• Heather Lilleston

THE OTHER CLEANSE



This year I am doing a financial cleanse. No matter how “clean” your diet is, how much you exercise or avoid intoxicants, have air purifiers and water purifiers and every beauty product you use is completely non toxic and chemical free, chances are you are still in need of a cleanse. We all have blindspots and we all have areas of our lives we avoid looking at. 


I have spent the last 20 years immersed in all sorts of methods of cleaning. I have completed numerous cleanses, personal retreats with no music, no books, no television, no news, no email, no phones, no communication with the outside world. I have practiced yoga about 90% of the last 18 years of my life. I have meditated for hours a day. I was vegan for 6 years. I have done various kinds of colonics and weeks on end of being intoxicant free. I have repeated mantras and done fire pujas and I go to saunas and steam rooms and spas all the time. I take epsom salt baths and even tried some variety of “plant medicine” once. I have brushed my skin morning and night with a skin brush (google it), gone on pranayama binges, been consistent with neti pot practice (where you wash your nasal cavity with saline water) and even stuck a tube up my nose and out my mouth to “scrub and cleanse my third eye.” I have been to a wide variety of therapists, sought out astrologers and shamans and psychics and healers and acupuncturists and ayurvedic doctors and cellular memory healers and shiatsu masters and naturopathic doctors and herbalists - I mean you name it, I have done it. 



The thing about cleaning up is that it never ends. Cleaning isn't something you do once. It’s the endless rebalancing and reordering of things both inside and outside. And for many of us already on the spiritual/wellness path, the areas we need to clean up aren’t in the corner of our diets or beauty products or our relationship with spirit. As these things have become more mainstream, there seems to be some misunderstanding that once one has these things in order, it will take care of everything else. That if you eat better, you will automatically fall into moral and ethical alignment. That if you stand on your head, you and God have a good vibe. That if you eat collard greens and spirulina and E3live daily, that your skin will automatically glow. That if you drink homemade celery juice you won't ever get cancer. And that if you do enough journaling and manifestation workshops and collages about the cars and houses and husband you want, you will get them.

 

Let’s be real here. We all wish we could make a collage and get the life we want. That would be great. The magazine business may end up surviving after all too! But this isn’t always where the “cleaning up” needs to be. For many of us, the cleaning needs to be in the exact places we get squeamish about. In the places that make us feel defensive or that we have become professionals at telling ourselves “don’t worry about it, worrying doesn't help, it will all fall into place, just trust.” And so we ignore and ignore and excuse and excuse, until one day it decides to bite us in the ass. 



This year I am taking on the task of cleaning up my finances. Let's put it this way -- I have always paid my taxes and been honest and direct about my money, but I don’t really monitor what comes in, and what goes out. I have always just “flown by the seat of my pants,” worked hard and trusted that “all would be alright.” Moving my business to the state of California kind of pushed me into a new direction, of “getting it all together.” Buttoning up where there were loose ends and taking on the task of looking directly at my expenses. Taking time every few days to look at my bank account, to follow how much I am spending in one direction and the other. I sat down with an accountant and went through everything. I hadn’t ever really looked at my finances like that before. I have never been in debt or been late on my rent, but I had also never been that nitpicky with my money before. And believe me, I have been extremely annoyingly nitpicky about my diet, my meditation space in my home, the yoga classes I take, the massages I have gotten -- I am the first to admit, I can be picky! 


Sitting down with a team of professionals really pushed me to realize I had completely ignored a major part of my life. This isn't an easy thing to write about. Money has a lot of shame and insecurity attached to it. You know how it is -- even when you have money in the bank, if the card DECLINES, it’s horrifying. And you just want to look up and defend yourself (even if only to the cashier) -- “probably it’s just a fraud situation - I swear I have money in the bank.” Even that awful alarming sound that goes off when your charges have been APPROVED and the card reader is asking you to “remove your card” throws me off sometimes, and makes me feel like I have done something wrong. 


I realized that this whole process of cleansing with an accountant -- taking a good direct look at what I have been up to (traveling mostly) and how especially while traveling, it’s so easy to just “not think about it.” Side note: I just realized I keep putting things in quotes -- and I am just gonna call myself out here and say, it’s probably because I still feel a little squeamish talking about all this. Money is just darn uncomfortable. When you have a lot of it, you don't want to talk about it; when you are struggling, you don't want to talk about it. For the most part, we just don’t want to talk about it. 



Looking further, I recognize a lot of where my money avoidance comes from. I grew up in a small hippie town where many people were very “anti-government,” but then lived on section 8 disability funds (pretty freakin’ hypocritical but more common than not sadly). Most of the families in my hometown were stressed about money, but also demonized money and capitalism as the devil. My family was never wealthy and there was a lot of stress in the household around making ends meet. My response to that? Get a job as soon as possible! Make your own money and live life to the fullest. Order everything on the menu. Buy nice expensive clothes. DO NOT worry about money -- no matter what. I completely refused to worry about money because there had been entirely too much worry around finances growing up. We were always fine somehow, and had it a lot better than many others on the planet, but I grew up on the poorer side of the fence in one of the wealthiest counties in America. People got brand new BMWs for their 16th birthday. It wasn’t normal. And I never wanted to worry about money for as long and as much as I could control. I wasn’t going to live off someone else’s money either -- I wasn’t looking for a rich husband or some financier to solve my problems. That was going to be exactly the same thing as the anti-government hippies who lived on disability. I was going to fend for myself no matter what, and also not really take a close look. It actually took me a long time to let a guy pay for my drinks or my dinner on a first date. I have now since overcome that, but receiving took some time for me. I always felt like I owed someone something if they paid. 


Back to you. When we avoid things, it’s been my experience that life eventually finds a way to slap us in the face and look at it. We get gentle nudges along the road, but if ignored, we eventually get a big wake up call. And in the end it’s for our benefit. 


Looking back, I can say I knew I needed to face the music and look directly into my finances. So for you, as spring cleaning comes around -- what have you been avoiding? What makes you squeamish? What area of your life do you keep saying to yourself “oh it’s all gonna work out, just trust,” but nothing really changes? You have to give something your attention if you want it to work with you, for you, and be able to give back to you. When ignored, things get stale and stagnant, and mostly unable to offer you the support they could with a little effort on your end. 



If it’s not money, what is it? Morals in your line of work? Honesty in your relationship? Your lack of physical exercise or good dietary choices? Your relationship to spirit and the invisible? Resentment towards your family or the government or the world? Spring cleaning requires a giant look in a freshly windexed (but the white vinegar eco kind of course) mirror. It means looking into one of those makeup mirrors that magnifies every sunspot and blackhead and makes you feel 20 years older than you are. It may not mean a juice cleanse. It may have zero to do with a sauna and headstands and meditation. Whatever it is, if you’re honest, looking at it will do exactly what spring was designed to do: shed the old, hardened clustering of winter, and lighten up the soil and the sky so you can step into the next chapter refreshed. 



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