Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer here in Southern New England. You can feel more of a breeze during the day, nights are getting cooler, tree leaves are starting to change colors. Yup, we’re heading into fall. You might be saying to yourself: Where the hell did 2020 go? I am.
Rhode Island, where I live, has been in some form of a pandemic-induced shutdown since March. Businesses closed doors, people working and teaching from home, education moved to a virtual platform. Many thought that being at home would be the prefect opportunity to learn new skills or to revisit old hobbies, perhaps to get back to a home exercise regimen. I thought the same. Key word: thought.
I had spent much time in late 2018 through 2019 in a bit of a state of self-inquiry (more on that another time) so when the pandemic hit Rhode Island and things shut down, I saw it an an opportunity to get back to my physical practices: walking, running, and daily yoga. It was difficult at first as I too was transitioning to teaching yoga virtually. But as I got used to these changes, I began moving more.
It didn’t’ last long, however. Soon boredom set in. As parks and nature trails re-opened they became more crowded, so not a good place to be if you’re trying to social distance. I was doing the same exact thing day after day. Planning dinner at 10 am became the highlight of my days. Pandemic Fatigue is what I have heard it called. I was – and am – tired of the precautions, the COVID-19 data updates, the pro-mask versus anti-mask, the protests and riots, the sense of isolation (despite often seeing a few neighbors as my “pod”), and Zoom. Realizing, at some point, that our day-to-day existence has permanently changed and its time to re-invent what I do and how I do it. And that brings me back to autumn…
I love the fall! Its still warm but cooler breezes make the temperatures not only bearable, but enjoyable. Fall also brings a shift in energy, one that I am definitely feeling this year. Fall is a Vata season (yes, even nature has doshas). It brings movement and change that is visibly noticeable in nature. With this, autumn may be a good time to implement changes in your life or get started on a project.
Vata is also a force of inspiration and creativity. Perhaps that is why I feel drawn toward self-study and contemplation in the fall? Nature is in the process of moving toward stillness (winter season), and humans are drawn toward stillness as well – but only if we allow it.
Meditation is one tool that can be used for introspection and finding stillness. Many meditation practicioners – beginners and experiencd alike – find it difficult because their mind is full of chatter. The intent is not to get rid of the chatter, but to be “still” despite the thoughts. One of my favorite meditation techniques is japa. It is the repetition of a word, mantra, or prayer utilizing a string of beads ( called a mala or prayer beads) to help keep count of the repetitions. The mantra becomes a melodic verse in the mind that can help focus attention away from otherwise distracting mental chatter.
There are other techniques, including simply sitting with eyes closed. They key to meditation practice is as thoughts arise – and they will – to not get caught up in them. Notice them and let them go. If you do get caught up in them don’t worry, just try to let them go at that monent – sort of like watching clouds as they pass in the sky. Another tip is to start with short incremets of time. Start with five minutes (or even less if its difficult) and slowly increase the duration each week. I find the more often I sit for meditation not only do I feel more calm and relaxed, but my creativity increases as well.
To share my love of japa, I will be hosting a free meditation on Facebook the next three Sundays (September 13, 20 and 27) at noon. I will discuss japa, the malas, and introduce a new mantra each week. It is my intent to share a practice that can help alieviate stress and anxiety, bring stillness to a busy mind, and perhaps assist in self-reflection during this period of pandemic fatigue.
With love & blessings, Jai Bhagwan!