So often, it seems, life is a lot like a mosaic. I was going to say ‘more like a mosaic than ____’ but I couldn’t figure out what to put in the blank.
What I mean is this. A few weeks back, while at the Monday market (in town, a cross between a farmers market and a flea market) I bought a Juiceman Jr juicer. Did I go searching for a Juiceman Jr? Did I need a Juiceman Jr? No. It was a Monday market impulse buy. (I’ve also got a great pair of converse shoes for $8, and the entire Chronicles of Naria for $2–other Monday market impulse buys–sort of like Cosco without the same quantity or price tag attached). My friend Dave Kamena (who happens to own a great sportswear company called Plastic if you want to check them out) pointed out the Juiceman Jr to me. “Hey, do you need a juicer?” I went and asked how much. $8. “It’s $8,” I said to Dave. “Is that a good deal?” “Yeah, those things are $100 in the States,” was his response. So I got it. What a deal. A juicer for $8 instead of $100. I got it home and wondered what I would do with a juicer.
Around the same time another friend had told me about a book she was reading, and how she was changing her diet and her lifestyle around some of what she was learning in this book. The book was called Crazy Sexy Diet, by Kris Carr, a cancer survivor who attributes her health to this change in diet and lifestyle. I decided to get the book.
Somewhere in this same timeframe I gave a friend a ride to the airport. During our drive up to San Diego from Baja he told me about ‘juice fasting,’ a practice of cleansing one’s system of toxins accumulated in our systems from the food that we eat– over dependence on animal products (many of which are raised with hormones, anti-biotics and other harmful, unnatural byproducts), processed foods, sugar, etc. “Hmm…” I pondered. Perhaps I could do some sort of fast during Lent, which at that time was still a few weeks away.
Cut to today. Day 21 of a 21 day ‘adventure cleanse‘ (I think that is supposed to make it sound more exciting) as described by Kris Carr in Crazy Sexy Diet. Though I didn’t do the ‘juice fast,’ for the past 21 days I have consumed no sugar, no gluten (no bread, pasta, flour tortillas), no alcohol, no ‘animal’ (no meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, yogurt, milk, ice cream, etc.) and basically no processed foods. I’ve added ‘green juice’* to my morning ritual, thanks to my $8 Juiceman Jr from the Monday Market.
Being one with a tendency to ponder (for which I both thank and blame my dad, who was wont to answer when asked what are you doing “Oh, just pondering”) I’ve been doing my share of pondering over these three weeks.
Ponder #1: I feel great. I don’t think that’s just because I have to convince myself that giving up so many yummy food items was worth it. I really do feel healthy, awake, aware, present.
Ponder #2: My cravings have been a bit on the crazy side. It’s only 3 weeks. It’s not forever. What’s the big deal, right? I found that some days all I wanted was a shrimp burrito (a la plancha) and a Negro Modelo from Splash. Their willingness to accommodate my rather un-Mexican vegan diet by providing me with rice and steamed veggies was nice, but nothing comparable to the deliciousness of the shrimp burrito. I miss the shrimp burrito.
Ponder #3: It was a bit awkward socially. “Do you want to come over for Spaghetti and meatballs?” one friend asked, only to quickly follow it up with “Oh wait, you can’t eat any of that, can you?”
Ponder #4: Now that I can see the finish line, the cravings have pretty much subsided. I actually feel like I could do another 3 weeks (which would be the duration of Lent, for those who keep track of such things) and it would be no problem. Which leads me to…
Ponder #5: Are the cravings really cravings, or something more than just food? Augustine (as in St. Augustine) says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God” (okay, that might be a bit of a stretch of an association, but go with me here). Lent, the 40 day season preceding Easter, is traditionally celebrated as a time of penitence, or of self-emptying, of making space and of learning to dwell in the present moment, to be open to God. Often fasting can be a part of Lent, from which has come the tendency to ‘give up chocolate’ or sugar or some other item.
Ponder #5: Is there something in the idea of persevering through our cravings that actually allows us to be more present, to ourselves and to the divine? I didn’t really intend that my 3 week cleanse was for Lent, though I did start it at the same time. And I wasn’t really planning on it being a ‘spiritual practice’ as much as a ‘healthy eating’ practice. But of course, the two are not always so easily separated from one another. Most of the time I stayed in my cravings “I really want ______” was what I thought, and didn’t go much further. Often I tried to fill the craving with something else. “I can’t have chocolate chip cookies, but I can have a spoonful of peanut butter with a bit of agave nectar.” But I kind of think that misses the point. What about the practice of not having exactly what you want, when you want it, and the precise moment that you want it? (I know, heresy in much of our American culture.) What about allowing some emptiness, that we don’t immediately try to fill?
Ponder #6: Will I keep it up, or will I revert back to my pre-cleanse ways? Part of me says “You feel great, why in the world would you change that?” (Part of my asks why I’m talking to myself as well…) But I also enjoy and appreciate food, and sharing a meal with others. Living in Mexico the no-gluten (have you ever had freshly made, by hand, flour tortillas?!) and vegan (birria, carne asada, huevos Mexicanos, in addition to my favorite shrimp burrito) aspects are on the tricky side, socially. Sure, if I decided I wanted to stick to them, I could navigate it and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. And yes, I will probably stay fairly vegan, fairly no-sugar, and fairly no-gluten, with a responsible amount of alcohol in the mix. But I like food, and I like sharing meals together with friends. I’ve managed to come up with some pretty delicious and creative vegan concoctions (if I do say so myself) like veggie stacks and vegan chile rellenos so I may also try to ‘evangelize’ others into some of my new habits.
Ponder #7: The final ponder, as 7 is the number of completeness. Ponder #7? It remains to be written, or, more exactly, to be lived.
*Recipe for Green Juice
Using a juicer, juice:
-One broccoli stem
-A bunch of romaine, arugula, wild greens or whatever other ‘lettuce’ you’ve got
-One pear (entire)
-two small (or one large) cucumber (entire)
-two celery stalks
-one small piece of fresh ginger
-half a paddle of ‘nopal’ (Mexican cactus)–I added this one, based on local availability. The nopal (uncooked) gives a great consistency to the green juice)