Samskaras, emotional eating & choosing your destiny


Sequentially, day eleven follows day ten. No big deal, unless it is the first day after the last day of a ten day cleanse. Day eleven then becomes ripe with choices and truths. Ten days ago I committed to omit coffee, alcohol, sugar, dairy and processed foods from my diet. Today, I get to decide if I take back the things that were contributing to the slippery slope of feeling lousy that I wanted off of in the first place. A nutritional cleanse has always been the best way for me to kick my bad habits to the curb and get back in the practice of respectable living.

Each time I do a cleanse people inquire about what it is exactly that I am doing. There is a certain curiosity around gritty shakes and denial. The idea behind cleansing is to restrict ones diet of allergic foods and remove toxins from the body. It also includes limiting toxins from ones environment. The body is then able to assimilate foods more easily. Adding nutrient rich shakes and supplements promote tissue cleansing, improved digestion and organ function. The body is allowed a break and provided an opportunity to “take out its trash”. A cleanse is the first stage of handling toxicity. Real change and healing occurs in the time following the detoxification program if one decides to continue on with elimination eating and healthier habits. Otherwise, the “trash” will have been taken out but it will pile right back up again.

Onlookers often say they want to do a cleanse too but aren’t quite ready yet. They are waiting for that “one thing” to spur them on. In order to eat endless salads, take 12 supplements 3 times a day and drink shakes they need the motivation of jeans that don’t button, poor sleeping, digestive distress, or some other thing they have heard about that they think they need in order to “get” healthy. Sometimes an upcoming event, wedding or class reunion is what finally puts someone over the risky edge.

I don’t mind the shakes. After doing two cleanses a year for the last twenty five years I have the eating regime down. For years I have offered group cleanses in a class environment for education and support. I have observed that what is most difficult for people is the awareness that comes about the relationships and emotional attachments they have to food. Suddenly a cleanse becomes less about what to eat and not eat and it becomes about the relationships and emotions of their habitual life choices.

In Sanskrit, there is the word “samskara” which describes patterns or actions that make up our conditioning. Samskaras are derived from the subtle impressions of our past thoughts, beliefs and actions. The prefix sam (means well thought out or well planned) and kara (means the action, cause or doing). Therefore, “samskara” means “a well thought out action”. These could be considered mental or emotional patterns that cycle over and over in our lives. These patterns may be constructive or destructive. They can be constructive such as offering compassion to yourself or others, or destructive such as self-criticism. By way of action, a samskara could be offering compassion with touch or kind words or it could be pouring oneself another glass of wine instead of practicing self-compassion.


More importantly, when we act in a thoughtful manner an impression is made on our mind. With repeated action the impression strengthens. This thought and action then become a habit. Good or bad, constructive or destructive.mind impressions An ingrained habit that alters our body chemistry becomes an addiction and when they become strong or hard wired in our brains enough to alter our thinking process, it is considered a “samaska”. We become a product of our thinking or chemical habits or we are unconsciously influenced by the best entry level road bike here, these impressions and therefore our past becomes our destiny. Without interruption, the negative samskaras can hinder our positive evolution.

A ten day cleanse alters habits (our samskaras), enough to begin to notice what one does in life that is healthy and what is not. I have noticed some people are “perfect” in their cleansing. Ritualistic about eating exactly as the book says. They feel positively reinforced by doing it perfectly. Even, if they are hungry, lightheaded or struggling emotionally. It is not the eating plan that they struggle with but their unwillingness to confront the habit of perfection in order to adjust or adapt based on their bodies signals. The idea of allowing themselves to eat a wider variety of foods and experiencing some freedom within the constraints of the overall process of cleansing makes them distressed. I have seen other people freak out about one food or another. They get ferociously angry about having to pass up cake at birthday celebration or just don’t know how to console themselves without their morning diet soda. Others become isolated and depressed when they are not eating a high fat take out meal with their family. For many, emotions and relationship habits come into full view as they experience change and their own resistance.

I personally love my morning coffee. As the days without it passed I recognized my morning coffee Teais an extension of my choice to linger in bed, wake up and journal as a way of self nurturing. Once I let go of the idea that I needed the coffee to complete the experience I could more easily substitute an herbal tea and enjoy my self-care routine. I have also noticed that I want a coffee cup in my hand or on my desk as company when I am alone or facing something that gives me anxiety. By removing the coffee I have become more aware of my loneliness. The overall process of cleansing has prompted me to begin asking questions of myself relating not only to nutrition but also emotional dependence. A ten day commitment becomes a mirror to ones relationship with food, values, social situations, control, addictions, and the habits of our lives.

The insights of a cleanse come all day long for ten days, but day eleven is where the rubber meets the road. It is the day of reckoning with how one will choose to hinder or progress their evolution with their samskaras. If one chooses to see a cleanse beyond the massive amounts of salad much can be learned. The majority of people feel better after ten days of healthy eating. It doesn’t make sense to abandon feeling good for feeling worse. Of course, we can simply evaluate if digestion is better or energy has improved and chalk it all up to diet. However, for those really wanting to make a change in their health or well-being it is worth a deeper look. It is worth taking the time to evaluate what those challenges were and if there is an inherent repetitive pattern surfacing that needs to be broken. There is also value to look at day eleven as an extension of day ten rather than permission to put it behind you and go back to coffee, alcohol, sugar, emotional eating and social binging.

A cleanse is one way to have a fresh awareness about our thoughts or actions. Whether a cleanse or any other activity that challenges a habit, the awareness around our samskaras can propel us forward if we choose. We must first notice the habits of the mind in order to change the actions of our lives. It requires a continued commitment to the awareness of our values and a willingness to follow through with intention and action. To cleanse in any way is a chance to come clean with the truth about what you want whole heartedly. Day eleven may actually determine ones desired destiny. Herbal tea please.

Dr. Erika Putnam

By Dr. Erika Putnam

Dr. Erika Putnam is a chiropractic physician by trade, a writer at heart and a yogi by fate. She has practiced chiropractic for almost two decades and owns a yoga studio in Idaho. The two practices connect structural stability with the true core of well-being. As a doctor, she brings a hearty helping of nurturing nerdiness to her classes. Her venue is a colorful mix of teaching. She teaches anatomy to students at yoga teacher trainings, yoga for medical professionals’ classes, and creative writing classes with yoga-inspired exploration. She pines for a view of the Montana skies and the smell of Idaho mint from her road bike. Pedicures in the shade of Rocktoberfest are her favorite self-care indulgence.