What an interesting time of year Autumn is: both literally and energetically, there's this ramping up of energy as students of all ages return to school, as people stow memories of summer vacations and adventures and prepare for the hard work and digging in required of winter survival. It's never been my favorite season. Maybe because my birthday is in the summer, maybe because of my Ayurvedic signature, maybe because I'm still a kid at heart, but Fall always feels like saying goodbye to all my favorite things and preparing to endure an interminable season of discomfort, darkness and stagnation.
So the last several years, I've made up my mind to try to welcome this change in the season: I seek to explore the gifts of Autumn, to treasure its colors, delight in its harvest and engage in practices that will make Fall and Winter rewarding and not depleting.
This year, I made a big deal of the Equinox. At the beginning of the month, I took a few weeks to change some physical habits. Every morning for a week or so, I took abhyanga, I ate a Kitcheree monodiet for five days, and I I worked with a specific mantra to help my cultivate some of the grounding energy that had felt so elusive for much of the late summer.
I had some help too. Mercury went into retrograde, and there were two eclipses with the new and full moon; those of you who follow the astrology know that bodes for a season of lots of upheaval. And there was. I looked really closely at some behavior patterns I engage in, I reflected on some injuries I've been hauling around for too long, and I got my feelings hurt repeatedly. The intersection of all this caused me to do a lot of internal work as well, ask myself questions like, "why are you mad no one is offering that which you clearly don't want?" "If you don't care about this, why does it bother you so?" "What is this really about?"
All of this together let me to set a whole crop of new intentions. And it led me to a mala. I wanted to mark the season change with a ritual that would physically and energetically allow me to observe the change in the light, the air, the temperature and energy, and to remind me that as there is a change with-out, there can be a change with-in. I decided to set aside some time to do 108 sun salutations. I went to my friend, Adam, and said, "Hey, man, I want to do a mala, to observe the Equinox this fall. You wanna join me?"
Adam, in his full enthusiastic affirmation, was totally down, and when the two of us put our heads together, we came up with a ritual that we opened up to our community of friends, teachers and fellow practitioners. On September 22nd, early on a Thursday morning, we all met at our home studio, and chanted together, and observed the dawning of the Autumnal Equinox with moving ritual.
(Maybe later, I'll write a how-to about setting up your own mala, your own ritual of 108 salutations to mark the new year, or new season, or a shift you want to commemorate in a specific way, with a kind of physical dynamic prayer that this practice can be. But this post isn't it. Instead, it's a reflection on what we did together, and how it made me feel.)
It was a pretty amazing experience. It wasn't the grueling, interminable, hard-working slugfest that 108 sun salutations can sound like: each of us did our own practice; we moved at our own pace, in a way that was sustainable, and energetically charged for each of us; we took rest when we needed it, and we wrapped when we were finished. Around the room, you could hear the sound of breath moving through bodies, and feet stepping forward and back, and the soft plink, plink, plink of scarlet runner beans being moved from one bowl to another. It was beautiful. Being able to share an experience that meant so much to me personally with other people was a real gift; I love creating community around acts of ritual. There were points at which I felt my own resolve flagging, and I would reach out energetically to others in the room who were steady and focused, and hitch a ride on their wave. There were also times when I felt others losing steam, and I would think, c'mon, sweetie, we're in this, we got this, and I'd focus my gaze and my movement and my energy. The give and take of practice in the room was powerful and rare.
On a personal level, the ritual gave me the chance to set some intentions for the person I want to be, for how I want to treat myself, my loved ones, my community. I won't share all of the intentions I set, but a few I feel are pretty special include:
- I am resilient.
- I release behaviors and relationships not in alignment with my growth and healing.
- I set healthy boundaries.
- I am an agent of subversion for the good of humanity.
- I trust the Divine timing of The Universe.
- I am strong, courageous, and compassionate in the face of adversity.
It was a wonderful day. I'm grateful to everyone who came to practice with me, and I'm so proud of all of us, working together, cultivating discipline, focus, shared energy, gratitude, and devotion. I sincerely hope it won't be the last time we can share the experience.