Getting Started at the Optimum Health Institute -- What's it Like?
The following article is the second of a five part series relating the experiences a long time advocate of wheatgrass juice had during a stay at a well known Institute specializing in a live food dietary regime supplemented with wheatgrass juice. The system used at the Optimum Health Institute is based generally on the teachings of Ann Wigmore. There are a number of fine Centers, Institutes, and Spas offering this particular approach to health and diet, so the selection of OHI is not a specific endorsement or recommendation. If you are facing a serious health challenge, consult your physician before undertaking such a course - Editor
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5
By Chuck Juhn
Are you interested in taking wheatgrass juicing for health and rejuvenation 'to the next level'? As I noted in the first article of this series, Optimum Health Institute, formerly known as Hippocrates West, is a center promoting the use of living foods and wheatgrass juice as the basis of a comprehensive detoxification and rebuilding regime modified and enhanced somewhat from the original programs developed by Dr. Ann Wigmore. Its main activities center around a 3-week program designed to give an individual all the experience, information, practice, and support they need to carry the health program home with them. It is a non-profit, non sectarian church, although this aspect is very little stressed, and has been in existence for over 25 years.
OHI offers classes on an array of topics from digestive health to sprouting and growing to gardening to relaxation, among many. It also provides a scientific, balanced uncooked diet comprised of organically grown living foods, fermented foods, and wheatgrass juice. It includes a strong emphasis on colon cleansing using enemas, colonics if desired, and implants of wheatgrass juice at very specific intervals, as well as having massage therapy, beauty spa, and a chiropractor available on site. A lot of attention is paid to physical exercise, breathing exercises, and emotional and mental cleansing and harmonizing as well.
What kinds of folks go to OHI? Well, every race, gender, age and nationality is represented, although there are not a lot of children there, and probably overall more women than men attend, although that is just my observation. In fact, people come to OHI from all over the world. While I was there last time there were people from as far away as Australia, and at least 6 other countries I know of. It seems to me that about 1/3 of the people there want to loose weight and 'clean up and retune" their bodies with a short get-away, about 1/3 have a moderate to serious health problem (called an 'opportunity' at OHI), and about 1/3 are interested in health in general, and the use of living foods and wheatgrass specifically. In fact, probably somewhat in excess of 50,000 guests have come through the doors of OHI since it opened in the mid 1970's.
Check-in is between 2 and 4 pm on Sunday, but you can get there as late as 8 pm and still get your room. If you are later than that, you have to check in the next morning. The afternoon includes a tour of the grounds, orientation, and dinner. You get a complete notebook of information about OHI and the program on check-in, and you have some time to settle into your room.
The Grounds are spectacular when I show up in early June. It is a great day, sunny and warm, perfect southern California weather. The lawn is manicured and as you enter the front gate greenery, flowers, and birds surround you. The whole site is well laid out, and has been developed over 25 years. Located in Lemon Grove, near San Diego, the OHI sits on a hill, and has a bit over 2 fenced acres for the compound. Several sets of buildings are laid out over the site, with bungalows interspersed with blocks of rooms, surrounded by lawns, gardens, tall trees, and greenery of all sorts. There is a great Jacuzzi, and behind the main reception offices you will find the greenhouse, parking, and other amenities. There are nooks and small private patios all over the grounds where you can relax and chat with new friends and old. Although Lemon Grove is in a residential area, the layout and landscaping make the site very private and quiet.
OHI has various types of rooms, and some are shared. I like a private room since I prefer to spend time alone during the first two weeks of detoxification. I get checked into my room and find it large, sunny, and tastefully decorated. It has a large couch, dining table, and king sized bed. The bathroom is clean, but small, considering how much time you spend there. What? No television??? Well, at least they have a telephone in the room. In previous days, they didn't include ANY outside distractions and possible stress inducers.
A quick walk around the grounds takes me first to the library/sitting room, with e-mail access by the way, adjacent to a a large exercise area, and the kitchen/dining area. A stroll to the south block and I find the store, tastefully arranged in a very small area, with all kinds of necessary goods from personal hygiene items to books, seeds, and juicers. They even have some nice clothing for sale. Around back I find another small library and meditation room near the Rachel Solomon Memorial Garden. Rachel worked with Ann, and became so enthused with the program back in the 1970's that she, along with some other interested people, began the Institute in San Diego. She, like Ann, was a strong personality who was a guiding light in bringing about the program taught by OHI today.
Time for dinner, and some 'get acquainted' chats with some of the other guests. OHI runs a three week rolling program, so at any one time there are people just starting the program, or have been there two or three weeks already. This is very important, as 'old timers' help newcomers a great deal here. At the serving counter, I find that everyone gets the same fare, except for those with health 'opportunities' like diabetes or Candida. Those people get food without any fruits or carrots. The plate of food doesn't really appeal to me too much today, but it is prepared and presented very nicely. We have some sprouts, and some cut sunflower and buckwheat greens, some other salad type greens, and a kind of cold vegetable soup in a small cup.
The community dining area is where people generally gather. People are very friendly, and quite open about their visit. We share names and hometowns, and some tell how they got involved with the OHI program. There are as many reasons as people, but one thing is clear; each and every person has made a decision to take responsibility for their health situation, and pursue an alternative to the standard health care offered by the 'system.' Some are risking everything on this program, but we will meet them later. As we eat, I hear snatches of conversation about the food, and some of the new arrivals are not too happy about the fare. One said 'I KNEW I should have had another Big Mac before we came!' There was a fair amount of leftover food on the plates I noticed, even mine.
For me, the hygienic approach that I think offers all of us the most hope for regaining and maintaining health is based on 2 main systems, and OHI certainly includes the main attributes of both of these in its overall 'package'.
1) The Essene Gospel of Peace Books 1 and 4 -- These are the health instructions given to the poor and suffering attributed by some to Jesus, and translated by Edmund Bordeaux Szekely. Basically, they recommend raw and living foods, wheatgrass, water therapy including enemas, mud bathing, sunbathing, gentle exercise, and deep breathing. This, in conjunction with attention paid to mental and emotional states of being and concern for spiritual aspects of life is the basis for regaining and living a healthy life.
2) Be Your Own Doctor and many other books by Dr. Ann Wigmore. Of course, Dr. Wigmore is probably the single most important spokesperson for the use of wheatgrass juice and living foods. She also outlined a hygienic approach very similar to that of the Essene healers.
Both of these approaches, so similar in nature, also give each individual the knowledge to regain their health, and the sure knowledge that no matter how difficult or bad the situation may be, there is always hope as long as there is a spark of life in the body. The Essenes do note however that the loss of the physical body may not be the greatest calamity one can face in this life. That is an issue to discuss or debate in another forum, however.
Now, before I get into the specifics of activities, let me just tell you generally how I spend each day, because the routine is pretty much the same. Over the years I have adapted my little routine to the rhythm of the Institute so I can maximize my time and use of the facilities available at the level I need.
I like to get up very early, and generally got to bed fairly early. Sometimes, however, if I am coming in from a different time zone, I may be up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, OHI leaves the wheatgrass juicing room and community room open 24 hours per day, so one has access to both wheatgrass juice and rejuvelac whenever one wants.
Since there is no television at OHI, it is pretty easy to maintain an 'early to bed, early to rise' schedule.
5:30 am -- each morning I get up at 5:30, and drink about 8 to 10 ounces of water. Then I meditate for about 15 minutes, and get down to the wheatgrass room to juice up the first 2 oz shot of wheatgrass juice for the day, then do a little reading. By 6:30 am I head out for a bit of extra, more vigorous exercise, so I usually take a 30 to 40 minute walk around the grounds, and just look at what is going on. The grounds are immaculate, the garden always has something interesting to look at, and if you are there in the late spring, you will be able to see the humming bird nests throughout the grounds with their minute cargo. A little after 7 am, before the morning exercise at 7:30, I head to the community room and drink about 8 ozs of rejuvelac, and do some stretching and deep breathing, prior to the actual exercise class. This is the morning routine for the duration of my stay, even on the weekends.
I pretty much maintain a standard routine revolving around the class schedules and meal times. After the morning session class, I usually jump in the Jacuzzi and then get a bit of sunbathing and deep breathing, and then its time for lunch. Just following the afternoon class is when I do the dreaded E's and I's -- enemas and implants. This can tie one up for an hour and a half, or even more, but it is when I get my second of the two daily shots of wheatgrass, and take care of the intestinal detoxification aspect of the program.
Once dinner is over, there is some time to chat, but not much because there is an evening class to attend. Once that is done, bed looks good. This is the daily routine pretty much for the entire 3-week stay. On weekends, there is a lot to do if you want to explore San Diego and the surrounding environs, but I usually stay right at the institute so I am not tempted to 'go off the wagon' or cheat on the diet. there is a great opportunity to get some extra rest, read books from the library on site, or just walk around Lemon Grove. Best of all, one can spend a lot of time getting acquainted with other people.
As I mentioned before, OHI has a 3 week program people rotate through. You stay generally with your cohort for the week you signed in, so there are 3 groups of folks at 3 different stages on their stay. OHI uses this to good effect in their 'Testimony' circle, and generally as support for those who just came in and need a bit more reassurance or sharing with an amazing array of different people.
What do you need to take with you when you go to OHI? Well, even in the winter, you will want some shorts, and some swimming trunks, along with a light or mid-weight jacket. Take some 'dress up' clothes if you are planning to go out and about, but generally, dress at the Institute is very, VERY, causal. It is nice to have a car there, but not necessary. There is plenty of gated parking. DO bring your medications, but be advised that changes in your diet and changes in your body could affect how those medications affect you over the length of the stay. Talk with your physician or health care provider about this before you go. Be sure to check out the website, and once you enroll OHI will send you a packet of basic information, including do's and don'ts.
Mainly, you should NOT take certain things with you when you go. Leave the perfumes and sprays, lotions, deodorants and make-up, and even your fluoride toothpaste at home. The store sells a full line of approved cosmetics, soaps, lotions and bath items. Perfume or strongly scented oils or hair care items are not allowed because they affect other guests, and might just interfere with your detox program. Don't bring a pet or your television. Don't bring FOOD! Give it a break and let your body take advantage of 3 great weeks without a bunch of weird chemicals being dumped into your stomach, along with food whose life force was squeezed out of it months, if not years, prior. Eat only what is provided by the OHI kitchen staff. As you can well imagine, if you drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, well, forget it at OHI. Don't even think about bringing that into the Institute grounds.
One of the drawbacks to the site is that it is not particularly well laid out for those in wheelchairs, or using walkers. Although it isn't too bad, and the site is in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities legislation, be advised that those with mobility impairments to any great degree will need to consult with OHI staff ahead of time about which rooms are appropriate, and so on. As OHI states in its brochure material, you must be well enough to care for your own needs and attend daily classes. OHI is an educational center, and takes no responsibility for your specific health issues. One other drawback is that due to California State law, chlorine must be used in the Jacuzzi. For those who have problems with chlorinated water, this is an unfortunate problem.
That completes what I wanted to pass along to you in this article. In the next installment we will meet up with some of the other guests, find out a little bit about what brought them to OHI, and talk about some of the classes. I hope you will join me.
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