Seasonal Living 101
It’s an art for to learn living well within the season. This means paying attention not only to what season nature is in–for example right now we’re most definitely in summer–but also what season our bodies are in. These two aspects of seasonality will help us live well within the season we’re in.
You know how every now and then you run across that generic question on social media that asks, “What advice would you give to your younger self in two words”?
Well ours would be …
Lisa: Moisturize and use sunscreen!
Ace: Buy Intel!
Dang if our skin isn’t becoming drier, thinner, and less resilient after 50. Sure, a great deal of this has to do with how we cared for our skin (or didn’t) when we were young and reckless and using Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Oil for sunscreen. But we should also acknowledge the wisdom of Ayurveda and honor the seasonal cycles of life.
The doshas govern more than you think…
If you’ve been reading along with our previous posts and listening to the podcast, you know the three doshas of ayurveda are vata, pitta, and kapha, and they each govern specific physiological and psychological functions.
For example, kapha is responsible for growth, cohesion, structure, and lubrication. Pitta dosha is responsible for all things digestion, metabolism, and transformation, and the vata dosha governs our nervous system and our movements–from the electrical components that make our heart beat to the blinking of our eyes.
But did you know that these three doshas ALSO influence the stages and times of our lives?
They do indeed.
The three stages of life
There are three stages of life and they follow the pattern of seasonal transitions. And if we can learn to work in tandem with these transitions, we’ll learn to live well within each season.
For instance, the kapha time of life begins in infancy and rolls through early childhood and slightly beyond puberty. We typically think of this as birth to 18-20 years old. The water and earth elements are most dominant during this period. We are in the springtime of our lives–growing; building tissue, bone and muscle; and gaining weight and stature. We are also producing a hella lot of mucus. As Dr. John Douillard says, “kids are mucus-producing machines!” and he’s right.
The pitta time of life begins as we shift from childhood to adulthood. In the summer season of life we are using our fire to digest, metabolize, and transform. It’s during this time of life (20’s to early 50’s) that we find ourselves in a position to create and manifest. We create families and legacies, businesses and empires, retirement accounts and nest eggs. And if we’ve strategized and planned well, we’re better equipped to show up to the third stage of our life with a bit of sanity and security. If this is turning you on, consider reading Dr. John Douillard’s book “3 Season Diet” for further exploration.
And now here we are, at the vata time of life. The air and space elements dominate this season. We are in the fall and early winter, ages 50 through end of life. Qualities that are prominent during this season are cold, dry (hello dry skin, dry eyes, dry vagina!), light, mobile, subtle, and clear. As the external, so the internal; elderhood brings an increase in the subtle, light, dry, mobile and cool properties in our minds and moods as well.
Vata City, Baby
We can see and feel the air and space elements on display at the top of high peaks. Just think of those 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado or the tops of high summits such as Everest or K2. At these altitudes you’re faced with super cold, rough winds, incredibly subtle and clear air and views. And much less oxygen.
We can see and feel these qualities in our selves as our tissues begin to dry up a bit. We might not be as quick to replenish our reserves, or our minds might become more distracted or impacted by fear and worry. Sleep becomes more elusive and disrupted. It’s entirely possible we simply aren’t as resilient as we once were.
If we’ve been in tune with our bodies and minds earlier in our lives, we’ll undoubtedly have an easier time transitioning into the vata time of life.
It doesn’t happen overnight
These seasonal shifts happen over the course of time. We don’t wake up to frigid temps the day following the Summer Solstice or the first day of fall. Just like dry skin, memory lapses, or fragile bones don’t simply show up the day after we turn 54. These challenges accumulate over time. We can mitigate some of this if we pay close attention to our bodies–particularly during our 20’s, 30s and 40s. If we’re eating whole foods that are appropriate for our constitution, and have solid lifestyle and routine habits that are appropriate for our constitution and the seasons of the year (another topic), we’re better able to reduce these conditions. We can set ourselves up for managing them with grace and dignity.
While we can’t fully reverse the aging process, but we can harness the wisdom of Ayurveda to make choices around our food and habits that will keep us vibrant and radiant well into our 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Three ways to live well within the season
So what can we do?
Let’s cover three areas: oil, movement, and nourishment.
Oil yourself up
To counter the dry qualities, we add a little bit (okay, sometimes a lot) of oil … everywhere. And when we say everywhere, we do mean Every.Where.
Wherever there you have an orifice or opening, there is an opportunity to lubricate, hydrate, and nourish the tissues. So, in addition to adding more oil to your diet with high-quality olive oil and ghee, you can look into the following practices of oiling:
- Your body – a practice called abhyanga with a nourishing massage oil
- Your feet – a practice called pada abhyangha
- Your nose – a practice called nasya
- Your ears – a practice called karna purana
- Your arse – a practice called anuvasana basti, and
- Your pussior – yes–we’re talking about your vagina–a practice called uttara basti which will hydrate a parched lady garden
To counter the erratic and mobile qualities, we must slow down. Heading through our fifties and beyond is the time to take it easy and rest in the fruits of our labors. Buy the golf cart, take up gardening, collect sea shells, join a shuffleboard league, read all those books you never had time for, or write that book(!). Embrace the leisure life and master the art of self-care. By all means, don’t stop moving, just heed the needs of your body and give yourself permission to be less intense about your exercise routines than you were at 35.
In our external environment, the air and space elements manifest as wind, which is erratic and unpredictable, changing course all the time. These elements increase during our vata season of life, and our metaphorical and internal winds also increase. As we age, this tends to show up for most of us in our digestive power, which becomes more erratic, fragile, and fickle. To counter this, it’s imperative that we establish a routine around waking, sleeping, and eating. During this stage of our lives, it’s in our best interest to ditch the triscuits and granola bars and instead favor foods that are warm, well cooked, and well spiced. Think oatmeal, roasted veggies, and warm grain bowls.
We don’t have to succumb to the notion that we’ll simply shrivel up and disappear! But by listening to our bodies and implementing some or all of these practices, maybe we can go out with a warm, juicy bang instead.
Meditation and more
One last thought. It is in this phase of our lives that we’re called to cultivate and fine tune our spiritual development. In many cultures this is the period during which the individual begins doing less, relinquishing more, and establishing a strong meditation practice in order to face and embrace death with a level of acceptance and compassion. Use this time to get your affairs in order if you haven’t already, use this time to engage with a like-minded community for weekly meditation or weekly hikes in nature, and use this time to relinquish something of yourself by mentoring and freely giving of your wisdom to young women.
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