It’s cleansing season again and here I am in Japan!
The last time I was here it was cleansing season too and during my first trip to a Japanese onsen (public bath) I was surprised and delighted to discover a few simple but powerful ways to look at and make the most of a practice that has become a vital part of my approach to health and wellbeing…
The art of cleaning up your act…
Since discovering Ayurveda nearly a decade ago I’ve made the twice yearly process of cleansing a part of my life. Every time I do it, I’m transformed in some powerful way (yes, every time!). And so I spend a good part of my year as an Ayurvedic practitioner talking to people about how and why cleansing is SO vital and good for them.
And beyond the usual stuff like giving your body a break and taking some time out for rest, my experience in the japanese onsen highlighted a few really important, but not often considered thoughts about detoxing and how to make the most of it.
Embracing the ordinary in the extraordinary…
There’s something both luxurious and mundane about the public baths in Japan. The facilities tend to be pretty simple, but you get these slippers and little robes and the fact that you spend a good deal of the time lying around in pools of really hot, soothing water all make it seem like some kind of spa getaway.
But there’s no hiding the truth that the real reason you’re there is to get clean. You’re usually handed a bucket and a wash cloth. There’s soap and shampoo at each of the little stations where you can prop yourself (usually on a little plastic seat), completely naked (no bathing suits allowed) and watch yourself in a steamy mirror as you wash your hair, armpits and ass. In reality… it’s a public shower, in fact it’s as public as it gets and there’s nothing more everyday than that.
And so what showed up for me that day in the onsen were a few simple insights about how to change my thinking about self care (and yours) for the better. Starting with…
- Making self care about practicality more than luxury – We often think of self care as something exciting and special. A spa trip or day off from work, a vacation away or weekend with the girls. As such, we tend to reserve self care for those moments when we have the time to make it special. Ayurveda has taught me that self care, especially things like cleansing is considerably more important than most of us care to admit. It’s VITAL to our ability to recharge and regenerate the energy and balance that keeps us happy, alive and well functioning. And like a typical trip to the public baths, self-care is something that needs to be more practical than sexy, more familiar than fantastic; something that plays a starring role in our regular routine.
- Being shamelessly self-centered – Being naked in front of others is for most people (myself included) awkward at best. And so standing in the middle of a Japanese bath house, completely naked was a little confronting. All my insecurities showed up, comparisons came out of the woodwork followed by my old friend anxiety. But once I realized that no one cares more about what I look and feel like than me, I felt empowered to own the experience and stop worrying about anyone else. From there I was able to make a commitment to getting the most out of the experience and see it as an opportunity to show myself the love that I deserve. That tone of being shamelessly “self-centered” has been a vital part of my approach to self care ever since. I use it during a cleanse as a tool to manage my own self-limiting thoughts and my reactions to the “nay sayers”, those folks who are always gonna question what you’re doing and why (as if you don’t deserve to take care of yourself). And I’m happy to say that a little of that goodness is now a part of my everyday commitment to choose myself rather than choosing to please others.
- Embracing that there’s no escaping reality – And the last and probably most important lesson I learned from my time in the Japanese baths was to embrace what’s real and true. No matter who we think we are, there is NO hiding from reality when we’re standing naked in the middle of a room full of strangers (something that many of us don’t do enough of in my opinion). Society and science have given us so many “tools” for tidying our reality neatly away out of site. Everything from spanx to botox have been designed to take care of our unsightly physical truths. And we’ve each created our own methods for dealing with our mental emotional ones. But when we have the courage to look at who we are in the unforgiving light of day, and push past our own self judgements and criticism (my thighs are too lumpy, my belly is too fat, i’m not good enough… blah, blah, blah), we realize that we have a responsibility to ourselves to really see ourselves, because real growth and transformation needs a firm footing in reality.
If you’re ready to clean up YOUR act…
In the end, my experience of cleansing, and living was changed forever by my time in the Japanese bath, and for that I am forever grateful. So as we move deeper into this year, this life and this cleansing season I invite you to commit to taking care of yourself in ordinary and extraordinary ways, and to taking inspired action from a connection to what’s true and empowering for you.
I also invite you to try your hand at ayurvedic cleansing this cleansing season. Consider it an opportunity to kickstart your efforts with a simple act that could change your life forever!
In fact why not join ME and the Ayurveda + YOU community for an online 7 Day Ayurvedic detox challenge! It’s a FREE online cleanse program that I’ll be leading from October 15 – 22nd. It’s also a chance to learn about cleansing and connect with a group of kindred spirits who will motivate, support and inspire you! Details and sign up HERE!!
Oh and if you’re a cleansing veteran I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts about cleansing, why you do it and what it does for you! Please, please share in the comments!!