People ask me if Native American’s have a tradition of doing cleanses.  The simple answer: Nope.  The complete answer: native people’s didn’t have a notion of 3 square meals a day plus snacks. Food was what you cultivated, harvested, or hunted and then prepared.  There would be days where there was less or none.  Plains tribes people tended to have a regular feast/famine eating schedule where they ate minimally for 2-3 days and then feasted for one day, not because it was something good to do, but because that’s when and how food was available.  Native people also tended to fast on a regular basis for spiritual practice.  Removing food and liquids from the body  in a certain, controlled way allows for a window of clear thinking and deep spiritual practice.  It was done with care, with intention, as preparation for a ceremony like sweat lodge, naming, change of role in the community, and so on.  Also, breaking the fast was done with as much care and intention.  So besides the fact that their diet was, by our definition, organic (lol) and had what we would term cleanses built in as a feature, there was really no need for a tradition of them or to even think of them as something separate from eating.

So, looking at the question from a different direction, why do people in western culture have a tradition of cleanses?  A practice of seeing the body separate from other aspects of life and of clogged with unnecessary things, therefore in need of cleansing? It’s not that it’s a bad thing, but it is worth looking at because it’s not occurring in a vacuüm.  There are assumptions and structures in place within the culture that make cleansing seem necessary, specific to the body, and as an additive to regular life.  One of the things I notice is that there are people who will do a physical cleanse even though they don’t feel a physical need, and when they are through they are disappointed that nothing really happened or they didn’t have the results advertised.  When I talk with these people I notice that what is clogged usually isn’t the body, although there may be symptoms like drowsiness, draggy kinda depression, things out of kilter feelings. What is clogged are their emotions.

On the surface there is a cap, a façade of “I’m happy.  Everything’s ok.  My life is great.  I couldn’t wish for more.”  It’s a bright and shiny response that gets whipped out every time someone asks or a conversation starts.  But underneath there are all kinds of unresolved emotions.  Feelings which are confusing and scary because they have been shoved down for so long..  Feelings which are strong and active and will require us to act and change and become if we acknowledge them at all.  Because the genii rarely goes back into the bottle once it’s out.  Physical cleanses can’t touch this stuff. What is called for is an emotional cleanse.  In one way or another the person needs to start taking pauses and feeling what they are feeling.  Or just admitting that they are having feelings other than what is socially appropriate.  It can be quite scary because most people aren’t avoiding the feelings themselves, they are avoiding the truths those feelings speak.  And once those truths see the light of day they can’t been unseen.  So before doing a cleanse, first ask what it is you really want to cleanse.  Is it really that your body needs to get rid of junk in its metaphorical trunk or is it something else entirely?