Accessible Ayurveda: Autumnal Equinox

And just like that, it's nearly fall.  It certainly feels like autumn in Seattle.  Our season change arrived over the weekend, a few days ahead of schedule.  I bought one more half flat of berries at the farmers market on Sunday, since my calendar says it's summer until Friday.  But mother nature had other plans, and with an onslaught of rain and cool temps, eating blueberries feels a little silly.  Time to find a good muffin recipe.

Actually, bread is an ideal food for fall.  It falls into the sweet taste, which carries over from summer.  But unlike the season we're leaving, during which we pair sweet with bitter and astringent, the foods that keep us nurtured in autumn are sweet, sour, and salty.  And the way we approach sweet changes.  Instead of cooling the body with lots of berries, watermelon, and cucumber, we want to warm the body with breads, rice, dates, meat, and cooked apples.

We can bring in salty with foods like seaweed or cured meets.  Sour tastes belong with citrus, yogurt, cheese, and fermented foods.  Pickling is actually pretty quick and easy, and a great way to preserve much of the abundant produce coming out of the earth right now.  Cucumbers are probably the most familiar to us as pickles, but you can be really creative.  Beets, radishes, carrots, cauliflower, beans...go ahead and chop them up, stuff them in a jar, and add a vinegar mixture!  I tried a cold blend on Sunday, which was even easier than the usual stovetop water and vinegar concoction I usually use. 

IMG_4035.JPG

Pickled Cucumbers (modified from blessthismessplease.com)

3 cup water

1 cup rice wine vinegar

3 tsp salt

1/3 cup organic sugar

6 cups sliced cucumbers

Stuff cucumbers into a 1/2 gallon mason jar.  Stir water, sugar, vinegar and salt to blend.  Add to cucumbers to cover fully.  Cap your jar and store in the fridge.

The foods we eat are one of the most important ways to shift our approach to wellness throughout the year as seasons change.  I've written before about my favorite kitchari recipe, an ideal food to prepare while transitioning seasons. But there are other ayurvedic concepts beyond food that inform how best to nurture our bodies.  Generally speaking, we want to understand the qualities of the season we're in and find balance in our own bodies.  As we move from the heat of summer to the blustery, cool winds of autumn, we do well when we ground and stabilize our energy, slow down, keep warm, and follow a routine.  If you practice yoga, you can consider shifting your focus to slow flow, long savasanas, and balancing breathing work.

Want to learn more?  I regularly weave seasonal themes into my yoga classes and offer one-on-one wellness sessions.  If you're in the Seattle area tomorrow, join me at the Riveter Capitol Hill for Wellness Wednesday.  In my workshop Accessible Ayurveda - Summer to Fall, I'll be exploring this week's seasonal transition in more depth.  And finally, don't forget to celebrate the autumnal equinox this Friday!  

A Practice for Householders

I rush around a lot these days.  Motherhood elevates multi-tasking and what my entrepreneur brother calls "hustle" to an art form.  The pace is relentless and slowing down isn't really an option.  And I'm the queen of downshift and self care, or I was until September 2, 2015, the evening my son arrived.  

Life kicked up another notch recently, as I took on some additional projects and teaching.  Somehow I'd managed to re-introduce a brief time of morning yoga into my daily rhythm, thanks to early PNW spring sunrises as we move towards the solstice.  With these quiet mornings, I feel pretty grounded and less hurried, and was lulled into the sense that I had returned to my full practice of meditation and attention to nature's rhythms.  In reality, I'm still rushing here, there, and everywhere and not in tune with the moon's cycle, one of my favorite rituals.  

I spontaneously decided to use a lunar theme in the yoga class I taught Thursday evening at the Riveter.  I'd been wanting to bring in the concept to my classes there, syncing the feminine qualities of the moon with this beautiful female focused co-working and wellness space.  I quickly glanced at my calendar and saw "Supermoon" for Friday and assumed full moon.  I taught a practice focused on grounding during this phase.  While seasonally appropriate with the solstice approaching, I misled my students because I taught something I wasn't fully engaged in on my own.  I'd been spinning so fast, I'd shown up to class in-authentically, however well intentioned.  I continued on in my alternative facts bubble and based my personal meditation on Friday on the full moon Moon Angels card.

I realized my mistake when I finally did slow down.  Restorative yoga on a Sunday evening is about as quiet as one can get without going to bed.  I've been enjoying a class at Seattle Yoga Arts, where I have no connection as a teacher.  Perhaps this allowed me to show up completely as student.  For the first time in several years, a studio experience unexpectedly brought me fully and deeply into my body.  It was an equally intense and peaceful experience, focused on the throat chakra and a simple mantra "find my voice."  This 5th chakra, Vishuddha, is all about authenticity.  Once the practice as completed, I took my time leaving and walking the block home.  I lingered on the sidewalk and strolled another half block, looked up, and was shocked to see the crescent moon.  This little sliver was decidedly not the glowing orb I'd expected.  I felt the wind knocked out of me and had to sit down on the closest stoop to re-orient myself.  

Rebekah Erev Studio  Moons2017 (available for download here)

Rebekah Erev Studio Moons2017 (available for download here)

The difference between new and full moon energetically is significant, hence my strong sense of disorientation.  The new moon is about beginnings, a chance to start over on a monthly basis.  It exudes qualities of calm, quiet, and groundedness.  It can border on lethargic.  Sometimes it's appropriate to give into these aspects, other times we need to counter this energy.  The full moon is exuberant, lively, expansive, tending on chaotic.  At one time, not so long ago, my life involved rituals surrounding these regular markers.  The lunar cycle remains deeply resonant in my life, even if I'm not closely tracking each new and full moon.  It's drifted from my regular offerings as a teacher, yet feels so appropriate in this current hyper-masculine, regressive, and heated political climate.  I'm craving the cool, creative, life-giving moon.  

Speaking of lunar ritual, my friend Emily (aka the Ritual Coach) has a beautiful new posting on her blog, offering an honest and heartfelt new weekly energy ritual.  Giving ourselves permission...to explore what's stirring deep within us.  Yes, more of that please.

So how do we give ourselves permission to practice in the midst of busy lives?  How especially do caregivers of young children practice? If retreats and 20-30 minute (really, even 10 minute) meditations aren't available, do we just give up?  Absolutely not.  The Yoga Sutras (the original text outlining the philosophy of yoga) acknowledge that not everyone chooses a monastic life, and there are seasons to a lifetime.  When we're in the midst of careers and raising family and taking care of aging parents, we still practice.  It just looks different.  

My favorite Sutra has always been 1.33 - the "Householders Sutra."  It's for those who live in the world, not apart from it.  This Sutra acknowledges the way we come to any situation with an agenda, with our desires and hopes for the universe to be a certain way.  Here we are, very much in the world, in the messy weeds, yet have a choice to shift perspective and live within the context of four simple concepts that help us to set aside our wants and be present with what's happening for someone else.

I had the privilege to study with the amazing Jo Leffingwell for a couple of years and explore the Sutras in depth.  I'm pulling from my notes taken in her studio to offer an interpretation of the sanskrit for Sutra 1.33 that resonates most with me.  Rather than merely reacting to or mirroring others, we can stop spinning stories in our own minds and really see another person and situation.  From that place of stillness, we respond:

  •  where we find happiness, we express goodwill and friendship
  • where we find pain, we express compassion
  • where we find virtue, we express joy
  • where we find non-virtue, we express neutrality

It's not an easy practice, but it is accessible in the midst of busy lives.  It doesn't require signing up for a class, getting out a mat, finding a studio, or clearing a space on the calendar.  Through these straightforward concepts we can give ourselves permission to include a personal practice in our lives, to show up more authentically for ourselves and others.