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Archive for September, 2010


“Emerging at the other end, we will not be the same as we were: we will have become more humble,

more connected to the natural world, fitter, leaner, more skilled and, ultimately, wiser.”

Rob Hopkins,

author of The Transition Handbook

Lisa Jaffe and Jeff Salz toast “To Your Health” prior to doing something about theirs

“First hug yourself. Now cross your arms the other way and hug yourself again. Great. Now work your way around the circle. We here at Optimum Health believe it takes thirty-eight hugs a day to stay for optimum health.”

“I’ve got to get out of here,” I whisper to Jaffe. “This place is somewhere between a minimum security prison and a new-age sanitarium for nut jobs.”

Just then a hulky guy in a tank top and red shorts wraps his arms around me and lifts me part way off the ground. “Healthy, healthy,” he says. “My name is Tim.”

Twenty-seven of us from all races, nations and walks-of-life have converged here on this campus just south of San Diego for what turns out to be a wide variety of reasons. There is a young mother and an older man with cancer, a couple with chronic fatigue.  My reasons are lightweight in comparison: change a few bad habits into good ones to take on the road as the busiest time of the speaking season commences. And Jaffe? One of the fittest, most conscientious people I know when it comes to health, she is pretty much along just to support me.

Trust me, I need her.

The first meal is something of a shock: some lettuce, sprouts and a kind of tasteless paste of soaked sunflower seeds. That’s it. No dessert and the rules frown on anyone having even a glass of water with a meal – bad food combining.  I forgo a glass of water with dinner for fear it might provoke a lynching party.

More frightening yet is the initial orientation meeting. We are humorously encouraged to enjoy the ‘food’ now because it is about to stop. Mid-week will consist of two and a half days of nothing but green juice. Every day, however, we are expected to down two shots of wheat grass juice – a nauseating green substance that looks, smells and tastes exactly like liquefied lawn clippings.

“What is this?” asks a brave soul reaching into her goody-bag and pulling up a plastic bucket, a roll of surgical tubing and a jumbo tube of lubricant.

The instructor explains matter-of-factly that is for our ‘enemas and implants.’ Not only are we expected to have at least two ‘colonics’ during the week, but every day we need to give ourselves enemas followed by two twenty minute wheat grass ‘implants’ – a euphemism for squirting the noxious stuff inside you and hanging on for dear life while you clench muscles you never new you had and commence to ride the bucking emerald bronco.

“Have you noticed  that the weirdness factor is growing moment by moment” I ask Jaffe.  Everything                  inside me is screaming ‘RUN… Run for your life!’

But Jaffe is calm. She takes my hand and says the only thing that could possibly calm me down. The only        thing in the world. “Babe, think of all this as… an adventure!”

She’s right. This definitely qualifies.

As the ‘adventure guy’ I am inevitably handed the question “So what is your next great adventure?”  And, while I search my mental calendar to come up with an answer involving international travel and a chunk of dramatic topography, what I’m really thinking is far less National Geographical.  I am increasingly aware that the really tough challenges are the ones we face on the inside.  In fact the deeper inside the more likely they are to have major external implications. Climb a mountain, descend a river or sail a sea and what has really changed? Overcome an addiction, alter an old pattern, take a courageous leap in an intimate relationship and your entire world is fresh and new. This is the kind of quest I am undertaking here at the Optimal Health Institute. A journey from the inside out.  And it feels  as scary as any mountain climb I have ever undertaken.

No sugar. No fat. No alcohol. No caffeine. No television. No dairy. No bread. No meat. No nuts. No soy. Instead          there   are unique exercise classes: “Now hang your arms in front of you and swing them like an elephant trunk.     Good. Now it’s walk like a duck.” Informational classes: “Elimination – let’s all take a tripthrough our colon!” And a whole lot of  ‘enforced fellowship’: “Each of us will take turns in the chair while others in the group tell  us positive things about us. Who is first?”

I’ve lived weeks in snow caves, crossed Himalayan sands on a camel, descended perilous whitewater but this…              how will I possibly survive?

There are some tough moments. Like the day a happy little tune draws me to the street where I watch the ice cream truck pass by, my face pressed between the bars of the iron fence like a five your old in prison.  After a couple of days of nothing but juice and wheat grass, the sprouts, greens and pumpkin seeds taste delicious. I no longer seem to need coffee in the morning nor sugar, meat, bread to get through the rest of the day. There is a sudden lightness in my step.

Jaffe and I gradually become close with people we never would have otherwise met. Tim, the hulking fellow with the red shorts, and I discover we have friends in common. ‘Tim’ turns out to be Tim Dismang, a remarkable singer/songwriter who blows us all away with his performance at the Friday night ‘talent show’.  Jaffe and I invite him and his wife Connie to join us for a weekend in Idyllwild. Feels like we have made new friends for life.

When Sunday comes, Jaffe and I are virtually the last ones to go. It’s kind of like having to leave summer camp and heading back to school. I let Jaffe know I’m toying with the idea of staying a second week.

“Why?” she asks, amazed.

“If I feel this good, this transformed after one week, imagine how incredible I’d feel after two,” I tell her.

But there are calls and emails and preparations for the next few weeks on the road. With a strange nostalgia we pack up our plastic buckets and surgical tubing promising ourselves we’ll be back.

“Whatya say, babe,” I ask Jaffe. “One more shot of wheat grass for the road?”

“Why not?” she replies.

When we are no longer able to change

a situation, we are challenged

to change ourselves.”

–  Viktor Frankl

According to the Living and Raw Living and Raw Foods website (www.living-foods.com)  “Once you embrace an all-raw and living food diet, you are more living, have more energy, better health, think more clearly, and become more in tune with your body! This type of diet even gives you a “competitive edge” over people that eat life-less food.”

Who am I to argue? I do know we heard a many miraculous tales of recoveries from chronic, life-threatening illness from individuals who attributed it all to the raw foods regimen.

We live in crazy, uncertain times. Of each one of us is asked the same thing: to be the best we have ever been. To be flexible. Embrace the new and abandon that which no longer serves us. Our current reality demands it.

I’ve long preached that ‘adventure is an inside job’. After a week if ingesting quarts of wheat grass juice through a number of orifices…gurgle gurgle… that phrase has taken on a whole new meaning.

How long I will last on this crazy raw food diet? I don’t know. But days later here I am still hooked on feeling good. I’ve come this far. Why quit now?

Learn more about the restorative rituals of the Optimum Health Institute at: http://www.optimumhealth.org

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