Summer is nearing its end. Fall is around the corner. School has started for many, and so has the return from vacation and back to work duties. Household duties have also resumed on a grander scale for parents who have children at home and/or at school. Summer has given us a lighthearted break to indulge in the natural surroundings, only to give way to us returning slowly inward into the bosom of winter as Fall season escorts us. With this we can notice a tendency of the mind also shifting from being out and about, indulging in the abundance of nature, to the inner places. What tends to follow for some is an increased sense of anxiety and/or sadness. These emotions may continue to develop at the season transitions, but it is common with most of the seasonal transitions until we arrive back at summer/summer-like again.
It is such a beautiful experience to witness time, this linear time as we perceive it according to our revolving around the sun (which gives us our annual calendar), revolving around the moon (as it gives us our lunar calendar), the axial tilt of our planet which allows us to experience seasons, and the simple rotation of our planet creating a 24-hour cycle.
How lovely is it that we are part of this celestial phenomena with the cosmic consciousness that we are and share as part of the cosmos? Being human allows us to experience the world as we perceive it through our senses and overall relationship to nature. Nature is as it is and it is happening as it is. It is amazing to experience even the simplicity of our own fragile lives that can be extinguished with a blink of an eye without actually really knowing the “when” or “how,” for the most part. We know the why, which is simply because we are part of this cycle of creation, existence/maintenance, and death. These are natural phases of transitions. Our cells, as the microcosm, go through this daily. Life as a whole goes through this, as the macrocosm. Everything goes through this! It simply is! To be able to be part of life in this body is a gift and our responsibility for its maintenance, sustenance, and upkeep. The body has many functions, actions, and processes.
We have very few actual functions of the body that we can voluntarily have some control of. We can control, to a certain point when we have to “poop.” We can voluntarily control when we have to “pee.” We can control when we have to laugh/not laugh, burp, fart, and more. In Ayurveda, these are known to be part of the 13 natural urges (Trayodashi Vega) Our breath is not necessarily a voluntary/involuntary natural urge and function of our existence. Although we can have some control over some of the natural urges, knowing they will cause us some dysfunction in the area and other potential systems, we can control our breath until a certain point but our own natural protective mechanism to live and survive will take over. Without breath there is no body = nobody! We have a strong urge to live, on the deepest level of our being and will do whatever we can in the last moments to prolong our existence to a point of whatever desperate measures will be required to do so.
When we take the time to really listen to ourselves, our bodies mainly, we can learn more about what we need and in doing so we can learn what we require to maintain homeostasis. Our bodies produce symptoms, ranging from subtle to overt, as a means to communicate to us that something is out of balance. In Ayurveda, we know that the first two places this occurs between our diets and our lifestyle. A key factor that indulges in activities/behaviors that are counter to our well-being involves our minds and what it is doing, what it is “telling us” as “stories.'“ The mind is a big distraction. Adyashanti says with regard to the mind “don’t believe a word you think.” He also says “99% of our thoughts aren’t important”, and “if the mind wasn’t attached to the body, the body would know exactly how to take care of itself; that it is a truth meter and can tell us what feels good from what doesn’t.” The mind is that which vacillates between past and future. That’s how it survives. That’s what it does as its inherent function especially when it doesn’t have “something specific to do.” The mind keeps can keep us busy and caught up in anxiety provoking thoughts/sensations when it thinks about the future. I remember learning a story around the mind and it goes like this: One day there was a king that stumbled upon a genie lamp. He rubbed the genie lamp and the genie awoke saying “once you have awaken me it is up to you to keep me busy otherwise I will devour you.” The king was frightened and didn’t want that to happen. He asked for his first wish thinking that the genie would be kept busy and that was to create a kingdom. Poof! The wish was granted. The genie said “you have two more wishes and if I’m not kept busy, I’ll devour you.” The king was panicked and then thought of a second wish which was to be as rich as possible. Poof! The wish was granted and the genie said “you have one more wishes and if I’m not kept busy, I’ll devour you.” The king freaked out and then consulted with his appointed counselor and after some time they came up with this idea which was to tell the genie “create a poll and climb onto it and go up and down until I tell you I need you for something else.” The genie did this and the king remained undevoured. The point of this story was to give an example of the mind and how when it’s not given a specific task it will consume us in its free time. The mind makes a terrible master but a great servant when it has a purpose.
When the mind goes to thoughts of the past, this is where depression generally can arise. Similarly, in yogic philosophy, when we inhale it is said that the inhale has its root in the future and when we exhale it relates to letting go and the past. There is an understanding in the subtle anatomy of yoga that there are four parts to the breath: Puraka (inhalation), Antar Kumbaka (retention/space after the inhale), Rechaka (exhalation), and Bahya/Bahir Kumbaka (retention/space after the exhale.) The points between the breath are considered very significant because these are natural pauses that occur. They can expand over time as we focus our awareness at these junctions and in doing so it is said that we can experience deeper physiological and psychological benefits such as a deeper sense of clarity, peace, increased energy, sustained energy, inspiration, and even metabolic stimulation. This partly depends on how we work with the breath and in yoga we have practices known as Pranayama which are techniques designed to “manipulate” the breath or simply have an awareness of.
The yogis believed/believe that we are born with a certain number of breaths. Each and everyone of us has a certain number. They knew that utilizing the pranayama techniques could be a way to prolong our lives. It was/is understood by the yogis that if we shorten our actual breathing process, we can shorten our lifespan. If we lengthen the breath, we can extend it. Being able to breathe in ensures that there will be an exhale but when we exhale the inhalation may or may not follow. Similarly, since the inhalation represents future and possibility by breathing in we have the possibility of another moment in this body. When we exhale, we don’t have the possibility of continuing and the exhale leaves behind who we were when we were in body. The transitions in the breath, the still points between the inhale and the exhale are simply a pause in time. Presence, now is like that. The transitions also show us where there is possibility of something or nothing else. It all depends.
I remember learning from a neurophysiologist , Dr. Naschit, who worked at the Himalayan Institute when I was studying beginning meditation and he said that he could simply read a persons breath to determine what condition they have. He shared that people suffering with anxiety displayed a breath pattern that was short and shallow. Naschit stated that in depressed people they breath tended to be slow, shallow, and stagnant in ways. He would say from his observations and experience that by working with the breath, homeostasis in health, body-mind-spirit could be better accomplished. I’ve seen this in my own experience. This was a fun and fascinating lesson. Dr. Vasant Lad, has stated that we can view the breath of a turtle and see how its breath is deep, long, slow, and full, and the turtle lives a long long life. Whereas, a dog has more shallow and quickened breath, and doesn’t live as long as a turtle. This is all food for thought. Our minds follow our breaths and our breaths follow our minds.
All of these considerations have a powerful influence on the body in many ways. When we take the time to slow down and be present, we have the profound opportunity to learn so much. When we feel lost or confused or disconnected, getting to be intimate with all this is a way to really explore what is needed right now. Only by following right now in each moment we are given can we journey into what may be. The future is determined by what we do now. The past can be re-experienced in a different way, right now. We can not change the actual past but we an help prevent the past from repeating itself in the future by the actions we take in the “right now.” Right now is the time. Right now is the only time. The future isn’t guaranteed. When we go to sleep at night, those of us that tend to sleep at night, we aren’t promised to wake up tomorrow.
Life is happening. There is change. This is the constant. As Ram Das has said “I have a commitment to truth and not to consistency.”
What to take away from this article and how to apply this to seasonal changes/transitions:
1) As we change seasons, treat each day as it comes. Under the current umbrella of it still being summer we may have chillier days that aren’t summer-like. In this case, on those days, honor your digestion and body in terms of modifying what you’re eating to accommodate the weather of the day. By doing so, you’ll reduce the chances of becoming ill. It is during these windows of transition that many people become sick due to not really following the weather of the day and acting as if it is still that season even with temperature and atomspheric alterations. Slow down and take these little steps. It’s in the details.
2) Notice how the weather/climate changes in your area?
3) Notice how and when the sun rises and sets.
4) Observe what happens on the days of the solstice versus the equinox.
5) What is your body telling you? Are you getting sleepier earlier as we progress from summer to fall to winter? Are you increasing in energy and alertness/awaken-ness when we transition from deep winter, to spring, to summer?
6) How does your digestion feel given any time of day? Any time of the month? Any time of the season/year? Is it heavy? Light? Rampant? Variable? Strong?
7) Which season do you favor? Does your body agree? (how do you know? well, if your symptoms increase with the season then that’s a sign of the underlying issues you may be having with health. If your symptoms become alleviated, then that an indicator for what elements are needed to counter your symptoms and nature is helping you. In either case, nature is supporting your discoveries.)
8) Is there dryness present in the body? Example, itchy eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin?
9) What is your energy overall at any given time and see how it may correlate with your surroundings, from the microcosm to the macrocosm. (being your body environment, to the home environment, to your neighborhood, your region, your city, your state, your country)?
10) Where is your mind in all this? How do you feel emotionally? How do you feel mentally? What causes distress? What causes ease? Learn from the subtle to overt cues. What do you notice? What’s the correlation? What’s the connection to transitions/change?
11) What’s the diet like?
12) What’s the lifestyle like?
13) Do you take or make time to really get to know yourself? Is there space in your schedule to allow for this? Why not, if there isn’t?
14) What do you do to distract yourself in a healthy and unhealthy way?
15) What supports do you have in place to encourage your well-being? How do you reset?
16) How do you relate to stillness/silence? I recently wrote a meme that said “Silence and Stillness speak volumes. Can we hear what’s here or do we try to avoid it, which is essentially avoiding ourselves? Do we heed the inner calling or prolong it by finding ways not to be close to it? some of it depends on our readiness and willingness. Are you willing? Ready? If not, that’s okay. What remains true at the core of our being, remains true and awaits us patiently, eternally, endlessly. This is part of our journey in this life. Worthy of exploring, to the last breath!
17) Are we resisting? If so, how’s that working for you? If so, that’s okay too and part of the human experience. Many of us have heard “resistance is futile.” Adyashanti once said “When we resist resistance, resistance resists back. When we resist resisting, resistance releases itself.” Either way, we can choose to resist resisting or simply hold space for the reality that we are in resistance in any particular moment without any expectation of movement until something is ready to move.
18) Check out the below articles for more details
DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.