autumnVata in Winter and Late Autumn

Ayurveda understands that a healthy spirit and a healthy body, is better than just one or the other. In describing the passage of space through time Ayurveda also describes the way in which the qualities of each dosha elevate in nature at different times of year. It teaches us how to enjoy the Spiritual Qualities of Vata in Winter and Late Autumn.

The Long, Dark, Cold Nights Elevate Vata in Winter

Late Autumn and Early Winter are the times of year dominated by Vata dosha in Ayurveda. The warm rays of the Sun are at their minimum around Winter Solstice, both because the sun is low in the horizon and because the days are short. Pitta fire is at its minimum in winter.

Vata in Winter on the other hand elevates because the nights are longer. There is more darkness per 24 hours and more cold. And Vata dosha being the expression of the elements Space and Air is increased by darkness and cold, because Space itself is infinite darkness that is very very cold and dry. Vata is also increased by the dry air that often comes on long winter nights.

We Are Naturally Afraid of Darkness and of the Unknown

Vata is the dosha whose natural default reaction to real or perceived danger is fear. Humans are naturally afraid of the dark. With vision our strongest sense, we are naturally vulnerable at night. We light fires. We are also naturally afraid of the unknown, as in our natural fear of death. If we knew death were great and full of ice cream and shoulder rubs we would not fear it.

And what is darkness if not the unknown? And what stimulates fear, if not the unknown. And is not death the greatest unknown of all, that all humans are naturally afraid of. And which month symbolizes death? Spring is growth and life and new things green. Summer is the accomplishment of all that Spring started. Autumn is the harvest, but also the great loss of Summer. Winter is the deep experience of that loss that begins in Autumn.

Winter is Also the Time of Storage

But Winter is also the time of storage, storage of all that we learned in the previous year, time to consolidate and to mend the carpets and furniture, and to sharpen the tools for the coming year.  Summer and all that it gives is fire and earth—fruits, flowers, foodstuffs, the sun, fragrances; in Summer we are full of distractions—as farmers there was so much work to be done, as hunter-gatherers, too.

But Autumn was the transition from this profusion of life to the stillness of winter. And stillness in Chinese Medicine is Yin. Water is still when there is no gravity or wind effecting it. We can build deep layers of tissues in winter by respecting the wisdom of the season with extra rest and nourishing food, and by nourishing our souls by tapping into the energy of the season.

The Philosophical Spiritual Quality of Vata in Winter

These long dark nights are the essence of Vata in Winter. Air and space. And what is space, if not infinity, and is the consideration of infinity not naturally philosophical, the characteristic of Vata. Looking out into the dark sky at night we are made small and conscious of how little we are by comparison.

And while darkness is the unknown and the unknown creates a natural kind of fear…this is a fear, that, when you ride the wave, can put you into contact with those things larger than yourself. No wonder so many religious rituals were done at night in Autumn and Winter. Midnight Mass on Christmas. Deepavali for Hindus. Chanukkah for Jews.

Choose Anxiety and Fear or Choose Going Inward.

So in Vata season when our anxiety, or fear, naturally elevates through the long periods of cold and darkness, we can exploit this natural feeling to go inward. This is Yin time in Chinese Medicine, the time of maximum Yin where the Qi in our body’s recedes to its deepest levels.

Even our pulses are deeper in winter. Yin is the shadow, being Yin is sinking your roots deep into the earth as we do in the horse or bow stances in Tai Qi Chuan.

Meditation, Art, Music

This is the time to sink into your roots and ride the wave by connecting to those things larger than yourself, through meditation and though connecting to those profound energies we can access through creative pursuits such are art, poetry, and music. Creative pursuits are nourishing to the Yin and expression of Vata.

This is very different from the energy of money making and tasks and endless to-do lists and accomplishments associated with the fire of Pitta that shines in summer when you go out and paint the house and pour concrete in the backyard, and clear rocks from the new field you just cut the trees down from.

Vata Dosha is Full of Creative Energy,

Vata dominant people when balanced are quick witted and creative and connect naturally to deep thought and philosophy.  The are vivacious and talkative and full of ideas. The 14 year old Vata kids look at the sky and wonder.

Vata in Winter is a time of great wonderment when you walk out into the rolling hills on a full moon night and all is blanketed by snow and the air is crisp and there is no sound save the crunch of your boots in the snow. Across the field a child laughs and you feel her laugh more acutely for the silence and calm.

We can explore and benefit from the increase of Vata in Winter  by connecting with things larger than our self instead of fighting it by flying to the Caribbean for a get away in the sun. Its a good time to allow for some calm, quiet melancholy, for pathos and empathy that is stimulated by a melody or a painting or a hug of the dog. Its a good time for a shot of single malt or Japanese sake in moderation.

Heavier Foods for Vata in Winter

 This is the season to balance the cold and night with warm, heavier food and grounding Ayurvedic herbal teas. Paradoxically, your digestive fire is stronger in winter because your metabolism is stoked up to keep you warm and your Agni is stronger. In summer people get exhausted from the heat and can lose their appetite. Winter is the opposite. So get out into the kitchen and have fun. Be creative. Try new foods and new recipes.

Take a music or art class or start writing or at least reading poetry. Open to the non-logical non-rational brain. Humans are afraid of the dark because at night we cannot see, and sight is our primary sense organ. At night things don’t “make sense” compared to during daytime.

Chinese medicine says men are more yang and women more yin. Women are alleged to be more intuitive than men. Well, this is the season for it. Be intuitive, feel your emotions in your core. Don’t worry about making sense out of what you feel, just be present with what you feel.

copyright eyton shalom, san diego, ca, december 2016 all rights reserved use with permission

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