that lesson. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Relationships: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The thing about a cleanse is that it turns your world upside down and inside out. Everything I thought I knew about food, love, and the divine washed away and my brain and soul made room for new knowledge. I am two weeks in and moving into my last week, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my personal relationships. I am not simply talking about my relationship with The Man (Charlie), but in a much broader sense, I am talking about my relationships with myself, with food, with my spiritual practice, my relationship with my emotional brain, my livelihood, and everyone in my life.

Let me start with my significant other: Charlie. First things first-the guy has been an absolute sport for the past two weeks. To no fault of his own, on the evening of October 31st, I basically told him about this impulsive cleanse I was going to start. Not gonna lie, he was a little perturbed. Of course, here I am, my young, immature, impulsive self, not thinking this decision through beyond my immediate self  and stomach. The poor guy had no chance to fight me so he just smiled (after some grumbling) and has been nothing but a stellar supporter for the past two weeks. (Note: He is always supporting me in my endeavors and I love him for that.) This is another big learning point for me in terms of being in an equal partnership. My decisions affect him just as much as they affect me and slowly, day by day, I am warming up to the concept. I am starting to slowly shed the idea that I am the only one I have to lookout for. I have another human being involved and he has a huge stake in my life and I in his.

Now, onto my new rockin' relationship with food. I am feeling more and more comfortable in my kitchen everyday. My mom is a fantastic cook. She used to teach Middle School cooking classes and I always told myself that I would never amount to to any domestic role whatsoever. Well, this has been my chance to reclaim my confidence in the kitchen and I am extremely proud of myself every time I get in there, chop, sautee, roast, blend, and juice. I look forward to making my meals now as opposed to dreading it. I am embracing this idea of food cooked with love will love your insides. As I step into the grocery store now, I am stunned by how much of our "food" is packaged, boxed, wrapped, etc. This has been eye opening in the sense that we are essentially living in a "fake" world food wise. I love my "veggie drive by" escapades where I stop into the grocery store, fill up a canvas bag with whole foods (veggies, fruits, whole grains) and am out within 15 minutes.

I got back into my vinyasa yoga practice during my cleanse and I have come to the revelation that I need to indulge in self-love and nurturing more and more. I hold my spiritual practice very close to my heart and soul for a variety of reasons but the main reason is that I just get to be with myself, my ego, all the good and shadow parts of myself, all the junk, and the divine all at once. Its very rare that I can spend that time with myself regularly so carving out the time is soooooo important. 

To make a long blog post short, the biggest thing I am getting out of this is that when we step back and get back to the fundamental parts of ourselves, back to the basics of food, rest, healing, fun, and relationships, we see that we lead some pretty sweet lives. I know I wouldn't give up a damn thing. I am so grateful for the wonderful man in my life, the love we share with each other, the food I can make that nourishes me, the job that I get to go to and make a profound difference, my family on the opposite side of the country, and my relationship with the divine.

Here's to the last week of the cleanse and stay tuned for more insights into the flow of life :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cleanse Report: Introspection, Learning Lessons, and Menu Highlights

Here I sit listening to Pandora post dinner composed of Sauteed Kale w/Garlic & Roasted Carrots and Yams. The dog is lying down, a vanilla candle is lit, and I am feeling so at peace. I am reflecting on the past couple weeks. I did it. I made it through two weeks. Wow. Just to recap, for 21 days, I am refraining from "The Big 5," including Sugar, Alcohol, Animal Products, Caffeine, and Gluten. Call it vegan, call it crazy, call it whatever you want. One thing I know for sure is that this has been one of the most powerful experiences I have had in a long time.

A few things about my personal cleanse routine...
*I have been sleeping in a lot. For my body, mind, and soul, I know that sleep is so incredibly important for me to function at my highest level. I am averaging 9-11 hours a night. The Man continues to affirm that I am the heaviest sleeper he has ever known. :)

*I have signed up at the local Vinyasa Yoga Studio and have been taking classes. This type of yoga is the yoga that saved my life way back in the day and this coming Monday, November 15th, marks the three year anniversary of my Yoga Teacher, Miya Musts' suicide. Miya, may you rest in peace.

*FEED THE CLEANSE! There are lots of ways to cleanse and detox. What I do know is that you feel way better when you feed yourself versus starving your body and mind. All it takes is a gentle shift and some upfront planning to get into this new way of eating and living.

*Notice the cravings and don't get mad at yourself. I have been doing tons of personal introspection into my relationship with food in terms of my personal emotions that surround certain experiences. I tend to live in "extremes." Extreme pleasure/happiness/good stuff or anger/anxiety/stress. When I am living in one of the extremes, I crave the burgers/pizza/carbs/sugar, etc.

Nugget of Cleansing Wisdom: Lots and lots of water. The biggest thing with a detox is drinking TONS of purified water. This helps flush you and takes care of your kidneys and liver getting rid of some of the junk. I also had lots of caffeine free herbal tea which seems to relax the nerves, especially from the sugar withdraw.

There is no one way to cleanse. Each human being has a different body, a different brain, and different chemical composition. I am drawing on my previous cleansing experiences as well as some new resources for my cleanse including:
-Kathy Freston "Quantum Wellness Cleanse"
-Adina Niemerow "Super Cleanse"

A couple things about the menu:
Below is a very small sampling of what I have been eating. I try to experiement with something new everyday. I think the biggest change for me in this cleanse has been having the confidence to try out new techniques and new foods and not being afraid to use my kitchen to its fullest potential.

When we as human beings participate in the cooking experience, especially from scratch, that positive energy is absorbed into our bodies and hearts. (At least thats what I think.) When we share a meal and we are eating whole foods without the contamination of processed junk, without arguments, without TV, we nourish our cells, our brain, and our heart.

I look forward to going full force into the last week with new menu items and exploring other cooking techniques. :)

Jen's Cleanse Menu Highlights 

Juicing & The Infamous Green Drink: I am a juicing queen! I pull out the Acme Juicerator and made green drink to last me through breakfast & lunch. Green Drink Ingredients: Carrots, Kale, Romaine, Cucumber, Apple, Dandelion Greens, Broccoli. Yep, definitely looked like something out of a stagnant pond and the comments at work about me drinking mud made me smile.

So the way my juicer works is that fiber is extracted in a basket from whatever is being juiced so the juice that comes out of the veggies & fruit has super packed nutrients. So, I juice one day and then make smoothies from the fiber adding in some natural juice, water, ice cubes, etc. The smoothies are a little more crunchy in terms of the ingredients. You can literally taste chopped up veggies. The good thing is that they keep you full and satisfied. I like them :)

Raw Salad (Romaine, Cuke, Tomato)
Israeli Chopped Salad (Cucumber, Tomato, Kalamata Olives, Salt & Pepper)
Apples, Nuts, Nut Butter
Fruit Salad

Lunch/Dinner Ideas:
Long Grain Wild Rice, Quinoa, Brown Rice
Steamed Veggies: Broccoli, Kale, Green Beans, Yams, Carrots, and more!
Soups: Mexican Lentil Stew, Tomato Soup
Black Beans, Avocados, Corn, Salsa
Herb & Tomato Risotto

To Have on Hand:
Herbal Teas (Caffeine Free)
Lemons (For water, vinagarette, hot lemon water, etc.)
Sprouted Bread (Can contain a small amount of Gluten)
Gluten Free Rice Chips & Crackers (For Munching)
Frozen Berries & Almond Milk (Yummy Smoothie)
Easily Accessible Nts, Fruits and Chopped Veggies

Eating Out During the Cleanse:
Veggie Pho Soup
Vegetarian/Vegan Thai Cuisine @ Araya's Restaurant in UDistrict
Root Table in Ballard (Asian Fusion Cuisine)
Garlic Jim's Gluten Free Spinach & Artichoke Pizza

I hope to get another post about my newfound relationship with food up here in the next couple days. :)


Friday, November 5, 2010

21 Days

On Monday, November 1st, I started a journey. I decided to do a 21 Day Detox/Cleanse. that five days have passed and here I am sitting and writing this with a bowl of soup near my desk, I smile and think to myself, "Can I really do this for another 16 days?"

Let me back up a bit. A few years ago in college, I teamed up with a few other women in my rec program in Colorado and did a 10 day fast/juice/cleanse/detox. It was an assignment for one of our experiential education classes where we had to participate in "Edgework." Edgework can be simply defined as the sociology of taking risk. Our project was to choose something that would put us "out there," pushing our own personal boundaries, growing mentally, physically, and emotionally, and create a dynamic experience that would lead us to a deep reflection. So, with that said, I became a bit hooked, not only on Edgework in general, but this "Cleanse/Detox/Juicing" thing. I bought a Juicer in college and since then, I try to do a cleanse at least once a year, if not more.

Why Do I Cleanse & Detox?
So I could go on and on and on about the research & science behind the cleansing, the pros and the cons, etc. But I wanted to take a different route on documenting this personal project, I wanted to make it personal. A real personal account of what its like to live a somewhat normal life (working, paying bills, having a cell phone, living in a city, etc.) and embark on something intense and deep.

By far, the most common asked question regarding this type of personal project is "Why?" Well, I like to cleanse for a variety of reasons:

Reason #1. It feels good inside. I can just tell that when I am cleansing/detoxing, I feel lighter, less tired, less fuzzy in the brain, etc. Sure, there is some weight loss that happens, but mostly I like to just get back to basics and turn my body into a lean, mean, green, dynamic, healthy machine! Not gonna lie, the first couple days are rough. The lack of sugar, dairy, meat, all the good stuff that I enjoy on a daily basis. They say to "lean in" and take it easy and plan, but for me, the cold turkey technique has been tried and true for me. So, with that said, let me go into more depth.

This is what happens to my innards when I cleanse: My little liver and kidneys get a much needed break from processing all kinds of junk. My digestive tract gets a break from gluten and sugar. My brain starts to stabilize on its own. My nervous system gets real again (more on that later), and my body can rest and repair more naturally than it usually does.

Reason #2: It's my version of a spiritual marathon.
I wouldn't call myself your average American nor would I call myself the world-renowned hippie of the year but what I can say about myself is that I value a strong spiritual practice. I lean on the left side politically speaking, I like farmers markets, non-profits, and sustainability. I do yoga, light incense, and chant. But on the other side of things, I like Cherry coke, cheeseburgers, fries, and twizzlers. I stay out late and drink beer in Ballard. I occasionally dance my ass off at clubs, and my favorite food would have to be pizza. I work a 40 hour week and rush around chatting on my cell phone, yelling at other drivers on I-5, and get in fights with my lover. (Just wait, I will get into how a cleanse affects a relationship).

The Cleanse gives me a break from all of that and ups the ante on being a little more mindful and aware of myself, what I am eating, and how I am "being" in my relationships and the world in general. I know that for the most part, I am on my own when I cleanse. The rest of the world is still living and I am unable to escape to a cave in India with a private guru guiding me the whole way. Everybody else is eating pizza, candy, coffee, soda, etc. For a chunk of time each year, I get to go on another track without really leaving. Its a great way for me to get the lessons of slow gratification, self-nurturing, love, and mindfulness.

Reason #3: I get to SLOW Wayyyyyy Down :)
When I cleanse, I can't push my body like I am used to doing. Naturally, the internal body starts to slow down and take a break so I try to do the same. That means not staying up super late. That means I don't push myself in the gym for 2 hours each day. That means working sustainable hours (luckily, I am an hourly employee). That means I can take baths during the week, meditate before work, etc. This rest is so important and vital in a cleanse because you are taking in no artificial stimulants and getting back to your body's original rhythms. This means 10-11 hours of sleep every night and asking for backrubs and tea :)

Reason #4: It's my chance to learn & be selfish.
I am a learning machine. I love to learn, read, experiment, try anything once. So when I cleanse, I get to try new foods, learn how to cook them, and push myself to the edge with being aware of my cravings and then move on from them. The mantra for the first couple days, "Just a craving. It will pass." When I cleanse, I am in charge of every choice. I mean, this is true in my own life but it really hits home when I am on the cleanse. I am careful of reading labels, I take my time when I eat, I can eat pretty much whenever because people feel bad for you, and I get to have that glorious feeling of being all hippy like in the natural markets.

The selfish part of the cleanse is that I get to only do things that nourish me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I notice I am more apt to say no to engagements or events, not out of spite or disrespect, but simply to restore energy and take more time for me in this glorious process. I get to journal more, do more yoga, breathe deeply, and drink lots of good herbal tea (caffeine free of course).

So, this year, this cleanse, right here and now is a way for me to look at my life under a microscope and look at what is holding me back, what needs to be eliminated, and what nourishes me, both inside and out. I plan on documenting for the rest of the cleanse, hopefully daily posts with menus. I am drawing on a bunch of different resources, including books, websites, medical journals, etc. and I am so excited to share it all with you!

So now, as I raise my glass of Green Drink, I toast to you "Happy cleansing!"