Three Creative Spring Cleanses
It’s spring and the whole world is cleansing. Tender greens are rising like a blush in the woods. The song birds have returned to flit their wings on the surface of cold ponds. And the forest bathes itself in blooms.
Every spring there is a feeling in the air as if everything can be made new again. That reinvention is a birthright. That we too can slough off what has felt winter-heavy within our bones and burst like a dogwood into full bloom.
Fresh winds, cold springs, and translucent forests of green. In spring we are invited to join the world in a deep and soul-full cleansing.
Our bodies are like tuning forks. They are as sensitive as a willow switch divining for springs. As human beings we are in constant motion of picking up moods, sensations, chemical compounds, and feelings. But sometimes we accumulate experiences that feel like toxins to our systems…
Inner smog. Overwhelm. Words that stung when they were said, and hung in the air like smoke. Overly processed foods, chronic stress, too little time spent dreaming. All the tiny accumulations of stagnation, moments spent sitting when you needed to move. The seemingly inconsequential self-judgements that build up like wrappers left out in the street. Every time you drank or smoked or snacked or sucked it up when what you really needed to do was soften and cry, receive nurture or be acknowledged.
In Ayurvedic medicine there is a term for such accumulated toxins— Ama. When we experience ama we are not just encountering the physical impediments of sluggish organs or overworked lymph, but the stagnation of negative thoughts, stressful environments, and limiting beliefs as well. In Sanskrit the word ama literally translates as “undigested.” In truth, ama helps us to understand that toxicity is more than just a build up of metabolic residue, it is everything that comes into our system and doesn’t move.
And so the fresh winds of spring bring an opportunity. To clear house. To tend the inner wells and make them bright again. To compost anything that doesn’t serve you and replant the garden of your innermost self with something more life-giving, more authentically you.
We hear the word “cleanse” and we feel that it’s a dictate to scrub away some aspect of ourselves that is unclean. But I think this way of thinking causes more toxicity in our culture than anything else.
True cleansing, real cleansing, is about creating new space inside of ourselves so we can expand.
It is a spiritual practice, one that can be creative, connective and soulful. Cleansing, at its heart, is a radical act of self care.
In this blog I offer three week-long creative cleanses to invoke gentle, spirit nourishing spring cleaning. Have fun, be imaginative and implement as you need. Read on to discover these three easeful gateways, and invoke a spring inside yourself.
>> Clear Waters Cleanse <<
A cleanse to invoke a rush of new vision and to refind your inner flow
+ Drink 64 – 80 oz of water a day
The easiest way to make sure you drink enough H2O is to designate a quart-sized mason jar as your water bottle for the week. Drink one quart between breakfast and lunch. One between lunch and dinner, and one in the evening hours between dinner and sleep. (There are 24 oz in a quart mason jar). Don’t sit down for a meal until your water portion has been emptied. Try to eat as cleanly as possible and keep snacking between meals to a minimum. When you get hungry, try a big gulp of water instead. Oftentimes we feel hunger pangs when we are actually thirsty. Make water your decadent treat and notice how much more juicy, energized and enlivened you feel.
+ Infuse every cup with good intentions
Water has the ability to take on and be infused with a wide variety of impressions, energy, medicine and intention. Don’t buy it? Try making a cup of tea and see how much that water takes on the color, taste and characteristics of the herb. Or check out the transformational work of Dr. Masaru Emoto. Infuse your water with your intentions for this cleanse. Try leaving a glass of water out overnight with a love note taped to the bottom. Or hold your cup first thing in the morning as you sing one of your favorite songs. Get creative with how you infuse and your body will become a vessel of new healing.
+ Drink a Clear Quartz Elixir every morning
Known as the “master harmonizer” in Chinese medicine, clear quartz is a powerful cleanser and amplifier. On the physical level clear quartz is thought to increase and regulate the Qi, bringing vitality to all areas of the body. Clear quartz is one of my favorite stones to work with because it is so deeply versatile. In traditional Taoist medicine clear quartz was often used to draw energy from other stones, animals, elements or lands. By pointing quartz at a certain celestial body, for example, the stone inherently absorbs some of the energy of that entity and can become an emissary of that medicine wherever it goes.
Program your quartz with healing. Take it with your favorite medicine places. Let it infuse in a spring. If you have a specific intention for this cleanse, hold a clear quartz in your hands and gently ask the quartz to take up the power of this medicine. Speak your intention clearly and imagine that everything you need to heal is infusing directly from you into the stone. Clear quartz will hold this intention for you.
Make an elixir by putting your programmed clear quartz in one cup of water over night. Cover the lid with a cloth or piece of paper and let sit. Remove the stone upon waking (or leave in, if you’d like!) and drink your elixir water first thing in the morning.
+ Take Lymph moving herbs
The lymphatic system governs the waters of our bodies. A network of tissues and organs that help our bodies naturally cleanse itself, the lymph is like the wetlands and tributaries of our entire ecosystems. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a cleansing fluid that contains our protective white blood cells, throughout our body. When we get sick our lymph nodes work double time, hence why they often become swollen. Lymphs don’t have musculature, and so they don’t move on their own. This is why yoga, dance, and lymph tapping or massage can be so invigoratingly vital for full health. Herbs can also be deeply moving for the lymphatic system. Spring weeds like cleavers and chickweed are lovely lymph cleansers added to tea or a smoothie. For southwestern folks look into the power-filled Ocotillo (check out this wonderful article by Rebecca Altman about the waters in the body and its resonance with this desert dweller)
+ Bathe, Swim, Sweat, Shower. Go for walks in the rain.
+ Cry. At anything and everything.
>> Quiet the Hum Cleanse <<
A fast to help detox from the buzz of technology. A cleanse designed for sensitives and introverts to refind the nurturing shores of their inner worlds.
+ Turn off your computer, TV and phone
As much as you can. For the entire week. Turn them off. Take a break from glowing screens and all the toxicity that comes with procrastination, comparison, self-doubt and overwhelm. Turn off everything as soon as you arrive home. Or before you even leave home, if you can. When we quiet the outer buzz it is truly remarkable what we can hear within.
+ Give yourself permission to be in your own world
Read a fantasy novel. Color in an adult coloring book. Play with stones, wander the woods alone. Give yourself complete and utter permission to tune out of other people’s needs and create an inner world of vision, dreams and fantasy. Practice allowing yourself to be in your own world for at least a 1/2 hour every day.
+ Smoky Quartz
This dark variety of quartz is revered for its ability to help clear EMF, radiation and environmental electronic fog. In Chinese medicine it is known to help clear “pervasive Qi,” or any energies that feel chaotic and invasive. This is a wonderful companion for a technology fast, and can help us deprogram ourselves. Letting go of the accumulated impressions of the digital world so we can clear space for a more engaged relationship with our own inner landscapes.
Keep a piece of smoky quartz on you all week. Or try making an elixir to drink first thing in the morning (see notes on elixir making in Clear Waters Cleanse).
Take 4 drops 4x day directly on the tongue to reconnect into the joy of the living world.
+ If you have a question go to a living source
When you have an inquiry about something this week, practice going to your neighbor, a plant or (most importantly) your inner sage. Ask a living being for guidance, tune into your intuition rather than Wikipedia, and see what kind of embodied magic happens.
>> Wildness Cleanse <<
Recall the wild within. Let the natural wilderness of the world return you to your most authentic self.
+ Eat something wild every day
Spring is the richest season of wild greens. Wild edibles tend to have much higher vitamin and mineral content and are infused with the complex compounds and ineffable magic that only comes from living wild. Chickweed, cleavers, dandelion, violets. Most of these greens are growing right outside on our lawn.
Check out this blog post for more insight
And don’t miss this lovely guide from Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs
+ Go outside. Every day.
Even if just for 10 minutes. Start to shift your perception of the “outside.” Instead of seeing the out-of-doors as separate from your day to day life, allow yourself to embrace nature as a home space that nurtures your wildest self. Find a patch of green and literally stretch. Or jog. Or lay on your back and let the rain fall on your face. Listen to the birds, follow squirrels into the trees. Climb a tree. Find as wild of a space as you can. And act wild as you can let yourself be.
+ Eat only whole foods
Only imbibe foods that come fresh, wild, or from the pasture. Cage free eggs, organic whole grains, clean pasture meat, farm fresh vegetables and fermented foods. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients on the label. Better yet, don’t eat anything with a label at all.
+ Improvisational Movement every day (10 minutes)
As Mary Oliver says, let the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Put on music that digs up something raw and unfiltered inside of you. I love this song by Glasser (I call it “cave dance party” music). Put on a song that ignites you, let yourself be alone with your body, and allow the animal in you to move.
+ End the day by Candlelight
Turn off your electric lights and spend at least the last hour before bedtime by candlelight. I normally like to end this week of rewilding and cleansing with a bonfire and long hours spent gazing, remembering what it means to be a human being.
+ Go on a shamanic journey to meet an Animal spirit guide
From time immemorial people recognized that the wild beings that surround us often hold great medicine for our deeper spirits. Bears come when we need courage. The meadowlark when we need to sing. When we connect back into the animal realm, we ignite an understanding of ourselves as wild co-creators in this world.
Shamanic journeying with the aid of the drum is an ancient method of shifting one’s consciousness. Try this meditative practice to meet an animal guide that wants to work with you at this time. When you meet your animal bring them back into your day-to-day life through a drawing, a written story, an altar space or some kind of totem in your life. (Stuffed animals are totally allowed). Interact with them every day and let them be your guide into the wilderness of this deep cleanse.
Not sure what a shamanic journey is? Check out this wonderful talk by Sandra Ingerman or read on for my own guide to journeying below.
Shamanic journeying is a kind of meditation, combined with focused intention, to enter an expanded state of consciousness. In journeying, a Shamanic practitioner enters a kind of “trance state.” If you have ever had one of those moments of being lost in thought, like following the fading lines of a beach trail onto the shoreline of sand, you know how a trance state feels. Trance states are common in meditation, prayer, or intense life transitions—including birth, orgasm, and death. Trance states can be as light as a deeper feeling of awareness or as deep as the seemingly comatose bodies of deeply seasoned Shamans.
When we undertake a journey, part of our consciousness is able to detach itself from the body and explore realms that the physical body cannot perceive or move through. The object is not to escape reality, but to venture deeper into it. Many people who journey for the first time expect to have completely out of body experiences, but this is most often not the case. I often liken it to a branch of a river tree breaking off the main trunk to join a stream. The tree stays put, but an aspect of its being is free to travel. The tree still feels the gentle sway of the water over its roots, sustaining it crown, allowing it be what it is, a tree— it has simply chosen to send part of itself downstream.
Shamanic experiences are different for everyone. Some people liken it to the sensation of being in a dream. Some people have vivid imagery, tastes or smells, others simply have a feeling sense. Above all, try being curious. In his book The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner likens Shamans to scientists. “Both shamans and scientists,” he asserts, “personally pursue research into the mysteries of the universe, and both believe that the underlying causal process of that universe are hidden form ordinary view.” As you work with connecting to expanded states of consciousness, you may have experiences that are odd, unexplainable, or peculiarly striking. Instead of casting off such experiences or images, save these perceptions as bits of evidence or data. You may not understand their importance now, but catalogue it for later evaluation. Surprise is an integral part of the shamanic experience. Consciousness often speaks in metaphor and we are continually learning how to be better readers.
Steps of the Journey (How to Journey)
1) Find a comfortable and quiet place where you can relax. Before I enter a journey I like to take some time to call in my guides, the four directions, ancestors, or any personal divinity that has meaning to me. This is a time to get clear on your intention. Let your wider consciousness know: You would like to meet an animal guide.
You are setting the stage for a safe and guided space of journeying. If it helps to relax, try some gentle yoga, dancing or deep breathing beforehand.
2) Most people like to journey in near darkness. I suggest turning out the lights and closing the blinds. Some people light a candle at the beginning of their journey, as symbolic gesture of keeping an aspect of their consciousness in the here and now.
3) Drumming can be profoundly helpful for journeying. Find a Shamanic drumming CD you like (or track on youtube) and use it to deepen your journey. When you are ready to begin, sit in a comfortable position or lie down (if you aren’t in danger of falling asleep!) and begin the drumming.
4) Many people like to envision an entryway for themselves. For meeting with a spirit guide traditional people usually went into what we call the “lower world,” deep into the earth. I like to envision traveling down through the roots of a tree, but you may prefer a staircase, a tunnel or a cave. These gateways can often be a signal to our conscious minds that we are transitioning in our consciousness and that it’s okay to let go.
5) Once you “step into” the journey itself just let yourself explore. Images, feelings, sounds or smells should come spontaneously. Shamanic journeying is not about conscious control, it’s about allowing yourself to have an experience beyond your rational mind. During your journey you will stay conscious in your body. You can expect to hear cars passing down the road or feel any itches or bodily sensations. Many people liken journeying to a powerful daydream. You remain conscious and aware, and yet let another aspect of yourself can travel. If you feel any distractions in the here and now, forgive the intrusion and simply let yourself drift back to the journey.
It’s always okay to ask questions. So if an animal comes to you in your journey don’t feel shy in asking, “are you my guide?”
6) If you are listening to a soundtrack of drumming the end of your journey will be indicated by a series of rapid rhythmic beats, followed by several slow thrums. Now is the time to “come back.” I often like to retrace my steps, going back through the entryway I have chosen. If, at any time, you wish to end your journey early just retrace your path and head home. When I arrive back into my body I like to imagine my spirit sifting in from the top of my head and settling down firmly into my heart and all my limbs.
7) Take some moments before you move to deeply breathe and feel yourself completely in your body once more. Once you are ready, I highly encourage writing down an account of your journey. Consciousness most often speaks in metaphor and sometimes the deeper meanings will be made much more clear once you take time for reflection. If only a few sentences, jot down some impressions from your experience and close your journeying time with some gratitude for your guides and for the perfection of this particular journey.