Preparing For Winter: Balance – Get in the body

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.

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. Clearing space for the realization of the ultimate sincerity of self in its wholeness.
high ideal of wholeness and ultimate sincerity with one’s true self.
The Sun, its time in the sky now waning, represents a slowing down of external gratification, only to return once again with its triumph of the night at the spring equinox.

The body, having been nourished and strengthened internally, is now prepared for the work of assimilating the events and knowledge accumulated throughout the cycle beginning at the first point of Aries; the vernal equinox. Successful assimilation will yield fertile ground and strong mental seed-images to be sprouted in the spring. But first, one must ground into the center of awareness while integrating the mind-body as one cohesive unit in order to maintain a stable point of reference for reflection as the mind contents gathered through the year, both positive and negative, swirl around without a direction, yearning to be one with the wholeness of the self. It is the task of the individual to find meaning within this chaos, to create order in a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings; a connecting thread to weave the road of one’s life path, in harmony with the highest goals and aspirations.

The first step towards integration is to achieve balance. We can balance the body and mind simultaneously through various practices – mind-body is one unit, we must realize this. First and foremost is relaxation, letting go of any patterns of tensions that we may be holding as a result of experiences throughout the year. The yin force is rising toward its peak at the winter solstice, and to compliment this it is beneficial to work with this direction and allow the body to release and realign with the support of the earth below.

While laying on your back, knees up with feet flat on the floor, lift your hips slightly to the left (just an inch or so) and allow your knees to fall in the opposite direction. With your arms relaxed at your sides, let your head fall to the left, creating a spiraling twist throughout the body. With a smooth, consistent breath, count an equal amount of time with each in and out breath. Breathe out with the mind focused on letting go, while breathing in is focused in creating space for growth. This twisting action is a gentle, yet powerful “wringing out” of energy no longer serving you. Be mindful of every point in the body, and actively move your awareness through the toes, up the spine, through each arm, hand, and finger, into the shoulders and neck, all the way to the top of the head. Breathe into each area, noticing any places where you may be holding tension, and allow everything to let go, trusting the earth below to support you and assist in the transformation of any dissonant energy. For a more activated twist and more intense release in the pelvic region, place your right leg across your left thigh. This is a great preparation before sitting in meditation. After you feel that you’ve released as much tension as you are presently aware of, move back to the center lifting your legs back up, ensuring that you are maintaining consistent, fluid breath, then shifting the hips to the right to allow the knees to fall to the left, and continuing the practice on the opposite side.

Now that we’ve channeled our intention into the release of tension and wrung out any feelings of discord in the body, we are ready to focus on balancing the left and right sides. Begin standing straight, with hands together aligned with the heart. Bring the right knee up, parallel with the floor. Balancing on the left leg with the knee bent at 90 degrees, make two fists with thumbs pointing up, right hand in front of the head, left hand in front of the chest. Aligning mind and heart to help stabilize your body which is balancing on only on leg. Next, open the hands with wrists touching each other, right palm facing forward, left palm facing the body. This symbolizes the trunk of the elephant, whose strength breaks through barriers, transcending all obstacles. We embrace all fear to transmute into formative power, and rejoice in exaltation as the hands are released and the left hand flows to point behind, while the right hand grabs the left toes and the leg is extended in front, giving a nice balancing twist. Releasing the twist, face forward returning to the original balancing position with the knee up, thigh parallel with the ground. Raise your arms to the sky and extend your leg in front of you, holding for three equal breaths, then cross your left leg around your right, and your right arm around the left arm to move in to eagle pose. Sink into this pose, sitting into the hips with spine straight, while simultaneously lifting the elbows up and the shoulders down. Slowly release, letting your left leg return back to the earth with a refreshing solidity. A newly found balance and grounding within yourself. Repeat this practice on the opposite side to align the two and achieve solidarity between the two.

We began by releasing tension, then balancing each side of the body, and now practice the integration of mind and body as one total organism with a fluid spiral dance, a tongue twister of sorts for the body and mind alike. Open your legs moving into goddess pose with your toes pointed out, knees bent and thighs parallel with the ground. Let your palms face up near the hara, your center in the lower abdomen. While keeping the palms up the whole time, breathe in while rotate your arms out in front of you, continuing the rotation reaching the top of the breath with the palms above you at either side, then breathing out to continue through circling back to the original point. Your palms should be facing up the whole time while the spiral in symmetry with each other. Breath in as you open, and breath out as you close and return to the starting point. Now reverse the direction of the spiral, with the same attention placed on the breath, in is opening, out is returning. The Shaolin monks do this practice with bowls of burning oil in each hand without spilling. You can practice with cups filled with water to get the feeling. This is an exercise for the mind to bring awareness to the subtle movements of the body.

RELAX THE BODY

Lay on your back, gently twisting the lower body to one side and rest in this 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

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 a breathe, 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 spine straight, 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 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.