Autumn Wisdom: Predictability and Boundaries
The days are getting chillier. Apples are falling off the trees. The trees are dropping their leaves. The natural world is in transition and the Ayurvedic wellness tradition offers us time-tested wisdom from which to understand this season and practical guidance for healthy living.
In Ayurveda, autumn is considered a vata season dominated by the elements of air and space and the qualities of dryness, roughness, wind, unpredictability, coolness, subtleness, and clarity. To see this in nature and in our own lives, think of dry leaves and skin, windy weather, erratic schedules, cool mornings and clear nights.
Because this season is dynamic, moving and changeable, Autumn offers us excitement and possibility. At the same time, the qualities of dynamism and variability inherent to Autumn can leave us feeling overwhelmed or depleted, especially those of us who have busy schedules. Therefore Ayurveda recommends focusing on qualities and experiences that balance vata such as eating warmer, moister food, dressing in layers, slowing down, and grounding the body. One of the best ways to counteract the busyness of the fall season is the create more predictable routines and boundaries to support these routines.
Ease happens in the body-mind when life is predictable. Life has been pretty unpredictable for the past 2 years! Nonetheless, we can create predictable routines that give a felt sense of rhythm to the day. When we rise, eat, move, work, rest and sleep at predictable times, this settles the nervous system and optimizes our metabolism and digestion.
I think of predictable morning and evening routines as bookends of sanity for my day. My days might be erratic and changing, but my mornings and evenings can be rhythmic and sane inducing.
A predictable morning routine for is to get up, meditate, move and, then eat breakfast. This sets me up for a productive and grounded day. Taking a break in the middle of the day to sit and eat a satisfying lunch gives me a well needed pause. My evening routine involves another round of some kind of movement and an earlier dinner followed by connection with family and relaxation. This sets me up for a good night sleep and a successful following day. When I stick to these daily routines, I stay grounded, calm and sane.
Of course none of this will happen if I don't plan it. My calendar is key for this. I am diligent about scheduling into my calendar my morning and evening routines as well as my lunch hour. After these "self-care" blocks of time, I schedule in my appointments, meetings, and work commitments.
It's one thing to create my weekly schedule and wellbeing routines and put them into my calendar, but for my routines to happen, I must be diligent with boundaries. I have to hold myself accountable for what I put in the calendar which means I need to get up when I said I would get up, take a break from work at noon to eat my lunch, stop working around 4 or 5 PM to make time to get some afternoon exercise, prepare and eat my dinner, and relax. In the evening, I have to set boundaries with regards to screens, and to make sure I'm off all electronics early enough to read and wind down and get to bed by 10 PM. If I don't enforce these boundaries, I might sleep in and not do my morning meditation or yoga practice. I might keep working and not make time to eat a good lunch. I might stay on my screen too late which will wreak havoc with my sleep. Then, I'll go to bed late and not sleep as long or as deeply as I need. And, the next day, I won't be well rested or set up for a great day.
When I commit to my daily routines and make them predictable and adhere to healthy boundaries, my life is much more grounded and easeful I protect the time in my schedule set aside for movement, relaxation, friends and family. and I am therefore less likely to over commit myself to people or projects that sap my energy and downgrade my health.
How can you create a predictable routine for rising, moving, eating, working, hydrating and sleeping?
Where you can firm your boundaries in your life to make sure you are prioritizing what's most important?