Here in the northern hemisphere we just welcomed the first day of fall this week, on the autumnal equinox. This is the time when we begin to move more into the shelter of the cold season, peaking at winter solstice with the longest night of the year.
People have always looked towards the sky, and celebrated nature's cycles, the dance of Sun and Moon. They understood that changes in nature affect us as well; we are a part of the whole big web. Macrocosm and microcosm, an idea that we are nothing more (or less) than a smaller representation of the universe is reflected in many traditions from the Upanishads or Buddhism in the East to the Greek philosophers in the West. This sacred knowledge is slowly being forgotten in many affluent corners of the world, where resources can seem so readily available. We have markets and supermarkets, so we don't need to gather food for winter, we have homes with heating. No need to look to the sky any more for warmth from the sun. Still, we should not forget that we are a part of the whole, even behind our walls, and that our body and mind is affected by the natural cycles that whirl around us.
Autumn is the time when crops are harvested; people and animals gather food (energy) for the coming winter. On a subtle level we can look at this time as an invitation to harvest the fruits of our labors as and reflect upon the year behind us to see which of the seeds we planted grew healthy and strong, and which didn't.
This is the time when trees shed leaves and nature slowly starts to shed the old in preparation for the stillness (winter) before the new cycle and a new beginning comes with spring. This is when we prepare for the new cycle; this is the time to shed the leaves of the past, leave behind whatever doesn't serve our seeds to grow healthy and strong.
During next few months we can slowly start to make changes to our daily routines. Here are a few suggestions:
Do a one-day detox to cleanse and prepare your digestive system. Eat less raw foods, add more steamed or cooked vegetables to your diet. As the days get colder and we enter Vata season, it is good to add more spices to our food to help build up digestive fire. Especially if you are Vata constitution. Soups and stews with seasonal vegetables are great, as are rice and root vegetables. Add kurkuma, ginger, black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon into your food. As the days get colder, hot ginger tea is a good way to keep you warm as well as to aid digestion.
Use a dry brush before showering to help your skin shed the old, dry layers. During summer I use coconut oil to feed my skin, but when colder days come I prefer coco or shea butter. Coconut is great but it's a cooling oil perfect for summer. Now we need oils like sesame, avocado and jojoba.
Meditate daily. Find a time in the day when you can take five to ten minutes of quiet time to spend in meditation and contemplation. Take long walks in the woods to re-connect. Summer is all about beach, sun and water, as we move into fall season, connecting to the earth will help us make a smooth transition.
Avoid vigorous asana practice in the evening. Do a more restorative sequence every other day to ground and calm your nervous system.
As the nights get longer and we enter late autumn, take time to look within, to introspect. Look into the dark corners of yourself so you can, when ready, bring to light and integrate whatever is hiding there. The dark and the stillness that comes during this time of year is a gift, allowing us to become once again part of the natural cycle, the web of nature.