A Wheatgrass Retreat - Part 4
The following article is the fourth 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 three articles of the series, a little background is provided. (See Newsletter Archives) As I noted previously, 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 very little stressed and has existed 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, and emotional and mental cleansing and harmonizing as well.
This article focuses on second-week activities at OHI. Generally, the second week builds on the first-week material, but it begins to deal much more with food and its preparation. This is useful because quite a few people who come to OHI can only stay for 2 of the optimal 3 weeks of the program.
As I mentioned in the last article, about 3 in the morning of Friday of the first week, I wasn't doing too well at all. In fact, I was thinking it was time to head for the emergency room. Well, the weekend was great, and I took the opportunity to get a lot of extra rest, hit the Jacuzzi, and spend some time hanging out with Sid and a couple of the working guests at OHI. Working guests, by the way, referred to as 'Missionaries', spend longer periods of time at the Institute. In return for working part of each day they pay no tuition for the program. This is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to work on more serious or long-term health issues but are well enough to do specific assigned chores.
Monday (Day 9) --
Back into the routine now, so after the morning exercises we start out with a class on sprouting. Ann Wigmore was probably the motivating force behind the sprout revolution that came of age in the 1970's, when we began to see sprouts as a 'main stream' food at salad bars and sold packaged in the store. Everyone in the class has eaten sprouts, but less than half the attendees have done home sprouting. Sid comes in a little late for the class. He is on his second week of daily colonics. One colonic is similar to a 50 gallon enema, so by now Sid has floating eyeballs. He is pretty chipper, and somehow looks a LOT different from last week, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is just yet.
One of the important things about the sprouting class is the reason for the selection of the types of sprouts used at the Institute. Fenugreek is one we find in almost all the meals, and it has a bit of a taste some people don't like. I see it tossed out many times, but the instructor explains that fenugreek is an extremely important part of the liver detox and should be included in all vegetable meals. It tastes a little bit like licorice, and I like it if I mix the sprouts in with other greens. It was also pointed out that alfalfa and lentils are great pre-digested protein sources. Sid isn't particularly impressed with all this, but I notice at lunch that he eats most of the food on the plate. This is quite a switch from the previous week when more than half was going in the bin.
"Chuck, this stuff isn't too bad, but I really like the raw corn. Who eats raw corn? I couldn't imagine it before I came here. I hope we have it tonight." Sid and I decide to play hooky from the afternoon class and go sit in the sun for a while and chat. I head on up for the afternoon fun with E's and I's (enema and implant) and then catch another exercise class in the afternoon. They offer two classes per day, so if you can't make the morning class, it's good to take advantage of the afternoon session, which is usually much less crowded.
Tuesday (Day 10)
Tuesday of the second week is mostly about food preparation. In the morning, we learn about fermenting food and in the afternoon, sauces and recipes. Fermented foods, along with wheatgrass juice, are at the core of the rejuvenation diet. In fact, studies of cultures that have many centenarians, or tend towards longevity, include some type of fermented food in their diets on a very regular basis. Ann Wigmore relied on three main sources of fermented food in her dietary regime, the most important being 'Rejuvelac'. This drink, simple to make, inexpensive, and tasty, is the cornerstone in providing lactobacillus to replenish the flora in the intestines. The second important fermented food was vegekraut, which she claimed should be used like a condiment at every meal. The third, seed cheese, provides a super nutritious, high-grade protein source. OHI includes all of these in liberal quantity.
At OHI we also learn about Essene crackers, which are a dehydrated food, and seed sauces, a variation on the seed cheese recipes.
One of the facts that come through clearly is the importance of regularly replenishing the flora in the intestines with the correct bacilli. It is generally acknowledged that the current balance between putrefactive bacteria and the lactobacillus we should have is inverted due to the SAD (Standard American Diet) and long term issues with antibiotics. It apparently takes quite a long time to restore the correct balance, and during the transition certain discomforts such as excessive gas will be noted. What is quite a long time? Well, some say at least a year.
One of the big problems with transitioning to this diet is how bland it is compared to the highly seasoned and flavored foods we have become accustomed to. Sauces are an important way to make food tastier and get additional nutrients into the system in proper combinations. The main thing with sauces is that you only want to make enough for the meal, as they should be used fresh and shouldn't be stored. My favorite sauce for sure includes avocado, and they make an excellent one at OHI.
Sid sat with me during the classes and said, "There is no way I can get my wife to make this stuff, and I doubt I can do it for myself. What a pain to deal with all this. Are you gonna do this when you get home, Chuck?" I knew what Sid was talking about. Even though in a way this is all pretty simple, it takes some time and planning, and it is not a 'guy' thing for sure. "Sid, I am going to set up to do this over a gradual period of time. If I were in your shoes and had a bit of money, I would see if I couldn't get one of the working guests who is finishing up here to live in for several months to get it all set-up and help you and your wife to devise a little system that's easier for you. For sure, I would see if someone can deliver wheatgrass to you if you don't get someone to come in and help out." Sid thought a minute and said, "You know, I have a big house in Beverly Hills, and the kids are gone, maybe I can. I really doubt I can do this on my own.."
This is a very important point, the 'taking it home' aspect of this lifestyle. It is not so easy. In fact, OHI says that about 1/3 of the guests at any one time are returnees. In my own case, I know how tough it is to keep this system up at home, and in talking with others, it is much the same. When you undertake a shift like this it hits at the core of the way we normally live, and the way that advertising and socializing works now. It is not easy, and the more ways you can think of to get a bit of help at home, especially in the first few months, will make all the difference in the long run.
Wednesday (Day 11)
Hands on wheatgrass. This is what it is all about. Planting wheatgrass is extremely easy, but a surprising number of attendees found the idea strange. In particular, some of the older folks were worried about being able to manage it, which was fair enough. The instructor pointed out that in a number of the larger cities, there are commercial wheatgrass growers, many of whom home deliver. They also suggested enlisting the grandchildren in planting as something possible to do.
Just before lunch, I had a few minutes to talk with Angelique, one of the working guests. She is in the kitchen, and we have spoken off and on over the last week and a half. She has a significant health opportunity, and has been working at OHI for 3 months. She thinks she will stay another 3, and claims a remarkable turn around in her condition already. Angelique tells me one of the most important classes for her has been the Conscious Breathing Class, which is scheduled for tonight. I will definitely attend. The afternoon class is about communication, so I do my usual routine and make an extra exercise class and a tour of the Jacuzzi. The weather is perfect, and I am finally feeling very very good.
Conscious Breathing Class is extraordinarily powerful. Based on the work of Judith Kravitz, and referred to as 'transformational breathing', this is one technique that can change your life in one experience. A basic premise of the living foods regime is that our tissues are starved for oxygen. This leads to a huge host of problems. Transformational breathing techniques are designed to help us oxygenate the system, and in so doing open us up to deep cleansing that can be as much emotional as physical. I can say that this one class was worth the price of admission for the whole three weeks and strongly suggest everyone take advantage of this healing technique.
Thursday (Day 12)
One day per week everyone has a juice fast. It ends at the same time the first week-ers are finishing their 3-day fast. OHI suggests that one day per week, we take the day off from solid food and drink fresh juices. This gives the body a chance to cleanse, rest, and equilibrate. I have used this technique off and on for the last 30 years and find that my body weight never fluctuates more than one kilogram over the year when I keep a fast day. If you think about it, one day per week means that you are fasting almost 2 months in the year!
The At Home Follow-up class is interesting for those who need to know about appliances that are necessary to have, and those that are just plain useful. In a way, it is kind of a sales pitch for items sold in the store, but the prices are excellent, and the items they carry are very high quality. This is an extremely important class for those that need to get this program home and keep it going.
The Personal Care class is always just a little too much for me. I am not interested in cucumber eye patches and avocado facials, so I do not attend this one. It is interesting for those who use any type of cosmetic, however. As you probably know, cosmetics are a major source of possible contaminants, and options are hard to come by. The store carries a line of cosmetics that is hypoallergenic and apparently has no harmful additives such as aluminum.
Friday (Day 13)
At last, Friday, the end of the second week. by now I am feeling really good. Even though I was at a very good weight when I came in to OHI, I have lost 15 pounds and am pretty thin. In fact, I have had to buy some new clothes and a belt at one of the nearby stores. Angelique wants to share lunch with me today to see how the breathing class went, so I am looking forward to that right after the morning activities and classes.
On Friday mornings, Dan Strobar, one of the long term staffers at OHI, has what they call 'Testimonials'. Attendees are invited to share their experiences and observations with everyone assembled. We hear some extraordinary stories. One of the working guests relates how her bout with breast cancer has gone. She tells us that the doctors had given her little hope after a mastectomy and complications resulted in a suppurating scar that wouldn't heal, and progressive lymph node involvement. She says that after 5 months on the program, all symptoms have cleared, and the last check up with the doctors left them astonished at the results. She says they deny that diet could have anything to do with the recovery, and are mystified but happy for her. Another relates that their blood sugar levels had dropped to the point where they no longer needed medication. Another said that she had lost a total of 18 pounds while at the Institute and felt 10 years younger. This is just a small sample of the experiences shared during the weekly gathering.
I always like the class on organic gardening. It used to be done by Sam Dunbar, until his passing a few years ago. Sam and his wife were an institution at OHI from early on. He developed the organic garden on an unused hill dumpsite, and his wife Afton gave the classes on enemas and implants. They were an amazing couple and part of the legacy of OHI that will not be forgotten. Now, they have a video of Sam talking about organic gardening in his own inimitable style. It is very funny, touching, and informative and well worth the watching.
Lunch Friday for the second week-ers is a special deal. Third week-ers prepare a buffet lunch, which includes some spectacular treats and living food specialties. The problem with the meal is that it is too rich, so you need to really watch your appetite when you go through the line. Third week-ers act as servers, and we get a taste of a wide array of specialty dishes they have prepared over the week.
Friday afternoon is the second session of the Conscious Breathing class, and I highly recommend you don't miss it. Once that is over, we have the Friday night talent show to look forward to. Guests who have special talents and wish to perform offer an evenings entertainment. Sometimes, when a Hollywood star is in attendance, you get a real floor show, but the range of talent in the people that come to OHI is astonishing, to say the least. It's here that you get to see a side of your fellow students that often changes your mind completely about who you are spending 3 weeks with. You will see some fantastic talent revealed in a fun evening.
I ask Sid what he is up to for the weekend and he says he will maybe make a trip on the train down to Tijuana on Saturday, just for a change. It is very easy to get there from OHI. Sid is interested in finding out about the Gerson Clinic located there, as he heard they also offered a nutritional approach to the treatment of cancer. I wish him good luck, I am sure it will be interesting. I ask him, "Hey, Sid, you like this wheatgrass juice any better now?" Sorry, I can't print the reply, but he does tell me he is taking it no matter what it tastes like to him. Sid is definitely serious about the game plan by now, and he is seeing some remarkable results for himself.
That ends week two at OHI. I am finally feeling good, and can easily see how far I have come in just a few weeks. It seems like I have been there for months, but in another way, the time is flying by. The question looms, how WILL I take this program home with me this time? Maybe I better spend some time thinking about it and make a little plan. See you next time with a bit about my third week at Optimum Health Institute.
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- Kat Jones