Raw Fairies: The Story behind the Mini B Cleanse


10291694_10152074708161791_2897529945003820036_nRead the Raw Fairies full review
I’ve got to be honest. As a general rule, I don’t subscribe to detoxes or cleanses, having experimented with many ways of cleansing the body from the inside out, both naturopathic, and prescribed. When I was younger, I enjoyed the challenge, the observation of the mental shifts and changes, and the body’s ability to adapt and transform. I still am fascinated with the ladder two aspects, which is why, perhaps, I’ve stuck with this week’s ‘accidental’ cleanse.

It all started with my increasing frustration and impatience in getting to know my new body since my liver transplant. The liver is an amazing and important organ that performs over 500 daily functions, and is the master of digestion. Having spent my entire life with a digestive disease, by the time I was 40 I had gotten used to the feeling of being bloated, being asked regularly if I was ‘expecting’, and the daily shifts of clothes being a size too big or a size too small. When I went into liver failure, however, my digestive system shut down and nothing worked anymore. Effectively, my body went into starvation mode. Because of my friend Rhian Stephenson, I started juicing and using supplements to keep my weight up, and I believe it was this that enabled me to continue to function in the world, and to continue practicing and teaching yoga. At the same time, I cut gluten from my diet and was doing the best I could to maintain and ethical diet, despite my doctor’s insistence on eating meat.

After the transplant, the first weeks were spent chewing on ice and vomiting. Anything put in my mouth was too dry to eat (I had to literally remove the uneaten food by hand, there was just no saliva to help start the digestion process), and anything that went into my stomach was forced out very quickly due to the medications. Needless to say, I lost a lot of weight in those first weeks, even having gained 15 kilos of water weight overnight after the surgery. My body was like a sponge, spewing out water from its pours but not able to ingest any nutrition.

After three or four weeks, I started on Soyade Blueberry Yogurt. It saved my life. Despite my mother’s efforts to stuff me with anything she could, it was actually the Soyade and Elderflower water taken in copious amounts that slowly brought me back. From then on it was daily deliveries from the local Thai and Italian restaurants (many thanks to Ellen Walsh Moorman and Emma Henry who were both delivery girls and mealtime companions) that gave me the strength to get up out of bed and start walking the stairs everyday, and throughout the night.

By the time December came (three months after the transplant), I was back at home, practicing yoga, and even teaching a few classes. In January, I was back to teaching and practicing. Ambitious and perhaps premature, but this is the way it went.

Slowly I was transitioning from being underweight on a diet of white bread, peanut butter Kit Kats-anything I could stomach, to my old diet of juicing, blending and eating a primarily plant based diet. Every week in clinic, I weighed in and was given accolades for each kilo gained. It was too easy.

By March I had made a full transition, and was feeling, once again, that my weight was out of my control as I continued to watch the scales climb. I was eating a plant-based diet, juicing every morning and afternoon, and practicing yoga, yet my body continued to morph into its new shape. While my primary concern is to be healthy, which in the western world of medicine is gaged by bloodwork, blood pressure and weight, in all honestly, I began to feel a bit hopeless.

I enlisted my friend Jaro to help me by coming around once a week for personal training. I had tried going running a few times, but realized my liver and the stent inside my body still felt a bit raw when shaken up. With Jaro’s help, we are now getting my cardiovascular system and muscle memory in some kind of order, and it feels very good to use my body in a different way. Long gone are the days when I ran marathons, but I envision a day when I might participate in the transplant olympics, and even encourage them to bring yoga to the games, not as a competition, but as an exhibition. It gives me inspiration to run, skip and do press ups on the bench.

Nonetheless, my weight has stayed the same, and my clothes still don’t fit. I began to wonder if I would do a week of raw, vegan food controlled in portions, I would feel better in my body. Perhaps there would be a discovery in the portions of the meals or the combinations of foods within a given day.

Finally, I come to the part about Raw Fairies. A friend had mentioned to me she used this service from time to time to get back on track when she felt she’d been eating the wrong things or too much, and I decided to give myself a little treat by taking the guess work out of my meals for a week. I went to their website and found it a little complicated, but signed up for a week of food deliveries.

10384460_10152070253516791_7187113262191912401_nOn Monday, the doorbell rang at 7:30am and a kind man handed me a bag. I took it inside, and was pleasantly surprised with an array of juices, smoothies and salads. Even though I had hesitated in choosing the cleanse, I made the decision that morning to take it seriously and to follow the cleanse to the best of my ability.

I’m on day four, and while exhausted and achy, I am surviving. I have had a flew blips, indulging in coconut water on day two, and on day three treating myself to a few raw vegan tacos at Triyoga, but then, I have been teaching yoga classes and Rolfing people all week. I think on a cleanse one generally takes it easy, and I felt if I didn’t give myself a bit more to eat, it would both be unhealthy and unwise. Afterall, it wasn’t my intention to do a cleanse, but to see how much a normal, healthy portion is, and in what combinations the food are prepared and presented so that I might incorporate it into a sustainable daily diet. It was my hope that this in turn, would help me to come to terms with my new metabolism, which currently still seems like a bit of a mystery. Nevertheless, it has been a very interesting psychological process so far, which I will go into more in my full review of Raw Fairies. One more day on the cleanse, but a lifetime of exploration and discovery.

Why our choices matter…


(If you don’t wish to read this post in entirety, please do watch the video below)
Yoga can sometimes appear to be a bit like a slippery ball of yarn; difficult to grasp onto one comprehensive meaning that gives a lay person an understanding of the enormity and spectrum of the practice. While the direct translation of the word is solid – to yoke or unite – the interpretations and understanding of what yoga is differ enormously, and most of the time only capture a limited aspect of an all-encompassing practice. Regular practitioners can generally agree on one thing; there can be a passion regarding the practice that is on the same level of importance of life itself; in fact, the yoga practice is embedded into all aspects of life.

My experience with yoga is that it is a practice of relationship: relationship with self and relationship with other. The state of yoga is seeing ourselves in all other human beings; treating every living being as oneself. The world most of us live in is not created from this fabric. Holding a job, a home, a family implies a sense of self, or ego (‘my’ job, ‘my’ family). These labels, or containers, help to define and separate, it becomes a way of managing ourselves in the world. Yoga, however, is the process of integrating.

To the outside world, or those new to the practice, it may seem that the teachings of yoga can be radical, or extreme. These are two different words, with very different roots. Radical actually stems from the word ‘root’, or ‘inherent’, while extreme stems from the root word ‘outermost’, or ‘utmost’. These subtleties can easily be mistaken and overlooked by the dedicated practitioner, but make a very big difference in the intention of the practice and the ability to be integrated in the world, and in seeing ourselves in other beings, versus living a life of separation that opinates and judges.

In the eight-limbed path of yoga, otherwise referred to as ashtanga (literally translated to eight, ashtanga, attachments or limbs, anga) there are guidelines for practicing yoga in an integrated way in life; not just on a man-made yoga mat, and not just as a specific time in the day when one works on the body-mind relationship. Yoga states that the body-mind relationship extends well beyond time and our body, for yoga inter-relates all of animate life; yoga states we are one.

The first limb of the eight limbs are the yamas, or restraints. These restraints refer to how we relate to others. While we still see ourselves as separate, individual beings (jiva in Sanskrit), the first yama states that we should be kind to all other beings. In Sanskrit the word is ahimsa, or non-harming. This is a rich topic because there are many interpretations and mechanisms for harming others, some without even knowing it.  For example, we may think non-harming suggests that it is better to lie to another being to avoid conflict, or to lie to ourselves to avoid a painful truth. Ahimsa does not imply lying, or making judgements (in fact, the second yama is satya, or truthfulness). Non-harming does imply compassion, the act of experiencing the suffering of others as one’s own. As yogis, we practice both not harming others, as well as identifying with others who suffer. The next step is an obvious one, and that is to not only not harm others, but to actively do something to prevent the suffering of others.

The link between practicing non-harming behaviour, consumerism and activism is a well documented topic, which my teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life have spent their life articulating. Most of us can agree that when it comes to consuming other beings as food, it is clear that harming is involved-one being must be killed in order for the other to eat it. However, there are many misunderstandings of the conditions the animals in the average factory farm are treated, and the horrific conditions the workers in those factories must endure. In practicing ethical vegetarianism, or veganism (the practice of not consuming animal products), it is a proactive measure to not participate in the cycle of harming. Even so, lifestyle and diet choice can become a fixation point where other relationship falls by the wayside. It is possible, for example, for ethical vegetarians to harm to themselves if left undernourished for a lack of knowledge about how to eat healthfully in this manner or due to specific health reasons. There also may be a tendency towards harmful thoughts, or even actions towards others who do not assume the same label. This often is guided by ignorance, of relying labels which only ultimately feed the ego instead of relating to the other being. Practicing the yamas and yoga in general, implies having the awareness to catch and eradicate critical thought when it enters the mind. It is a practice, and like all practices, we each do the best we can within our abilities and constraints.

What is important to note is that as consumers, the choices we make and our purchasing behaviour is powerful. The more knowledge we have, the more we may make informed decisions and implement changes where possible. If the choice is to eat meat, for example, know where it comes from and how the animals are treated; subtleties and small details matter. This small step may change the lives of thousands, not to mention your own.

Resources:
Abel and Cole
Planet Organic
Books at Jivamuktiyoga.com

 

Life lessons


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Sometimes it’s good to take a pause.
A pause to clean up shop, so to speak (the body and mind where we live and work); to reflect on why we are here, what things are bringing joy and what could be refined or cut out entirely. So often life lives us, instead of the other way around.

One of the things that has been a recent recognition for me is that when I first got out of the hospital after transplantation, I was very eager to ‘get on with things’. What things, you may ask? Mainly, the little things. Being a mother, practicing yoga, teaching. I knew some things would be different, but I could not begin to imagine how, or when the changes would begin.

At first, it was the physical things: the pain of having had a major surgery, and a new sensorial base. Sound, taste, smell, touch had all become foriegn. This normalized within about a month, as did my size, which exploded by sixteen kilos initially overnight, and then went in the reverse direction fourteen kilos more ( yes, a 30 kilo difference in 4 weeks!) After two months, I was released from hospital, and had worked through a lot of the changes in proprioception and general embodiment issues. Then I was reintroduced to life.

Initially I was overwhelmed just to see loved ones and to be out in the world again, and with my over-zealous, eager attitude, I was back to work in no time. Teaching not three months after the transplant, on the mat almost daily as well, I had no idea what was about to erupt.

It was my first trip to my mentor that gave me a taste of the first of many tears to shed. Big, unbelievable, heart-wrenching, village flooding tears. But where did they come from, and why? I was out of the dark, I had “made” it…or so I thought.

Not so fast, rumbled the heavens.

To make a long story short and to frame this post, it took me a little while to recognize that many of the decisions I was making in my life had become driven by fear. I’m not sure for how long pre-transplant I had been living this way, but suffice it to say it had been long enough, and the reasons were pretty obvious; so obvious I didn’t see it. Of course, we all have a fear of death, but the spectrum of hues that this can take on is endless. As I took on little by little in my new life post-transplant, it was quickly evident that living life in fear and making decisions based on fear- in any flavour- was no longer a way I wanted to live. Life, my friends, is too short.

I now am in the midst of one, of hopefully many pauses. A pause to see what is under the hood, to clean out the mental and emotional spider webs that come with just barely scraping by in a body. A pause to remind myself of what beyond kindness and compassion bring joy and happiness. A pause to remember to laugh and participate in extraneous and ridiculous things some may deem a ‘waste of time’. A pause to make cake for my son from scratch with hand drawn characters from his favourite book. You get the point.

While I’m still teaching yoga and Rolfing, I plan not to be doing as much while I resume my great love of eastern philosophy and ancient texts. I have tuned up the guitar and space has been made for a piano. Most importantly, days have been cleared to be with the people I love, and to surround myself the activities and the things that remind me of why la vie est belle. Et voila.

Lesson? Don’t put off what you love doing until tomorrow. If you question why you are doing what you are doing, question it a little bit more. Often the mind has a clever way of covering up our true intentions and our true desires.

Day One, Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge 2014: Vinyasa Flow with Mimi


Today’s practice, the first of yoga challenge 2014, was at Triyoga Primrose Hill with Mimi Kuo-Deemer. The class was busy with about 20 people in one of their large studios. Mimi started the class with some funny thoughts about the new year and her personal resolution which definitely lightened up the tone of the class–she wants to chew her food more slowly, at least 30 times a bite!

I haven’t been to Mimi’s class in a few years, but what I do remember is the integration of the Buddhist practice with other Asian influences such as martial arts and qi-gong. The class today was very similar to what I recall from my last experience, with her lovely, peaceful presence juxtaposed with her strong (and good) adjustments. The asana practice was varied with enough options for a diverse group of practitioners to stay engaged, but with a gentle and reflective hand at reminding students to adjust the practice to where they were today. There was some music in the background that kept things flowing but grounded.

I have never been particularly drawn to the martial arts, tai chi or qi-gong, and actually felt rather foolish trying to follow Mimi’s soft, elegant hand movements, but this comes naturally to her and is clearly her mark as a teacher; she beautifully blends the masculine and feminine energies of these eastern forms of movement.

Towards the end of class Mimi left room for practitioners to choose the last several asanas and ended with a long savasana. Overall it was a balanced class with a few more challenging postures thrown in, and I left feeling relaxed. It left me questioning two things- first, where the divide is between yoga and integrating other practices into the construct of a yoga class, and second, whether the purpose of going to a class is to be pushed by a teacher or to have the licence to take it easy? There is no ‘right’ answer to either question, which is the beauty of the yoga practice. There are no hard boundaried edges to a class called Vinyasa Flow Open, only a variety of teachers with their unique backgrounds, experiences and personalities.

It was the right class for me to go to today, and I will certainly go back in a few months to check on Mimi’s chewing practice.

Depending on my sore front body from surgery, I will aim to be at Celest’s class tomorrow at Indaba Yoga Studio.

Fear


After eight weeks in the hospital recovering from a liver transplant, I’ve finally been discharged and have begun to take stock of who I am and what my life is about. Being in the hospital long term and and going through transplant surgery are surreal experiences. The hospital, filled with diversity of very sick, sometimes demented people, is a place to be both coddled as well as traumatized. A transplant surgery challenges the entire physicality of the body and toys endlessly with the mind. Nearly all on my senses have changed, with smell, taste and touch being hypersensitive. My sense of sight has become worse and my equilibrium is slightly off kilter. It’s almost as if I woke up for the first time in a body, a new body, that doesn’t belong to me. I don’t know how this body might react to the outside world.

When I left hospital, I got into a full elevator from the 10th floor. I had to get out on the fourth floor and walk the rest of the way down because I was so anxious and short of breath. There were too many people, too many germs, not enough air. I’m cautious not to do too much or push myself, feeling my heart and lungs being tasked on a simple walk in the park. When my son coughs, I tell him to cover his mouth and I turn away, and the whole family washes hands far more than before. This behavior, as much as I hate to admit it, is based on fear.

The thing is, every day I was in the hospital (56, to be exact), I was told to avoid crowds, not to use public transport, wash hands often, and to avoid contact with sick people. As my operation and post transplant situation were complicated and risky, this message was reinforced at every opportunity by doctors, nurses and loved ones. Obviously, something sunk in. This, coupled with my body feeling as if it were in the twilight zone and my mind trying to gage the nerve synapses and new sensations, has forced me to take reintegration to daily life slowly. One step at a time.

Since I have experienced a lifetime of hospital visits, most of which were concluded by me bouncing back miraculously and resuming life as normal in no time, I presumed it would be like that this time around as well. Setting expectations, however, is the work of the ego, and even when done subconsciously it can be detrimental- it leads us to automatically judging ourselves and others based on whether or not we meet the expectations. This potentially leads us into a spiral of negativity which impacts everyone around us as well as ourselves. It can be a vicious circle as the more negative we are, the more we dig ourselves into a narrow hole; we can’t see or hear anything except our internal, preconceived messages from a narrow viewpoint. In other words, we are ignorant because we are unable to see the whole picture; we judge based on limited information and fear of the unknown. We label it, and then further label it with our reaction–like, dislike, good or bad. The fear of death never looms far away in a mind full of negativity, and voila! We are in the cycle of suffering. Life doesn’t have to be like that, of course.

The fact is that we are all going to die. Most of us know it from an early age. Why are we so scared, then? It’s the fear of the unknown, the fear of a loss of control, of power. Pre- transplant I thrived on this fear. Bungee jumping, anyone? My arm would be the first one up at the chance. Swimming with sharks? On my ‘to do’ list. Eating strange, exotic foods? Sign me up (but no animals, please). Now days I would be reticent to try any of those things. Ok, a transplant surgery is like trying all three of those things at once, so I can imagine I’ve had enough surprise for a few years. Perhaps the fear I’ve been feeling in the past few days is normal, like the doctors say, since I came so close to death and contemplated so realistically what it would mean to my son and loved ones. The goal most people I know have, however, is to live life happily for however long we have with as little suffering as possible. Ironically, this is exactly why we put blinders on in the first place and live in a kind of ‘ignorant’ state, pointing the finger everywhere but at ourselves, labeling things (a form of taking control), judging and familiarizing ourselves which feels safer than being in the dark. But truthfully, we are all in the dark. It is only when we come to realize this and drop the need for control and power, that we start to let light in. When we leave all our masks on the floor and strip down to the bare essentials of who we are, there is nothing left but light. Some amazing super power (we might call God) leaves us without suffering, without death. All the trying, the struggle to figure things out, the naming and deciding how we feel about it? Well, that’s the human condition called suffering.

PS II.3 Avidya asmita raga dvesha abinivesha pancha klesha
Ignorance (mis-knowing), egoism, preferences (likes), aversions; these are the five hindrances to being happy (in a state of yoga; enlightened)

So how can I get rid of these obstacles, how can I stop feeling fearful and get on with life? Well, what seems to work for me is to returning to the present moment. Come back to the breath. Let go, and let God. Ishvara pranidhanad va.

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