Even though we have officially transitioned into Fall (which, as I mentioned in my last post, is Vata season), the blazing heat of summer is still burning off, and I don’t just mean temperature-wise. We can observe this process happening in nature: as the heat works its way up and out of the trees, the leaves change color, turning fiery shades of red, orange and gold before falling to the ground.
According to Ayurveda, summer is Pitta season, and Pitta corresponds to the element of fire. Pitta’s nature is intense. Just like fire, it burns hot, wild, and aggressive when not kept in check. It can cause complete destruction, but it can also serve as the catalyst for transformation and the fuel for new growth. For example, those dying leaves on the trees make way for new blossoms in the spring, and the ashy remains of a wildfire are what nourish the soil so that new plants and trees can grow.
Since we are a part of nature too and our outer world reflects our inner world, we are each undergoing a similar transition right now…which can be quite transformative if we let it. A good place to start is to ask yourself the following questions (I suggest free-writing the answers in your journal and just allowing the words to flow, without judging or censoring them):
- What do I need to release and let go of in my life right now? What responsibilities, relationships, commitments and agreements are no longer serving me? Where do I feel like I’m wasting my time and energy?
- What patterns, behaviors and self-limiting beliefs do I need to shed in order to live more in alignment with my highest truth and to be my most authentic Self?
- What are my passions? What am I most excited and LIT UP about right now? How can I make those things more of a priority in my life and my schedule?
When in balance, the inner qualities of Pitta can fuel us with a burning passion and drive, but in excess, they can lead to complete burnout. As the last heat of summer burns off in both our physical and subtle (mental, emotional and energetic) bodies, a lot of us are experiencing this burnout right now--this feeling of not just exhaustion but total depletion. Like we have nothing left to give. Like our well has run completely dry. Like we have been stripped bare.
Just like those shedding trees, we are being emptied out to make way for something new, so now is a good time to reflect on what you want to fill that space with. What do you want to create in your outer world? What do you want to feel in your inner world?
On a more physical level, I’m seeing a lot of clients and friends right now who are experiencing adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue, low thyroid function, nervous system exhaustion, stress-related hormone imbalances and/or frequent colds & flu due to decreased immune function. If you have any of the above or are just feel burnt out in general, the first place to start is to get a lot of rest. And remember that rest isn’t the same as sleep; you may sleep 8-10 hours a night and still feel exhausted, so it’s important to find the practices and rituals that feel restorative to you—that replenish your spirits and energy levels. This may require a little experimentation. Some of my favorite practices are: taking a gentle yoga class, going for a walk in nature, soaking in an Epsom salt bath with some soothing essential oils added, getting a massage, and cozying up with a good book and a cup of herbal tea.
One of my favorite teas for fall is Tulsi, otherwise known as Holy Basil. Tulsi is not only delicious but also very soothing, because it’s an adaptogen, a type of herb that balances the nervous system and helps the body adapt to stress. You can find the brand Organic India at nearly any grocery or health food store, and they have tons of different flavor options. I prefer straight up, plain Tulsi, but you can experiment for yourself. :)
On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re not feeling burnt out; maybe you feel like you’re burning up or overheating in some area of your life or body. Maybe you’ve been experiencing intense amounts of anger (a very fiery emotion) that are coming out in uncontrolled bursts of rage and frustration at others, or maybe you’ve suppressed that anger so much that it’s become directed at yourself and you’ve been beating yourself up in new and exotic ways. In either case, that anger needs a healthy outlet, whether it’s journaling or taking a boxing class or screaming into a pillow or having an angry cry. You can also use cooling essential oils, like lavender, rose and peppermint, to relax the body, ease the mind and calm the nervous system.
If you’re experiencing physical symptoms of aggravated heat in the body, such as rashes, acne, hot flashes, ulcers, heartburn or hyperacidity, excess sweating or bad body odor, canker sores, bloodshot eyes, and inflammation, you can calm and balance this heat with more cooling foods and herbs, like apples, pears, zucchini, leafy green vegetables, mint and cilantro. My favorite cooling food is fennel, which has a lot of uses in the kitchen. You can juice the fennel stalks for a belly-soothing boost to any blend. You can slice the bulb and add it to soups, sautes or any other dish you can imagine (my favorite way to eat it is to roast it in the oven, along with other veggies like carrots, parsnips, beets and zucchini). You can cook with dried fennel seeds, eat a small handful of roasted fennel seeds after a meal to help your food settle (you often see this at Indian restaurants), or make a tea out of them by adding 1 teaspoon of the seeds to 1 cup of hot water (for a stonger tea, you can use up to 1 tablespoon per cup). This tea is particularly helpful for upset stomachs or smelly gas.
I’ve listed one of my favorite fennel-heavy recipes below. This soup is quick, easy to make and only requires a handful of ingredients. It has the warm, nourishing aspects that balance Vata (since fall is Vata season), along with the cooling qualities of fennel and dill, which balance any lingering Pitta. To make it an even more Vata-grounding and hearty meal, serve it with a side of brown rice or quinoa.
Fresh Fennel and Dill Soup
(From the Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook)
1 Fennel bulb
1 tsp olive or avocado oil
2 large Kale or Swiss Chard leaves
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
½ c cooked garbanzo or white beans
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried dill)
Chop the fennel bulb into thin slices, as you would an onion. In a medium saucepan, saute the slices in oil for about 5 minutes. Cut the kale or chard leaves into thin strips and stir in. Add the water, salt and beans. If you are using dried dill, add it now. Simmer for 20 minutes covered. Remove from heat and stir in fresh dill.