Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Flying to Sydney || 24 November 2009

I think there are few experiences in life that are more inspiring and invigorating than travel, especially traveling to a brand new part of the planet. I’m in the air en route to Sydney. This is my first time venturing south of the equator, and I feel like a child on Christmas Eve.

What is it, exactly, about travel that is so enriching and simultaneously unraveling? For me, it isn’t sightseeing or the usual tourist activities. In this day of Google Earth and travel shows, it’s too easy to virtually visit various worldmarks. I’m not interested in seeing the generic or the generically-deemed sacred. I’m interested in visiting the sacred within myself. Just as different people bring out different aspects of us, different places serve as reflections uncovering inner truths that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t be coaxed into awareness.

In this way, traveling is a deeply spiritual experience for me. Sure, it’s fun and interesting, and oftentimes delicious. But so much more important than all of that is the opportunity to get to know myself better. And to me, that’s what it means to be “spiritual”…it is having a relationship with yourself, making a conscious effort to understand all your layers, to own and embrace every part of you that is “good” and “bad”, and to then earnestly serve the world from this place of truth and clarity.

As I gaze out the plane window at the magnificent sky, the sun shining its ever-present light on layers and layers of clouds, I am filled with awe for this breathtakingly beautiful place we are blessed to call our home, our Mother Earth. And I am reminded of how small I am in the context of the planet…not small in a self-deprecating way, but in a way that overwhelms me with respect and reverence and, perhaps most potently, gratitude that I get to be a part of this amazing project of Life.

I am also reminded of a notepad I had as a child. This notepad had cartoon, personified potatoes on it, and the caption read: “In the big scheme of things, we’re all just small potatoes.” At the time I bought that notepad, I actually had no idea what that saying meant. I’ve never been particularly good with American clichés, as we didn’t use them in my family. So I assumed it was nonsense, like the nonsensical sayings you often find on Asian stationery (ex: purple blooms fancy in the morning bear). But now I understand that what seemed to be silly gibberish was a rather poignant and layered lesson. We are all small potatoes rooted in our shared Earth and supported by Mother Nature, with the not-so-small purpose to contribute to the flourishing of all forms of Life. And all of our seemingly enormous yet ephemeral problems themselves are small potatoes when considered in the context of all things, in the big scheme of love unconditional and life so abundant.

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Follow-up || 11 November 2009

I am nearing the end of Day 2 since I finished the Cleanse (or perhaps it’s Day 10 of my new way of eating!). Amazingly, I have not yet had coffee or a bagel! What?! I simply haven’t felt like it. I haven’t been able to eat as purely, freshly, and healthily as I would like, because I had to do some lunch and dinner meetings that I had postponed during the Cleanse. That is probably the most challenging part about this new way of eating: having to eat out / being on the road. I need to accept that, and to be okay with doing my best, especially as I am approaching a month of travel to commence in a few days.

My body craves and prefers fresh fruits and veggies, even if it means I have to go down to the market, come home and wash, prepare, and cook everything myself. It definitely feels like eating is more of a whole body nourishment now, rather than satisfying these demanding little taste buds of mine. The body is more intelligent than the mind as far as what is good for the body, and it’s like the Cleanse gave the body a proper opportunity to speak up and strengthen its voice over the chatter of the mind.

During the Cleanse, when I would go to the grocery store and see junk food, I was able to see my mental processing of the junk food. I saw the kettle chips placed strategically near the cash registers. The usual mental dialogue I have is something like this: “Mmmm, kettle chips. Should I get some today? No, I know they’re bad for me. But mmmm they will taste sooo good! No, I’m going to be disciplined today.” Of course every now and then, I succumb, and I might allow myself one of the smaller snack-sized bags (which usually end up just being a tease). During the Cleanse, however, the mental dialogue was much simpler. I had my rules, and I was committed to following them for the 7-day period. So as I was looking at the chips, instead of being caught up in wishing I could eat them, I was aware that I was wishing I could eat them. And it was like I was able to see the desire, and once I could see it, it didn’t have as strong of an effect on me. I didn’t need to talk myself out of buying it. It was so simple: why would I want to pay for and eat something that is not good for me??

Mindful eating really is a practice in self-awareness!

The ladies of the Ultimate Energy Cleanse (who again, have been soooo helpful with their responses to my barrage of questions) say that the foods from the Cleanse will serve well as a “foundation”, but that it’s probably important to add more protein into your regular diet. I definitely agree with that, especially since I am a fairly active yogini. I’ve also started to reconsider the Eat Right for Your Blood Type Diet, which I came across several years ago. I googled some information on that, and I’m going to apply as much of those guidelines as feel right for me.

All of this has deepened my understanding of and appreciation for food and for my body. And even though it takes more planning and more effort than calling in for a pizza, it feels so much better. In the short run, I don’t feel bloated, heavy, or tired after eating, and therefore I have a lot of fresh and happy energy and I don’t feel the need to caffeinate myself. In the long run, I reckon there may be bigger benefits to my health and wellness.

We’ll see!

Let me know if you have any questions. With BIG DELICIOUS LOVE! Leah xo

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Day 7 || 9 November 2009

Wow! I just had my last serving of Chinese Herbs and I am nearing the end of my official Cleanse.

I celebrated with a Mango “Daiquiri” this afternoon, and dinner was a cold salad (Avocado and Sprout Salad) and a warm salad (Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette on Quinoa). After I digest (at least 1 hour after a small meal; 2 hours after a large meal), I will probably treat myself to apple slices with chai spice chutney. ALL HOMEMADE FROM SCRATCH!

I am really very grateful to the ladies behind the Ultimate Energy Cleanse. I so appreciate their enthusiasm for healthy living and their belief in this Cleanse. They have well-prepared the kit; I’m particularly grateful for the stellar recipes they suggest. Each one I made was honestly so delicious! Also, I probably sent them an email every day asking one question or another, and they replied to each and every one in a timely manner. Great product; great service!

I’m even convinced that the uber expensive products are worth it. (If you’ve never tried grade b organic maple syrup, you absolutely must.) My father has always said, “You get what you pay for!” and I constantly find validation for this statement. When I was living in Santa Monica, it was relatively easy to go organic for everything. Even though organic products would still cost a bit more than conventional ones, the difference was usually nominal. Here in Hong Kong, however, organic is much more expensive. On top of organic normally costing more, most of our produce in general has to be imported. I haven’t done the research, but I bet the majority of our produce is imported. There aren’t many Hong Kong companies that manufacture organic body products either. So, nearly all organic products are imported. But I sincerely believe that organic tastes better because it is better...more love, care, and consciousness has gone into the final product. You might even say an organic apple has better energy than a conventional one!

That said, I am concerned about the carbon footprint factor. Ideally, one would eat organic and locally grown foods. For me, that isn’t feasible, so I wonder, while I am putting better quality foods into my body, what about the global body that I’m affecting negatively?

The best that I can do is balance all these factors out. I try to buy as much organic produce from China (although, who knows really what their standards are, right?!), and I try to be mindful about staying within my budget. I certainly don’t want to be living on the street because of my attachment to organic foods!

All in all, the entire process was way less challenging and way more exciting and delicious than I expected. I feel very light, clean, clear, and energized. I truly see the value and necessity of incorporating tons of fresh fruits and veggies in my diet. I think that’s the biggest realization (aside from the amazing realization that I’m not a terrible cook): that even though I was eating some fruit and some veggies everyday, I can do with a much greater percentage of it. I can’t imagine not taking most of the newly learned practices into my everyday life!

Of course…plus (organic) coffee…at least every now and then.

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Day 6 || 8 November 2009

Good morning to me (and you, of course)! All week I have been waking up, pausing at the foot of the bed for a moment of gratitude, and looking out the window to be face-to-face with the day. Then I walk over to the kitchen to start preparing my nourishing and nutritious meals. This morning I made my herbal tea with raw honey, juiced carrots/celery/parsley/cucumbers (which is actually much tastier than I thought it would be), and prepared a fruit platter of Japanese grapes, blueberries, and strawberries. So great!

Ever since I was about 11 years old, I have been health-conscious. Back then, though, it came from fear of getting fat. In fact, compared to all the girls I was seeing in magazines and movies, I thought I was already fat; in reality, I was a typically small little Asian girl. My family would tell you that I had very healthy eating habits. But of course at 11 years old, I wasn’t that informed on what was truly good for my body, so I usually followed the latest diet trend (that undoubtedly some celebrity credited as having given her the body she now had). I remember doing Cindy Crawford workout videos, and then eating a bowl of plain lettuce, which I didn’t know actually has very little nutritious value. I mainly looked to avoid “fat”, even steering away from nuts, avocados, and coconuts, which offer the “good fat”.

Looking back, I can now see that I wasn’t so much health-conscious as weight-conscious, and this mindset culminated in college. I was in a TaeBo class at UCLA (those were my favorite because I’d read somewhere that you can burn 800 calories in an hour) when I started to feel sick with dizziness, nausea, and a cold sweat. My heart was pounding in my chest, threatening to burst through my sternum. Luckily a friend was taking the class with me, and I told her I had to leave. She drove me home and tucked me into bed, and called my roommates to let them know that something was wrong. No, it wasn’t the exertion of TaeBo, but rather the diet pills I had taken before class. I unfortunately can’t remember what these diet pills were called, but they were advertised in all the magazines at the time. I am pretty sure I bought them without telling anyone, because my gut knew that my loved ones would surely talk some sense into my misperceiving mind. I stopped taking them immediately after this incident, but couldn’t bring myself to throw them out right away. This was my attachment to 1) wanting to lose weight and 2) not being able to see that I didn’t need to lose weight in the first place.

That isn’t to say that I was perfectly fit or that there wasn’t room for self-improvement; there always is. I was just thinking and going about it all the wrong way.

Soon after, I found yoga, and my focus and perspective on so many things started to change. In a nutshell, I stopped trying to change myself or to achieve an external ideal. I honestly stopped caring about losing weight or even getting rid of fat. My efforts turned to self-acceptance and self-love, the idea that everything – including me – was already perfect exactly as it was, and overall wellness and balance of body/mind/spirit. From this internal shift, the outer/physical changes I had been wanting started to happen naturally.

Naturally. I think that’s how Nature intended us to be, eat, and live.

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Day 5.5 || 8 November 2009

Feeling sooooo great! Dinner was salad with the RAW dressing I made a couple days ago and split pea soup. I also made a special dish of baked mushrooms for my boyfriend. The soup took about 3 !! hours to make, and smelled kinda funky, but ended up being really delicious! For dessert I made chai spice chutney and baked apples. WOW! Seriously tasty. I have never cooked this much before in my life, but I’m loving it. I always assumed I couldn’t cook, but actually it turns out that I am not too shabby. What an exciting bonus to the Cleanse.

I’m not feeling bloated anymore, and even after eating very generous portions, I don’t feel sluggish or stuffed. It’s rather incredible. People continue telling me I look very bright and awake and healthy, and I truly have much more energy than usual.

That said, I am envisioning what I will eat on Tuesday. So far I’m thinking organic coffee made at home, a bagel with loads of raw veggies, and for dinner, SUSHI! I do plan on continuing to juice fruits and veggies on a daily basis, and have full days where I eat exactly as I am eating on the Cleanse. I was already mostly vegetarian anyway, but now that I know how to prepare several dishes at home, it will be easier and more fun!

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Day 4.5 || 7 November 2009

Friday night at 3a, and I am still up taking care of the logisitcs of life. As a yogi, I “should” be up early in the day, doing my meditation / practice, but I am such a night owl. I think it is because the energy of nighttime is quieter and more peaceful, as most people have drifted into their unconscious minds of sleep, truly having surrendered their usual thought patterns. I am very surprised that I have had so much energy these past few days with zero caffeine. In fact, I daresay I have a more consistent stream of energy than when I enjoy my mid-morning coffee. But, today was the first day I wished I could have my ritualistic beverage of choice, along with a bite of the pecan pie with vanilla bean ice cream that my friends all enjoyed at a dinner party. Their sounds of “mmmm” and their detailed description of the dessert’s deliciousness did not help, but I am happy they got to eat it!

Practicing yoga has been pretty incredible. I definitely feel a difference in my body, mostly related to flexibility. I don’t generally feel inflexible, but on the Cleanse, I have been feeling extremely flexible. Truly putty-like. It also feels deeply nurturing to be in asanas…just yummy, sweet, good. The yoga high is extremely potent, particularly in the physical body. It was almost scary how deep my backbends were…but, I felt less grounded through my legs. For example, when I tried to stand up from Wheel – which usually isn’t a problem – I wobbled and opted to kneel down instead of trying to land on my feet. So it seems that I have more flexibility, but less strength.

I feel bloated, which I’m not sure is normal or not. My belly feels full of liquid, which it is, with the morning and night teas, the liver flush, the master cleanse lemonade, fruit / veg juices, and water. It might just be the liquids, or, maybe something else is going on.

So I’m done with the Liver Flush Days and moving into the All-Green Days where the focus shifts to the colon. That means, goodbye quinoa! And goodnight to you.

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Day 2 || 4 November 2009

I’m sitting again with a cup of tea; this time it’s a Lemon Ginger Herbal tea. Surprisingly, I haven’t been craving coffee at all! I told myself that whatever I’m “giving up” for this weeklong period, I can have again on Day 8 if I want. Put into perspective, it’s really not that big of a deal! Plus, raw honey in my tea is absolutely divine.

Yesterday was not terrible, but not easy. I was assaulted with a brain-bumping headache for pretty much the entire day. Luckily, I went to a Yoga Therapy class with Deva at Pure Yoga, and he taught these amazingly simple neck strengthening movements that momentarily completely alleviated the painful throbbing. I’ve also had pretty intense lower back pain for a day and a half now, and I can’t seem to relieve it at all. No conventional medicine is allowed, but I did go for an acupuncture session, which helped a bit. I think it’s just a process that needs to happen, so I’m trying to surrender to it. My healer-friend Peggy says that this low back pain relates to the kidney and gall bladder meridians, which hold fear, uncertainties, and frustrations. So if this temporary pain means an excavation of negative energies - good riddance!

Today was much better in general. I’m actually having a lot of fun preparing everything at home. I’m basically standing at the kitchen sink for the majority of the day, whether I’m washing, cutting, or peeling fruits or veggies; juicing, blending, or cooking; or washing dishes. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, to be perfectly honest, but it’s worth it! It feels great to know exactly what I am putting in my body, to know that it is all food that is very alive and nourishing, and without the torture of animals (although I did wonder today, how do we know that this sprig of parsley didn’t cry out in agony when it was plucked from its roots??). The recipes provided in the Booklet are excellent, and I have successfully made and enjoyed: herbed quinoa pilaf, fabulous RAW dressing, butternut squash soup, and roasted portabella. I’ve never minced so much garlic before in my life, but it really does make everything more delicious. Even my carnivorous boyfriend has been enjoying the healthy dishes, and is already trying to guilt-trip me into continuing to make them after the Cleanse (which I totally plan to anyway!). I’m definitely not left hungry, because I can eat as much as I want from the list of allowed foods, and with all the juice that I’m drinking (Master Cleanse lemonade, liver flush, fresh fruit / veg juices), it really doesn’t feel like there is much empty space in my belly to fill.

I will say that I am grateful for quinoa, as it is the only allowed grain (along with millet, though I’m not quite sure what that is). In this carb-conscious world, I don’t know many people who unabashedly love and regularly hoard bread as much as I do, so that has been a bit challenging, but definitely not impossible.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror earlier, and noticed that my face seems brighter and more alive, the whites of my eyes are super white. And each time I take a dosage of the herbs, I temporarily feel a bit high and lightheaded, which is always fun.

Trotting forward!

Ultimate Energy Cleanse || Day 1 || 3 November 2009

I think it was summer 2008 that I first heard about the Ultimate Energy Cleanse, from Seane Corn. She was in town (Hong Kong) teaching her Detox Flow Workshop. I really appreciate her as a teacher because she speaks about energy, the chakras, and “being spiritual” in such a practical even tangible way. This language works really well for me because even though I feel Truth in my heart and Prana moving through me, I am a child of the contemporary Western world, and therefore it’s helpful for my mind to be able to intellectualize the yogi experience. It’s also especially helpful for me as a teacher to be able to talk to people of all kinds of backgrounds, including the skeptical left-brained yogi. Seane is really inspiring in this way.

Seane’s teachings about detoxification go two ways: “It’s not just what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you.” Intuitively, I already understood the latter part, hence, working on non-reactivity, inner peace, letting go of negativity, etc. Intellectually, I have been back and forth about the former. When I first hopped on the yoga-bandwagon, I wanted to try everything that most yogis seemed to be doing. I went vegetarian, vegan, raw, organic-everything from soap to socks … I even bought an ૐ sticker for my beetle convertible (I never put it on). In time, I discovered that any sort of extremist mentality simply wasn’t me. I felt like I was being pulled out of balance. So I let go of these external expectations to be a “good” or proper yogi, and focused more on honing into my own inner voice of truth, and figuring out what was perfect for me.

I was always curious about fasts and cleanses, as people who did them absolutely raved about the experience, namely about how high they felt. Sounded great to me! But one of my friends told me that she had done a juice fast for 108 days, and at the end of it, she was left with little scar marks on her face, because she had pulled her body out of balance. This friend is absolutely beautiful and you don’t notice the marks, but her story definitely served as caution for me. Along with a very sad story about a fellow student from my home studio in Santa Monica, who had just come out of a 1-month fast, and was attending a gathering where perhaps he ate too much too fast (apparently you have to be very slow and careful when bringing yourself back to regular eating after a fast), and somehow, he died that night.

I realize these are extreme examples, but they – along with my own “extreme yogi” experiences – were enough to steer me clear of any fasts. I continued to learn about them, and cleanses, and watched many friends go through them (successfully and happily), but it just never clicked into place for me. I was aware that part of it was fear and attachment. I was afraid it’d be too hard or that I might fail. And, I was very attached to my daily cup of coffee. Partly I didn’t want it to negatively affect my teaching, as fellow teachers would go through cleanses (usually the Master Cleanse) and share with me how difficult it was to teach their 3-5 classes/day (which is hard enough as it is!). Partly, and I think most importantly, it just wasn’t the right time.

When Seane told us about the Ultimate Energy Cleanse, I was very interested. “You can eat, and eat a lot!” she said. You just have to stick to the guidelines, which are pretty strict, but sensibly so. You’re basically on a fruit and vegetable diet for 7 days, and you take Chinese herbs to flush the liver and cleanse the colon. You also drink the Master Cleanser on each day. You must omit, among other things, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and grains except quinoa and millet.

I went to California soon after Seane’s workshop, and brought the Cleanse back to HK with me. For a slew of reasons (read: excuses), I didn’t start on it right away. In fact, a year would pass before I actually started preparing for it!

About a week ago, I started feeling indifferent about drinking coffee. I know that might sound silly, but coffee is my favorite indulgence that I admittedly have a physical and psychological attachment to. I also started randomly remembering things I’ve learned from Seane, and I noticed I kept quoting her as I talked to friends. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I opened the Ultimate Energy Cleanse information booklet, and effortlessly decided that now was (finally) the right time. I felt no fear or worry, but surprisingly, I was excited!

I have about 10 days before I set off for another month of travel, so the timing seems good for my schedule. I did need a couple days to stock my kitchen with Cleanse-friendly products like Grade B maple syrup (is it really that different from Grade A, I wondered, as I compared the prices), organic first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (never knew that many words could be used to describe oil), and Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acid (which I’d never heard about).

So here I sit, with my morning cup of DeCaffe Roast Herbal Tea (from YogiTea), embarking upon what’s sure to be, at the very least, an interesting experience.