Detox Time

I just finished a 7-day detox. At the beginning, I thought it would be a cake walk, without the cake. But, it turned out to be more challenging than I initially thought it would be. Yes, this was my first ever detox and so I was being a bit naive. I would compare it to running a marathon (which I did many years ago). You are first excited about it. You even load on carbs the night before. For the detox, I had a fabulous breakfast at my favorite coffee shop the day before (see pic below). You go shopping for what you will need … for the marathon, these are energy gels to get you going during the run, for the detox, the groceries list consists of all greens on the face of the earth plus fruits and more greens. Did I mention greens? Maybe I should be a bit more specific since they are the stars of the detox (in my opinion), so, here we go kale, cabbage, romaine, arugula, spinach, bok Choy, broccoli, green beans, snap peas, cucumbers, celery, cilantro, parsley, … and their vegetable cousins beets, carrots, fennel, zucchini, … what a feast!


Breakfast the day before. Yummy!

When the marathon starts, you are excited and try to pass everyone else around. You think: “These losers should have trained more!” Then by mile 12, you start feeling a loser yourself and think: “What did I get myself into?” By mile 16 you are sure you should have trained more and pretty much feel like crap. At mile 20, you start getting excited again since there are only 6 more miles to go. You devour all the energy gels you find in your pockets and eventually, you reach the finish line. At that point, you are in awe of the world, your body, your mind and soul. You feel tired, but also, renewed.

I started the detox feeling very excited. I was happy I had taken the time to take care of me and to clean up my body of any gunk I had inside – the byproduct of any non-healthy stuff I consumed over the years. My liver deserved a cleanse and I knew it. I joined the detox facebook support group (yes, we were a total of 20 brave souls) and initially thought: “Who needs support for a detox? Give me a break!”. But, as the days went by, and as in mile 12 of a marathon, I realized the support group was actually essential for me to get going since I was really wondering what I got myself into. I was hungry and cranky. At day 4 of the detox, as in mile 16, I felt like crap, even because crap seemed to be getting out of all holes in my body. Again, the support group was there for me. One of my fellow detox friends (who shall remain unnamed) crapped on her sheets during the night without noticing it. Yes, stuff was coming out and I decided to skip yoga class for a few days. Couldn’t bare the thought of doing something inappropriate in a downward dog pose. I decided I would also start sleeping with double pajamas, just in case. Finally, I realized sneezing was a dangerous activity – the trick to do it without accidents is to clench your butt while you sneeze.

As day 6 arrived, I felt green was just pouring out of me.Painted in Waterlogue

I had a headache all day. But, as the night approached, I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel since day 7 was about to arrive. Woohoo!

Today is the day after. I feel great and grateful for this amazing opportunity that literally made me crap my pants (on one occasion, I admit – luckily I was home). And if you are wondering, yes, I lost a few pounds. 6 in total. That is great too … and went back to yoga today. Om.

I want to thank all the people that supported me during the detox, including my boyfriend, who I am glad to report is still my boyfriend … my fellow awesome detoxers (you rock!), Gail and ROBIN LEE for organizing and putting it together. Robin Lee is amazing and I feel extremely fortunate to have met her a few years back. She is an outstanding medical intuitive and has helped me immensely. Her website is I hope my blog does not scare you away from trying a detox yourself. I know you can do it! The next one is this Summer. I was debating if I would join or not, but I ended up winning a free entry – THANKS, ROBIN! Come and join us. It will be fun, I promise!

Check below some of the awesome salads I came up with. Lots of steamed vegetables will keep you warm and cozy.

For some laughs on some of the consequences associated with a detox. I highly recommend the sketch below from Margaret Cho from one of her comedy shows. Hope you crap your pants laughing!

Life and Health

It is pretty amazing how life and health go together. If you are healthy and pain-free, life is good. If not, life can be pretty miserable (unless you are an enlightened being).

Around six years ago, I had a major problem in my lower back (coccyx). I couldn’t sit anymore. I even bought a special chair for work that allowed me to put most of my weight on the knees. I also went to a few doctors and eventually ended up at the office of a back surgeon at Scripps (one of the best hospitals/clinics in the US). After a series of x-rays and other exams, the doctor basically offered me two “pills”: a red and a green. The “red pill” was surgery and removal of the coccyx, something he said was not guaranteed to work. The “green pill” was the name of a Doctor of Osteopathy he told me could work miracles. Her name is Aline Fournier. I decided on the green pill and “woke up” in Dr. Fournier’s office.

Yes, she cured me of my coccyx pain. But, there was more. I had been sick since I can remember. As a kid, I was always sick with throat infections and tonsillitis. It was so bad that I had to be hospitalized a number of times and went through a series of prescribed injections to boost my immune system. There was a nurse who came to our house every week to give me injections. Her name was D. Marieta. She dressed in white to make a point that she was a nurse. She carried with her a bag full of glass syringes (this is in the 70s). She would then proceed to pick one and boil it in water to sterilize it. All the while tension was building up inside me. Those injections were super painful and so once, I locked myself in the bathroom. It took a lot of persuasion from my parents for me to unlock the door. I believe they had to bribe me. In any case, when I finally opened the door, there was D. Marieta with her huge glass syringe waiting to poke me. There was no escape.

But, all the immune booster shots didn’t really quite work. In the year before I met Dr. Fournier I was prescribed antibiotics four times and was told I needed to have my tonsils removed. Dr. Fournier was the first person to tell me that I might be gluten intolerant. As a matter of fact, she believes I may have a problem with grains in general. She told me to stay away from gluten for a month and I did. A month is now almost six years. And guess what, not only didn’t I get sick that month, but I never had tonsillitis again. I have also been antibiotics free every since. Antibiotics are great, but they also kill the good bacteria, which opens you up to all kinds of other problems (have you heard of candida?). Science is just now beginning to understand the importance of our community of bacteria. We all have an individual bacterial biota and the good bacteria are essential for our good health.

It turns out gluten was weakening my immune system and the biggest immune booster I could have had was to stop eating it. Mind you that my family is originally from Italy and I grew up around my nona who masterly made the best tasting pasta from scratch.

Dr. Fournier has also cured me from other issues and she advices staying away from sugar. It is bad for the liver, promotes inflammation (and arthritis) and feeds cancer cells (and the list goes on). Since carbs (such as rice and pasta) metabolize almost instantly into sugar, it is prudent to also stay alway from those. It was very hard for me to be gluten-free and almost carb-free in one fell swoop. I lost a lot of weight in the beginning but gained most of it back once I learned how to navigate my way around food choices that were healthier.

Dr. Fournier is an expert D.O. and a master of prolotherapy which she uses to threat many ailments. I just saw her yesterday for a general alignment. My left foot has also been a problem. It goes out sometimes, mostly whenever I walk barefoot or wear sandals. It is then painful for a number of days, before going back into place. It happened a few days before my hiking down the Grand Canyon and I almost had to cancel the hike. Luckily it stopped hurting just two days before. Dr. Fournier believes my ligaments are weakened and so I went through a painful prolotherapy session on my foot. Prolotherapy, also known as regenerative injection therapy, is a nonsurgical treatment which stimulates healing. Now, these are injections in ligaments and tendons. Remember D. Marieta? I did feel like hiding in the clinic’s bathroom.

The interesting thing about Dr. Fournier is that she is also an energy healer. Her healing hands are a blessing (in fact the whole clinic seems to be immersed in this amazing healing energy). Because of her hands, she reminds me of my dad who has the same gift, but never really advanced it much. People would come long distances to see him (and still do). Once we were fishing by this beautiful river in Brazil and I happened to stand on top of a stone which sat on top of a colony of fire ants. When I realized it, the ants were all over my legs and seemed to bite me at the same time. I was probably 7 years old and in a lot of pain. My dad made me lay down and proceeded to heal me through his hands (by hovering them over my legs). As soon as he did that, the pain was gone. I was surprised and happy but mostly, I was proud to have a super dad.

Anyway, I wanted to write this entry about health and the person who changed my life for the better. I am very happy I took the green pill and grateful for all the health I got out of it.

Cheers to doctors that treat the causes of sickness, not their consequences!

The Interview

I am back in San Diego and so it seems my days at the Garchen Buddhist Institute went by really fast. While at the center, though, the days seemed to stretch much longer than usual and I will attribute that to my attempt (and maybe sometimes success) in being present. I decided to make an effort to clear my mind from thoughts and concentrate instead on the present moment (not easy, but as I learned, you can only be present by actually trying). I continued to meet with Rinpoche, other lamas and monks, Ani Angela, staff and new friends on a daily basis, either for offerings or for talking about life in general.

Among a few souls seeking refuge at the Institute was Laura from Estonia who is studying to be a Tibetan doctor. I was really impressed not only by that but also by her overall energy which seemed peaceful and at ease. I am sure she will be a great doctor. It was great talking to her since given that I arrived at the Institute just a day after leaving my job, I was in need of some tips on how to deal with my racing heart and my stressed self. She gave me some wonderful tips that I will literally take to my heart (including drinking a glass of whole warm milk with nutmeg before going to bed). In any case, if you are interested in learning more about Tibetan medicine, I highly recommend a movie entitled “The Knowledge of Healing” which features the Dalai Lama and his personal doctor Tenzin Choedrak.

I also met Paul who arrived at the Institute a few weeks back. Like me, he also discovered this place from watching “The Yogis of Tibet”. I thought Paul was fascinating since he was raised Mormon but knew from an early age that the Mormon religion was a bit too narrow (I am being nice and compassionate with the Mormon church here). We didn’t talk much but my impression is that he is on the verge of a personal spiritual breakthrough. According to Amma, the “Hugging Saint”, there are three types of people. For some, the glass is full, that is, these people have no space to learn new things or the ability to change their old beliefs. Then, there are the people for which the glass is empty. They are in no capacity of taking anything that they cannot comprehend. Lastly, there are people for which the glass is half-full (or half-empty). These are people that can absorb new ideas and re-evaluate old beliefs based on new information. I believe Paul is in this category.

In any case, my visit was coming to an end and, although I was able to be in Rinpoche’s presence, I had not really conversed with him as I had done with Abraham a few days earlier. I am quite sure that deep inside I harbored that desire since a few hours before leaving, I was approached by one of the staff members who asked me if I would like a personal interview with Rinpoche. Obviously, I said YES.

And so, in a few minutes, we were on our way to the Lama house where I would meet with Rinpoche. We came in and waited for a few seconds and soon Rinpoche’s personal assistant and translator came to get me. We went upstairs and walked through a corridor leading to the room where Rinpoche was sitting by himself. When I came in, he opened a huge smile and asked me to sit in front of him. You can probably imagine that I had a smile on my face much larger than my mouth. My heart was smiling too since I felt happy and at home in his presence. I told Rinpoche about my upcoming book “Inhale, Exhale, Repeat”. That although it related a personal journey, it delved into spirituality and religion, including Buddhism and Hinduism. He went on to tell me that I should definitely write about the essence of religion – love and compassion – since many people write books that end up putting one religion against another, which is not really of service. I thought that was a perfect comment. I then asked if I should find another job or if I should dedicate my time instead to promote the book and start on a new book project I have in mind. He said that I should find a new job so that I can pay the bills until I can be a full-time writer. That is obviously a very reasonable answer. I decided to tell Rinpoche then that I “work” with Angels and wanted to know if Tibetan Buddhism has space for Angels somehow. He told me that deities like the White Tara or Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, can be perceived as Angels. It took a while for me to explain what I meant by “work” and for the translator to capture the sense of what Christian-based religions define as Angels. At some point, he used his arms to convey the idea of wings, by flapping them up and down. I thought that was extremely sweet. In any case, we went on to talk about anxiety and ways to relieve it. According to Rinpoche, the main source of anxiety is self-grasping, which I believe is similar to the ego and its view as a separate entity producing feelings of anger and attachment to the material world.

I could probably talk to Rinpoche for hours, but I knew it was time to go. His last words were about cause and effect, which is behind karma.

At the end of our interview, he gave me a mala (rosary) and touched his forehead with mine. I felt loved and honored. Thank Universe!

It was time to pack and get going, though. Once at the dorm, I had an opportunity to talk again with Ani Angela who is a sweetie. Upon learning about my book, she offered me a prayer for its success that touched my heart. I am sure the Universe heard her words.

As I was driving home, I could not stop myself from thinking about the days at the Institute and mostly about Rinpoche’s last words on cause and effect. I believe the concept is somewhat simple but its implications are profound. Basically, if we plant an apple tree, we will get apples, not peaches. Got it? Easy, right? Well, easier said than done. If we want a happy life, we need to plant the right seeds that will lead us there. As I was thinking about all that, I looked around and decided to start planting the right seeds by stop thinking and start appreciating all the wild flowers along the road – an amazing display of yellow against a monochromatic desert landscape (the pics don’t make it justice).