Vogue Portugal - Beauty Special

Translated from Portuguese

Objective Detox

For two weeks, I was outside time in a beautiful place, an enchanted valley, in the Algarve. I "detoxified" myself and regained an energy that I thought I had lost. The word that comes to my mind is gratitude.

By Manuela Gonzaga.

1st Day

I arrived at 9pm in Lagos and Karuna was waiting for me with a sign. When we left town, the night was already too dark to see the way we were going. I made the last calls, from now on the mobile phones are dead. I still arrived in time for the soup, the last solid food for the next 10 days. Tania, our wonderful cook, Shakti, who is also part of the house team but is going to do the program with us, and Lalita welcomed me. This time, they said, the group is only women, which is very rare because men have been joining in this space much more often. The sensation is a little unreal. "What have I got myself into?"

2nd Day

Our group is small. Six women. Oshun, a magnificent black woman, powerful image of the mother-goddess, lives between LA (in the United States) and Montpellier (south of France). She discovered Moinhos Velhos on the net. Silvia is spanish, immense eyes, magnificient skin, an air hostess for 17 years. She discovered this place by searching for "yoga". Kathryn, beautiful, tall, runs a travel agency in London. She says that "For years I have been organizing wonderful trips for others. Now it's my turn!" As outras são irlandesas, Yvonne runs a beauty salon near Dublin. Her cheerfulness fills the room. Deirdre, her best friend, runs an interior design shop. She thought she was coming to a spa. She found out that it included a fast when she was boarding the plain. She is a small brunet with intense blue eyes.

The routine is organized to the sound of bells. The wake up is at 7am. Then we have lemon tea, followed by yoga and meditation. At 10am is the orange juice, at 1pm the fruit juice, and another one at 4pm but a little less quantity. In the evening we have vegetable broth.

Therapies complement this detoxification and purification of the "body, mind and spirit", as we can read on the brochure in the bedroom. The broth, the juices, the herbs, the holistic treatments, the meditation and yoga, all in this environment of enormous beauty and serenity, complement the package. The result will be a drastic bowel cleanse, giving time and space for the body to heal itself. For this, we have an essential help: twice a day, a clysmatic, for which we had a previous demonstration... And at every meal a mantra - Om Namasivaya - and a prayer thanking for the juices... And the days go like this, with treatments (traditional chinese medicine, ayurvédic, kinesiology, reflexology, sacrocranial therapy, etc), massages, reiki, aquadetox, etc. It is normal to have some reactions, headaches or heat sensation, a few minutes after taking the food supplements, as the body releases toxins. After that, they garantee us, our skin will look fantastic, the blood pressure will be regular as well as our sleep. Some lose a lot of weight, others not so much, many stop smoking for good and we create habits that allow us to proceed with a fairly healthy routine back at home. A big percentage of the clients comes back every year.

In the end of the afternoon, I fell in bed and only woke up at 8pm, when Silvia shows up because I had missed the evening broth. "Are you alright? Would you like me to bring the broth here?" It's 7.30pm and I am totally asleep. I accept. A quarter of an hour later I have fallen asleep again and only woke up the next day, with the 10am bell.

3rd Day

I woke up with the feeling that I have entered another dimension. I have missed yoga and meditation. I slept 14 hours in a row. I don't feel hungry at all. At 10am I drank the orange juice, and at 11am I have an appointment with Trixie, the sacrocranial therapist. In between one thing and another we all learn how to wash our noses. In the garden, in front of the temple, six heads curve to one side and the other, six mouths cough, six faces grimace, six people noisily blow their noses and once again. I have the feeling that the salty water is going around my brain, from my nostrils to my ears. Karuna says that once we learn how to do it, it becomes really easy and it turns into a regular habit like brushing your teeth and the tongue, avoiding a series of troubles in the respiratory tract.

In the afternoon we went for a walk. Leith, Kathryn, Silvia and me. Twiggy, the dog, came with us. We went to the Barragem, down to the lake bed, up the hill and back to Moinhos Velhos. Later, we were going to meet Bhanu, who gives a workshop about phobias in the temple. Some confess their fears on this subject. Snakes, spiders, needles. She presents Emotional Kinesiology, a very interesting therapy, and she is known in many coutries, travels a lot, gives talks and organizes seminars, promoting cicles of the therapy. She lives in Norway, with her husband and daughter. At dinner, we talk about this strange sensation we all have of being in a reality show. We talk for hours, with people we barely know, as if we were friends for years and years. Anyhow, the way that this project came to be in each one of us lives makes the conversation simply hilarous.

4the Day

I am never hungry. Sometimes I feel low energy, but that has been happening to me already for the last few years. We are always walking around everywhere. The rooms are in the bottom of the valley, the clinic in the middle and the dining room on the top. The view is most beautiful and the garden most wonderful. High up is Frank's house and a little bit further down is Anne Karine's, which will be arriving shortly after the end of our program. We are always busy. Meditation, yoga, appointments, massages and therapies, in a very impressive package of alternative therapies. Padma, the ayuervedic doctor, came by looking for me: it was past the time of our appointment and I had completly forgot, laying in the sun. It's like summer... and I'm not the only one. Padma asked me lots of questions to determine my physical type and to be able to prescribe the right diet for me. In the afternoon, I bought books and had a massage with Leith. What powerful hands that man has!

5th Day

Yoga, this morning, went very well. I can not sit in the lotus position, but there are some other things that I have been managing to do, without having my joints complaining too much. Also, meditation isn't so strange anymore. Today, when I weighed myself I saw, with grateful surprise, that I had lost 3 kilos. After the 10am juices I had a Thai massage with Lalita. The technique is very soft, you almost don't feel the hands working. All of a sudden I started crying. I cried and cried and cried. I had no idea that it still hurt so much. How did Lalita's hands opened the door of the basement where we keep all that we miss so much?

Finally, in the end of the afternoon, Peter Hall (Traditional Chinese Medicine practinioner) gave a fascinating talk on the digestive function, alternative medicines and, most specifically, about Traditional Chinese Medicine. "In China, the doctor is paid to keep people healthy, he doesn't receive anything when they fall ill and he must accompany them until they are well again." Peter was in China several times, where he trained at hospitals, and he is a teacher in the United Kingdom. Tomorrow the morning class will be with him, Zen meditation and Chi Kung. However, today he gave us some really basic exercises to let us have perception of the Chi, our vital energy. At night, we watched the new movie sensation, The Secret. It's a compact of miracles, very practical, with very materialistic examples. But, we couldn't watch the whole movie because we all fell asleep on the sofas. We will watch the rest of it one of these days. It's full moon on Sunday and Oshun proposed to do a Sweat Lodge, if we would like to join in. It's a Native American ceremony, to mark the occasion.

6th Day

I had a nightmare but I forgot to write it down. I feel extremely tired. I want to be alone. My body weighs tons and my joints, at Yoga, sometimes seem to recognize the pattern of mobility, and sometimes they complain as if I am chained to my own bones. Impatience is the term that comes to mind. In the end of the afternoon, I went for a walk with Silvia to the lake of the Barragem. Beautiful place. Silvia said: "This detox looks more and more like The Big Brother! Did you know that Deidre and Yvonne are leaving on Monday?" At dinner, the soup has become my favourite meal. Outside the sky was clear, we could see stars forming constellations and the moon is almost full and glorious.

7th Day

Today Yoga went very well and my body is moulding itself better to these strange positions. I felt muscles that I didn't even know I had and I heard organs that are normally silent. My joints crack, screak and sigh. But, opposed to yesterday, it doesn't fell impossible anymore, to adapt my body to these shapes and conjugate breathing with them. We are fasting for seven days, but I'm not hungry. However, unexpectedly, the olfactory memory of Bacalhau á Braz (a typical cod dish) came to my head. Strange... it's not even one of my top 10 dishes. Meanwhile, everybody went to Lagos today. "To walk around, see shops and buy things! Woooow!" Oshun puts on a white dress and lets her hair down, Deirdre and Yvonne put on makeup and lipgloss. I chose to stay. Silvia also, she has to finish her treatment with Frank. I weighed myself and I've already lost 4 Kilos!! Oshun, eight. Yvone, five! All the faces are slimmer, everybody's skin is resplendent and all the bodies better defined. Today, at 10.30 pm, there was a total eclipse of the moon, but unfortunately I was already in deep sleep by then.

8th Day

Leith started working around 11am, cleaning the ground of weeds and stones and leveling it. At 6pm I joined the small group. There already was a small bamboo structure being erected. A big fire was lit since 2pm, with the ceremony stones getting hot for later tonight. As the night falls, I rehaerse an excuse 10 times. I am tired, there are lots of subliminal transformations happening in my body, others not as much (I have definately lost weight) and I want to sleep on all of this. On the other hand... The magnificent moon raises over the hills. We write aims and dreams in papers that get folded and placed on the altar, on the side of the Sweat Lodge. Around 9pm, we go change clothes (nothing that seizes movement and no undewear). Outside, we do a brief ceremony around the fire, and then we get in, according to Oshun's instructions. Leith brings the first stones inside the tent. The heat raises from the floor and sorrounds us. Lastly, he lets down the rugs that cover the entrance and we dive in an opressive and total darkness, breathing really hot air. I lay on the ground, that feels cold and damp on top of the rugs. I feel my heart beating really hard and I take several deep breaths. Oshun asks if we are ok, if anybody wants to get out, and I have no courage to say "Me!". Also because one part of me intensely wants to take part of this unique experience. She sprinkles scented oils on the stones and throws water on top of them. A cloud of dense and scented steam sorrounds us. Oshun tells us about the therapeutic and magical properties of this ritual, she tells us of legends, miths and stimulates a dialogue that I can not reproduce in half a dozen lines. The curtaine raises and falls again four times, and Leith brings in more stones. The heat is intense and we are copiously sweating. Without noticing, we are following the chants as if we all knew those strange words. Oshun is a descendent of the Lakota indians, with a mixture of black from the Ivory Coast and some Irish grandmothers. This afternoon we found out what brought her to Europe, and what makes her live in Montpellier is the fact that she is a High Priestess of feminine cults and she integrates the higher rank of the hierarchy, a gnostic order. When the heat becomes too intense we lay on the floor. I feel, we feel, the radiant energy that sourrounds us, fullfils us and gently takes us to get in the rythm, shaking the maracas and singing. In the end, Lalita suggests a special prayer to conclude the ceremony: "Here, in Portugal and Spain, we have a special fondness for the Virgin..." Oshun answers from the shadows: "In Montpellier we pray the Rosary." When our voices rise, we pray Ave Maria, silmutaneously in portuguese, castillian, french and english. In the darkness, I hear Lalita's gentle cries, and I feel that the tears are rolling freely down my face. Lastly, outside, by the fire, we burn our prayers and wishes under a splendid moonlight.

9th Day

I woke up earlier than the bell, filled with hope and powerfull images of the ceremony. The red hot stones that Leith was taking off the fire and bringing inside the tent. The fountain water that Oshun sprinkled over them. The sessions, the prayers, the chants, the mantras, the sound of the maracas, the scent of the essential oils thrown over the burning stones. We found a farewell card from Dierdre and Yvone on the dining table. The house seems empty without them. In the afternoon I did a Aquadetox with Lalita and I watched the water where my feet were soaking turn into a foamy dark brown colour. Aparently, heavy metals that I have in the body are drained into there. Whatever. In the end of the afternoon, Frank joined us and we listened to him for hours. This man's life wouldn't just write one book. It would write several! He is a being full of light and divine humour. He said that, yesterday, when he heard the chants from his house, on top of the hill, he almost came down and joined us. But then, he didn't think it would be appropriate.

10th Day

I dreamt of a most beatiful garden where there were many eggs. I think this must be an excellent omen. With all these talks about miracles and the possibilities to make them happen... as well as with all the distinct experiences that both Frank and Peter, the pragmatic doctor that affirms himself as "non spiritual" but follows the practical ways of Zen Buddhism, have been giving us about diet and health, with real life examples, it is very hard not to believe in miracles and magic. Today, over dinner, Peter came to talk to us about important acupuncture points and gave us some interesting recipes - a 12 hours liver detox with a dandelion decoction.

11th Day

Today I had an amazing appointment with Frank. It's called Introspect 11, it's an amazing russian project, based on Quantic principles, a concept that works with biofeedback, scanning the body from the DNA to the cell, from the bowels to the brain, from the bones to the epithelial tissue. An infrared light (invisible to the naked eye) points to the forehead region and reads the organs, comparing the readings with ones of organs in perfect condition and placing them in a scale of 1 to 6. Frank spent a few months in Moscow learning how to use it. The doctor who trained him said she had already treated thousands of patients in this way. He also works with the Quantum, another technique also developed in the Soviet Union, that has been used with astronauts, to detect organic deficiencies on the computer, from a distance. It is all very mystical (as the Quantic Mechanics also are) but... it is present in every conventional hospital throughout Russia. On the computer screen, we view my heart, lungs, eyes, and Frank introduces some corrections, but, apparently, my general condition is pretty good. My pancreas isn't so well. Several black squares signal the fragile points. The treatment starts and most of them return to the colour immediately below and many fall back down to yellow (excellent) and orange (good). Sitting in front of the screen, without being able to cross my legs, I end up laughing. "Frank, this is magic!" He agrees entirely. We were still viewing other organs when I have the strangest feeling. My bloated belly disappeared. Just like that.

12th Day

Today is International Women's day and the end of the fasting. Breakfast with fresh fruit, pinapple, strawberries, mangos, kiwis, cooked apple with cinnamon and quinoa, the cereal of the aztecs, is delicious because the detox was so profound that it opened up all our senses. I ate two forkfuls and three spoonfuls and I felt completly full. At lunch we had a salad of really fresh vegetables and an olive oil dressing with a little vinegar and honey. It is just like mayonese.

13th Day

I got up and felt like taking it easy. Had a shower, washed and dried my hair and I was still on time to catch the last part of the yoga class and the meditation. In the afternoon, I had a session on the Crystal Bed. A device with six arms, that end in faceted quartz crystals, points to the places where the chakras are, according to oriental tradition. Astrid Bjerne, one of the Moinhos Velhos therapists, was in Brasil for months and bought this bed at the House of Don Inácio, in Abadiana, the Spiritual Centre where João de Deus did the cures that made him famous throughout the world. This device is sold only to those chosen by the spiritual guides of the Centre. It seems that there are many other beds, but none are as good as this one, which was designed under spiritual guidance, says Astrid, and she adds: "We are pure energy, the body is the case. If we balance the chakras, the rest will balance itself." We don't have to do anything. Only to lay down, with the eyes blindfolded. Everybody has different sensations. Some very intense. But, there are also those who sleep deeply. I ask myself: "How am I going to tell these things without people thinking that I am delirious?"

14th Day

Today, Oshun and Kathryn left. Only me and Silvia stayed so we went for lunch and a tour around Lagos, with Peter, and at night we went for dinner (also to Lagos) with Frank, Peter, Lalita and Shakti. Divine grilled fish at a restaurante outside of the touristic circuit. It was hilarious because we decided to chant the mantra and say the prayer, as we do in Moinhos Velhos, ending with the inevitable "Blessings on the dinner!" We became the centre of all attentions...

15th Day

Back home, I try to think about how am I going to put in words these two last weeks of undescribable experiences. One thing is for sure: I lost almost 6 kilos and my blood pressure went back to normal parameters. I feel an energy that I didn't feel in a long time. Dirk says that my skin is radiant and that I have lost loads of weight. I feel more or less like I am levitating.

A well kept secret...

Somewhere along the 80's, Frank and Anasuya, both norwegian and citizens of the world, arrived in the Algarve and found, near Barragem da Bravura, the place they had been looking for years. It wasn't by chance. With a very active spiritual life and strongly connected to oriental practics, like Yoga and alternative medicines, they were searching for the perfect place to share their knowledge and begin the Moinhos Velhos project. And there they were, these splendid 16 hectares of wild beauty, looked over by a little house. The heart was saying "yes", but the head was refusing the herculean and wreking task. But... the water and the air were so pure, and Frank and Anasuya felt that they had arrived at the least polluted place in the whole Europe. In the end of 99, Moinhos Velhos was becoming an international reference, through word of mouth. The fasting program, with juices and broths, clysmatic (daily cleansing of the intestines), Yoga practise, the salt water pool and the sauna, the library, with a pleasant video collection, everything was coming together to have and keep on having amazing results. Today, the Centre is internationally known and the Guest Book registers impressive testimonials from people who have stayed there. In Portugal, it is still a well kept secret... although some portuguese have already passed by there. Frank says: "I wanted to build the best detox centre of the world." People that have tried many others say: "He did it."


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