Spring cleaning is a tradition in almost all religions and cultures. Passover, the Jewish holiday where spring cleaning is observed is described in the bible in the book of Exodus. Numerous meanings and rituals have grown out of this bible story, including, deep cleaning of the home to make it free of chametz, or unkosher food. It’s a pretty big, detailed undertaking. Seriously, can you imagine if a more modern holiday like Thanksgiving, included reaching into the depths of every cupboard and drawer and clearing them of all dirt and crumbs and expired food items? Further, removing everything that is not Thanksgiving-related from the house! It’s a lot of work, but the simple ritual act of cleansing is so meaningful and useful for our mind, body and spirit it’s worth it.
Ayurveda recommends three cleanses per year, one in Spring, when Summer turns to Fall, and Fall to Winter. These are the times when we need to take a deep look at how we are living, not just the food we are eating, but what we are doing to balance and nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits.
In my wellness coaching training at the Mayo Clinic, we learned the importance of making small doable changes, which build self-efficacy and make the bigger changes easier to achieve. If you have ever tried a drastic cleanse you know you may feel really crummy during the week, but great when it’s over. Drastic changes, however, can really throw the body out of balance, and it is rare that we can maintain changes if they are too drastic (think failed strict diets and intense exercise programs). Instead, set yourself up for success and try these simple practices to begin a gentle cleansing process.
If you don’t have any movement in your life, try some gentle yoga stretches, or walking for 5-10 minutes each day. Even one minute of mindful movement can make a difference. If the weather is your excuse, march in place inside your house for 5 minutes, or put on your favorite music and dance! Any movement is better than nothing, and once you start you will feel the benefit and want to continue and keep moving!
You are what you eat… or as Ayurveda says, you are what you digest. To improve digestion and provide a gentle cleansing process for the body, drink ginger tea in the afternoons for a week. You can buy tea pre-made, or cut ginger into small pieces and boil it on the stove. Leave it there all afternoon and keep filling your cup, be careful, after awhile it gets spicy you may need to water it down by the end of the day! Ginger is a natural cleanser.
Most of the thoughts we think are the same as the ones we thought yesterday. To cleanse the mind, two of the most effective practices you can do are journaling and sleeping.
David Simon, MD, co-founder of the Chopra Center for Well Being, taught a particular method of journaling called recapitulation. It’s a simple practice, just before bed, get out your journal. Preferably pen and paper, not a screen. Write about your day, listing your activities in reverse order, “I am about to have a great night’s sleep (good intention setting). I got into bed. I brushed my teeth, and each time you come across something that feels “stuck” something you are still ruminating about or stressing over, take three deep breaths and let it go. You can say to yourself (or write) “There is nothing I can do about this now, if I need to do something about this situation, I will do it tomorrow, with a clear mind after a good night’s sleep.” I highly recommend this practice for two reasons: 1- it helps release any mental or emotional tension you may have built up over the course of your day and 2 – recapitulation helps cleanse and clear thoughts, and prepare your mind for a calm, peaceful sleep.
Finish your journaling practice by writing down three things you are grateful for, to lift your mood and relax you for sleep.
2 – Try to get a good night’s sleep every night. If you haven’t slept well for years you may need medical advice or a sleep coach (I can help!). Sleep is the most important health practice for mental/emotional well-being. Recent studies are showing good quality sleep helps with memory and can lower blood pressure and risk of diabetes, even support weight loss!
What is a spiritual cleanse? If you are a meditator, you are used to connecting with your “higher self” or soul, your source of wisdom. If not, consider this, do you have a concept of God, or universal life force in your religion or spiritual practice? Whatever the case, a spiritual cleanse is simple. Sit quietly and breathe deeply. If you are accustomed to prayer, perhaps say a prayer to the universal force with which you connect. Then, take a look inward and contemplate if you are living in alignment with your purpose. Are there people, experiences, anything in your life you can change to allow you to be more fully healthfully you? If you are a spiritual person, then you realize that you are on a temporary journey in your current body on earth and you are here for a purpose. Maybe it’s to learn something, maybe it’s to help others through service. Use introspection to see if you feel you are living your life in alignment with your reason for being. If you need help figuring out what that purpose is, I can guide you to some resources. But ultimately, through silence and meditation, you will hear your true purpose from the Source of all wisdom, that still small voice inside you. Okay, this isn’t a simple practice, but it can be the most fulfilling journey of your life. Take your time, this journey starts with a single step, sitting quietly and listening.
When you integrate cleansing practices into your life, including mindful movement practices like yoga, you keep everything moving, increase your health and well being and keep your vitality strong.
Let me know how it goes, and happy cleansing!