“So are you facing many problems at the moment? Or is everything going smoothly?”
I was meeting up with a friend who had visited Bali with me two years previously. We were in a café in Moscow and discussing life, sat opposite some contemporary artwork entitled “Never-ending struggle”, worth no less than 216,000 Russian roubles, which is about $3,300.
“Well, of course I have problems… What do you mean exactly?” Then, to avoid sifting through a mass of uncomfortable thoughts, I gave the simplest example I could think of: “Like, for example, I have all sorts of technical problems. I can usually outsource them, but they’re still a bit of a headache. Actually, now you mention it, I do have quite a few problems at the moment. And, come to think of it, quite a few fears.”
At this, my companion looked somewhat taken aback, not that my answer should have come as a surprise. Problems, or shall we say issues, are a part of life. But having a large number of fears is a little different… It’s somehow nice to believe that eventually there will be an escape from all the internal angst; at least, that’s what I aspire to, even if I don’t feel it to be true for me. Well, at least I can admit it.
As we move along the path of conscious personal growth our fears do not lessen. Even if we get better at overcoming our fears, actually making them disappear altogether is very advanced. I’m still a long way from reaching this level, even if I have managed to let go of a large number of common fears.
With each step forward, we open ourselves up to unexplored territory: an uncultivated field, potentially rife with new fears, preconceptions and personal nightmares.
And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear
Everyone has their own ‘weak spots’, i.e. certain fears that plague the mind more than the average worry. For example, I find it relatively easy to handle interactions regarding money, business or workflow concerns, and any fears I may have in this area are fears I can handle. And yet fears linked to personal relationships are like baobab trees I have to rip out every morning, and it has been this way literally since childhood.
It’s a question of discipline,” the Little Prince told me later on, “when you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet. You must be sure you pull up the baobabs regularly. Now, if you attend to a baobab too late you can never get rid of it again. And if the planet is too small and if there are too many baobabs, they make it burst into pieces
from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Imagine a sweet thirteen-year-old girl without any noticeable flaws: nice figure, pretty face, and long legs in a short skirt – so probably attractive to most boys. And yet she comes home, crying: “Nobody loves me”.
How on earth can that be? What could possibly be wrong? How can an attractive girl create this nightmare for herself out of nowhere?
Of course you could put it down to adolescence, but this anxiety did not pass. The complex hid deep inside me, waiting for opportune moments to emerge and totally dominate my thoughts.
Only through starting the self-healing process was I able to rid myself of these dark thoughts. Of course I wasn’t cured overnight, but at least I started to be self-aware and ask myself the very healing question:
“What the hell?”
What the hell is happening to me? This isn’t me. Fear isn’t who I am. This is a splinter – a deep splinter, the source of which is not important. Your psychologist will tell you these splinters in your mind come from your parents. Or, perhaps they stem from a past life, according to ancient Hindu teachings. The point is, I’m able to remove them myself by cleansing my body and mind. And this is my only task.
As long as you’re alive, your mission is not yet complete. This means you still have the strength and ability to resolve all your problems
Basic principle of life
Fears are mind pollution, which can span decades, or even lifetimes.
Their intensity and manifestation can differ completely from person to person, and from one sphere of life to another, yet they are all cured according to the same principle: fears of the mind are not treated in the mind.
In other words, a polluted mind cannot be cured if one is physically unhealthy.
Of course conversations with yourself can help to ease the symptoms, but uprooting the splinter requires action, including facing your fears, being consciously aware of your thought processes, and separating yourself from that which you are not.
I try to go on a retreat at least once a year, in order to heal my body and cleanse my mind. Retreats are a good way to break from your routine. Even if you are living a carefully and lovingly constructed life, it’s still healthy to take a step back now and again. This year’s choice was a seven-day juice detox in a Portuguese forest.
Typical all-inclusive beach holidays haven’t appealed to me for years. I do not get so bored with my everyday reality that I need to completely escape it; all I need for physical restoration is a complete cut-off from my routine for one whole day a week. Besides, I have other expectations from my holidays. A good rest can help me reach new levels, have a clearer vision of the path ahead of me, find answers, and reboot my body and life. This is what really matters.
Last year’s retreat was a ten-day fruit cleanse in Montenegro, going running and swimming every day. After this, I announced my 90-day challenge, and accomplished more in three months than I had in the past ten years (like losing seven kilos, for example). This year I headed to the “first boutique hotel in the world without food”, according to the owner. I drank green juice four times a day, practised yoga, went hiking in the surrounding hills, ran, swam, sunbathed, meditated – it was a complete break from my everyday routine.
And the fact that I’m still here is proof that you can totally survive on juice alone for at least seven days. I want to share with you exactly what I learned from celery, apple, cucumber and other endless greens, against the backdrop of a gorgeous hotel in the Portuguese wilderness.
7 insights gained from 7 days of juicing
1. The submarine effect
Our consciousness is prone to incredibly strong habits and periods of inertia. We live within certain parameters and while we can speculate all we like about the need to change, in practice we are restricted by our existing patterns of behaviour and, worse still, our thought patterns. And so we get used to a certain level of health, well-being and mental clarity, accepting this as the status quo. Very often, people who’ve radically changed their lives notice a feeling of lightness in mind and body, beyond what they had ever imagined possible. As long as we continue to imagine that our current reality is absolute, making a radical change will be difficult, from a practical point of view.
The best way to redefine the limits of your own consciousness is the submarine effect. That is, an environment where you have no choice but to go for it.
For example, in real submarines you can’t smoke. It is literally not an option. So what happens to a smoker who has just begun their months-long mission in a submarine? They simply stop wanting to smoke. No signs of withdrawal or sickness. Their mind knows there is no option and so lets go of the possibility.
Struggling with physical addiction can take days or weeks, keeping us in its stranglehold, stopping us from improving ourselves; it’s our brain’s inability to recognize a different reality to the one it is used to. And given just the slightest opportunity, it can flare up out of nowhere. Hence the countless times you might attempt to quit smoking, lose weight, take up running, quit your job or change your life.
The submarine effect provides an environment in which you simply have no other choice. It’s not even a question of forcing yourself (!). You have to do the same as the people around you. When you see that there’s nowhere to hide, your mind adapts with relative ease to the new rules of the game, enabling rapid physical transformation.
We were only allowed juice on our retreat, and green juice at that – no thick, syrupy smoothies for us. Just juice and people drinking it – that was all. The nearest village was a 20-minute walk away and there weren’t even any food shops or restaurants there.
I went to Portugal secretly afraid that my body would suffer as a result of these rations, but it turns out you simply stop wanting to eat. Juice is perfectly sufficient for your body for that short a period, and when your surroundings give you no other option, temptation and occasional lapses cease to be an issue.
2. Food intake should be scheduled to the hour
We were warned straight away of the importance of eating at certain times in order to maintain our blood sugar levels, and prevent sharp fluctuations in our mood and well-being.
This, my friends, is essential. We ate, or rather drank, four times a day at three-hour intervals. Regular intake and resting until your organism fully digests is the ideal way to maintain an internal balance. You stop feeling hungry, your mood improves and, more importantly, you’re able to lose weight and purify your body.
3. Losing weight is easier together
Never underestimate the power of synergy.
Even though I was prepared for all the running, eating fruit, healthy food, staying off cigarettes (I’ve never smoked), staying off alcohol, I still had a whole host of worries like: “How on earth will I survive on juice alone? Is it even possible…?”
And yet I was living alongside a married couple who were on the retreat to celebrate their 40th anniversary together. They were in their sixties and clearly just a normal couple who decided to give it a go. They tried it and they loved it – even doing yoga every morning without fail. If they could find the strength, surely I could too, right? Well, of course I could.
Or what about the three girls, each one twice my size, who managed on juice alone – not a peep from them, and they even did it with a smile. If they had any hunger pangs, they certainly didn’t let it show, so how could I possibly let myself indulge any food fantasies? No question, obviously.
Then there were the fitness ladies, who at 45 looked no older than 30. This was actually their tenth retreat in a row, and clearly it was what gave them their glow. So, it must be worth persevering.
Basically, the proper environment will keep you on the straight and narrow, without a doubt. The main thing wasn’t even that we were all drinking juice, doing exercise and full of positive thoughts – all this was secondary. The most important thing was that this choice of holiday was the norm. It was ‘normal’ for us to spend our holiday in a health-restoring submarine without food, as opposed to a five-star, all-inclusive hotel, stuffing our faces and considering this strain on our body to be a rest. Your brain accepts what is happening and as such your inner capacity expands. Your body feels cleansed and your mind is clear.
4. Work your body to calm your mind
At times my brain would quibble: “What’s going on? Let’s have some food. Just a banana… Or maybe an avocado. Why are you holding out on me? Oh look, there’s a grapevine! Go on, just a little bit.”
The best way to combat this was not by engaging in an internal dialogue, but through physical activity, directing the mind away from food. We had all kinds of activities throughout the day. Keeping my mind off food helped me feel as though I was full.
Any irritating quibbles in the mind can be dealt with through action. Don’t feed your doubts, and they will eventually recede and disappear. Your mind will be cleansed, even of fear.
5. Change is the essence of understanding
There is a saying that I find both beautiful and profound:
A system cannot analyse itself
While you’re still in the process, you can’t see it from a distance. While you’re still in the midst of figuring out your own reality it’s very hard to see it objectively. This is exactly why it’s important to step out of the system, and I don’t mean “leaving the matrix”. It’s a brave step but nothing to do with any gold star in awareness. The tour de force is the escape from your own set of rules.
As you know, the ideal set-up for me is an escape in a submarine: one that prevents me from returning to my previous way of life. Even a short trip can be enough to re-write the rules of the game.
Our mind and body are inextricably intertwined. By cleansing your body you are also clearing your mind, and clearing your mind helps you feel lightness in your body. You’ll find that answers will come to you, even answers to questions you’ve not yet asked. I can’t state for certain that the decisions you make after a retreat are correct, but I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have come to the same conclusions in my everyday life.
6. The ability to let go
“The most important thing is to learn to let go,” repeated our yoga instructor, who taught us four times a day. This glowing 55-year-old woman had been a vegetarian for 38 years and was a mother of six. She taught us that mindful relaxation of mind and body was paramount, in order to achieve a harmonious existence.
This reminded me again of the tale of the branch, which I’d like to share once more. Forgive the free interpretation:
A man was running through the forest, being chased by a tiger. He was running and running, until at some point he tripped and fell off a cliff. As he was tumbling through the air he managed to grab onto a branch that was growing out of the side of the cliff. He looked down and saw another tiger below him, while the first one was still lingering above. Turning to God, he started to pray. “Father, it’s too soon – I want to live! Please, save me!” And God of course listened (as He always does) and even answered (as He always does): “I’m with you and I’ll help you. Just LET GO OF THE BRANCH…”
After this was published we discussed the material on the program and one of the participants said:
“So, if I understand correctly, you have to cling to the branch, right? I mean, if there’s a tiger at the bottom…”
What could I say?
Look. Yes, there’s a tiger above and, yes, there’s one below, too. This is always going to be the case. The risk of pursuing what you love for a living is that you may well fail. Equally, leaving a loveless but convenient relationship might, of course, result in being single for the rest of your life. And packing up to go travelling could mean losing the life you had before and never finding work again. But is it really better to cling onto that branch? To cling to that job you don’t want, that man you don’t love and a world that’s completely devoid of colour and adventure? I mean, sure, you’re choosing safety and a life without tigers… But that also means choosing a life without faith. In the parable, God says explicitly: “let go and I’ll help you”. Is it really the tigers we should be focusing on?
Release your mind from the pain of having to control everything. Relieve your body from the grip of your internal hang-ups. This is essential for lightness of being and a harmonious existence.
7. A healthy diet is the key to a healthy mind
No one is saying we should live on juice for the rest of our lives (is that actually possible?), or necessarily become vegetarian, which is obviously down to the personal choice of each individual. There is no external pressure whatsoever. The idea behind these types of retreats is simply cleansing your body in order to clear your mind. Even if it’s just for seven days, this can be enough to jolt you out of the habits and parameters of your daily routine. Take a step back and realize that there are no limits. Or if there are, they are so much further away than we think.
A wholesome diet means a clear mind, and with a clear mind anything is possible. Having a clear mind and being surrounded by like-minded people will help you become whoever you want to be and achieve whatever you want to achieve.
To say that each of us can be whatever we want is not entirely true. A person with a clear mind can do anything, providing their actions are good, of course. But physical detox and increased mindfulness can help any person clear their mind – which is great news.
I lost weight, had fun, soaked up some sun and got fitter through intensive training. I was able to get a clearer view of the path ahead of me, escaping old fears and examining new ones ahead – all in all, I had a great time.
Within two weeks of returning, I managed to accomplish everything I hadn’t been able to tackle since the beginning of the year. As a result, I appeared on the front page of Snob magazine in Russia (at the time of writing I’m at the top of their list of most popular blogs), I received an offer from a very well-known publisher, I’m preparing for the start of my next project as well as a complete re-branding of my current one, and in general I am going through conscious transformation – but that goes without saying, right?
Here’s to change and reaching new levels!