A Wheatgrass Retreat - Part 5
The Last Week at Optimum Health is the Best Week
The following article is the last in 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
If you want to get more information on different sites and centers around the world that offer a Wigmore type program, check out the website www.annwigmore.com.
Are you interested in taking wheatgrass juicing for health and rejuvenation 'to the next level'? For those of you who haven't read any of the previous articles of the series, a little background is provided.Optimum Health Institute 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. [All previous articles are on the front page of The Newsletter Archive. Scroll down on the front page to the Information Library and click on newsletter archives.]
OHI offers classes on 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
In this article, we talk a bit about the third week of an average 3-week visit to OHI. When you become a 'Third Weeker', you have a certain cachet at the Institute. The third Weekers have been there and done that. There are usually less of them proportionally because of our standard 'two-week vacation', and let's face it, if you made it this far, you are lookin' good. People who rolled into town pasty gray and bent over are dancing around like Rock Stars. Some of our wheelchair folks are actually out on their own two feet navigating the grounds. ALL of the folks have a clearer, more vibrant look, and definitely have something special.
It is amazing and humbling to see just how resilient the human machinery is and how quickly it will begin to enliven itself when given half a chance. When you think about how sudden and major a change people are making in their diet and daily habits, and how radically different the food is at OHI, along with drinking what amounts to the 'juicing' of a good lawn mowing, it is extraordinary we didn't loose some of the folks (yes, I mean like, through death) along the way. Something is definitely going on here, and the only way to believe it is to DO IT!
In a way, the grind is over, and the strategy of the first two weeks is becoming more apparent. The OHI class regime is important because it keeps you moving and keeps you interested in spite of how really bad you might feel on any given day. By attending classes, you have an opportunity to get at least some moral support from your cohort and getting up and out of your room is sometimes half the battle to getting to the juicing room. Believe me, I know that some days you would rather just stay in bed and snooze.
Anyway, to get on with it, what do you do during this third week? The OHI program certainly does not let you rest on your laurels. There is the usual exercise class in the morning, the meal schedule is exactly the same, but the classes are a lot more intimate. Not only are there generally fewer people now, and those that remain you are getting to know much better, but the interaction with instructors is also much more personal. Staff and instructors have a story to share and have seen a lot of people in the OHI environment. Now you begin to really hear some amazing stories of health, healing, and rejuvenation.
The weekend for me was pretty laid back; I just caught some sun and did some reading. There are a few books that really catch the fundamentals of this program and what is behind it, and I highly recommend you read them. The two most important and interesting for me were written by Edmund Bordeaux Szekely, and can be found in the OHI store. The Essene Gospel of Peace Book I is an extraordinary book purported by Szekely to be a translation of the Book of John from the original Aramaic. A reading of this translation will definitely leave you amazed and wondering. It is the teaching of Jesus to those that have serious health issues to deal with.
The work talks about the sun, air, hydro, and mud therapies, a diet of living foods, cooked at most by the sun's heat, and even talks about the dreaded enema part of the E's and I's. The Essene Gospel of Peace Book 4 is more extraordinary, and tells us about the wonder of wheatgrass. More importantly, it talks about love, compassion, spirituality, and society. I also read Howell's book Enzyme Nutrition, and would definitely recommend this to anyone who is serious about the why of a living foods diet. His work shows clearly how the current nutritional pyramid leaves out one of the most important fundamental aspects of good nutrition, enzymes. It was a great weekend, just reading in the sun watching the hummingbirds learning to fly.
Monday (Day 16) -
Sid and I are still in this thing down to the bitter end, and we meet up on Monday morning of the third week after morning exercise class. In case you don't recall, Sid is the one who has already been through 4 rounds of chemotherapy for acute leukemia, and has decided not to go through it any more, even though his recent blood tests look pretty grim. His doctor has said without another round he can't last more that about 4 months.
"So Sid, did you make it down to Tijuana over the weekend?"
"Yeah, I did. I made a visit to the Gerson Clinic down there."
"Oh yeah? Well, what do you think?"
"I'll tell ya, Chuck, it was interesting, very very interesting. They have a hell of a program down there. I checked it out a bit. For one thing, it ain't vegetarian, but neither am I, so no big deal. For another, it is very expensive compared to this, but for me that's no big deal either. The thing is, it's full. It isn't all that big a place, and it is full, full, full, full, full. It's full of people from all over the world. I must say I was pretty surprised."
"So, Sid, do you think you will go there for awhile?"
"Well, ya know Chuck, I've been thinking about what we talked about last week, and I think I am going to stick this thing out. I mean, like you said before, six to nine months of this and I ought to be cleaned up and cleaned out, as they say, and I think this is the way to go. It is a hell of a lot easier to do it at home than it would be to go to that clinic down there for what they do, and for how much it costs. Nope, I believe I will just stick it out on this thing and see what my blood tests show. What do you think?"
"Sid, if I were in your shoes, I think I would do the same. Yes, I think it's a good move."
Sid and I talked for a bit more before we headed off to the sauerkraut class, but I was amazed to note that Sid chowed down on his breakfast salad (he was on the 'hypo' or hypoglycemic diet) like it was the best thing he ever ate. I thought back to our first meeting....
Properly fermenting foods is one of the most important aspects of this program. It is really easy, because surrounding us are the microorganisms that make it possible if we just arrange the appropriate conditions for them. Usually, sauerkraut is made with a lot of salt, but the OHI method eschews this for a healthier method. Salt is usually added to a kraut to keep the shredded cabbage from getting too soft, and it will keep for a long time.
Anyway, none of that matters as the method used at OHI creates a quick fermented kraut that, when used as a condiment at every meal, brings a blast of flora to the intestines that is part and parcel to the living foods program aim, which is to reestablish the correct balance of microorganisms in the gut. A bunch of the classes during the third week are devoted to actual food preparation, and they are held in a small, wonderfully appointed little kitchen on the second floor of the back living units. It is the apartment Rachel Solomon used to stay in, if I recall correctly, and it has been converted to a large, open, food prep area used a lot by the third weekers.
We make the sauerkraut up according to the OHI recipe, and have some laughs with the instructor over the whole wheatgrass thing. She tells us that she has been doing this stuff for the last 10 years, and that when she came to the program as a guest she had been given 2 years maximum to live, and the doctors said there was absolutely nothing to be done. She told us that Rachel helped her keep her head above water until she could sort herself out. She entered the Missionary program (I think it was called the Working Guest Program back then), and moved permanently to the San Diego area, and had been involved with OHI ever since.
I enjoy a long lunch break with some other guests, and find out that there is a young couple from Croatia. I ask them how they got involved in all of this, and they tell me that in Europe there is a long and strong tradition of health spas and fasting clinics, and that the Wigmore methods are used in some, though she is not as well known as Steiner or Bircher-Benner. They are surprised at the number of Americans who are so obviously and significantly overweight. I ask them what they will do after the program, and they said they were visiting several operations in the American west to see how the various centers were organized, and the services they offered. They mentioned a possible trip down to Patagonia, Arizona to see the operation Dr. Gabriel Cousens has set up, and mentioned some other place in Texas they had heard about. It wasn't the sister center for OHI, but some kind of water fast retreat related to meditation. I wished them luck and asked how they found the system at OHI.
"We appreciate the effort that goes into the food here, although the organic garden here is not as bountiful as we expected. Of course, they need a lot of food here, and there isn't really a huge space for growing. We checked out where it comes from, and it does appear to all be completely organically grown. Our favorite thing to do is the Jacuzzi."
We end the conversation with a short discussion about the never-ending politics of the Balkans region, and I head up to the room to take care of the E's and I's. I have gotten the routine down to a very predictable and not so unpleasant part of the daily routine. Hmmmm, things change, as do attitudes.
Tuesday (Day 17)
Dehydrating foods is the topic of the agenda today. We get a full dose of how to slice and dice, and the proper way to lay our ingredients into the trays on the driers. Really it is no big deal, and mostly the students just chat and enjoy the relaxed pace of the morning activity. A lot of the food we prepare is actually served at the Friday buffet that the third weekers prepare and serve to the second weekers. It is a real treat, but as I said before, after 2 weeks of very clean food, the concoctions we put together are a little too much for the stomach if you overeat even one little bit.
The afternoon is 'Advanced Alpha Technique". I like the part about pain control, and I decide to try the alarm clock method as well There are only about 5 of us in the class, so the instructor asks us some questions about how we think we could use this technique in some situation where we need to remain calm and collected. One of the guests is a nurse who works in an emergency room setting, and she said that even though she has been doing it for years, there are still some situations that come in the door that really can push the panic buttons. She says she will now have an added skill to help keep her focused. Another attendee claims some fairly major test anxiety, and she says she has a thesis defense coming up where this will be really useful.
After the the class I go get a bit of sunbathing in on the small patio reserved for the purpose near the Jacuzzi. I am getting pretty used to wandering around with my bottle of Rejuvelac, and keep it handy all the time. By now, I am actually drinking about a liter and a half a day, and I can't imagine drinking a soda when I have a hugely superior alternative. I laugh when I recall at last Friday's testimonials when the gal said her first reaction to Rejuvelac was that it tasted like 'vomit'. Seriously, she really felt that this stuff was pretty bad news. She also said that after two weeks, she was drinking it whenever she could.
Wednesday (Day 18) -
Well, it is starting to hit me that I will be out of here in a few days, and I am a little bit worried. This place is an oasis of calm, and there are just no temptations to deal with. When I say temptations, I mean all the FOOD we are tempted with during the day. I mean we are BOMBARDED with these messages, and it is on more than every street corner. It surrounds us almost like a blanket. I think about Ben, the hugely overweight guy who came in this week that I got to know briefly. He took one look around the center and said, "Get me to a restaurant." I said, "Hey Ben, what's the deal, you just got here, what is the point?" He said, " I can't see anything normal here, like, no television, no candy machines, and no real food. I'm gonna starve to death." I didn't say anything at that point, but this guy weighs in at about 485 lbs, so I don't think we will be seeing any kind of starvation setting in. But it did make me wonder about how this world was organized. In fact, just how is the world organized when it comes to food?
Dr. Wigmore included many additional ideas in her program that are not necessarily stressed here at OHI. The Institute is focused on the individual's needs, and that is great. However, Ann definitely had a very global view, and dietary choice is certainly a pillar of the larger system she described. Much of her concern was that the impact of daily choices made by billions of people are steering the boat, and the boat is headed for the rocks. Our penchant for fast food, lots of protein, and quick 'comfort' from what we eat has set up a process that not only affects the so called developed world, but tremendously impacts the developing world as well. It is a huge topic, but when we examine the problem of food, we can see it is connected to every aspect of the environment and the disasters we face that we have created for ourselves, as well as the health decline that portends a collapse of the health care system in the next 20 years or so.
When one reflects that the adoption of a living foods diet based on locally procured foods could in fact revolutionize the way the world economic system functions, it is an extraordinary thing. In fact, for those that are interested, there are three great thinkers and practitioners whose work all shows that this world can be cured one person at a time: Dr. Ann Wigmore and her collected works; Mananobu Fukuoka, author of The One Straw Revolution; and Scott Nearing, who wrote among other books, Living the Good Life. Each one of the above guiding lights has shown very specifically how each of us can and will make a difference, for good or ill in the aggregate.
Ben's problem is more immediate, and he does not seem concerned just now in exploring how his eating habits may be related to some larger issues. He comes up to me and asks if I have a vehicle. I say, "Ben, no I don't, what do you need, maybe I can walk over to the store and pick it up for you." Ben tells me not to bother, but thanks anyway. I wonder what he needs?
Thursday (Day 19) -
I see Ben sitting in the library in the morning when I go in to check my e-mail. Thank goodness they put this in the last few years, even though as I understand it there was quite a bit of resistance from some of the 'old liners' at the Institute. We get to chatting, and I see Ben looks like he has swallowed the canary. I say, "Ben, so what did you do last night? Did you get what you needed?"
Ben is unrepentant, and he launches right into it. "Chuck, I did. I went down the road to the all you can eat restaurant and had some Chinese food. Man, it was good, good, good. What a treat! I went through the line 4 times.
Well, my first thought was the loss the restaurant owner must have experienced with THIS particular customer, but then, that's his problem. OHI is located in Lemon Grove, and although it used to be sort of out in the boondocks, now it is in the heart of suburbia, so to speak. there are a number of strip malls near by, and with that of course comes the fast food joints. Leaving the grounds means you for sure are going to run into the temptation to grab a hamburger or slam down a latte in one of the many places nearby.
However, in Ben's case, he had to make quite an effort to get over there, given his difficulty in just walking from one building to the next, so I ask him, "Geeez Ben, you are definitely a smart guy, so explain to me why you came to this particular place, and why you had to get out of here to go get some what I think was probably very greasy cooked food that isn't very good for you."
Ben says, "Chuck, if you understood what my problem is, you wouldn't ask. Don't judge me until you understand what I am up against."
"Fair enough, Ben, but all I am asking you now is why you don't just go with the flow here on the premise, and let it work for you? You paid some good money to come here, how did you even decide to pick this place?
Ben proceeds to tell me a bit about his life, and it really shocks me, and why he finally chose OHI. He is quite open about it, but I am beginning to see in his case that lifestyle changes of this magnitude for some are maybe 'over the top'. I sympathize very much with Ben, but I urge him to try to stay on the grounds, and set some very specific goals for himself on a daily basis. It is very tough for Ben as he is on his own. No one from his family could afford to come out with him, but maybe this is for the best. I ask myself though, is the OHI a good place for someone in Ben's situation? My conclusion is that it probably is not for those who have some very deep-seated psychological issues to deal with . OHI, as did Dr. Wigmore, stressed repeatedly that for this system to work, you, the individual, must take full responsibility. Until that moment, that decision, that act, this system is probably not for you. I realize in my discussion with Ben, that no matter what your challenge is when you come here, only YOU can make the choices you need to resolve those issues you face. No one can, or will, do it for you.
Today we are going to do a bit more with food dehydration, and we are going to discuss issues of diet maintenance. Just how the heck do we keep going when we get home? I am shuddering at the thought of airline food, and realize I better try to get a few things put together for the trip home.
I go over to the store, and buy some crackers they sell there, along with a few items like toothpaste, and sun block. I also pick up several food combining placemats because I will put them on my refrigerator as a reminder. What else...As a long-term user of wheatgrass, I already have trays and a juicer, and in fact I have all the equipment I need at home. Lucky for me too is that there is a commercial grower who delivers trays of wheatgrass right to my house, and a great health food store with lots of organic product. I know also I can juice fast for a few days until I get everything set up, although with the wheatgrass and organic food, the only thing lacking is Rejuvelac, which I can make in about 3 days.
I see some of the other third weekers in the store buying various equipment, ordering seeds, and getting all the stuff they will need to set up a home operation. The OHI store is fantastic, and the staff is super helpful. They know very well generally what you will need, and all you have to do is tell them where to ship it. Some of the third weekers took care of these chores on Monday, so the stuff will be at home when they get there, and for those with cars, they will load up Saturday morning.
Whoa, tomorrow is the last day, so I take advantage one more time of the Jacuzzi.
Friday (Day 20) -
Well, at long last we have arrived at the goal, and I just can't get over how quickly it went, but how long ago it seems I arrived! Lots of mixed emotions here, and as I greet my fellow students in the morning as we get ready for exercise, I call out to Sid to reserve a seat for me at lunch with him. He waves back, and I just can't believe how good this guy looks compared to when he walked in three weeks ago. He isn't even the same person. I notice, in fact, that all of the folks in our third week look different. Without question all of us have lost weight. What is more apparent is that our group, regardless of age, is moving around, how could I say, 'athletically' compared to our first week. I am seeing one elderly couple bending over touching their toes and stretching that were leaning on each other the first week, and couldn't finish that first exercise class.
After exercise, we gather for testimonials. I realize that these folks have accomplished something extraordinary. After listening to many conversations over the weeks, I am hearing some who were expressing negative, defeatist thoughts consistently, are now speaking with hope, and confidence. It is extraordinary to hear one woman, apparently suffering from some sort of serious and widespread cancer, to speak about how she will beat this thing, and do it with the tools she has been given at OHI. We hear a couple of stories about how changes in blood sugar levels over the 3 weeks that have resulted in some of my group being able to stop using their medications. We hear some other stories about guests being able to reduce significantly certain types of medications. OHI stresses that this is a matter for the individual and their physician, but what I see is a group of people much more able to approach their health issues with an alternative choice and the confidence in using it.
The most interesting story was the farmer whose wife had been pretty much wheelchair bound for a year and a half. She had severe diabetes, and debilitating arthritis. She got out of her wheelchair and walked over to his side while he spoke about the experience. It seems that she was now able to get up and about, her blood sugar levels were stabilizing, and she had not felt so well in at least 5 years. She, and he, looked great. Could this really be a true story? Was this like some Benny Hinn revival where people throw away their crutches? All I can say is, I saw them when they came in, and in three weeks it seemed like they had shed not only weight, but also at least 10 years. She was virtually immobile, and now she was walking unassisted. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
We set up for the noon buffet, and I had the privilege to serve to the second weekers. It was fun, and it was interesting. It was extraordinary again to see close up the changes in people only two weeks at the institute could bring about. There is absolutely no question something important is going on here.
After lunch, I have to pack up, as my plane leaves early that evening. I usually check out on Saturday, but couldn't make my connections. I will miss that great breakfast of sliced oranges. After packing up I decide to take a quiet walk around the grounds. There is a great memorial garden in Rachel Solomon's memory, and it is full of flowers, birds, and a little waterfall and a stream. They have a meditation room nearby, so I take a few minutes to reflect on the stay, 3 weeks at this amazing place is a real gift. A last tour of the hummingbird nests, and I am ready to hit the road.
Now comes the hard part. I have to say goodbye to some newfound friends. A quick trip around the Center and I have bid my adieus to the staff and guests I made particular connections with, and then to find Sid. He is lounging out in the front garden, taking in the afternoon sun. He heads back to LA tomorrow morning.
"Sid, what do you think?" I have really grown to like this guy and his pragmatic view of life and death. He may be closer to that door than many, so I value his viewpoints.
"What do I think?"
"Yea, was this thing worth it to you?"
Sid looks over at me, and he laughs. "Chuck, I'm gonna tell you a little story. There's this rabbit running along like crazy with a fox right on his tail, teeth a showin' and tongue hangin' out. They pass by a guy sittin' on a fence, and he calls out to the rabbit --"Hey rabbit, you think you gonna make it? The rabbit calls back - "Make it? Man, I GOTTA make it!"
"So Sid, You think you gonna make it?"
"Yeah, Chuck, I'm GONNA make it!"
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- Kat Jones