I did it. I quit my job. On Thursday. In a way, this was bound to happen but it was kind of out of the blue anyway since I had always imagined that I would find something I’d rather do while working.Last week I realized that that wasn’t happening, and that maybe that wasn’t the way to go about things. I remembered my former room-mate in Germany, who had quit her job because she was too discontent to continue but she knew that she wasn’t unhappy enough to do anything about it unless she had to. So she quit, and a few months later she found the perfect job.
For me the realization came during a conversation with my good friend La. I kept going on about how I really needed this to be over soon … and suddenly I realized that I could and would have to make that happen myself. Then I went through a phase of anxiety over the conversation I would have to have with my boss. I dreaded it, and almost didn’t want to quit just to avoid it. It sucks when you feel like you’re letting someone down – and it sucks even more when someone else feels like you’re letting them down, and want to make you feel guilty about it. That was honestly the reaction I was getting myself prepared for.
At the same time all these wonderful perspectives and opportunities started coming into my life as soon as I had made that decision: going wwoofing (we’ll actually start next week, though only for a few days but still), the prospect of a house, actually by now it appears that there might be two … So by Wednesday night (the night before I was going to tell my boss), I was a wreck with all these thoughts in my head. I obviously didn’t get very much sleep. I prepared myself for The Talk with some of the tips that La had given me – most of all: to not let the conversation get emotional, to be compassionate but not make my boss’s issues mine.
So, on Thursday, I went in prepared for the worst reaction. I kept telling myself that no matter how this went down, as long as I did tell her about my decision, it would be fine in the end. It would be over a month from now. And then the most amazing thing happened: my boss was completely understanding, and happy for me. We actually had a really good, personal talk.
My last working day (in this job anyway) will be June 19. Excited to find out what’s next. It looks like I might actually be able to keep the resolution I made for myself – that I do not want to celebrate my next birthday in this apartment.
I am back from another trip. More inspired than ever! I do apologize, though, to certain friends (Lisa, you know who you are) who worried my offline-ness might translate to „something bad happened“.
Note to self: in the time and age of „There is no offline, there is only away from keyboard“, announce any awol from the virtual life (technically, is it „awl“ then?). At least for as long as there is no way to virtually transmit the bad smell coming from your apartment that might alarm your neighbors – who might not even care since you live in one of those anonymous big city shoe boxes – but not the ones who do care but don’t live close by. Another note to self: keep notes to self short…ish.
Anyway. Peter and I were visiting a friend who lives the way we hope to do one day – somewhere on the Swedish countryside, growing lots of her own food, with no stupid electro smog. There was no internet. It was beautiful. Not because or despite that fact. It just was. Although we were only there from Thursday through Tuesday, this trip was a real learning and healing experience – most of all, unsurprisingly, about myself; my current state (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, … in any way) as well as my wishes for my future.
I realized that …
- … a life closer to nature and more self-sufficient is not only what I imagine I want. It is what I do want.
- … the difference between life in the city and on the countryside is not to be underestimated. My body had a hard time adjusting to physical labor (which does not always allow for ergonomic execution), my mind had a hard time accepting that I/we took so many breaks. I felt very unproductive, although our host did not express any such complaints – or any complaints at all. Here at home I want to get through with everything I have to do as quickly as possible, there you spread out the (more physically exhausting) work over the entire days, take it slow, take time for conversations, contemplation, simply being.
- … I am especially unhappy with my job here at home.
- … the difference between the life I am currently leading, and the life I want is huge. I had an episode of deep depression the second day when I realized that gap. I had no idea how I should get from one to the other, and this uncertainty scared and frustrated me. I still don’t know but I am hopeful now.
When we came home I was excited to see if any of the seeds I had sown had grown anything during our absence. The score: two tomato plants are sprouting and I can see the beginning of morning glory.
OK, this post really doesn’t have a purpose other than saying, „I still exist“. I have been awol due to spontaneous traveling (yes, I do feel blessed to have such opportunities). I am back now but only for a couple of days which will be filled with work, so I doubt there’ll be much blogging happening. And then I will be gone again for another week. Possibly with more time to myself, though, so hopefully with more time for writing, too. Meanwhile: enjoy the view I had yesterday on the ferry from Puttgarden, Germany to Rødby, Denmark.
Yup. More rantage coming up. Writing yesterday’s post felt liberating but it upset parts of me that are afraid of the path I’ve begun to walk, parts that are afraid of letting go, afraid of letting something new (= unknown) in. Parts that try to hang on to the old, no matter how destructive it may be.
I ended up doing what I do when I am deeply anxious – binge eat. Or rather: it is what I do when something inside of me tries to raise its voice to tell me something I don’t want to hear. And it works, too. By creating another problem that I can focus on – eating till I feel sick to my stomach, beating myself up over it, asking myself why I keep doing this to myself (but only on a physical level, of course) – I don’t have to look at the real issues. Really convenient, right? Except for the part where I’m destroying my body, and oh yeah: that keeping an issue from coming to the surface of my mind doesn’t solve anything, it just suppresses it – until something else triggers it. Apart from those minor details, this method works perfectly well.
I have been using food/eating as means of reacting to emotional stress since I was about 16. I don’t find the clinical terms („eating disorder“, „anorexia“, „bulimia“, etc.) helpful anymore, although I used to define myself that way. I could recognize myself (to a t) in the various descriptions you find in self-help books etc., which I read at some point.
It is definitely comforting to know that you don’t do the things you do because you’re crazy but that your behavior can even be construed as „normal“ given the circumstances. From that perspective, this rational/scientific/psychological way of dealing with these issues has its merits. However, putting a label on things can also become a way of stigmatizing yourself, of locking yourself into a box. A box that is difficult to climb out of, even though really it only exists in your own mind.
Every time this „happens to me“ (well, if you read my previous post you know I don’t believe in that), when I am overcome with the feeling that I just have to eat, and that nothing else will make this anxiety go away, it scares me. It makes me feel like a failure that no matter how far I seem to have come I still resort to this self-destructive measure. Sure, these binges have decreased in frequency. There was a time in my life when they could go on for days, I couldn’t even go to school, I was completely overpowered – now there can be months in between. Sometimes I even think I have „beaten“ this „thing“. Usually, that’s when it comes right back to prove me wrong. I have laden this behavior and its side-effects with a lot of meaning. Doing it means there’s something wrong with me, not doing it means everything is ok. One side-effect is obviously my weight, and me attaching meaning to that as well. So, in accordance: weighing less would mean I am normal, gaining weight = failure.
I don’t like to talk about this part very much, not because I am ashamed but because I find it frustrating that no matter where you turn, no one seems to be happy with how they look, and somehow it usually boils down to their weight. I know that I am not obese, that my weight in fact is „normal“. I know that I could, SHOULD be happy with myself, and I really wish I were. I would love to be one of those examples that I myself am looking for everywhere – someone that has not been affected my the media brainwash, someone that is truly happy with themselves and how they look even though they don’t fit the mold. Sadly, on a lot of days I can only pretend to be that person.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, binge eating = something’s wrong, not binge eating = everything’s peachy. I’ve come so far to realize that the key is not to think in these kind of opposites. I find myself best protected against these self-inflicted attacks when I am aware and accepting of the fact that this is part of my life. I guess just like alcoholics or addicts of other drugs still refer to themselves as addicts even when they’ve been sober for years.
Obviously, this is not easy, because who wants that, right? I don’t want this in my life, so why should I have to accept it, let alone embrace it?! Someone (I should probably know who, like Buddha or the Dalai Lama, ehem) once said that pain is not something we choose but suffering is. And if you’re into this „spiritual stuff“ (I only got into it two years ago, so a lot that may be old news to you is still new and revolutionary to me) you run across this realization sooner or later, and maybe you run into it even if you’re not into „spiritual stuff“: the only way we can suffer is by trying to reject what already is, which of course we cannot succeed at. No matter how much I don’t want something that already is, my not wanting it to be cannot undo its existence. It’s a waste of energy.
So, if you cannot change something, allow it to be. Obviously, this permission isn’t really about the external thing, for it is what it is no matter what you think about it. That permission is for you. Allow yourself not to judge. It will spare you the suffering that you will inevitably go through if you try to fight what already is.
Please don’t get me wrong: this is not to say that there aren’t things we should change in the world, that we should just sit back. But you have to know what is and isn’t in your power to change, and when the time is right.
This concept may seem simple, and in theory, I guess like the best concepts, it is. I can also see how I could/should/want to apply it in interactions with others: there is no point in me getting mad over something someone else already has done. I mean, getting mad is important, too, to not let anyone run over you but there has to be a limit. After you’ve expressed your discontent, you should try to get over it and move on, instead of dwelling on it. As I said: simple in theory …
Where it gets tricky is when it comes to one’s self. For intuitively I want to claim that anything I do is in my control, so how can I accept the things I don’t like about myself? Well, I think just that last part kind of questions my premiss: if I am fully in control, how can I do something which I do not approve of? Sounds kind of schizophrenic, don’t you think? Yet I am going to be so bold as to state that we all do things we later regret, we even do them over (and over and over again), and regret them over (and over and over again) – and that at least most of us would say that they are in control over our own actions – who else would be? I mean, sure, you can argue that we are products of our environment, the society we live in. But on some level, the individual does make a choice for a concrete motion it is about to undergo (whether physical or mental), right?
I have gotten side-tracked again here, I see the term „ego“ coming up, which is not what I had in mind when I started this paragraph out, so please excuse if I am bringing this one to a screeching halt before I get into something I cannot possibly cover in a paragraph or two. Once again: yay for the internet, feel free to go ahead and read about the ego elsewhere now – or continue here with me.
What I did want to get at was this: our experience tells us that – for whatever reasons – we are not free from contradictions, we do things that we later wish we hadn’t, we detect character traits in ourselves which we’re not happy about. Therefore, this notion of allowing what is applies to ourselves just as much as it does to our interactions with others/external factors.
I try to do this with my eating habits, and obviously, it’s not easy. Because I really don’t want to have this in my life – but somehow that is not for me to choose. I don’t feel guilty about it afterward as much as I used to, even though that is hard, too. I try not to punish myself. Again: not easy.
Yesterday, I tried something that in a twisted way felt especially difficult because it made the whole binge-eating episode obsolete: I looked into myself and asked that voice that I had shut up by stuffing it down with food to speak to me, and tell me what had upset it so much. It spoke to me, and this confirmed what another part of me knew all along: there is nothing to be afraid of when facing our demons. They are parts of ourselves that cannot actually threaten our existence. They are scared themselves and need healing.
May we remember that there is nothing to fear but fear itself, that our souls are indestructible. And may we be kind and forgiving to ourselves when we act cowardly.
PS: I first came across this concept of „allowing what is“ when I listened to Eckhard Tolle’s The Power of Now and Realizing the Power of Now, something I can recommend to anyone. I think it is pretty accessible even if you think spirituality is „mumbo-jumbo“ but then you probably didn’t read this far, so …
I really should have written this one on Thursday, when „everything“ happened but it got late, and I had to get up early on Friday (yesterday was my first day without a post – thanks, real world with money and work and stuff). As I feared, I really don’t feel like writing about it anymore right now but I am trying to get into it. Ironically, this post might not even be relevant or interesting for anyone besides me – then again, who’s the person caring the most about a blog anyway if not the writer, right?
As you probably can guess by now, this is going to be „one of those“ posts – no pix, just me ranting. Even though dinner on Thursday would have been perfect for pix: tex-mex à la Junkfood – for real, everything homemade, soup to nuts (or rather: salsa to wraps), with like a gazillion sauces, and everything really colorful. Real photogenic food in other words. But as I said: this post isn’t going to be that kind.
I guess the reason why I feel I need to share this is because as much as I like DIYs, recipes, and that kind of stuff, and as much as I like to write and post about that stuff, that’s not all that’s going on, and it’s not all I care about. I wrote about this before, and I know that I don’t HAVE to share everything here but somehow it’s important to me to not only show what I consider my good side. I actually see that as a theme or a red thread in my life – my inability to be someone other than me, to conceal and „unspeak“ things that some might say I should. As I wrote in that other post, I have come to the conclusion that I am not here to learn to get better at hiding my true self, but to „own it“ instead, to show it, and experience that any negative reactions aren’t as damaging as I might fear. On the other hand, the best case scenario would be that being honest about my „dark passenger“ (well, ok, it’s not that bad, I didn’t kill anyone, I am just exaggerating for dramatic effect) might lead others to the realization that has been so important for me: that it’s ok to be who we are, that we don’t need to hide, that there is enough room for all of us to unfold and grow to the fullest.
So, enough with the pre-ranting. What I actually want to say about Thursday is this:
While preparing dinner, I completely snapped. At Peter. Several times. Over the smallest things. Now by snapped, I don’t mean threw things at him – but I did throw stuff.
I am a complete control freak, I know that. I take it hard when things don’t go the way I had planned them. I keep going in circles with that one. I frequently come to the realization that I cannot possibly control all the factors that play a role in the plans I am making, so change of plans does not mean I failed. For that is how I experience it: as failure. It is my duty to control every aspect of my life, and if you happen to be my boyfriend, well, then that means you’re an aspect of my life I need to control, especially if you live with me. You have to do things my way (because only my way of doing things is right, obviously). Sorry but that’s just how it is.
Like I said, every once in a while I come to the realization that that’s NOT how it is, that I don’t control everything – and that I don’t have to. There is a force out there (I think of it as love or the universe, you might call it God or something else) that takes care of me – if I let it. When I look back at my life, the most amazing things that happened to me did not happen because I planned them or made them happen. They just happened to me, where brought to me, so to say. Sure, I applied for my exchange years, but it wasn’t up to me to decide whether I’d get into the program or where I’d end up. I met Peter right after I decided there was no point in looking for a serious relationship while you’re abroad and you know you’re going back eight months later. The list goes on.
So when I have these epiphanies (yes, plural, I keep having them because I keep forgetting) I walk around for while relieved from the burden of having to control everything. I don’t feel the need to complain about anything, even when I notice things that do bother me. I don’t care what anyone does, i don’t feel the need that I constantly need to run around like a headless chicken, restless, trying to find ways to occupy myself in order to avoid silence.
And then I forget. Again. And again. On Thursday, for some reason control was important. I think the reason was general anxiety about the uncertainty of my/our future – also a recurring theme: I try to have faith that it’ll be great and it’ll all work out even if I don’t see how right now, and then I go back to driving myself crazy over not knowing. Control/Feeling in control always matters the most when I feel like everything I try to grab is running through my hands like water, and when I forget that I don’t have to be in control, that that doesn’t mean everything is going to hell.
I don’t like when food is being wasted – I have a hard time even leaving leftovers for (irrational, duh) fear of the food rotting before it gets eaten. No matter whether I am actually hungry or whether I like the food. I’ve told myself a thousand times that no one is saved from starvation by me not throwing out food but making myself sick instead. Obviously this irrational fear has a deeper root. Maybe from another life, but also very likely from how I experienced my childhood: that we bought a bunch of groceries, while the fridge was full, so half of what was in there really was molding.
So, when Peter threw away the avocados that I had bought for the guacamole because they were hard as rocks and unusable, I threw a fit. I screamed at him, why we couldn’t at least try to keep them a few days and see if they’d ripen (they were already cut open), and then I tossed a pot with some milk in it into the sink (also a leftover from Peter which had aroused my irritation earlier), and dramatically told him to go ahead and throw away everything. The best part is: I can’t even eat avocados, they give me stomach aches.
I calmed down and apologized. I always regret my outbursts afterward (I sincerely do), which does not mean I can’t have another one just a couple of minutes later.
I could already guess that it would piss me off when Peter would end up talking more to his friend whom we’d invited over than helping me. Even though it had been me who wanted to do this tex-mex shindig from scratch in the first place, and even though it had been me who wanted to do so many different things (the tortilla bread, the beef, two different salsas, a bacon-bean sauce, … you get the picture). I tried not to be too naggy. Then Peter made Mojitos (also on my demand, I had been able to get some fresh mint at the store), and did it – as he usually does – by only paying half attention to the recipe I had to remind him to look up several times, and shooting from the hip. There was about a deciliter (ca. half a cup) of rum with a few drops of lime, and some sugar in each glas, no ice, no mint, and instead of laughing, as I later wished I had done, I just got so mad. Again.
Now you might want to jump in and say that this time I really had a point. When you want a mojito, you’re expecting something specific – and it is NOT a bottle of rum with a drop of lime and a grain of sugar. However, I think the point is something else here: I am convinced that, as much as Peter may have made an honest mistake (I know he did), this did not „just happen“. I believe that this happened to me because it was what I needed. When I am trying to gain control by force over things I cannot control, things need to happen to me that remind me of that. In my view, that’s how it works in general (I know that that’s not a popular view with everyone, at some point in my life I thought people who said stuff like this where ignorant). Therefore, I don’t believe either that it is coincidence that I am with someone who is particularly „uncontrollable“, who is spontaneous, gets lost in the moment, plays life by ear a lot of the times. It’s what I need. To learn.
My meltdowns then aren’t really about Peter, either (and he is wise, he knows, and doesn’t take them hard). This is what frustrates me: that even though I know this, I still keep taking it out on him in the situation. And although my apologies are earnest, I wish that I could just remember what I know to be true. Just a few moments earlier. Live and learn, right?
My (amazing, awesome, inspiring!) yoga teacher once said that the universe wants its own good, and we are part of the universe. I don’t like quotes very much but I find this thought worth hanging on to.
May we all feel like we’re taken care of and well protected. May we feel like we can let go of control where it isn’t ours.
I can never go into a thrift-store without buying a bunch of stuff. So I am equally thrilled as terrified by the fact that here in Sweden thrift-stores (called „loppis“, short for „loppmarknad“ = flee-market) are all over the place. I kid you not: even when you’re driving on the loneliest road through the woods you’ll find signs (some hand-made, some „real“, like the official signs for a town or something) saying „loppis“.
I have, however, found a solution for my problem. Not going in. Yes, unfortunately that is the best thing I have come up with so far. The positive thing with my addiction is: it is relatively cheap. I regularly find myself with a basket full of stuff in the line for the cash-register, preparing myself for the supposedly inevitable heart attack I am going to have when I hear the total. Kind of like at IKEA, you know, where you end up picking up a bunch of small items on the way, which you never planned on buying but now that you’re here, and they’re so cheap, and then at the cash register you find out that you misread the price (or rather: the tagging on the shelves was misleading), and everything is much more expensive than you thought but you don’t feel like bothering with returning the stuff now that they’ve already scanned everything – you know what I mean?
Only, that at a Swedish loppis that’s not how it turns out. I am surprised every time by how a ton of stuff can cost so little. Everything is really expensive here (well, I guess that’s relative, I suppose the Norwegians would disagree but compared to Germany it is – and I do still compare, even after two years, sigh) – except for thrift-stores. Those are really cheap, and the only chance of me dying of a heart attack there is from the anxiety I build up myself while waiting in line.
So, yes, there are a lot of things that are great with thrift-stores: it’s obviously better from a environmental/consumption point of view if we re-use stuff that already exists, instead of throwing away old stuff and producing new stuff all the time. It’s cheap, so I can afford buying a ton of stuff even when I don’t have much money (which is most of the time). And it’s fun. The less central/known the location of a thrift-store, the higher your chances of finding real treasures. Even better when the people working there have no idea what stuff is worth (well, better for me, that is, I guess).
But regardless of all the pros – stuff is still stuff, and accumulating it, no matter where you get it from, still clutters your home. Consumption is consumption is consumption … If I didn’t restrict my visits to these places, and my „feng shui bible“, I might as well be one of those hoarders that you see on tv.
This week, I broke my self-imposed prohibition. I have been to three thrift-stores, it cost me 316 SEK (ca. 50$ | 38€), and here is some of my booty:
Because I am obsessed with (making) these three tier servers:
… because I thought I could use them when I try this recipe for making your own bath bombs.
Oh yeah, and the tea cups I got because I want to make …
This retro beauty is for my sister, if I can find a way to mail it to her safely (she lives in Jena and used to live in Mainz – how freaky is this?):
I also broke my biggest no-no: I am not allowed to buy any new fabric until I have made something from the tons that I already have hoarded. But I just couldn’t walk past this:
Or professional help re-doing an old arm chair!
Also, I bought …
Why? Apart from that I think it’s adorable, I want to exchange all the plastic dishes with enamel (both for health and aesthetic reasons) in this lovely picnic basket:
Now you know the severity of my condition. If you know of any cures or remedies – please don’t tell me! I can’t imagine my life without loppis treasure hunts.
Do you get up just in time to throw on some clothes, leave for work, and maybe grab some coffee on the way? Do you get up early so you can take your time and wake up slowly, read the paper, and eat breakfast at home? What does your morning look like?
I have always found myself in the category of people who hate to have to rush, even if that means sleeping less. A while ago, before I got into Ayurveda, I started meditating or doing different mudras (good when you – like me – have a hard time letting your thoughts go – mudras work whether you are able to focus or not). It hadn’t occurred to me that there are other rituals that could help start the day right.
This is the daily routine as presented by Ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad (which is the one you’ll find most in books or online – with minor variations in the details).
I am posting this article from the Nithyayoga-site because it goes a little more into detail regarding the oil pulling technique („Gargling“ in Lad’s article), which I find important. Also, I think that setting a positive intention, and thus: the tone of your day, might be a little more accessible than the prayer for some.Ayurveda knows of routines not only for the morning but for the entire day – the Dinacharya in Sanskrit. Just type the word into your search engine of choice, and you’ll find a bunch of sites giving you a variation of this.Now do I do all of this? Well, sort of but not to a t. I am a person who loves rituals, and to some extend feels lost without them, so naturally, as I read about Ayurveda, the idea of adopting a morning routine (and one for the evening) sounded appealing to me.These days I start my mornings:
- early – I wake up between 4.30 and 6.30, depending on a variety of factors – usually around 5 or 6 (regardless of whether I am working that day or not)
- by drinking some room temperature water, sometimes with a little lemon and honey in it (Ayurvedic remedy if you have problems emptying your bowels in the morning)
- going to the bathroom
- boiling some water for tea and a nose cleanse – during the winter I often wake up with a stuffed nose, cleansing it with warm salt water helps
- over the past few days I started doing some yoga before (I don’t have/take time for this on the days that I work)
- meditating and doing mudras for about 30 minutes
- oil-pulling/gargling for about 15-20 minutes
- while I do that, I usually turn on the computer, check e-mails, start writing something
- after I spit out the oil, I brush my teeth, wash my face and underarms – or I take a shower
- when I do take a shower, I started combining this with a massage (again: if I have the time, so, not on working days, and not even on all days off)
- I get dressed
- drink some tea
- and start writing
The order in which I do things does vary, I also skip some steps some days, when I am too impatient and anxious to actually start my day – working on that one. Like today, I brushed my teeth but never really washed the rest, and I am still not really dressed. Sometimes I just feel like I need to start writing first, and then after a while I’ll get back to finishing the morning routine. In reality, it often doesn’t happen then, and I never actually sit still for a while to contemplate the day I am about to begin. Kind of funny, that I manage to rush into the day even though I consciously follow a morning routine.
I am not ignorant (or I’d like to think at least not THAT ignorant), so I know that me having this kind of extensive morning ritual is largely thanks to me not having a full-time job, and my hours being spread over only two to three days per week. Also, am guessing that not having kids might have something to do with it. Basically, I have the luxury of being able to use a lot of my time as I please.
I find this kind of morning routine very pleasant, energy-inducing, and thus: I find that it helps me make the most of my days. I can recommend it to anyone but I do wonder: is this realistic? Can anyone (who wants to) adopt such a routine? Is it just about setting priorities, and getting up early enough? Or does the world we live in today not really allow for paying so much attention to yourself? Will I still do this as a parent? Do those of you who are parents do this? What do your mornings look like?
Here comes some of that „basic Ayurveda stuff“ I have been meaning to write about. I have been using terms such as „Pitta“, „dosha“ and „dominant dosha“ without actually explaining them. Maybe you’ve looked them up yourself, maybe you just overread them.
The ten pairs of gunas
Ayurveda is much about qualities (gunas) of things, more precisely: keeping the balance of pairs of qualities. The Charaka Samhita, tells of twenty different qualities, or ten pairs of qualities (a pair consisting of two opposite qualities):
- heavy – light
- cold – warm
- oily – dry
- dull – sharp
- static – mobile
- soft – hard
- cloudy – clear
- smooth – rough
- dense – porous
- solid – liquid
Two basic rules
These qualities are used to describe especially food but also the different doshas, our environment, etc. When it comes to the relationship of the pairs, Ayurveda knows two basic rules:
- Like increases like.
- Opposites balance each other.
It is important to remember that everything is relative here: „hot“ can be „cold“ when compared to something even hotter, etc. Also: like is often drawn to like. This is the part where listening to your intuition gets a little tricky. For example, sometimes your body seems to be craving exactly what it actually has too much of.
Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth – the five elements
These qualities can also be found in the five elements, that everything in the world consists of – according to Ayurveda:
- Space – cloudiness
- Air – lightness, mobility, dryness
- Fire – warmth, lightness, sharpness, liquidity
- Water – cold, liquidity, softness, smoothness
- Earth – heaviness, density, stability
Vata, Pitta & Kapha – the three doshas
These five elements in turn make up the three vital energies (doshas) that are the foundation for all physical and mental processes in body and soul:
- Vata – consisting of air and space, air being the dominant element
- Pitta – consisting of fire and water, fire being dominant
- Kapha – consisting of water and earth, water being dominant
Click on the excerpts to get to the source and read a little more about each dosha:
„Vata is the principle of mobility that regulates all activity in the body. It is this energy that governs the movement of everything from our own thoughts to the food in our intestines. Vata is responsible for creativity, speech, inspiration, excitement, adventure, happiness and joy.“
„Pitta is the principle of combustion and integration. Pitta is responsible for the absorption and assimilation of foods, thoughts, experiences and emotions, and is signified by order, logic, and reason.“
Do you recognize yourself in any of this? Maybe in more than one dosha? That’s what I like about Ayurveda: although it may at first seem like this is about filing people away into one of three neat little drawers – the system is actually quite complex, and helpful and easy to apply to yourself all at once.
Your dosha constitution – your finger print
According to this, yes, we all are a combination of only these three doshas. Yet, there are many possible combinations: some have one very clearly dominant dosha, others two (with one being dominant over the second), very few are evenly balanced. Yet, even individuals who have the same dominant dosha (combination) can be very different, for each dosha has many qualities, and we all express different aspects of each dosha, so it’s kind of like with finger prints: we all have them, yet no two people’s finger prints are the same.
Obviously, there is a lot more to learn about this than I can convey in a single blog entry. This is really more to give you an overview of what I find fascinating. If you’re hooked: Once again, I recommend Judith H. Morrison’s The Book of Ayurveda. Also, for the Swedes among you: Skapa din hälsa med Ayurveda by Maivor Stigengreen (available in German as Ayurveda: Die eigene Gesundheit stärken).
So what is the point of knowing your dosha(s)?
To put it simply knowing your nature is what it takes for you to be able to live according to that nature. Maybe you are so in tune with your intuition that you already do – then you don’t need any of this. This is just the irony: Ayurveda is actually a tool for following your intuition – which only those of us need who have forgotten/“over-written“ our ability to do just that. My guess is that there are many more like me who have been taught, and allowed others to teach them to obey somebody else’s rules rather than the signs their own body gives them. How many of us weren’t taught that everybody in the family eats at the same time, the same food? But what if we have different needs? The idea to make everyone equal is not a bad one. However, we are not all the same, so what’s really important isn’t „the same for everyone“ but creating the same opportunity for everyone to meet their individual needs.
Living in tune with your nature according to Ayurveda does not mean balancing out all three doshas so that you have exactly the same amount of each in you. Maintaining a balance means taking into account your personal dosha constitution and living according to it. This is nothing stable – your constituiton can change, and is dependent on factors such as environment, age, your particular situation in life (work environment, relationships, etc.). Everything is connected. Also, since like increases like, and like is often drawn to like, you will most likely develop imbalances in your dominant dosha(s).
Who are you?
Maybe you are curious now as to what your dominant dosha(s) might be, and whether you have any imbalances. Or maybe you just enjoy these kind of „personality tests“. Either way, here is a link to an online test. If you want to figure out whether you have any imbalances: take the test twice. Once answer according to your current situation, the second time answer according to what you would consider your normal state. The areas where you get different scores show you where your imbalance lies.
PS: This is a scheduled post by the way, like most everything today, Friday and Saturday will be. Contrary to what it may seem like, I am not a only a homemaker, I do have another job, one that society deems worthy of recognizing as such (= I get paid for that one). I have a weird schedule where I sometimes have long periods where I am off work, followed by days where I do nothing but work and sleep. So that’s that.
I am not ready to let the kitchen cleaning mission go yet I still don’t really feel like it. Then this CRAZY idea popped into my mind: What if I just do the parts that seem easy, and see how far I get? This might sound simple to most but for someone who has been walking around for most their life thinking that doing things half-assed is not allowed, that you have to decide if you’re in or out, that you don’t start unless you’re going to finish, blablablah … for someone like that (not me, of course), the conception of this possibility is really mind-blowing.
After all, if I allow myself to start under the premise that I can quit whenever I want, why, maybe I’ll actually go through with it! If I go about it as I usually do, locking myself into the notion that you have to finish what you started, I probably won’t even start …
So here’s to a day full of doing things half-assed and starting things without finishing them (or at least allowing for that alternative)!
My infatuation with Ayurveda still feels new, it’s only been a few weeks. That’s why it’s so amazing to me that it already has made such a huge impact on my life. The biggest change Ayurveda has led me to – perhaps like a lot of significant changes – is concerning something seemingly banal: my sleeping rhythm.
I already knew about myself that I really am a morning person. I have always loved the early hours, rising with the rest of nature. Most of all I have the best energy to get things done in the morning. Already in the early afternoon I feel like I can’t work/be productive anymore. After 4pm I really want to be done. The evening hours are definitely not mine, I get like a little kid: way too tired but still throwing because some part of me doesn’t want to go to bed. It’s a What?!-Surely-this-can’t-be-everything-something -more-needs-to-happen kind of mood. Do you know what I mean?
Yet when I had no external reason that forces me to get up early, I simply could not bring myself to do it. I have tried many times, and failed. I was trapped in that vicious circle of not being able to go to bed early, then for fear of lack of sleep not being able to get up early, either (or maybe it’s the other way around, you know, the hen and the chicken).
For some reason not getting enough sleep (enough being about 8 hours for me) bothered me a lot. I used to make myself even more anxious by checking out the clock, and thinking „I still have seven hours left – if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW“. I realized that that never helps (yup, I am that smart!). There is just something I resent about this tired state that you walk around in the day after, which makes it really hard to function even when you have to. Thus, whenever I could let myself sleep in, I did.
Thanks to these amazing Ayurveda books (man, am I sounding like a salesperson on a teleshopping channel or what?), I came to understand why my way of trying to compensate for lack of sleep did not work. Also, I’ve come to understand that being tired is not so much connected to actual lack of sleep but depends on what time of day you get up. After about two weeks, I now get up between 5 am and 6 am – without even setting an alarm. I try to make a point of going to bed between 9 pm and 10 pm, which works for the most part (and when it doesn’t turn out that way, it is now more often than not a deliberate choice because I choose to meet up with friends or something). The more important point: I am now able to fall asleep within minutes of going to bed, which has NEVER been normal for me. Even as a kid I often was the last person laying awake in their bed.
Before I go into what the Ayurveda take on sleep is, I just want to say that if you are not familiar with Ayurveda, then a few of the terms will probably be confusing. I am aware of that, and I do want to write more about the basic stuff – but I just felt like writing about this today, so I am just going be so bold as to refer you to „the internet“. I assume that that’s what you all do anyway – look up stuff you don’t know. Although it would obviously be much neater if I wrote everything in „the right order“, one post building on the next, it would not be very authentic (I know there is a better word, but I can’t come up with it right now). I don’t know about you but I am not really used to this concept yet, so I need to remind myself of this: You don’t need me to explain the world to you, and I do not need to sacrifice the impulse to write about anything to formal or stylistic rules. This linear way of expressing things/ourselves is no longer necessary today. We are free. To make the reading not completely aggravating, I will probably insert a few short explanation here and there anyway, but I will not go into too much detail. You would probably have found it yourself but here’s a link to an Ayurveda 101.
So what is the Ayurvedic take on sleep?
There are very few universal Ayurvedic recommendations, since we are not all the same in most regards. We do have different needs when it comes to how much sleep are good for us (ranging from six to eight hours, give or take), also depending on the season, where we are in our lives, etc. One thing that does apply to everyone, however, is that we are all part of nature, who „awakens“ in the morning, and that lays down to rest in the evening. So should we.
Ayurveda knows five elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) and three natural forces or energy forms (doshas) which reflect the energies of the five elements in different ways: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This relates to sleep not only in so far as these doshas describe our own constitutions (which in turn determines how much sleep we need). The doshas are also linked to different phases of the day.
Each of the three doshas is dominant during two periods in a day:
6 am to 10 am – Morning’s Kapha period
10 am to 2 pm – Mid-day Pitta period
2 pm to 6 pm – Afternoon’s Vata period
6 pm to 10 pm – Evening’s Kapha period
10 pm to 2 am – Nighttime’s Pitta period
2 am to 6 am – Morning’s Vata period
Have you ever noticed that you woke up early in the morning – but then decided, „Nah, it’s too early!“, went back to sleep – and woke up hours later, even more tired?
That’s happened to me many times. The explanation, according to Ayurveda, is, that if you sleep through the Kapha period (Kapha having qualities like „heavy“, „stable“, „earthy“, etc.), that dosha rises in your own constitution – meaning, that you feel „heavier“ = it gets harder to wake up. This excess Kapha then influences you throughout the day. (Of course a lot of other factors play in, like always. The extend of the effects are different depending on your dominant dosha(s) in the particular situation.)
Ideally one should get up in the beginning of the morning’s Kapha period. And, looky there: the second Kapha period is between 6 pm and 10 pm, which is when nature prepares to „call it a day“. Here we should take advantage of the Kapha qualities, and do the same: finish up and unwind, so that we can go to bed, and ideally go to sleep by the end of that period.
Because the period that follows is dominated by the firy Pitta-dosha. When I read this it suddenly made sense to me how I could be tired, yet feel like I didn’t want to go to bed: I had pushed past Kapha period, and my Pitta dosha was rising again (Pitta also happens to be my dominant dosha, thus re-enforcing the effect).
So how do you break the cycle? And how do you compensate for lack of sleep?
The first rule seems to be: Whatever changes you are going to make, make them gradually. I somehow missed that part, so I went straight from sleeping until 12pm to getting up at 6 am. I had a burning stomach after every meal for over a week (still do, sometimes), and if I am connecting the dots correctly, that is the result of the sudden shift in my doshas. Before, when I slept long hours and through the morning Kapha and half of the morning Pitta period, Kapha naturally was more dominant in me. I really did have less energy then, despite getting so much sleep, as I thought. After the switch in my waking hours, my Pitta energy basically went through the roof, and all the spicy things I usually ate, that were before ok with my Kapha dominance, suddenly were too much. Sounds complicated, I know, and in a way it is, when you believe that everything is connected, which is what Ayurveda is all about. But it makes sense. Therefore:
Don’t quit any behavior „cold turkey“.
Get up 15 to 30 minutes earlier every day, and go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier every day – until you’ve got your ideal rhythm.
If you do get too little sleep, still get up at your usual time, and no later than 8 am. Don’t try to make up for it by letting yourself sleep in (the reasons have hopefully become apparent by now). Instead make sure that you do go to bed earlier the next day, and try to go easy on yourself during the day. I suppose for some it’s ok to take naps in the afternoon, I just know that that doesn’t work for me at all. But again, Ayurveda is all about being your own expert, so you really know what works best for you.
Well, this has turned into another long post with no pictures. I am sharing this anyway, hoping that you find this information as helpful as I did. I wish you the best for whatever changes you are making or hoping to make in your life. Remember to be kind to yourself, and forgiving if you find yourself not able to make certain changes.