A Wheatgrass Retreat - Part 3
The following article is the third of a five-part series relating the experiences a long time advocate of wheatgrass juice had during a stay at a well known institute specializing in a live food dietary regime supplemented with wheatgrass juice. The system used at the Optimum Health Institute is based generally on the teachings of Ann Wigmore. There are a number of fine centers, institutes, and spas offering this particular approach to health and diet, so the selection of OHI is not a specific endorsement or recommendation. If you are facing a serious health challenge, consult your physician before undertaking such a course. And if you are unable to attend a retreat, you can begin holistic diet regimes at home!- Editor
By Chuck Juhn
Are you interested in taking wheatgrass juicing for health and rejuvenation 'to the next level'? For those of you who haven't read the first and second articles of the series, a little background is provided. As I noted in the first article of this series, Optimum Health Institute, formerly known as Hippocrates West, is a center promoting the use of living foods and wheatgrass juice as the basis of a comprehensive detoxification and rebuilding regime modified and enhanced somewhat from the original programs developed by Dr. Ann Wigmore. Its main activities center around a 3 week program designed to give an individual all the experience, information, practice, and support they need to carry the health program home with them. It is a non-profit, non-sectarian church, although this aspect is minimally stressed and has been in existence for over 25 years.
OHI offers classes in an array of topics from digestive health to sprouting and growing to gardening to relaxation, among many. It also provides a scientific, balanced, uncooked diet comprised of organically grown living foods, fermented foods, and wheatgrass juice. It includes a strong emphasis on colon cleansing using enemas, colonics if desired, and implants of wheatgrass juice at very specific intervals, as well as having massage therapy, beauty spa, and a chiropractor available on site. A lot of attention is paid to physical exercise, breathing exercises, emotional and mental cleansing, and harmonizing as well.
For this article, we will walk through the first week of a stay at OHI. We will also meet some of the guests, and hear their stories.
Sunday (Day 1)
I show up around 2 pm in the afternoon. You can get an inexpensive Orange Taxi in from the San Diego Airport. They give OHI stayers a rate if you call them. In June, of course, San Diego weather is perfect. The grounds are immaculate. I am greeted by staff whom I know from previous stays, and I settle into my room. What? No TV??? OHI strives to develop an environment where you concentrate on your own health and inner situation, so indeed, television is the first to go. They only added telephones to the rooms in the mid to late 90's as I recall.
Anyway, a review of my introductory packet tells me that there will be a tour of the grounds at 4 pm. Since I missed lunch, I am a little hungry, but the evening meal is a big one. The tour is a good time to meet some of the new arrivals and just get acquainted. With that and an orientation, the stay officially begins, and that means NO CHEATING on the diet!
On the walk, I meet some of the new arrivals. One couple is down from Canada, another in from LA, and one couple are from the Balkans! This will prove to be an interesting group. It looks like there are about 35 of us new arrivals as nearly as I can tell.
Monday (Day 2)
Here we are in the large multi-purpose room and on the stage our instructor calls us to order.
The exercise leader starts the exercise tape, and we all fall into line in the community room and get to it. I do notice a small headache coming on, and know that it is because I haven't had that morning cup of coffee. I know that by mid-afternoon, I will have a real headache, but will drink a lot of water and 'rejuvelac' between now and then to help me get through it quickly. As I go through the routine, I watch how the others are doing, because from previous experience, I know that many who are unable to do a lot of the movements now, will be extremely spry by the end of the 3 weeks, and I like to watch that progress.
The exercise class begins promptly at 7:30 am, and for me is always one of the most enjoyable parts of the program, even when I start to 'detox'. The exercise routines are touted as 'lymphatic' cleansers', and in fact, this program seems to have elements of aerobics, yoga, deep breathing, isometrics, relaxation, and great stretching. It is integral to the success of the overall detoxification program, so I try never to miss the morning class. The routine lasts an hour, and it is a workout. For those of you used to a long run or weight training, it may not seem like much at first, but even the fittest participants value the routine greatly by the end of their 3-week stay.
Bill, one of my dining companions from the previous evening says, "Hey Chuck, are you ready for this? You look like a runner", to which I reply "well, no matter how fit I think I am when I come here, this routine ALWAYS shows me muscles I didn't know I had." Bill had told me the night before that he was there with his wife Marge, who was in the fairly early stages of Multiple Sclerosis. She was there in the class in a wheelchair and had decided to do what she could while sitting down. Even though a number of folks had significant mobility impairments, one of the main requirements to attend the Center is that you are able to care for yourself and attend classes.
After exercise and before breakfast, we gather to make a circle. This, in fact, is done prior to every meal. The participants use this as a moment to reflect, consider others, and generally develop and hold positive thoughts. Then, it's over to the counter to pick up a big slice of watermelon, or, for those on the 'hypo' (glycemic) diet, a small salad. This will be the routine for the next three weeks, with a few notable exceptions: a 3-day juice fast during the first week, with oranges on Saturdays and strawberries on Sundays.
After breakfast I run to my room for a quick shower, and head for the community room for our first class as 'First Week-ers'. They don't waste time on the incidentals. You learn the program basics and how to get on with it. The instructors are intelligent, compassionate, and no nonsense. They have years of experience with this program and know its difficulties and benefits. Lots of the people there are new to the ideas presented, and there are some interesting questions. The biggest come with the introduction of "E's and 'I's" (enemas and implants). We'll talk about that later.
Monday is taken up with getting to know the basics of the program. You get an overview of how the program is designed to teach you some lifelong habits of healthy living. Some people think that a 3-week stint at the Center will cure them of their ills. The stress here is to help people understand that to really clean up the body and give it the conditions in which it can rejuvenate itself takes some time. You don't undo 30 or 40 years of wrong living in a week or two!
Mainly, we learn that the body will heal itself if given the right conditions. The program basics tell us about living food, wheatgrass juice, emotional cleansing, correct breathing, exercise, and maintaining a good mental outlook. It stresses that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT AILS US, AND WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HEALS US.
Also, and most importantly, we learn how to juice-up in the wheatgrass juicing room. Here there are 9 stainless steel juicers set up for 24-hour access. We have a chance to see how the machines work. After all, two or three times per day we will be juicing wheatgrass, so this class is one of the most important.
My new acquaintance, the guy on my left during the class, Sid, says, "Geez, the way this smells, it's just like I mowed my lawn. We really supposed to drink 2 ounces of this twice a day?" I don't tell Sid the good news, not only do you drink 4 ounces a day, you implant another 3.5 where we don't want to talk about. He'll find out during tomorrow's E's and I's class.
We also find out about drinking lots of 'rejuvelac', a lactobacillus rich fermented drink made from sprouted wheat and water, and other things about living foods. Most importantly, we hear about wheatgrass juice: how to make it, how much to take, how it is used, and other basic facts.
Then, we have a few minutes to rest up before lunch. My no-coffee headache is really starting to give me some pause, but I head for the circle and lunch and pick up a great salad, shredded squash, some cherry tomatoes, and some sunflower seed cheese. This meal doesn't seem to have a lot of zing to it, and I notice some of the other new arrivals are not very hungry. After lunch, I decide the class on "Tools for Change" is too long to sit through, so I take myself and my by now splitting headache to bed after a quick trip to the store to buy: 1) an enema bucket, 2) various bottles and jars, 3) some herbal toothpaste, and 4) some castile soap. The store only handles organic, non-animal based products with no perfumes or other similar additives. It has great stuff at great prices.
'Ding, ding, ding, ding...' before every meal a staff member passes through the grounds ringing a large bell to announce mealtime and that wakes me from a toss and turn nap. Fortunately, my no-caffeine headache has headed for the hills, so I get up and attend the circle, and then dinner. Oh oh, somehow all this green stuff, with no bread, oil, or seasoning, is just not too appetizing, and I notice quite a few of my fellow first weekers are also somewhat 'off their feed'. Sid sees me and says, "Hey Chuck, missed you during class." I ask him how he likes the look of his meal. He says, "Rabbit food." I say, "After three weeks, you'll think it's ambrosia."
Tuesday (Day 3)
"You juice that stuff and put it where? I haven't had an enema since I was a kid." Sid has a few comments during the presentation on 'Enemas and Implants.' Staff patiently explains that cleansing the colon of toxic material is a major component of the program. Sid is not having much of this, and just sits there shaking his head. I ask him to join me at lunch for a chat. He is a real character, and I want to know more about him. One of the biggest challenges for guests here is faithfully doing enemas and implants. This is a critical part of the regime and protects the body from reabsorbing toxins in the colon that begin to be eliminated from other parts of the body.
I forgot to mention, we 'First Week-ers' are just going to have juice for 3 days. The system is very clever in that you generally come into the program with a lot of internal garbage that needs to be pushed through and cleaned out quickly. The first day you pack a lot of roughage in via all the living foods and sprouts, and then you put the body on notice for a pretty intensive detox of 3 days of juices, enemas, and exercise.
I missed the morning big slice of watermelon, as we have juice instead, but by lunch I am feeling a combination of lightness and fatigue. My body is calling for a veggie burger, and I am giving it 'rejuvelac' and an enema. Not a happy situation. Anyway, Sid and I get together for the lunch. I am just in from a great dip in the Jacuzzi, and don't feel all that bad really. Sid, however, is pretty unhappy.
"Sid, what brought you to OHI?" I ask, as we sit down to a hearty lunch of a green drink composed of various blended sprouts and leafy vegetables.
"Chuck, you see these? I note the long scars on his forearms.
"I been through chemo 4 times now. I had blood cancer. My veins are all burned out. The doctor just did a blood test and said, "Sid, you need another round." I said, "Doc, forget it, I will do it another way or die. So, here I am at OHI."
I am very impressed. Sid is putting it on the line for this one. I ask him if he has ever done anything like this before, or used wheatgrass juice. He laughs. I don't ask him more. Sid and I get pretty well acquainted over our three week sojourn, but one thing I always see in Sid is his ability to keep a smile on his face and a joke on his lips.
By this time of the day, I just want to take another little nap, so I skip another class (not a good idea if you are new to the program), as I have actually visited OHI 7 times in the last 12 years and know the routine pretty well. I don't feel too bad now, but by the third day of the juice fast, you definitely know something is going on with your body, and you are just a rider on the bus.
I take care of the business end of the trip, i.e., the enema and implant, and decide that is enough for the afternoon. I manage to get up and go for the evening juice meal, but that is about all I am up for. Amazingly, a lot of my compatriots are looking good and talking up a storm with new found friends.
Wednesday (Day 4)
Up at 5:30 am, I am back into my usual OHI routine. Get some wheatgrass juice, read and meditate a bit, go out for a brisk pre-exercise walk and hit the community room for exercise class at 7:30. This is the morning schedule now for the duration.
Second day of the juice fast, and I don't feel too bad. In fact, I feel GOOD! Hmmmm, hope this lasts. Sid shows up at the end of the exercise routine. He didn't feel quite so chipper. He says he wants to talk again about these E's and I's as he isn't so good on that front. I say sure, over a juice lunch. I manage to fall asleep during the Mental Detox class, so it isn't all bad, and Sid and I grab a table at lunch time. Keep in mind that there are 3 cohorts, and the Second and Third Week-ers are enjoying their usual meal, while we First Week-ers stick to the juice. Sid wonders about this, but he says the juice is better than the rabbit food. I say, "Just wait."
Sid says he isn't going to do enemas. Too much trouble, unpleasant, doesn't like it. Do I think it will make a difference for him in the program. I say, "Sid, NOT doing them will be a very good way to make yourself very very sick indeed. Your body is going to start dumping a LOT of very toxic stuff into your colon, and you need to get it out of there pronto." What to do?
I say, "Sid, you got money?' He says, "Yeah, money is not a problem." I say, "Sid, just get a colonic done everyday here by the professional colon therapists." OHI has 4 certified Colon Hydro therapists and they do LOTS of colonics there. They have got to be the world's best they do so many. I usually have 2 or 3 done during my stay; One colonic uses up to 12-15 gallons of water during a 45-55 min session. The water is taken in and released many times during one session.
Really really beneficial, but they cost extra. Sid says, "I'll try it." I say, "Wise move, no pun intended." He doesn't laugh. Oh well, maybe later.
By the end of this day, I am ready for the sack. Validation is the name of the evening class. I ask Sid to take notes and tell me if there is anything interesting. I have been to this class 5 times before and figure I can slide by. I take a stroll around the grounds and check out the hummingbird nests. There are about 4 nests pretty close to ground-level that hold a tiny cargo of two eggs, or in some cases two little hummingbirds. I like these guys, and they seem pretty unperturbed by those of us who want to look into their private lives.
Thursday (Day 5)
I notice some First Week-ers are missing from the morning class. Last night a few were starting to flag a bit. I overheard one saying she was ready to pack up and pack out. I don't see her around. there are quite a few 'older' folks in attendance, and a lot of them are very spry indeed. I do notice that those of us in the 3rd day of the juice fast are looking a bit less energetic. The morning class is one I really like: Food Combining. This one really gets to the heart of the idea of properly packing this pipe we know as the 'digestive' system. In fact, it is an extraordinary journey, and reminds me of the book by Howell entitled Enzyme Nutrition. This is a must read for anyone seriously looking into this kind of a lifestyle. Anyway, Sid and I have a bit of a chat and he tells me he has decided to go for a daily colonic. I congratulate him on his wise choice. We laugh, he shakes his head.
By noon I am feeling pretty well used up, but nothing a quick 15 minute nap won't help before the afternoon class. Oh, Self Esteem. I remember this one too, so I decide to hit the Jacuzzi and get a little sunbathing in. I am not a good example for first timers to OHI. I used to ditch classes a lot in high school too. Maybe I should try harder, but for not, the Jacuzzi is definitely where it is at.
I see Sid for dinner. We break the juice fast with some applesauce and fruit leather. He looks sort of drawn and tired. He says, "These dam colonics are leaving me all stirred up. You think this is really gonna do me some good?' I say, "Sid, what else have you got going for you just now?" He says, "Yeah, this is the only game in town, I better stick to it . Do you think it matters if I cheat a little bit?" I say, "How do you mean, cheat a little bit?" He says, "Oh, you know, go out for dinner at one of the local restaurants." I say, "Sid, don't be crazy. If you wanted to do that, why come here?" He says, "Yeah, I'll stick this out."
Sid and I talk some more about people who come to OHI because they have some life threatening illness like cancer. He asks me if I believe people are cured by this diet. I tell him I believe the body cures itself if the conditions are good for it to do so. This means clean food, clean body, healthy emotions, lots and lots of oxygen, a good mental state, and spiritual peace. I say that one of the few things we control in this life is what goes into or comes out of our mouths, and that simple thing is one of the hardest things. I also tell him I think people should avoid doctors, but that is a personal opinion. In short, Sid, "There is no doubt in my mind this diet and lifestyle can help people overcome cancer, as well as any other disease." I add that this does not happen overnignt, although it can. He says, "How long will it take?" I say, "Well, it depends on the person, and a hundred other factors. I THINK, however, that if a seriously ill person really adopts this health regime, they will certainly see great results within 9 months." Sid shakes his head, "Too long." I say, "Why?" He says, "How am I going to live doing this crap for 9 months?" I say, "Well, how are you going to live if you don't?" He gets it.
Friday (Day 6)
"Uh oh." It's 3:30 am and I wake up with some very bad cramps in my lower abdomen. In fact, they are so bad I am thinking maybe a call to 911 is in order. I am backing off of my own advice to avoid doctors, it seems. This is not good. I try to calm down and figure out what is going on. Is there some intestinal blockage? Is it appendicitis? Was it something to do with applesauce for crying out loud? As a corpsman in the Navy, I remember that such a condition was considered a medical emergency. What to do? Well, first thing is, I try to calm down, and to drink a little water. Uh oh again. I start to gag and vomit the water. This is not looking very good, and I am NOT feeling very good. As I get ready to bundle myself off the the nearest emergency room I decide instead to calm down and try to understand what my body is telling me.
From experience before, and knowledge form the digestion class, I do a brief abdominal palpation to try to figure out exactly where the problem is. Sure enough, I quickly realize that the problem is localized to the right lower abdomen. what anatomical features are in that area? Let's see, the appendix is down there, the ileocecal valve, the cecum, the ascending colon, well, that's about for the digestive side of things. I test for some rebound tenderness, which is usually an indication for appendix problems. None of that. I palpate some more, and find that the lower aspect of the ascending colon is in stricture, i.e. it feels completely knotted up. This is not good, but maybe not so bad. I decide rather than go into the Emergency Room, I will just calm down, deal with the pain, because it is really hurting me, and see if I can get some water down me. Something inside me agrees, and with that I start to calm down quite a bit. Is it a blockage, or just a severe spasm? It's a blockage, I might try an enema, but this is a risky idea I think, especially if it is in fact appendicitis.
First, I try to massage the abdominal area lightly, with some oil on my hands. I realize that with the enemas and implants, something way down in that area of the colon has certainly been stirred up. Then I decide to try to get up and walk around a bit. This is better. I take some tiny sips of water, and they don't come up. Even though I am dizzy, want to puke, and am doubled over from cramps, my body gets me up and moving, and I get the idea I had better walk. In fact, I had better walk all around the grounds. To make a long story short, after 3 hours walking in circles around the compound, and drinking two liters of water and rejuvelac, the cramping is gone. I have just gone through a cleansing crisis, and didn't need the ER. Well-done body. I'd have hauled you off to the the Doctor. I am sure an appendectomy would have gone down at a minimum. I take a short nap, and decide to get up and try to continue the daily routine. Bad night, hope I don't get any more of those. My guess is that it was a reaction to some toxic material from the cleanse dumping into the colon. I hope that's what it was anyway.
Exercise class and people are looking better, amazingly enough. In fact, they seem downright perky. Even Sid is moving around in the class, although he doesn't participate in the actual exercises. The leader for the exercise class compliments people, she has an eye for this. She tells me if I do the exercises I will get some extra energy. This is telling me in a nice way I don't look so good. I feel lucky to even be there.
Bill says to me, "Chuck, have you noticed how my wife is doing?" I say, "She looks ok, but what?" He says, "She is much more relaxed, the pain is really reduced, but he, YOU don't look so good." Well, now that he mentions it, of course she is somehow different, or is she? We'll keep an eye on her to see what comes of this. I can only imagine how they are managing with the enemas and juicing, but they are game players for sure. For me, I just tell him "had a bad late night movie." He says, "You got a television?" I say, "Not in my room." I'm glad he leaves it at that.
The implications of many people adopting this kind of lifestyle are really quite incredible. It gets to the very heart of many many issues we face now as individuals, collectively as a society, and even as a species and just one of the many residents of this amazing planet. If billions adopted it, it would revolutionize agriculture, do away with the slaughter of millions and millions of hapless animals on the planet, and on and on. I reflect on this as I sit in the class, and massage my still sore abdomen and listen to the instructor explaining the wonders of wheatgrass growing in the comfort of your own home. I am sold.
Well, by the noon lunch, I seem to be pretty much ok. Even Sid is coming around after the three-day juice fast, and getting back into his jovial mood. "Sid," I say, "You're looking chipper, have you lost some weight?" He says, "Yea, I just weighed in over there on the machine. I'm down 9 pounds. with all that crap comin' out of me during my colonics, I'm surprised it's not TWICE that." We laugh, but he looks a lot better now than a week ago, no matter what he says.
Well, I'm going to stop here. The weekends at OHI are free to do what you like. Many guests head for town or go out and about. For me, that's just too much temptation to have a restaurant meal, or grab a cup of coffee. Forget it, I just read some books, hit the Jacuzzi, enjoy the flowers, and take it easy. Saturday mornings we have a big treat for breakfast by the way - sliced oranges. You think they fell from heaven. I like the watermelon, but the change is nice. Sundays they have strawberries...
How do I feel after the first week at OHI? Well, I feel different. There is no way, if you come into this program and do what they suggest, that you will not feel that something very significant is happening in your body. Do I feel good? Not yet. In fact, I feel like I just ran a very tough marathon. But having been here before, I know that once the first week is done, it only gets better, and better. See you next time.
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- Kat Jones