January 1st marks Detox D-Day for many who practice the heroic or the scientific traditions of medicine. We all know what this looks like: a holiday season full of fatty richness and unhampered excess followed by a January resolute with green smoothies, lemon water cleanses, and partially used gym memberships. But in the Wise Woman Tradition, the new year marks a new season of nourishment.
We don’t cure or cleanse; instead, we enrapture and enrich. Instead of living the ‘out with the bad’ philosophy, we think ‘in with the good’, feeding our bodies and souls and treating them with kindness, compassion, and love. We don’t resolve to persistently scrub our colons and clear our livers, because our guts and our filtration systems are already doing that for us, 24 hours a day, and far better than we could ever do it with all the diets in the world. We don’t detox, because we aren’t dirty.
You’re Not Dirty, and You Don’t Need Cleaning
There is an overarching ethic – which gets its time in the spotlight at this time of the year – that we human bodies are walking dirtbags from years past and in order to start fresh, we must get clean first. But have we forgotten that our bodies are already doing this for us, cleaning, filtering, and ‘detoxing’ in our waking life and our sleep so that we can continue living each day as a fresh, whole, human beings? Each hour of each day, the body produces brand new cells and turns the old ones into waste products. Every minute, 1,450 milliliters of blood circulate through the liver after having been ‘cleaned’. Every 11 months, we have a completely new body made up of those brand new cells. We are renewed, replenished, re-nourished. And we didn’t even have to ‘detox’.
In the heroic tradition, which encompasses much of the alternative health world, pain is gain. Detoxing is purifying. The body is polluted, toxic, and sick, and only by hard work and careful cleansing can we get it clean again. We are filthy and must be controlled by regular detox rituals. Healing is the removal of everything bad from the body, and the addition of nothing.
In the scientific tradition of medicine, which represents much of western medicine as we know it, bodies are machines and herbs can be standardized into drugs, which fix machines. Health and sickness are always at opposite ends of the spectrum, and sickness is never a gift, never an opportunity, only a state that demands to fix. Healing the body through drugs and medicines helps the ‘machine’ to get back to a normal state of healthy function.
In the Wise Woman tradition, the world’s oldest system of healing and the one still practiced by the majority of indigenous cultures in the world today, good health is vibrancy, change, flexibility, and possibility. Health is an integrated both/and situation, rather than a black-and-white either/or dichotomy. Wholeness is ever-changing, unique, abnormal, and doesn’t involve eliminating the bad so much as including and honoring the whole. Nourishment is as simple and innocent as a steaming bowl of soup, as grounded as the powerful earth, as all-encompassing as the universal garden of healing, and as beautiful and perfect as you.
Resolve to Love Your Body for Its Pre-Existing Perfection
Trusting the body to provide you with your own optimum level of in-house cleanliness is part of trusting the body to do its job perfectly, provided that we offer it enough nourishment in terms of food, medicine, and emotional and physical engagement. It is like trusting the body to breathe, pump, and circulate the appropriate substances for those precious few hours of sleep you get each night.
This new year, consider resolving to love your body in its own perfect wisdom, rather than trying to scour every corner of it for bacteria and muck. The energy that you desire to put into detoxing is so valuable, but it would be so much better used in carefully choosing and preparing the foods that nourish your body, rather than trying to clear out any unwanted, invisible toxicity.
Those bacteria that we loathe are the same ones that grow the garden of our gut flora, those microbes that we want to purge are the same things that build up our immunity to viruses, and there is a good chance those toxins that we perceive are long gone, having being evacuated by our body’s own miraculous built-in detoxification system. Loving and nourishing yourself is a commitment to self-acceptance and self-awareness. Trust that your daily nourishing habits, like drinking nourishing herbal infusions, consuming nutrient-dense food, and using herbal medicine when appropriate, are enough.
How Can You Nourish this New Year?
Deep nourishment, soul-level, bone-level nourishment, comes from myriad different places. In the food world, we may grasp it from savory, warming winter broths and stews. We may suss it out of roasted root vegetables and lacto-fermented vegetables that are brimming with probiotics and the makings of good gut flora. And we definitely derive it from our daily nourishing herbal infusions, using the dense nutritional load of nettles, oat straw, linden, comfrey, and red clover to get our everyday doses of fully absorbable vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
In the emotional world, we find nourishment from rewarding relationships, personal time spent with the spiritual self, and the wonderful hibernation period that the only winter allows for. Nourishment is all around us, nestled in the tree buds sleeping silently until spring, tucked under the first layer of snow in the chickweed that still blooms white beneath the January ice. This year is new, this year is nourishment, and this year, you can choose to nourish yourself in your personal perfection and in your own perfectly messy, perfectly clean soul and body.