Guest post graciously contributed by Liz Ritoli.
Shortly before the beginning of December, during a particularly dark and dreary week, I started to think about how short the days had become and how my favorite day of the year, the Winter Solstice, would be coming up soon. Yes, I thought, the days will soon be getting longer and the sun will start to travel northward again. My mind immediately went to dreams about what could be different in my life as soon as there were more minutes of daylight – short evening walks, getting home before dark, not feeling like it’s bedtime at 5:30. Then I started to getting excited about the winter holidays and the start of the new solar year.
What changes at the start of a new year? We are time-bound creatures who measure our lives by the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. Even if nothing particularly significant is changing in our lives we have a stirring of newness and opportunity, fresh eyes on the sameness of our circumstances. We feel free to press our personal reset button, or claim a legitimate “do-over,” confident that no one will step in to contradict our claim. We are absolutely empowered to take stock, wrap our arms around ourselves and carry our sweet selves over the annual threshold.
But wait, what about “the list” of resolutions that start with “I will never . . .” or “I am going to . . .” or “I will quit . . .” or “I will lose . . . ?” May I suggest that resolutions may be old school? Our knowledge of Ayurveda prepares us to take stock, make modifications and adjustments, and step lightly into 2015 with renewed enthusiasm and peace of mind. Each of us is a work in process, right? Our lives and environments are constantly changing, right? We’ve learned how to balance ourselves through the hours of the day, seasons of the year, and cycles in our lives. With that knowledge and understanding we can certainly make flipping the calendar to January 2015 a graceful transition.
OK, that’s the mindset, but here’s the reality. The weeks right before the “graceful transition” can be anything but graceful. All the major winter holidays are jammed into a tiny window of time that starts with preparations for Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s Day or Twelfth Night. By the time the last black-eye pea is eaten, many of us are strangers to ourselves and very possibly strangers to our family and friends. We vow and resolve to get back to our “normal” routine now that the holidays are over.
Let’s get down to it. Start by tidying up around the house and making a note to take the greenery out of the house by Twelfth Night. Take your winter whites and pastels to the dry cleaners so they’ll be ready for next year and take a look in your pantry to see what needs to be restocked (basmati rice and mung dal?). Check your houseplants – do they need a little cheering up, a.k.a. water? Check in with yourself – do you need a little attention, too?
Spontaneous and last-minute moments and events rule during the holidays which makes it all too easy to sidestep your Dinacharya during the Holidaze; but it’s just as easy to get started again, and the positive effects will be immediate. If you haven’t remembered to scrape your tongue every day, start again with gentle vigor (don’t damage your taste buds!). Any ama from the fabulous food you enjoyed? Just thank your sweet body for digesting what it could, clean your tongue and move on!
Has daily oiling become a memory and not a basic part of your daily shower routine? Remember when you first learned about oiling and got the suggestion to start with the massaging your feet at night and work up to oiling the whole body? Go back to that beginner’s mind if you need to – whatever it takes to get slippery again! Seriously, folks, we’re in a Vata time of the year and have just celebrated our way through a very Vata holiday season, so we NEED the oils to ground us, warm our bodies and souls, and protect our skin.
‘Nuf said about the outside of the “super tube,” what’s going on inside? If it’s been a while since you had your morning glass of warm lemon water, put a note by the bathroom sink to start that again tomorrow! The warm “cuppa” wakes up your senses and kick-starts your digestion. Bye-bye ama, hello happy gut.
If you haven’t been visiting your mat and cushion as much during the festivities, and you’re thinking about returning to your full practice, start easy with a couple of sun salutations and a few rounds of bastrika and agni sara, followed with sitting quietly for about 5 minutes. Consider whether your full practice will be too much now and, if you need to, come back slowly and thoughtfully. A simple practice done with a focused intention is a nice post-holiday gift to yourself.
By the way, what did you give yourself during this holiday season? Was it the fabulous gift of time with family and friends or playtime in your kitchen making delicious baked goodies for your neighbors? Did you allow yourself the leisure to choose perfect gifts for your dear ones? Maybe one day you were so tired that you gave yourself permission to say, “Enough, I’ve had it!” and took a nap? Or better, maybe you blocked out an entire day to just BE, not DO.
I’m preaching to the choir, and I haven’t said anything new and brilliant. What I write is just a reminder that the “graceful transition” marks a time to get back to business after celebrating the Return of the Light. We’ll all spend some time readjusting our sleep cycles, meal times and food choices. We’ll get back to our yoga mats and meditation cushions and will be profoundly grateful when we realize how much we missed them. Our bodies will feel like home again. Our minds will come to rest in those quiet places where we visit with our thoughts, visualize our dreams for the coming year, and put aside our disappointments from the past year.
Whether we measure our year from Solstice to Solstice or New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Eve, we instinctively know that we are living in a constantly changing world of causes and effects, the grand play of manifestation and dissolution. My friend Kay Allison says, “Everything in the universe is subject to change and everything is on schedule.” All we can do is watch what’s happening in our lives, remember what we’ve learned, and make changes as necessary. It’s a flow, and what’s more graceful than being in the flow?