The day I flew to Louisville, Kentucky marked the end of a week-long cleanse, which coincided with Passover, the Jewish festival of liberation. I wanted to be free of any bad juju from my past that might unconsciously keep me from diving head first into an adventure-rich but drama-free life in whatever delectable next chapter is waiting in the wings. (Disclaimer: I was a Girl Scout dropout — they were like goody-goody mean girls — but being prepared for whatever sounds damn sound.)
Since the first step in the healing modalities I’ve studied have often been about releasing, I thought that a gentle cleanse would do me even better than matzoh ball soup. Plus my friend James Hyman, a musician and master healer, was staying with me the entire length of the holiday. I was able to learn a form of emotional release bodywork he’s developed over the past 30 years. The timing seemed ideally positioned.
The cleanse was a highly modified version of an Ayuvedic series of five treatments called panchakarma. I ate a simple diet of basmati rice, split yellow mung beans, spices and veggies, complemented with daily internal and external oil therapy (I used coconut oil for both, but more common is ghee for the former and sesame or neem for the latter), used a neti pot, started my day with dry brushing my skin and doing a warm oil self-massage, as well as a perfect amount of yoga, breathwork, and meditation. (Perfect for me is an active practice of about 45 minutes to an hour in the morning, and either another active practice in the early evening, or an hour or so of yin yoga.) The second to last night you swallow a tablespoon of castor oil chased with juice (which means you’re up at 2 am enjoying the night view from your toilet). The last night you’re supposed to do an oil enema before you go to sleep, but that didn’t sound quite as appealing as rubbing warm coconut oil all over my body, so I skipped it.
I cannot tell a lie: there were moments in there where my energy hit a brick wall and I needed to immediately lay down or eat my left foot. But it also worked its magic: my mind felt clearer, my skin softer, and my body a bit lighter. It was like getting a reset on my whole system. My cravings stopped vying for my attention — so much so that I can see they were cravings, rather than clear choices.
Now, I’m hardly saying that I didn’t sample Kentucky’s finest bourbons or homemade goat cheese or locally produced grass-fed bison steaks. But as Aristotle said “all in moderation.”
(A funny aside is that my friend Franny, who I met the first day of first grade and lived with for a few months after my parents died, recently got back in touch after a years-long hiatus. She has a memory — unshared by me — of my mother making thick shakes concocted out of ice cream and raw eggs and who knows what else to help me gain weight. My stick figure earned me nicknames such as “bag of bones” and “Holocaust survivor.” I’d love to think my mother is getting a good laugh comparing her intentions and mine, and her shakes to the green smoothies I’ve been whipping up.)
I went to the bluegrass state to sit on a grant review panel for the Kentucky Foundation for Women where I assessed proposals related to literary arts and activism, all of which hope to bring the word to women in prisons and middle schools, sparsely populated counties and university campuses. This is the second time I’ve reviewed proposals for them, and they are just rock-star awesome.
Kentucky is chock full of artists and artisans of all varieties, and drooling with charm. (Don’t be fooled by a place’s political leaders: check out their creative capital instead.)
Maybe it’s always true that when you’re treated so well, you can’t help but to fall in love. (Well, at least when you get tired of the predictability of Bad Boys.) The Foundation could have easily told me to take cabs and save receipts, but instead they kept scooping me up as though I was a member of the family.
Sue scooped me up from the airport (“I’ll be driving a Toyota and wearing a straw hat”) and hand delivered me to a slightly over-the-top B&B — we’re talking stain-glass windows and lace curtains. My room came with a six-foot claw-foot cast iron tub (I easily could have fit in a dear friend) — which washed away the travails of traveling during a spew of tornados. After rubber duckie time, I got scooped up by Judi, KFW’s brilliant and funny director, for a delightfully meandering conversation over a meal that included previously prohibited foods of wheat, dairy and red wine. The next morning Rae scooped me up to bring me to the office, where I met the other reviewers, women with spunk and insight and humor. And then my friend Beth scooped me up and brought me home with her where her hound dog loved me so much, it made him howl every time I walked in the room. Her husband was pretty cool too, listening to me ramble on with my peripatetic stories. (Hmm. Much like you, dear reader.)
I got scooped up so much, the whole weekend would have been like Driving Miss Daisy except that Beth loaned me her car so I could visit my dear friends Arwen and David and their daughter Phoebe on their delightful 200-acre farm. (Phoebe was very excited to show me her self-published books which include both text and drawings, and largely focus on her great love for and adventures with her multiple stuffed pigs, all of whose names alliteratively begin with the letter P. She showed me the baby goats and we went morel foraging; I also got to see her play an excellent soccer game, in which her team won 6-0. Not that winning matters, my sweet darlings.)
My trip was bookended by William & Kate’s nuptials and Osama Bin Laden’s death, which I learned about by hearing Diane Sawyer and George Stephanolophous gush about how justice had been served. The week before, Barack Obama released his birth certificate. So birth and marriage and death the week after the celebrations of the Resurrection and Liberation from the Places of Our Confinement.
Buddhists and yogis generally take a different approach than was evident by the frat-boy parties at Ground Zero and in front of the White House. Nothing is 100% black or white — or yin and yang (or cleanse and bourbon, as the case might be). The lesson and test is to stay present, and keep observing what is real in this moment — and in this one.
I’ve been surprised lately to learn that sometimes the rough things in my life — stolen wallets, fender benders, bouts of doubt — are just ways of the energy being shaken up. After close calls with predators, rabbits will find a safe space and shake and shake until all the fear and bad juju is out of them, and then off they go to the rest of their lives.
I too am off to the rest of my life, which for now appears to be on a upswing. I’m trying to remember every day to celebrate it and save some of what’s good in a place deep inside, so that the rainy days, which are bound to happen, won’t feel quite so harsh.
As always, I love hearing your thoughts.