Thursday, March 20, 2008

Master Cleanse and the City

I have a familial, sort of love – hate relationship with new age practices such as ‘going raw,’ alternative health and the myriad forms of spiritualism. Generally, I love the idea of it, but at the same time I am rebellious, and I happen to be a vegetarian turned bloodthirsty carnivore. Perhaps my divisive emotion towards new-age health and spirituality comes from the fact that I was raised with it.

I have never abandoned the example of my parents. However, I tend to be slightly cynical to all the hype that has now come with the ‘organic,’ ‘raw,’ ‘homeopathic’ and ‘yogic’ movements. I am a healthy, kale-eating, organic-only woman, but I also eat disturbing amounts of French triple-cream cheese, meat in its rawest forms, and I take my Jameson neat.

This winter was long and dark. I spent a few months grieving the death of my Grandfather, and the end of my relationship, and subsequently my mouth instigated an amazing and overly self-indulgent love affair with food in its most beautiful, decadent forms. Although I am a student, I can always rationalize why I need to indulge in steak or some escargots – and so, I treat myself. But come Spring’s prelude, I increasingly found myself frequenting Pure food, a raw food restaurant and juice bar where the people are young and hip, or old and bizarre and the food really does make you glow. The more I started to feed my body with the raw components it desired after the long winter, the happier, and more energized I began to feel

Before I knew it, the idea of doing the Master Cleanse was no longer a joke, but a reality that I was preparing for.
‘What is the Master Cleanse, exactly?’ my Mother asked me on the telephone.
I told her it is a lemonade tonic, a mix of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. And then, each day you drink 32oz. of salt water in order to flush your system and create ‘eliminations.’ I could hear her cringe at the idea of not eating anything for 10 days. I thought the same thing, as someone who normally eats 6 times a day and drinks about 3 cups of coffee – I never thought I could do it. But I am on day 5, have not had [many] hunger pangs and generally feel fantastic, other than some shocking signs of detoxification.

So, how do you do the Master Cleanse in a city with the best selection of restaurants and bars, and very few ‘detoxifying’ qualities? This is how I’ve done it so far:

Day 1 – I didn’t leave my home, except to walk to Prospect Park, bundled up – lemonade and binoculars in hand. Prospect Park has an unbelievable diversity of bird species, as well as human kinds. I found a bench in the sunshine, next to a pond where 16 turtles sunned themselves on a log. I met some beautiful people, and breathed deeply, grateful to live so near to the 153-acre park. I had a slight headache at the end of the day, probably from the caffeine withdrawals.

Day 2 – I awoke with the sun (which never happens unless I am camping), full of energy. I went to the city with a bottle of my freshly made lemonade, and walked the streets – finally reading for a while in Tompkins Square Park, before the Russian Bathhouse on 10th st. opens at noon. Arriving at the bathhouse in the early hours is much better, both because it is hotter and because there are less people. I sweat in the Russian, Swedish and steam saunas – and then a beautiful and outspoken Russian woman named Rosa gave me a salt scrub; lying me out on a table and rubbing me until my skin, and derrière were, smooth as a babies. When I exited, all rosy cheeked and smooth skinned, I noticed a boutique called ‘Love.’ Inside this raw delicacies and health secrets boutique I was told about the latest improvement to the Master Cleanse. A $30 jar called Oxy-Mag, one part magnesium, to two parts oxygen – which, when ingested with lemon juice creates water in your small and large intestines and essentially cleans you deep from the inside out. I overdid it by using the Oxy-Mag the same day as the bathhouse, my body was ill with detoxification and the headache was pounding. I went to bed at 9:30.

Day 3 – I awoke, feeling as though I had made some headway in the whole process and proceeded to take the Oxy-Mag instead of drinking salt water. I decided not to go to my internship, as I wasn’t sure when the Oxy-mag would take effect and...Well, have you ever smelled the breath of someone who is fasting? I didn’t have a great deal of energy, but in the afternoon I decided to go to Chelsea to visit the ‘Chapel of Sacred Mirrors’ which features the visionary and sacred geometric artwork of Alex Gray. He has created an amazing space, with some very potent imagery, which invokes and invites contemplation and meditation.

That night I went to the BAM rose cinema in Brooklyn to see the latest Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park. All filmed in Portland, OR! It was lovely to see my gorgeous home city with such fantastic cinematography. And I had never been in this particular cinema – the sharp room, still maintains the traditional 1900s decor, yet recently painted cranberry red, a arched ceiling decorated with ornate fruits, grapes and pomegranates. The smell of the popcorn and pizza were slightly difficult to stomach, but I had my handy bottle of lemonade – which kept me going.

Day 4 – Slightly lethargic, quite out-of-it...the guy at the farmer’s Market who sells the maple syrup said that the master cleansers usually get stoned from all the lemonade. Now I see what he means. I wanted to go to a Persian poetry reading at the Bowery Poetry Club, but when I got to the subway station – the MTA announcer said that ‘All trains were being held in stations.’ Instead of getting irritated, I decided to return home, change into my running gear – and head for the park. This is an important aspect of surviving the cleanse; not having anything that you must do at a certain time or place.
So I went running, in fact, I sprinted with absurd amounts of energy for someone who hasn’t eaten a lick in four days.
Then, when I got to Park Slope I went to a yoga class. Normally I go to the advanced class, but I thought I had better take it slow and go with the Hatha beginner’s class. Which was actually not very yogic because it is full of people who are not practiced and are therefore looking around the room, wanting to open windows, laughing, talking, and, to put it frankly, I wasn’t being very yogic either – because I was irritated with them. But I stuck it out, and breathed into the annoyance and I made it.

Day 5 – I awoke to the sound of a yap-yap dog from an apartment on my floor. He barked for four hours straight, and I thought I would kill him. I couldn’t tell if my irritability was with the dog, or because I haven’t eaten in 5 days. But, once I got up and turned music on, I felt better...The eliminations have finally become quite satisfying. I can’t believe the stuff that we hold in to in our intestinal tract. I returned to the Bathhouse today for some more sweating, and cold water dunking. Then, my friend and I went to a coffee shop because I am now ‘allowed’ to drink organic peppermint tea, so as to freshen the breath. It felt like such a treat to ingest something other than lemonade, even though they’re the same color!
Trying to take it easy, and stay hydrated...I have wanted to clean my apartment, but can’t muster the energy. I am hungry for something different today, I guess it's knowing that I'm only half way through!

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