On Wednesday, we officially enter autumn, the season of Vata dosha, when dry, cool and rough qualities ramp up in nature as Air and Space elements start rising compared to the waning Fire of summer. We can feel it in the cooler air, the dry leaves gathering on the ground, the rougher breezes kicking up.
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, an urge to burrow down and hibernate. Plants pull their essence out of their flowers and leaves and condense in their roots to withstand the coming winter.
Ironically, at this time of year our society is usually asking for the exact opposite reaction out of us. With the start of school and the return to business after summer vacations, we often ramp UP as the days get shorter, rather than ramping down.
However, this autumn is different, with the pandemic pulling us in contradictory directions, creating a kind of psychological whiplash. At the beginning of the summer, many felt excited to return to social life, which was quickly quashed by the delta variant surge. Now the necessity of returning to work or school life in the face of potential risk leaves many of us conflicted, if not traumatized, by the competing demands on our psyche for both connection and safety.
Frankly, it makes a lot sense that we might find ourselves feeling ungrounded, anxious, or outright panicked. If we take Mother Nature’s cue, our body and mind will be well-served right now to draw our energy inward like the plants, protecting our resources and deepening our connections to the ground.
Here are 5 ways we can grow deeper roots. Choose one that feels particularly nurturing and comforting, and plan right now to make it happen this week.
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. Read one poem before turning out the light at bedtime. Any routine can serve.
3) Drink a cup of comfort. Warm beverages are excellent at combating cool, dry Vata. A cup of herbal tea (or simply warm lemon water) can be just the right medicine to calm frayed nerves and to replenish a dehydrated system. It can also ease constipation, especially taken first thing in the morning to help flush the digestive tract. A cup of warm milk (or oat milk) spiced with a touch of cinnamon before bed can induce deep rest and sweet dreams.
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. To take truly good care of ourselves this fall, we need to heed that 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? Tell me in the comments below.