Barbara Emrys

Detox, Anyone?

I’ve been hearing a lot about cleansing diets lately. It’s that time of year, I guess– time to organize drawers and clear out closets. It’s time to sweep the house and prepare the garden. It also time to detox the body. So, in that spirit, I’d like to talk about a very essential Toltec ritual: fasting for the mind.

First, let me confess that I’ve done my share of dieting and cleansing over the years. I’ve put my body through all sorts of regimes (for its own good, of course!), but Toltec training changed my ideas about what was good for the body. For one, I found that thinking is the super-toxin our bodies can’t filter without help. So I started paying more attention to the food my mind was consuming.

We all know it’s important to make sensible changes to the diet. We know we should avoid eating foods that tax the digestive system. But the body is already the ultimate detoxing machine, filtering impurities every minute of every day. That’s how it survives. That’s how I survive. My body filters real food, actual water, and the air I breathe– and it does it nonstop. Plus, it has to deal with me. It has to listen to my meandering thoughts and react to them emotionally.

I spent my life underestimating the effect my mind had on my health. I ignored the poison-power of my judgments and the judgments I borrowed from other people. I knew thoughts triggered feelings, but being an emotional wreck seemed normal. So, I had to learn to choose my thoughts carefully and to recognize the reactions I craved (oh, yes…we have emotional appetites, too). Right away, the words ‘junk food’ took on new meaning. Suddenly, ‘overeating’ implied something very different.

We seem to produce emotions in bulk, the way we buy foods these days. We believe most of what we hear and read. We put faith in rumors and conspiracy theories. We get mad, jealous, offended. We accuse. We blame. We very nearly choke on the ‘foods’ we won’t stop eating. And what happens when the body shows signs of a breakdown? We blame the machine. We scold the body, especially around this time of year. Thus…the seasonal detox diet.

When it comes to our spiritual health, what comes out of our mouths is more important than what goes in. So we need to notice what we say. What snarky thoughts are making their way into our daily conversations? What self-criticisms? Of course, we gossip and we pick on each other, but what we say about ourselves is often worse.

Maybe, like me, you’ve been happy, cheerful, and taken defeat well over the years. You’ve handled tragedy with grace and you’ve been optimistic in the face of disappointment. Meanwhile, your mind kicks you to the ground whenever it can. Right? It happens, I know. It’s hard to stop the noise– the regrets, the rancor, and the uninvited memories.

There were so many times in the past when my thoughts brought me to my knees. It happened, but I always got up. I got up and turned the volume down. I reminded myself how to laugh. I reminded myself that I’m the one who thinks. I’m the one who produces the poison as well as the nectar. Instead of condemning the storyteller, I granted her mercy. I turned her into an ally.

An ally is a friend who offers protection and support. The mind can be such a friend to the body. Are you that kind of friend? You’re the storyteller. There’s always a story you can stop telling yourself. There are things you can do to help the body’s healing process. You, too, can grant a little mercy. You can make your mental narrative an active partner in the detoxification process (no pills are necessary). When the mind does its job well, the body can do its job a lot better. That’s common sense, but it’s also the key to mastering awareness.

So, while your body is doing its awesome work, please stop all the fussing and the agitation. Stop the judging. Clean up, dial down, and empty the cluttered corners of your mind. Replace bad habits with healthy ones. It’s simple. Take the time for a daily mental detox–– because you love yourself that much!

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