This morning I woke up feeling grotty. Headache, sore throat, bit of nasal congestion. Bleurgh. Like a hangover, which was very unfair. Surely no matter what happens as this week goes on, the only way is up.
At 10.30 our little group of fasters assembled on the porch of Hillary’s bungalow, and sat on cushions around a low table. We went around the circle to introduce ourselves – and names have been changed to protect identities. There is the Belfast Boy, a cheery young Irishman who is on his third visit here. Then there is Big Guy, a prosperous-looking Chicagoan with a well-trimmed white beard and a slightly intellectual air. Pauline from New Zealand, who is embarking on her first fast to try and wean herself off blood pressure medication. And Mr Tenerife, an attractive Spaniard with designer stubble and very white teeth, also on his first fast.
We were told to open our text books, and the course began. The introductory lecture encompassed the basics of the digestive system, a description of the assaults that our systems suffer every day, and an explanation of how fasting seeks to remedy the damage. We sipped on ginger tea while Hillary talked.
But I had to put my tea aside when she handed around a book of full colour photographs of poo. Yes, poo. In all kinds of disgusting shapes and colours – the results of colonic irrigation, as the body releases all kinds of crap (so to speak) from the digestive system. My hangover-type nausea intensified just a little. Okay, so we all do it, but some bodily functions are best left in the bathroom.
Hillary went on to warn us not to use chemical-based body lotions, insect repellants or sunscreen during our fast, as the body absorbs chemicals much more readily in this state. She extolled the virtues of pee as an alternative form of sun protection, Mr Tenerife looked puzzled, not able to believe that he was correctly understanding her English. “What, pee? As in…” and he waved his hand eloquently towards his lap. “Yes, pee, ” confirmed Hillary. “Piss, urine, you know.” He blanched beneath his suntan.
“And now,” she said, “I will demonstrate how to administer a colonic.” I thought Mr Tenerife was going to faint.
Fortunately the demonstration did not require the removal of any garments. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that dignity was maintained – unlike the actual practice of the procedure after we retired to our respective bathrooms. Again, no details required.
So is all this indignity going to be worth it? Sadly, I fear I am in serious need of detoxing. This afternoon my iridology diagnosis – which makes intuitive sense to me, as surely the eyes reveal the health of the whole body more than any other organ – showed that I am stressed, and stress is a toxin. All those stress-related hormones surging around the place cause damage throughout the body. Hillary’s verdict was given authority by the opinion of my San Francisco hairdresser, who earlier this year caused me serious alarm by commenting that I had evidently suffered some significant hair loss several months earlier – another symptom of stress.
Of course, all these worrying diagnoses are, well, really quite stressful. So now that I can no longer plead ignorance, I suppose the only way out is to address the root causes of the stress. But what are those causes? Pressure of upcoming speaking tour? Logistical hassles? Worrying that the planet is going to hell while governments fail to act? Who knows?
I am hoping that time will tell, and that I might leave here at the end of the week understanding myself – and my body – a little more, so that I can take better care of both.
On a totally different subject – and in attempt to raise the tone of this blog – a little bit of excitement today. A letter from the new British PM, David Cameron, congratulating me on the completion of my Pacific crossing. I was a little mystified by the reference to the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity – although undoubtedly a worthy cause, it is not one of mine – but it was nice to get some recognition from my home country.
And back to that other subject again… if you enjoy reading about other people’s misadventures in colonic irrigation, you may like this article, written by my long-time correspondent Ian Belcher (there is a joke in his last name somewhere, I am sure). VERY entertaining, but I don’t recommend that you read it while eating.
It is now 9.20pm and I am going to bed, in the hope that lying down will make my stomach feel less like rumbling.