Recently I was looking at childhood photos. There are rifles and fishing poles leaning against the trees in the background. As a family, we focused on food: hunting it, fishing it, preparing it.
We had chickens as well as a vegetable garden and fruit orchard. I can hear my dad’s enthusiastic chime, “Two fistfuls, Teal. Eat up—you need your ‘go power,’” a persuasion directed toward me to eat the cooked meat, freshly skinned and slaughtered in our front yard. But after staring into the dead black eyes of the deer hanging from our oak tree, I wasn’t too eager.
At 13, I mustered up the nerve to declare myself vegetarian. It was truly going against the habits of my household, though it wasn’t completely out of the blue, since my mother’s parents had been lifelong vegetarians.
Although the culture was also changing at that time (remember Solar Winds, the Ojai health food store?) I still became the target of constant chiding and “vegetarian” jokes—barbs that I had previously watched my grandmother turn her head and ignore.
In my 20s, my lifestyle was that of party hardy. I drank. I smoked. And my “go power” was a vegetarian diet of carbohydrates drenched in cheese. It was around that time, I clearly remember, that my stomach started to ache. I became concerned when the pain wouldn’t go away.
A friend recommended that I see a colon hydrotherapist and “get cleaned out.” Elimination isn’t something that I really wanted to even think about, much less share with someone else. So I was the most surprised, and terrified, when I actually made an appointment. My first colonic led to a seven-day juice fast, which became a yearly ritual that to this day I gratefully continue.
If my mind were running the show, I would never be able to fast. It is my body that knows how great it feels to give it a rest. A few weeks before a fast, I prepare. I notice my relationship to food at a deeper level. I lighten up my schedule. I lighten up my meals. I’ve been known, upon thinking about what is to come, to change my mind and postpone the time and effort for a later date. At times, I’ll fast for a few days and then stop, though I absolutely love to spend at least a full seven days allowing my body a complete hiatus from the job of digesting.
Colon hydrotherapist Bobbye Rotello has explained to me that digestion begins in the mouth. We eat food, we absorb the nutrients, we eliminate. Even when we brush our teeth regularly, we still periodically have our teeth professionally cleaned to remove the built-up plaque, which can cause bacteria, which can lead to disease.
The colon, at the other end of this same digestive tract, builds up too. The colon houses both good and bad bacteria, and a buildup of the bad bacteria can prevent absorption of the nutrients we need to sustain a healthy balanced system. A hydrotherapist uses water to “wash” the inside of the colon and help move out stagnation and debris. Along with an alkaline juice diet in the system, the old stuff gets the chance to let go. We soak up nutrients easier, and the “go power” becomes readily available to the bloodstream.
For me, each cleanse has been different—yet there is a similar underlying structure. The first couple of days are usually the most difficult. I miss my food! Once I overcome the sensation of wanting to eat, I am home free. Time to let the mind, body, emotions and spirit roll. And that, they do! I am referring to the many ups and downs of a detox. Anger, sadness, the gamut of emotions as well as headaches, rashes, irritability, a spectrum of physical symptoms that can go on for minutes, hours or days.
As the negative symptoms subside, I begin to see and feel clarity around life. Life in general becomes so incredibly beautiful. Juicing fresh veggies and simply breathing more deeply become revered events. Being led to insights, answers to unresolved questions and nudges to change are some of the benefits, as well as an ultra-keening of the senses. And gratitude. The utmost feeling of gratitude is probably the most treasured reason why I go through the trouble to cleanse.
While coming out of a fast, I allow my body to show me the way. Usually it steers me toward a raw vegetable and nut diet, sometimes for months. Then, bit by bit, cooked food. Over the past 22 years, I have slowly omitted things from my diet that I never thought I could live without on a daily basis. The dairy that I depended on for protein, I’ve replaced with nuts. The ever-present sugar and wheat no longer appeal.
In recent years, I have had the fortune to serve as a guide to others as they venture into their first cleanse. My passion around this ritual doesn’t exactly rub off, say, around the third day of not eating, as they scowl at me with a look that begs, “Exactly why did I want to do this?” That is when I hand them a fresh green juice, clink the edge of their glass with mine and remind them that the only way out is through.
Teal Rowe was born in Ojai and raised with ranchers on one side of the family and mystics on the other. Today she can be found making and selling her artwork at 1623 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura; 805-660-4605 TealRowe.com