How a summer worshipper began to embrace the coming of fall
If you are like me, you tend to resist the end of summer with a vengeance. Summer's long days, the warmth, the lack of structure or routine for the kids and the iconic feeling like the whole world is smiling while eating an ice cream cone...All of it brings my soul such joy that when we begin to transition to fall, I feel a funk start involuntarily. My particular funk includes an intangible anxiety and also a sadness that something is being taken away from me. I have friends who start smiling when they talk about sweaters, pumpkins and making a fire. No, not me. I just get depressed. So here's where I tell you to do as I say (and am always trying to do!) instead of what my natural tendency is. Embracing this seasonal change and taking messages from Mother Nature is the way to stay in balance...your health depends on it.
Let me first put this in a different framework than what you may be used to. At the foundation of my understanding of healing systems and the way I see health is Ayurvedic Medicine, traditional East Indian medicine. It is what I grew up with and my later in life apprenticing and bookwork in this ancient wisdom has informed all of what I do today. Unlike a Western conventional health perspective, Ayurveda applies different traits to all bodily constitutions and even to nature, food, and our environment. We and all the intangibles around us are all a mix of all three of these constitutions, or doshas, and we each predominate in different ones of the three. Imblances in health come from aggravation of our doshas by how we think, eat, move, even by how we structure our day and environment.
Each season also has predominant doshas and the one for late Fall is Vata. Let's stick with that one since it's the one we are entering now. In fact, tomorrow is the first official day! Vata has qualities of air and space and when Fall approaches, these qualities are increased and especially if you are someone whose body is predominantly Vata, (like me! See, my resistance is also based in some ancient understanding-or at least that's how I justify it!) your goal is to pacify Vata in this transition. How to do that requires a much longer lesson than I can provide here in this small space. But what I want to do is more broadly give you a context that this embracing of the change ahead is grounded in how much of the world has balanced their mind, body, and spirit. And you can too.
Let's take each of those: mind, body, spirit and create practical ways that you can seek balance.
The increase in air and space of the coming Fall can create more anxiety and nervousness, more unsettledness if you will. (That explains my mood and if I don't adhere to the routine I will describe, I am a mess!) If you already struggle with anxiety or an unsettled mind or it gets worse as the seasons change, you will want to think about how to ground yourself in this time of the year. It might be time to start or reconnect to a meditation practice. Can you put aside a few minutes each morning to start? As we make this change, it is especially important to bring some routine and stability to your day and meditation can be a grounding way to do that. It might be time to practice a grounding movement meditation like yoga or qi gong. Is there a class you have been thinking of taking? Or how can you connect to nature and the earth more? This is the time of the year to tend to your mind that has roamed so carefree all Summer. It is time to ground your mind and find stillness whenever you can to fill the space that increases with this seasonal change. I use the fall breeze and wind (reminding me of the increased air) as it blows leaves down the street to remind me that Vata needs to be pacified and that includes my wandering mind.
This time of the year brings the cold which increases Vata as well. You feel that in a real way every day as the weather transforms. This season also brings more dryness to our bodies as well from our hair and skin to our bowels, potentially causing constipation. It is time to counter the cold and not just in the way of layers and warmer clothes (although those are very important!) Even eating warmer food and drink is critical. You may notice a cold salad doesn't sound as good as it did in early August. That's because your body knows that it is time to warm up with grounding, warming foods like root vegetables, soups, spices like ginger and cardamom. It is not the time to add ice to your drinks but rather include a soothing cup of afternoon herbal tea or at the least drink things at room temperature. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. Another important practice at this time of the year is Abhyanga, or self-massage, best done with an oil that suits your dosha but you can always be safe by using something like sesame oil. I add this self-massage each morning at this time of the year before bathing to soothe the increased Vata and that increased dryness. I have come to depend on it as part of my transition to fall. It soothes my body and in turn, soothes my mind.
As we transition into fall, you see the leaves start to change and eventually float to the ground in a luscious carpet of golds and reds. Nature knows it is time to shed the old and take a rest (in the winter) before welcoming the new (in the spring). This is the season of letting go of what does not serve us any longer. What can you shed? What old habits or ways of being can you bid goodbye to? This is critical as we move into this season. We have ahead the cold, darkness of winter and a time of hibernation. It is time to get lighter in our mind and spirit so that we can move more easily into the new year. Root yourself to your relationships and connections that strengthen you. Use those as support for the changes you need to make. Maybe it's time to clear out some clutter from your home or workplace. This clearing out of your physical space can help you clear out your spiritual space in your mind and soul.
The main point here is that we are aligned with nature. Nature gives us messages every day. You can see that in the world right now so clearly with so many moves of Mother Nature that tell us to tend to her better. But even the "mundane" and expected parts of nature, like the change of seasons, give us messages. These transitions are times for us to also tend to ourselves and give our self care a boost. Resisting the change of seasons does you no good. Lamenting the end of summer is fine as a passing nostalgia but it is time to embrace what is and not only that, what is before you is also tugging at you to remember the care needed for your mind, body and spirit. Have gratitude for this change that comes loyally four times a year and make it your signal for change too. Truly, my friends, this is how I have come to manage this for myself. I have turned to centuries old ancient wisdom and healing to remind myself that health is a constellation of change. Nothing can remain the same, nor should it. We must move and flow with nature so that we can keep flowing with our ever changing selves.
So, remember to make a routine for yourself as this transition comes upon us. An Ayurvedic routine would be something like this:
1. Re-integrating a meditation practice, even if very short, into your daily life. You can give up 2-5 minutes of your day. Spend 5 minutes less on Facebook and I promise you, you won't miss it.
2. Think about what way you can ground yourself into your environment, preferably into nature. Maybe it's more walks or just feeling the ground or looking out at beautiful landscapes for some intentional stillness.
3. Get to know Abhyanga, it will become your good friend. There is power in warming oils and in the sheer beauty of giving yourself that tender loving care. Use long strokes on your limbs and circular strokes on your trunk and the entire time, give gratitude to your body for being the vessel that carries you through the day.
4. Eat warm foods and spices. Avoid raw or cold foods at this time.
5. Drink liquids only either at room temp or warm. No ice.
6. De-clutter your surroundings, even if by small bits at a time. Make way for more space and stillness.
7. Think of what you can let go of. This includes the material goods you de-clutter. But more importantly, think of what habits or ways of being you can let go of. This is a time to shed and when the leaves fall, let that be your reminder that even perfect creations of nature let go of what gave them beauty in an earlier time. It's possible that what you are holding on to no longer serves you.
Let the change of seasons be like whispers from nature. Messages that teach us that change is always happening, in and around us.
We can have gratitude for all of it.