Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

Desert Detox Lessons

“I need to redo my life, “I said.

“You are always redoing your life,” said a friend

But I wasn’t really redoing…I was just adding on.  I had accumulated too many projects, too many hobbies, too many identities.  Without focus I was becoming meaningless.  In the words of Robert Hanson, President of Levi’s North America, I needed to ‘edit and amplify.’

In order to kickstart the process I decided to go on a 4 day detox cleanse in Desert Hot Springs.  While many people opted for plethora of tempting distractions on ‘la playa’ at Burning Man, I decided to go for a less overwhelming desert retreat at We Care Spa.

I arrived in warm air with hopes of simplicity, clarity, and smorgasbord of fresh juices fed to me by a well-built cabana boy.

When I got there I was in for a surprise.  There wasn’t a cabana boy in sight and I was instructed to feed myself a diet that resembled a plan for emaciation: 1 veggie juice and 1 veggie soup a day!  In addition to downing fiber pills, I was also encouraged to embark upon colonics, which is a fancy term for having water pushed up through your butthole to flush out your lower intestine of accumulated debris.

“Edit and Amplify” was turning into “Purge and Redo.”

However daunting the diet, it did start to refocus my life.  After all it’s pretty hard to manage my multiple projects while loopy on a desert fast.  My retreat was turning into a vision quest-a hunt to find true purpose…and leave the rest for the vultures.

Amid massages, juice connections, colon cleanses and one unfortunate experience running into a door (I am blaming my fasting state, not my coordination), I also had time for yoga sessions at the Spa.  One yoga teacher, Patricia, become my muse for the art of redoing.

As I went through a slow vinyassa in her class, I was overwhelmed with a sense of compassion from her instruction.  I have taken yoga all over the world and never seen someone so intimately involved with each class member.  Patricia took the time to learn everyone’s name and devoted herself to modifications and challenges unique to each person’s condition.  Love ebbed out of her fingertips as she encouraged our muscles to go to new levels.  When I found out she was, like me, originally from Montana, I knew I had to speak to her.

I shyly approached her and asked her how she was able to teach yoga with such devotional caring.

“Well—it came to me,” she said.  “Before I taught yoga, I didn’t know my path in life.  I just kept flailing around and was really unhappy.  I had all the odd jobs; I worked as a receptionist, for tech companies, even as an urban nomadic farmer.”

“What’s an urban nomadic farmer?” I asked.

Patricia laughed and a jingle escaped her lips. “I drove around Austin taking care of people’s plants in offices. Pretty cool, right?”

“And yoga?” I asked curious how an urban nomadic farmer had just helped me achieve a perfect full wheel position.

“At the time I wasn’t even a yoga regular! But one day I went to an amazing class that so was powerful I cried while in Shavasana (resting post). I knew this was my calling.  I knew that I wanted to make people feel like this.”

Patricia had found her path.

She continued, “I followed my teacher to the desert to learn more and devote myself to teaching.  I also went to yoga teacher training in Grass Valley (Sivananda).”

I told Patricia my own concerns with path hopping, and she looked me in my eyes and said, “I feel you are already onto it.  Someone once told me this: ‘You ask the questions that you already have the answers to.’  So you see, your path is already in you.”

She encouraged me to be open and loving and listen to my heart.  I assume she meant really OPEN, not ‘faux pen’.

“The mind blocks the soul, “she said.  Don’t let the mind work and just do what makes the soul sing.  When your soul sings, you have found your path.”

We hugged and she whispered encouraging words in my ear.  I left the room feeling surer of myself than I had in a long time.

As I poured myself a glass of cool lemon water, another woman approached me.  She smiled softly and asked if she could share a prayer with me.  I wasn’t much of a prayer person, but I decided to be open.

Her blue eyes shone as she recited a prayer she had learned while on a retreat with Deepak Chopra.

Who am I

What makes me happy

What is my purpose in life?

Can I feel or hear my heart beat?


She told me that if I recited this daily as I guided myself into meditation I would find my path.  It could be the desert detox delirium, but I believed her.

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