On Sunday we entered autumn, the season of Vata dosha when Air and Space elements take center stage. We can feel it in the cooler nighttime temperatures, the quickening breeze, the increasing dry quality as plants start dropping their leaves.
This time of year naturally invites us inwards. The exuberance of summer gives way to a slight contraction, a sense of drawing in towards the hearth for warmth and comfort, to burrow down and hibernate. Plants draw their essence out of their flowers and leaves and condense in their roots to withstand winter.
However, our society asks for the exact opposite reaction. With the start of school and the return to business after summer vacations, there is an insistence on ramping UP as the days get shorter, rather than ramping down. Back-to-school activities, looming end-of-year quotas or work goals, and the start of retail’s biggest season all push us to deny the natural call to tuck in and reflect.
When we feel the rising wave of outward intensity at this time of year, it can provoke Vata dosha within us. Vata is already rising externally, and if we don’t take care, the increased societal pressure to perform and produce can amplify that Vata surge and send us into groundlessness, superficiality, or outright frenzy.
If we take Nature’s cue instead, our body and mind are well-served by drawing energy inward, protecting our resources and deepening connections to ground. Here are 5 ways you can grow deeper roots this week. Choose one that feels particularly nurturing and comforting, and indulge.
1) Nourish the feet. Our feet are designed to relate to the earth, to give us access to the ground. Amplify this connection by trading foot massages with a friend, or give yourself a foot massage with a little oil before bed (then wear socks to protect your sheets). Take off your shoes and walk on grass or bare earth, allowing your feet to absorb the texture and “taste” of the ground. Keep your shoes off under your desk and wiggle your toes more often.
2) Create routine. When Vata dosha is elevated, an excellent antidote is to enforce some routine. Choose one component of your day and make it rock-solid. Wake up at a consistent time every day, or take a mid-afternoon walk “like clockwork” at the same hour. Choose a favorite tea, and have a cup as soon as you arrive at work. Read one poem before turning out the light at bedtime. Any routine can serve.
3) Dig in with a “rooted” community. My teacher always said good company is the best of medicines. In a group that’s committed to inward-oriented practices, we don’t have to work so hard; the group’s practice carries us. Look for a meditation group, drum circle, or mindful movement class – or join me in The Autumn Reset & Renew, my upcoming online cleanse, where you’ll receive ample support for establishing deep nourishing roots through this seasonal transition.
4) Get still. Immediately upon waking up or just before sleep, sit on your bed for 5 minutes and observe your breath. Nothing fancy here, just a little stillness to notice how your body feels inhaling and exhaling. Send mental roots down into the earth and enjoy the sense of being held. Nothing to do.
5) Receive nature’s gift. Take a walk somewhere in nature and ask for a message or gift to be given to you. It may be a stone or leaf that catches your eye and can serve as a touchstone on your desk. It may be an experience, a brush with an animal or a particularly stunning view that you preserve in a mental photograph. It may be a message or insight that comes in words. Look for the gift and bring it home with you.
If we look for it, we see the signals in our natural environment calling us inward, even as the societal trumpet summons us outwards. To take truly good care of ourselves this fall, we’ll need to buck society’s call. We’ll need to dig in and find some deep roots that can nourish us and hold us tight through the winds of upheaval. How will you take deep care of you?