Nourishing the Body
“It is slavery to live in the mind unless it has become part of the body” said Kahlil Gibran.
The words of Gibran, born in 1873 in the Lebanon, are perhaps more relevant today than ever. The mind, this tremendous creative powerhouse, experiences great suffering when it gets lost, believing its own creations. The body, on the other hand, is always in reality, receiving and responding to real time chemical and biological information.
When the mind settles into the reality of the body, mental slavery ends.
When the mind settles into the reality of the body, mistreatment of the body ends.
Gibran’s words sum up everything I do in my work. We explore how the mind shifts out of its ‘unreal’ traumatised state of belief and into the witnessing space in which creations are understood for the works of imagination they really are.
The mind is a product of the body. Toxins, nutrients, hydration, energy levels, hormones, exercise, movement, sunlight, oxygen, sleep and, above all, the accumulation of embodied trauma and conditioning, affect the mental experience of what we are and what the world is.
And the body, of course, is profoundly affected by the mind. The stress, tension, anxiety and depression created by a mind, conditioned into insecurity and struggling to find its way turns the body into a battlefield. Fight, flight and freeze triggers flood the body with chemicals. Toxic habits form to numb the emotions and to silence the relentless mental narrative. The mind fights its own creations and the casualty of that unwinnable war is the body.
It is only from the mind becoming sane and returning to its true nature of consciousness that attention can be fully directed to the information the body is continually providing. Attention in the body is healing on every level.
The work we do with the mind in our RESET courses is, I believe, the cutting edge of exploration into how the mind shifts from trauma to truth. We go as far as we possibly can to deeply understand what the mind is, how it works and how it releases the distorted past and imagined future to access its true power.
It makes absolute sense to accompany this exploration by similarly understanding the physical body. What will bring the physical into its peak capacity, energy, vibrancy and health so that it becomes the state of the art vehicle for the brilliance of the mind? The Formula One Mercedes for the Lewis Hamilton driver? This is particularly important as the work that we do in RESET, particularly with the subliminal recordings that we use, creates deep changes within the brain that now requires even more energy than usual.
There is such conflicting information about how to treat the body for maximum health, strength, capacity, longevity and ability though. Animals in their wild natural habitat don’t have this problem. They are surrounded by the perfect environment for them. The intelligence that they are is free to act in accordance with the health of the body, with the ability to flourish, reproduce and to live out the natural lifespan.
Most of us humans, on the other hand, are completely out of sync with what is natural, healthy and right for us. The environment most of us inhabit now is not the one in which our species evolved. We are bombarded with encouragement to eat and drink what is not good for us and the brief relief that these toxic substances give to a stressed system create powerful addictions. Added to this mix are completely conflicting messages from different experts about what to eat and how to move.
To cut through the confusion and to find the clearest possible and most accurate guidance I could bring to my clients I went to the medical and wellness centre repeatedly recognised as the World’s and Europe’s best: Vivamayr Maria Wörth, on the shore of Lake Wörthersee in Austria.
I only had a week there (they recommend at least two) but I can say without any question that it has changed my life and will change how I speak with clients about the physical system of which the mind is a product.
Above all it showed me in every way that there is no separation between mind, body and environment. Each creates the other. Here are some of the practices and approaches I will continue and which I will be recommending to my clients
1. Get the fullest and most precise, accurate information possible and use it
In our courses, I often say, ‘pin the mind down’ meaning make it specific, precise and accountable. Bring it into reality.
The mind is in trouble when it tries to solve problems of its own creation because it is not dealing with actual information.
The body is in trouble when its signals are overlooked or obscured. For many of us, the body is routinely silenced.
At Vivamayr, as much real time information from the body as possible is gathered. Nutritional deficiencies, food intolerances, body composition, aerobic function, metabolism, vitamin and mineral analysis… all of it used to create a therapeutic programme that is exactly right for that individual.
At the same time, the individual is encouraged to pay close attention to the body’s signals (the mind becoming part of the body). At meal times, guests sit quietly with no screens, not even a newspaper or book. The whole focus is on the food and the information provided in the act of eating. The mind registers through the eyes, ears, tastebuds, mouth, throat and stomach what the body is eating and when it has eaten enough. With this focused attention, the meal registers.
Information, it is clear, is the basis of intelligent health.
2. Don’t ingest toxins
The analogy between the body and a car is always a good one. We wouldn’t put diesel into a petrol engine. If we owned a Ferrari we would be extra careful with the oil we use.
Habits that treat the body as a rubbish dump are completely understandable given the conditioning and, at the same time, must be the starting point in cleaning up mind and body. At Vivamayr there is no alcohol, no processed food, no black tea, no coffee, minimal sugar.
This also extends to how the good stuff can become toxic. They continually emphasise no raw foods after 4pm. This is because raw foods are hard to digest and remain undigested in the body at night time, fermenting and creating a toxic load that the liver has to manage. For the same reason they advise no food at all after 9pm.
They also recognise that life is for living and that meals are often sociable and celebratory and important. They advise going lighter on food the day after a night out and support the system the next day in dealing with what has been eaten or drunk.
3. Create space
There is an old story of a university professor who visits Nan-in, a Japanese master, to find out about Zen. When the professor arrives, Nan-in says, ‘Let us first have some tea’.
The Japanese master started pouring the tea into his visitor’s cup. The tea reached the top of the cup and Nan-in kept pouring while the tea flowed out of the cup and onto the table and floor. The professor watched the tea over-flowing until he could no longer stay silent ‘It’s full’ he said, ‘No more will go in.’ Nan-in replied, ‘You are the cup. How can I show you Zen unless you become empty first?’
Creating space is a foundation of the Vivamayr philosophy. Indeed, the first thing that will strike you when you arrive is the sensation of openness. The decor is minimal. There is air and light.
It makes no sense for the medical team to begin their intense art with the body without first establishing the clearest possible canvas. The start of ‘the Cure’, as they call it, is about creating space throughout the whole system. A dose of Epsom salts each morning as soon as you arrive helps that along (there is a reason the bedroom toilets have an impressive array of, shall we say, ‘bottom care’ features) and then very little food in the first days - just soup and broth.
The yoga teacher leading the morning exercise on the jetty in the lake encouraged us to pause after the exhale before beginning the inhale, creating a space, a sensation of emptiness. The nasal therapies (essential oil dipped cotton buds stuck up our nostrils), abdominal massages and a host of other treatments all had similar effects: creating space where once there was only blockage.
We do the same with the mind as it leaves its own slavery, emptying itself of beliefs and concepts. A coach I had many years ago said, ‘Come from nothing’.
It is the only place to start.
4. Treasure what is precious and let go of what is not
At the heart of the ethos of Vivamayr is the intelligence of the body, ensuring that everything that is valuable, precious and transformative is respected and supported and what is harmful, toxic and unnecessary is released.
Again the design of the hotel and its functional medicine ethos complement each other. Everywhere within and without the hotel’s building and grounds is beauty and gentleness. It is clear that every detail, every object, piece of furniture, colour, pattern and texture is consciously and carefully chosen. I had a very strong sense of everything being fit for purpose.
The digestive system is a key focus of course because what is ingested literally makes up the physical body. Through alkali powders and drops of a bitter herbal solution as well as carefully considered menus the unhelpful acidity in the body is reduced.
They recommend chewing each mouthful 40 times. This is to begin the process of digestion in the mouth where powerful enzymes in the saliva can start to work and to break down the food into a consistency which supports nutrient extraction as it moves through the digestive tract.
For the same reason, they recommend no liquids for an hour before and after eating so as not to dilute the digestive enzymes while they are at work, and then, in-between meals, three litres of liquid whether water, water flavoured with herbs or tea. The Vivamayr tea bank is worth the trip in itself.
A daily sauna, abdominal massage and body wraps all support the elimination of toxins from the body.
Then finally: rest.
There is full recognition that all systems need downtime. They recommend no food at all, not even a healthy snack in between meals to give the digestive system time with no activity. There are places throughout the interior and exterior of the hotel where you can sit or lie and look out over Lake Wörthesee. The bedrooms are absolutely silent and completely dark when the curtains are drawn. Rest is essential.
The sane mind resting in the intelligence of the body.
The supported body creating a different mind and experience of being.
The word sane comes from the Latin, sanus meaning healthy. Kahlil Gibran and Dr med Franz Xaver Mayr, were both born around around 150 years ago (only 8 years apart) yet their work and words continue to point the way to true sanity of mind and body.