The holidays can be pretty rough on all your bodies: on the physical, with all the food and drink and travel; on the emotional, with all the people and relationships and drama; on the mental, with all the realizations and identifications that come up when we go home or reflect on the past and future; and on the spiritual, as we do our best to cultivate kindness and peace and joy in the midst of all the intensity of the season.
It’s a lot.
I wrote about how to navigate the holidays with balance and grace in THIS POST, and I hope it was useful. As we reach the crest of the holiday season and start sliding into the New Year I thought I’d use this space to suggest a few ways of dealing with the fallout, just in case you picked up a few pieces of shrapnel along the way
I’m terrible with physical cleanses and diets… not that I haven't tried any. I was on Atkins at age 14 and once did a master cleanse during Thanksgiving. I’m working every day to cultivate and sustain presence and balance and peace, but I’ve found that most physical cleanses result in the opposite. Even if the physical aspect of a cleanse delivers as promised, a too-intense regimen can leave your mental and emotional bodies just as toxic as your physical was before the whole ordeal began. Deprivation can create just as many undesirable effects as excess.
For a milder cleansing that focuses on clearing and balancing your emotional and mental bodies I offer you the following practice for some delicious intentional schvitzing.
- GET WET- Dry heat is supposed to good for relaxing muscles and releasing toxins but I much prefer steam. Water is the element that represents emotions, Air represents the mind, and the heat that makes the steam possible is associated with fire, or the transformative element of the Spirit. By breathing in steam you are metaphysically encouraging emotional and mental transformation.
- PICK YOUR POISON- Find an awesome place to steam. Go fancy schmancy if you like, or seek out a place that doesn’t cost too much in ethnic neighborhoods with traditions of bathing culture. I love the Russian and Turkish Baths in New York and the many Korean Spa complexes in LA. There are also plenty of gyms and health clubs that have steam rooms. You can even do an OG Steam facial using a lovely heatproof bowl into which you pour a few cups of freshly boiled water and a few drops of essential oil. Wait a reasonable amount of time so that the steam is hot but not uncomfortable (be careful!). You can then put a towel over your head and the bowl and get to some deep breathing.
- BE CLEAR - Steam has beneficial properties and feels really good, but the key to a deeper emotional cleanse (and a deeper just-about-everything) is INTENTION. What do you want to process? What do you want to clear? What do you want to learn? Some examples: “I want to cleanse and balance my mental and emotional bodies,” “I intend to release any emotional schmeckus that I internalized this holiday season,” or “I want to shed any skins that I’ve recently inhabited and emerge in a state of presence and authenticity.” If you are into essential oils, pick one that supports your intention - lavender for relaxation, bergamot for balancing, or grapefruit for energizing. Be clear about your intention, write it down or just say it over and over a few times in your mind. Then…
- SET A DURATION - This is the time you will commit to allowing your intention to work itself out. It can be short or long: 10 deep breaths over the bowl, 5 minutes at the gym, or 4 hours in the Russian Banya. Whatever it is, be clear, be reasonable and stick to it. The clarity of your intention in combination with a clear duration sets you up so that your extra-dimensional support system can do their thing while you do yours.
- BREATHE- All you have to do now is focus your attention. It’s the simplest and hardest part because now, change is ready to occur. Even though we’ve asked for the processing and/or release it can be freaky when it actually occurs. Whether you’re in doubt, overhwelmed, or perfectly poised, the cue is the same: FOCUS ON YOUR BREATH. As you inhale focus on welcoming change into your self along with the steam into your lungs. As you exhale let it all out and let it all go. You can also focus on a particular chakra, imagining breathing in and out through the energetic center. You can focus on breathing in white or bright light and breathing out grey or dark light. This also works well with the skin, imagining each of your pores as little mouths that can also breathe in the light and exhale the dark. If you like to focus on a mantra, do. It can be as simple as saying “In,” on the inhale and “Out,” on the exhale. A balanced breath is ideal here, so you could also count to 4 on the inhale and 4 on the exhale.
It sounds simple enough, but when all these parts are moving it can get pretty intense. This is why I love to focus on the duration and get a little OCD about it. When I do a steam bath at home I pick say, 4 rounds of 15 breaths. At the gym I’ll do 2 rounds of 10 minutes each in the steam. You'd think it’s easy, but watching your breath for 10 minutes straight in steam heat while breathing in light and exhaling dark can be challenging. You might want to give up, but if you stick to the combination of clear intention and balanced attention during the duration you’ve chosen, some kind of transformation will occur. You don't have to focus to the point of neurosis. Just set it all up and then breathe. What occurs may be obvious, or it may be subtle, but it will work on some level. In an intentional, vibrational existence, it’s simply gotta.
I hope you’ve had a glorious holiday and continue to do so.
Love and blessings to you and yours,