Let me start by saying, while I have been on the fringes of esoteric or wellness activities, aware of the concepts of meditation, yoga, healing…
I have always mostly remained an optimistic skeptic.
I took a challenge. Two of my soul-sisters talked me in to going on a 5 day detox retreat at The Sanctuary, Koh Phangan. Like really? ME? No food? NO SODA? No Candy bars? NO ICE CREAM!?
Luckily both had done it before, and pressured me, reassured me..
“You can do it, come on!”
So off we went, an overnight train from Bangkok to Surathani. I knew hell was coming, so I arrived early to Hua Lampong and sat across the street having noodle broth and BEER.
I mean it was the last day for any sort of “cheating” and it was gonna be a long train ride. We secured ourselves in our sleepers for the night and woke up in Surathani.
I can honestly say I haven’t traveled in this “off the beaten path” style in years. Trying to contain my complaints of smelly feet, drunken 21 year olds, and flirty bell captains, we joined the rest of the fray and jumped on a bus that delivered us to ferry. Another two hours and we were just about to arrive at The Sanctuary, Phangan.
SO… I admit presumptions ran wild. But I kept an open mind, and tried not to berate my sister-friends with the normal stream of consciousness that happens when I get in a hotel. (my previous job allowed me to travel around the region, and experience some of the most luxurious properties on the planet.. SO LUCKY I know!) This usually culminates in my picking apart the services, the maintenance, the …well … everything to be honest. But I wanted to experience this, really. No worrying, and NO WORK!
Arrival was simple. We were not really part of the tourist tribe. We did it the local expat way. We planned to stay nearby, and only partake in the Detox plan. Our rooms were a bit further away, a bit more understated shall I say. No hot water, no air con. No refrigerator.
We were here to detox, to give our bodies, our minds , and our souls time to heal. That’s what the mantra is in these places right?
We checked into the program. They gave us the schedule. And I’m like, “Really Ya’ll?”
It was, from the very first light of the next morning, that I became only sneakingly aware of what I was going to be up against. Myself, pure and simple. For the next 3 ½ days I would be on a rigorous schedule of shakes and herbs, fruit juices , and vegetable broth.
That first morning, OMG.
You see they give you this little shaker each night. It contains Benzonite Clay, and psyllium husk. They tell you to add water, shake, and drink it at 7 am to start. This was probably the hardest thing I had to do. No, it was the hardest. Thailand has this wonderful breakfast dish called “jok”. It’s a rice porridge type thing. And well this first morning shake had the consistency of bowl of jok, only served cold, without the added crunchy, yummy condiments. Oh yeah.. and it tastes like dirt. Oh yeah… and the longer it takes you to drink it, the thicker it becomes. It took me twenty minutes, a few times of forcing it to stay down, but I sorted it.
What surprised me over the course of these three days were basic things we tend to take for granted, being distracted by our daily lives.
1.) My body became quickly attuned to what I was doing. The basic concept is, give your digestive tract a rest, so your body can use that energy to help build and repair other systems. The digestive system uses a large proportion of energy, so when it is basically ‘on pause’, the rest of your body can do its job more easily. Within a day, my body knew when it was time for a shake, and when it was time for herb pills. This to me was a bit of a revelation. I was so caught up in my usual eating habits, that I never stopped to listen to what my body was saying. In this setting, that is all I had time to do.
2.) My stress is filtered through my stomach. I knew this for a long time, and this reaffirmed it. Nervousness always translated into vomiting often. For some years it was a running joke with my friends. The importance of this was to combine this time with being present. No worrying about work, or life, or money, or relationships. Focus on what I was here to do. Detoxify my body.
3.) I was trapped in an episode akin to an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience. There were so many characters at The Sanctuary. Ladies who took a few days away from their husbands, 40-somethings looking for the most rewarding , yet esoteric practices; a tribe of up- on-it gay men from around the globe, some who practice detoxification at least twice a year . Looking around, you could identify with the physical exasperation that was constant for everyone in the course. It was like their lights were dimmed, their bodies a bit more frail than normal. Self-inflicted yes, but the gains would be seen later. What I couldn’t understand were those who were there for 7,10, 12 days. I mean come on. I can do a weekender , or a few days. But two weeks? That just isn’t happening.
4.) I dreaded the Colonics for no good reason. I was totally not up for it, and a colonic is the real reason I had never done this before. I WAS WRONG! While the idea of a colonic is a bit gross and dirty to most people, honestly the experience put me in touch with my body in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. I recognized the connection to the addictive type foods I have consumed my whole life, and what they do to the inside of your body.
4.) The instructors, consultants, and a lot of the practitioners really believe in this stuff. Whether it was Chakra studies, circles drawn on the lands with seashells harvested nearby for a morning wedding, Reiki, or having their Kundalini sparked through mediation and chanting, these were the people of the self-help, self-awareness world. These people identify with some really out-there stuff. It was the script of an ‘AbFab’ episode come to life. I listened intently to the others going thru these processes. They believed, they truly did. Sitting around our bowl of veggie stock and lime juice each evening, you could see a story in each one that led them to this place, looking for some sort of relief. Maybe it was mental, or physical, or both. But they all believed something was gonna be different after this. Believing in a positive outcome has power. It’s palpable.
5.) Natural food is rewarding, and I became increasingly aware of the power of raw food.
Now by the end of the program, I will say I was deathly sick of Watermelon juice mixed with Clay and Psyllium. I had also spent the last three days dreaming of bacon cheeseburgers, tacos, pizza, and Snickers Bars. However, I felt great. I felt like I could even keep on doing it. I believed in the power of myself more strongly than I had in the last 5 years.
The environment was perfect for self-affirming action.
I was motivated, and realistic. And while the program was finished, there was still another week of “recovery”. The Sanctuary supplied us with materials on food combining, and suggestion of scheduling and introduction of normal foods again. Raw Fruits and vegetable for a few days, then proteins, then carbs, and by Saturday I welcomed a normal dinner by way of seafood buffet, and some spicy Thai Salads to welcome me back to my taste buds.
I survived. And I was excited and proud that I accomplished something with immediate results, simply because I exerted effort.