It is becoming spring in my neck of the woods, so the impulse to do Spring Cleaning is up. No coincidence it is also the season of Lent. Though this is a custom most common to Christians, it is not an exclusively Christian practice. Voluntarily modifying the diet, fasting and other forms of purification are known as beneficial in most cultures.
Perhaps the most relevant similarity between physical and spiritual cleansing is seen in the adding or subtracting of substance from the daily routine. In both cases, chemical preservatives and mild toxins, such as alcohol, are discouraged. However it can be anticipated that physical level cleansing will recommend the addition of a specific natural substance for the duration, while a spiritual cleanse is more likely to recommend further subtraction of substance.
Through time natural healers have learned to isolate and clear dead energy from any organ or physical system of the body. The process involved requires complete commitment on the part of the person being cleansed. The "cleansee" must be willing to modify daily consumption and ingest substances that would otherwise never appeal to the palate.
For instance, the most effective way to rid a person of multiple physical concerns is a colon cleanse. A typical protocol would suggest first ridding the diet of red meat, dairy, breads, sugar, and caffeinated/alcoholic beverages, as all of these have a binding, inflammatory or dehydrating effect. Then a specific cleansing agent, such as an herbal supplement, tea or substance such as charcoal or clay is added in specific proximity with meals. High fiber foods, such as spinach or broccoli, may be recommended additions to the menu.
Some of the colon-cleansing agents have a filling and leaching effect, which cause sluggish bowels in the first few days. Herbs may be recommended to stimulate contraction in the bowels to help deeply seated dead matter move out. This initial stage of discomfort is unavoidable, particularly for a person who is cleansing for the first time, and is the case with most other system cleanses. Ideally no cleanse causes constipation lasting more than two days, however there may be diarrhea, a feeling of nervous tension, fatigue or emotional sensitivity for the beginning phase of any physical clean out. This is the initial physical release of waste matter, and on the emotional level functions as a sort of testing phase to make sure the person is willing to go the entire distance. As long as he/she persists, the discomfort will eventually pass. In one cleansing manual, the author prescribes prayer during this well-known initial release.
Once the bulk of stagnant matter is cleared a person will notice a greater physical ease. There will be a new relationship established with the toilet, but, a physical cleanse may begin at a person's convenience, and continue from 4 days to two months. Aside from slight dietary modifications and the addition of a cleansing agent, basic physical-level procedures may be added to the every day routine.
Beyond dietary additions, people with a history of cleansing have found benefit from external processes to support deeper physical cleansing once the first levels of toxicity have been removed. In the case of a colon cleanse, this may be enemas or colonic therapies. External processes for other types of cleanse range from holding a low-voltage electric circuit to daily Epsom salt baths to topical essential oil application to swallowing large doses of oil and/or vinegar. With this sort of process a person must modify everyday routines to accommodate time for the specific process. The duration of deeper cleaning protocols can be anywhere from three days to three weeks, and may be added into the basic physical cleanse time.
Someone doing his/her first physical cleanse is better off not adding external cleansing processes.
These are often re-enactments of major turning points in the history of a spiritual group. Examples in major religions are Lent, Passover and Ramadan. Native American traditions perform the Sun Dance. These prescribed cleanses subtract specific foods (such as leavened bread, meat, meals in daylight hours, or all food and water) and certain activities, such as foul language, work or non-cleansing social contact. Once the initial preparations have been made, spiritual community gatherings are increased during holy seasons. Depending upon the tradition the season may be from 7 days to 40 days long. Spiritual cleanses coincide with specific times in the year and have an exact duration.
For instance, one orthodox tradition of Lent recommends eliminating all meat, fish, dairy, wine and oils one week before the season begins, and continuing for the 40 day period eating sparingly all but two days each week. For the entire Lent period there is one day specified for a complete fast (Good Friday). The addition of prayer and spiritual gatherings are highlighted during this process, and it is known that only the most pious (clergy) will be able to keep all the rules.
Eliminating any one food or substance from the diet itself will stimulate a physical level cleanse complete with the initial discomfort mentioned in above. Therefore, all people who take part in a regular spiritual cleanse will receive physical benefits. In contrast with physical cleansing, no specific substance is added to the diet, thus no internal process to draw a person's focus to his/her physical comfort. Rather the external process of attending community service, reading specific passages of holy texts and making personal offerings begins early in the ceremony. This makes any one persons process part of a larger community effort to gain clarity and greater connection with Divine Source presence.
From the beginning a person must modify daily activities to enact a Spiritual Cleanse. It is said in earth-based medicine, "the entire natural world supports a fasting person," thus many people will find themselves more often in nature or the stillness of a holy shrine during the depths of this season. It is a time apart from the regular flow of social life, a retreat for contemplation and personal communion.
Another specific difference in spiritual level work is in giving to others. This may be in the form of financial charity and/or in the focus of prayer. One church community may give prayer during Lent for a special purpose, such as the seeding of a new church, while Sun Dancers each carry the prayers of many people from many places in their time together. In this way each spiritual cleanse opens a path for a sacrifice of sorts on behalf of others.
Ending a Cleanse
In both physical and spiritual cleanses there are specified ways to "break the fast" as it were, or end the ceremony. With a sheerly physical processes an individual will certainly have a sensation of being somewhat different from the people around him/her. Spiritual communities re-integrate all together after the holy cleanse, thus have a group of peers to connect with as adjustments to regular life take place. Without question the people of a spiritual community will grow deeper bonds with each other through subsequent years.
As a specifically physical process, many secular people do not cleanse unless it becomes imperative. Those interested preventive medicine proceed with physical cleansing at regular intervals. Variations include one major cleanse in the spring, several shorter processes each season, one-day fasts into each week for a period, or the removal of specific substances for a few seasons to allow the organs to cleanse naturally. A well-known adage of the natural medicine world states "the body exhibits symptoms of illnesses developed four months earlier." Thus anyone tracking his/her physical fluctuations does well to consider what poisons or remedies were present in the previous season.
Spiritual cleansing is strongly supported in traditional religious communities. Anyone who was raised in such community will have witnessed or participated in these cleanses in childhood, and will certainly feel compelled to find his/her personal commitment to the ceremony as an adult. On one level these deep spiritual traditions serve to prevent habits injurious to physical health. However, for anyone who was not raised in these customs, the first enactment of orthodox Lent may have profoundly difficult results. Thus anyone wishing to begin this sort of cleanse does well to consider the experiences he/she was raised in and gauge the level of intensity accordingly.
As illustrated above, all cleansing for physical or spiritual health involves some education. Anyone who wishes to start one or both processes is wise to seek the support of people who have a history with that process. There are countless resources on physical cleansing available both online and at natural food stores, and many doors open for a person seeking to engage on a spiritual path. My first suggestion is for a person to connect with resources and communities that have a sense of familiarity, common purpose or similar background. Secondly, once the commitment to cleanse has been made, see it through to the end. Attend to all the steps involved. Even if it is a bumpy ride, a person's first cleanse is quite possibly the most important act in improving his/her health.