Once space is cleared for new growth, one can begin cultivating the ultimate realization of one’s self in its wholeness…
For part two in the series: Preparing for Winter, from herbalist and wellness expert, Danny Kahn.
Now, as the days shorten following the autumnal equinox, the in-gathering force of the rising night calls on us to look inside towards integration of body and mind — an ideal time to let go of any patterns of tension we may be holding. Once space is cleared for new growth, one can begin cultivating the ultimate realization of one’s self in its wholeness. Presented here are methods to attain this calm fluidity. They work synergistically and sequentially, so following this order will be most complementary to each process.
Relax the body.
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Gently let the lower body fall to one side and rest in this twisting posture. If it feels good you can turn your head in the opposite direction creating a spiraling twist throughout the body. Breathe out with the mind focused on letting go, then breathe in focusing on creating space for growth. Actively move the mind’s eye through every inch of the body, from the toes, up to the top of the head. Breathe into each area, noticing any places where you are holding tension, and allow everything to let go while you sink into the earth, trusting in her support. Continue this until you feel the tension has melted away, then switch to the other side and do the same practice to finish wringing out any discord in the body.
Balance the body in all directions.
The next practice is a sequence of many postures, each held for 3 full breaths. Take your time moving from one to the next. The longer and smoother your breath is, the easier it will be to balance for the extended period. Begin standing up with palms together at the heart. Bring the left knee up, parallel with the floor while balancing on the right leg. With closed fists, thumbs pointing up, put the left hand in front of the forehead and right in front of the chest, aligning mind and heart to help stabilize the body. Next, open the hands, left palm facing forward, fingers pointing up while the right palm is opposite. This symbolizes the trunk of the elephant, whose strength breaks through barriers to open the gates of life with no fear. Embrace and distill this new found freedom with the left hand flowing behind you while the right hand grabs the toes of the left leg as it is extended in front. Slowly unwind and return to the first balancing position with the knee up. Circle your arms to the sky and extend your left leg straight and pause there for one breath, then cross the left leg over the right, while the arms mirror this action with the right arm around the left. Sit into the hips with a straight spine, while simultaneously lifting the elbows up, being mindful not to tense the shoulders. Now release back to standing with a newly found balance and refreshing solidity. Repeat this practice on the opposite side to maintain alignment.
Coalesce the body and mind.
The integration of mind and body can be practiced as a fluid spiral dance, a tongue twister of sorts for the body and mind. Standing in goddess pose with knees bent and toes pointed out, hold your palms facing up near your center in the lower abdomen. Rotate your arms around in a spiral motion while keeping the palms facing up the entire time. Breathe in as the arms are opening and breathe out as they close back towards the starting point. The spiraling of each arm together should produce bilateral symmetry. After three rounds, reverse the direction of the spiral, with the same attention placed on the breath -– in while opening the arms, out while closing. For those yearning for a greater challenge, try doing this while balancing a short glass of water on each palm (or a bowl of burning oil as some traditions teach), without spilling any. This exercise requires keen attention to the subtle movements and will help to synchronize the body and mind through cultivation of awareness.
The mind-body, being now integrated as one cohesive unit, is prepared for the work of assimilating the thoughts, feelings and knowledge accumulated throughout the current cycle, which began at the vernal equinox. Grounding into the center of awareness, the mind-body maintains a stable point of reference for reflection. Successful harvest will yield fertile ground and strong mental seed-images to be sprouted in the spring. From here one weaves the road in harmony with the true self.
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