72. And on the eight day.

And just like that, it’s the eight day and in a couple of hours, and we will break our fast.  That feels like the beginning of a sermon at St. Matthews, which is not completely inappropriate as there have been moments where I’ve worshipped things – like food, and the sun and the good health of my body.

Can things be hard and easy at the same time? This was. I can honestly say that while my tummy rumbled a lot, I felt not a single hunger pang. I lost physical energy but could rest. My brain became clearer and more alert every day. It wasn’t druggie as an acquaintance had told me it might be, and I had no harsh detox symptoms. Strange things happened in the toilet which, even more strangely, I found greatly satisfying. My skin is clear, my nails are stronger. I am freer somehow. I am even learning how to breathe again (who’d have thought I could so miserably fail Breathing 101??)

I am thrilled to note that I haven’t missed alcohol. I am thrilled to note that I haven’t missed coffee. It’s the sociability and the rituals that surround them I yearn for. The food visualisations are for fresh salads, haloumi and smoked salmon not champagne and cake. Never saw that coming.

At the beginning, even after three weeks holiday, I was still rushing from activity to activity – still in the grip of a stonking 2012. At last I’ve calmed. My brain has been cleared out too, last year’s intellectual toxins and the sheer stress of being ‘on’ so much has gone as well.

Arvid says his life insurance now is a ten-day juice fast every year. Even with his healthy lifestyle, he says there is a toxic buildup in the bowels to remove annually. Jesus. At the risk of sounding like a retiring porn star, it’s time to think twice about what I put in this pretty mouth of mine…or on it come to think of it; that fabulous red lipstick I adore is a toxic wonderland I’m sure.

Steady on.

The post fast diet is pretty farmyard animal for a few days. Fruit and raw veges. Repeat. Seven days in, seven days out. After that? It’s up to me.

Hello big world. What’s for breakfast?

70. Nourishment not punishment.

I have a friend in her eighties who say’s she never remarried because she was looking for ‘nourishment not punishment’.

It’s a turn of phrase that came quickly to me when I was lying on my bed after a sauna, contemplating another carrot, apple and celery juice for dinner. My sixth juice dinner. Sixth.

That’s because sweet Rachel was preparing a vegetable curry downstairs and the even sweeter tendrils of sauting onion starting sliding under my door.

Fuck off out of my room, just fuck off I didn’t say.

The aussie boy has fallen, a couple of days ago in fact. It’s a fruit and vegetable  diet for a few days post fast so til now I haven’t looked at his plate and wanted to elbow him in the bad back. But come on, sauted onions?

I’m not sure I could pull this off in real life. Cossetted away up the Maitai Valley by the chattering river and cheerful birdlife, it’s easy to channel a bit more zen about the juice and glue combo.  When we venture into Nelson though, I can feel that surly bitchy sixth former inside me rising back up to take charge. Three hours tops and I have to get back to the safe house.

And now the safe house isn’t safe anymore.

69. The greedy bitch

So I’m staring at a golden ceiling, the birds are chirping, the river below is travelling through, Arvid the Indian bodyworks healer has my head in his hands and is lengthening my neck with commitment, and Jeff Buckley is singing Halleluyah on the stereo.

That. Just. Happened.

This man is the magic of the retreat, and the magic is in his hands. One hour a day on his table and five sessions in, I can feel myself uncurling, lengthening, standing taller. My neck isn’t tight and my shoulders are back in the right place. Apparently the right place for my shoulders is a lot further away from my ears than they’ve been living for the last few years.

The Australian couple sharing this experience with us are experiencing miracles. Mick’s chest was a block of concrete; Shirley’s left foot was slowly turning inwards which turned walking without shoes into a hobble. After four sessions, she was triumphantly padding around the place in her socks. The concrete in Mick’s chest is slowly being broken into rubble.

It’s day five and I have been running at 40 percent til just now when Arvid gave me back the other 60.  I’ve learned that for the first day or two of a fast, your body uses up the food remaining in your digestive tract from previous meals. For the next couple of days, your body uses stored food reserves from your liver. This means that a fast doesn’t really begin until about the fifth day.

I’m not calling it day one though; it could take me to the brink.

Today’s also the day the liver releases  its toxins apparently. Greedy bitch holding onto it all for that long.

I feel great. I have broken the back of the fast now. Stuff’s happening. I like it.

Release.      Release.     Release.

68. Suspended reality.

images-1Day four.

I can feel myself lightening.

I feel less connected to the ground somehow, though no less connected to the earth.

Took the rental car into town for the morning, walked on the beach barefoot. Talked to my kids on the phone. People looked normal, going about their days, long weekend, swim in the sea, lie on the warm sand.

Ambled around the Nelson markets, the alluring food smells seduced my senses and attempted to break my resolve. Salome, dance of the seven food stalls.

Had a fresh juice in town. Only okay. Becoming a bit of a fresh juice connoisseur.

Went to a movie “Beast of the Southern Wild”; we were the only two in the theatre.  No popcorn.

Not hungry. But undeniably empty.

67. Too much information?

It’s day three and I feel peculiar but not hungry. And the peculiar is in my head more than anywhere else. I am cast adrift from the rhythm of my normal life – the loving preparation of food, the meal table chat, the pleasure of it all. I miss that more than I miss the food, truth be told.

I am thinking my week detoxing before I arrived here was a good thing, although it felt like a bad bad thing at the time. The big crash has possibly maybe hopefully been avoided. Don’t feel sick. Don’t feel headachy. Don’t even feel hungry. Definitely feel empty though.

And I will never look at rasta dreds in the same way again as that’s what I’m accidentally spying in the toilet before I flush. The poo version of them obviously. I haven’t actually eaten anyone’s hair.  I’m not hungry enough yet.

65. House Arrest

I wonder if it’s all part of making me let go.

There’s no cellphone reception at the Retreat so to make contact with the outside world you have to use their landline. This morning I think I was on the phone too long, and was promptly given a PIN number for future use. I weakly said my friend had called me back, but still felt like a naughty little girl. And not in a good way.

Not allowed to watch movies in the lounge in the afternoon either; it needs to stay a ‘neutral’ space apparently.

I asked if it was possible to mix the fruit and vegetable juice together. It’s not normal protocol, but they did it for me. Please don’t put me off oranges for life I pleaded overly dramatically.

I am expecting a call to the ‘meal’ table pretty soon. I’m still lounging in bed at 9:42. There’ll be a knock on the door and sweet Rachel will ask if I’m ready for my juice. It’s a rhetorical question.

The grief is in the resistance.

I wish they’d have handed out the retreat rules on our arrival. It would be easier than discovering them by breaking them one by one. Was that a rule was it? So sorry about that. Sort of.

64. Note to self: breathe

We caught a supershuttle to the retreat. Trevor knew a lot about the area he’d lived in all his life. As well as all the Nelson hotspots and historical highlights, he also handily gave us directions to the cop shop should we go clubbing and get in a spot of bother. Nelson can kick up a right ruckus after dark Trevor said. We also now know where his brother lives.

As the shuttle snaked its way into the Maitai valley – “We’re losing civilization now folks” – talk turned to Pujji’s, the retreat we were headed for.

“Bloody cheap to run I reckon. They buy up a couple of tins of raro and feed you that for a week”.

I hoped he was joking.

Arvind and Rachel greeted us at the door. “Come in and have absolutely nothing” they didn’t say. The retreat is like an Aunty’s house. Domestic, cosy, furniture you have to walk around to get anywhere else. Perched on the river bank as it is, the sound of the running water quickly replaced the white noise in my head.

And so we got down to the serious business of fasting.

There are still three meals a day. They consist of sitting at the table, with an ironic place setting for us all, and enjoying a glass of psyllium husks, water and a concoction of herbs to cleanse the bowel. Like drinking aniseed flavoured glue. I have no idea why I actually enjoyed it. After twenty of them I may change my tune. Then we get the juice. Then we get nothing.

Each day you’re on the bench with Avvind for an hour’s bodywork. I’m not going to lie to you; I need very little encouragement to lie on a table with my head in a hole and hand my body over to a complete stranger. Giddy up cowboy.

Turns out I don’t breathe properly. My lower diaphragm is a stranger to the oxygen I inhale. So I’ll be fixing that right away.  By breathing. Properly.  Next time you see me I’ll be breathing so deeply, I’ll probably be able to smell what you had for breakfast.

The bodywork was followed by a detoxifying sauna and cold shower routine. You’re suppose to lie down but I was terrified I was going to fall asleep after an hour in Avvind’s hands, so there I sat bolt upright, practicing deep breathing. The clock said six when I got in. The clock said six when I got out half an hour later. Either time goes really fucking slowly here, or the clock’s broken.  Both are very real options.

63. Fast. No food.

I am packing tonight, again I am packing.

Tomorrow I am heading to Nelson with a friend to take on a Seven Day Fast at something called a Wellness Centre.  Seven days, no eating.  Our diet will apparently consist of juices, supplements and  herbs. We will be dry brushing. We will be gently walking. We will be sitting in the sauna. We will be stretching. And I’m pretty sure we will be really fucking hungry.

Nervousness and excitement are slugging it out between my ears. A friend has recommended it, reckons boredom is the toughest part, but she’s a cleaner creature than me in the ingestion department, so I’m only partially believing her reportage.   Another acquaintance has told me of his fasting life: I’ll feel cold, and alive, my senses will be on fire, the first two days are the hardest and I won’t sleep much. Oh, and I’ll have amazing dreams.  He said it’s quite ‘druggie’. That sounds fabulous. 

In preparation for my  digestive system’s vacation I’ve been coffee, sugar and alcohol  free for seven days. Damn that my skin and eyes have already lost  five years, that I’ve already doubled my energy, that I’m sleeping like a princess with no pea, that I’m waking enthusiastically early.

There’s a part of me that would prefer to notice little improvement, so I can validate my slide back into an evening wine or two or three, some chocolate on the run, a trim flat white to go please. There’s a part of me that wants these habits exorcised.

There’s probably a whole lot of new parts of me I’m about to discover. Like hipbones. 

I’m doing this because I want to know what it feels like to be detoxified, to be completely clean. The really fascinating bit will be what I do with the information my body shares.