It comes as a surprise to many, especially those involved in alternative medicine, that the only dirty word in my vocabulary is the word “clean.”
There are shelves full of cleanses and stores full of cleansers. We have spring-cleaning on our minds and “cleanliness is next to godliness” ringing in our ears. Why don’t I like that word? What’s wrong with clean? What at on earth could I possibly have against such a small, neat, defenseless, pretty, pure, beloved word?
This: I suspect it of being behind the very big mess we are making of our planet, our communities, our homes, and ourselves. Yes, I believe that the pursuit of clean is the pursuit of death and that it is, literally, killing us.
Anti-bacterial soaps. Anti-fungal sprays. Antibiotics. Heavy-metal detox. Liver flush. Do you hear the war, the anti-life, in these terms? To clean is to remove. Ethnic cleansing removes the unwanted people. Hitler wanted a pure, clean, blue-eyed, blond-haired, white-skinned world. (I have heard alternative medicine practitioners say, unbelievably, that brown eyes and black skin result from generations of toxins building up!)
We cleanse what is dirty, unwanted, unneeded; that which must be removed. We cleanse by sweeping, mopping, wiping, dusting, washing, scrubbing, removing, re-moving, moving that which have moved, moving it on. And the questions that must arise then are: “Where shall we going to put that which we have removed? Where shall we throw it? Where is away?”
Where are we going to throw away that which we have cleaned away? What shall we do with the toxins, the filth, the disgusting waste, the foul, unneeded, unwanted, unloved parts? Where is far enough away? Can I ever get away from my shadow?
Yesterday a woman asked me how to clean her liver. When I suggested that, instead, she nourish her liver, she replied: “But I drink two bottles of wine every day and I am sure that my liver is being harmed. How could nourishing my liver be better than cleansing the alcohol out of it?”
The words “clean” and “cleanse,” when applied to living things, are actually code for “damage” and “destroy.” The liver is not a toilet to be flushed, nor a rug to be beaten, it is a living organ. It is not a filter; it does not accumulate toxins or alcohol. It is a living part of a living body.
Every drop of blood in a body passes through its liver every hour. The liver is so important to living – it’s no mistake that the words are the same – that it is one of the most regenerative organs in the body. Each one of us gets a new liver every six weeks. Really! Cell by cell, the liver is completely rebuilt every forty days.
Nourishing the liver with herbal teas and tinctures of dandelion, chicory, and milk thistle allow the liver to recreate itself in perfect health in a very short time. In the ordinary situation, the liver can regrow itself from a small piece. In the extraordinary situation, ahealthy liver can deal with alcohol, even 2 bottles of red wine (or a liter of vodka) daily. Not ideal, but do-able.
So-called liver-cleansing herbs often cause the liver to work harder. They frequently speed up digestion, which throws far more than the normal amount of metabolic-break-down by-products into the blood for the liver to deal with. Would you feel cleansed if you were asked to work twice as hard at the hardest part of your job? No. And neither does the liver.
Cleansing is an old time whose time has come for retirement. In the Age of Aquarius, and I am an Aquarian, we tend what we have instead of throwing out what we despise. We actually even do our best to compost what is not immediately usable, going with the system, the flow, instead of against it.
The idea of cleansing as healthy is from the Heroic Tradition. It harks back to Ancient Greeks, who believed that bad spirits in our bodies cause sickness, and, therefore, health required removing those bad spirits.
These ideas flowered in Europe and became the Humoral Theory, which supposes that there are four humors in the body, and disease or sickness are caused by too much of one or another humor. The humors are restored to balance by removing them through bloodletting, leeching, and the giving of cathartic and emetic herbs and drugs (which cause copious vomiting and evacuations of the bowels). Mercury was a favorite Heroic cleanse a hundred years ago because it causes such watery vomiting and diarrhea!
We seek cleansing for our real and imagined sins. We seek cleansing of our overindulgences. But the more we cleanse, the less we love ourselves. The more we cleanse, the more we disrupt the biome of our bodies and the biosphere of the earth.
How would your soul respond to the joy nourishment instead of the threat of cleansing? How would your self-worth flower if offered loving-kindness instead of self-castigation? How would you be different if you fed that which you loved and loved that which you have been starving?
Don’t cleanse your soul. Feed it. Replace cleansing with nourishing in all aspects of your life Amplify your sense of self love and self-worth by seeing yourself as moving into greater health instead of struggling against a tide of toxins. Now is the time to give up on clean, to stop looking at the glass as half-full, to focus less on what is wrong, and finally, to take a soul-deep breath and just be.