The Great Synthesizer: Allison Talis
Featured Winter Self-Care Practice: Abhyanga
Abhyanga–the ayurvedic oil massage–is an integral part of the daily routine recommended by this healing system (ayurveda is a system of traditional medicine native to India and practiced in other parts of the world as a form of alternative medicine) for overall health and well-being. It is nourishing, pacifies the doshas, relieves fatigue, provides stamina, improves sleep, enhances the complexion and the luster of the skin, promotes longevity and nourishes all parts of the body.
Here are some of the benefits traditionally associated with regular performance of this pleasant daily ritual:
- Increased circulation, especially to nerve endings
- Toning of the muscles and the whole physiology
- Calming of the nerves
- Lubrication of the joints
- Increased mental alertness
- Improved elimination of impurities from the body
- Softer, smoother skin
- Increased levels of stamina through the day
- Better, deeper sleep at night
Abhyanga provides the means for trans-dermal absorption of the healing qualities of the material used in the massage and it helps the skin, which is the largest organ in the body, perform its diverse functions efficiently, whether it is allowing toxins to be released from the body or nourishment to be absorbed by the tissues.
The ayurvedic massage is traditionally performed in the morning, before your bath or shower, to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the previous night. You can use sesame oil, an herbalized massage oil or an aroma massage oil.
Use comfortably warm massage oil. Store your massage oil in a plastic flip-top and warm it by holding the container under running hot water for a few minutes. Dip your fingertips into the warm oil and apply it lightly to the entire body. Wait for 4 – 5 minutes to let some of the oil be absorbed by your skin. Then massage the entire body, applying even pressure with the whole hand–palm and fingers.
Apply light pressure on sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart. Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and along the base of the fingernails. Circular motions over rounded areas such as your head or joints and straight strokes on straight areas such as your arms and legs work best.
After you’re done, relax for 10 – 15 minutes, letting the oil and the massage do their magic. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time you can meditate, read something relaxing or uplifting, or just relax. Dab excess oil off with paper towels, if you like, then follow with a relaxing warm bath or shower. Do not use soap on the body.
Keep checking back for more updates to my Winter Wellness series. Catch up on early posts here.
Metta Kindness Practice
The Buddha gave a beautiful teaching on the development of lovingkindness called the Metta Sutta (also known as the Karaniya Metta Sutta). I think it’s a perfect practice to follow during the darker, quieter winter months.
To begin, find a comfortable seat, take a few moments to quiet your mind and focus your attention on your breath. Noticing the inhale and exhale, feel the air flowing in and out of your nostrils. You will begin by offering Metta to yourself. If distracting thoughts arise, acknowledge them, you can make a mental note or label them and then gently return to your concentration.
Visualize yourself and repeat the following phrases several times:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be at peace.
May I be free of suffering and the roots of suffering.
When you feel connected, move on to a person that you love, someone who makes you feel joy. Visualize them and repeat mantra to them:
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be at peace.
May you be free of suffering and the roots of suffering.
Next, chose a neutral person. It could be the person at the grocery store, bodega, someone in your neighborhood… anyone you feel no strong connection to. Visualize this person and offer the mantra to them: May you be safe… May you be…
Now move on to a person who you are in conflict with or struggle with somehow. Offer them the same mantra: May you be safe… May you be…
Finally, repeat the mantra for all living beings, yourself included:
May we be safe.
May we be happy.
May we be healthy.
May we be at peace.
May we be free of suffering and the roots of suffering.
Sit and take 3 – 5 breaths before opening your gaze and when you feel ready, gently open your eyes.
I began dreading the onset of winter in October, convinced it was only an enjoyable time for lovers and people who have kids. My anxiety about the impending winter grew as it drew closer and I found myself fantasizing about escaping the city, going somewhere, anywhere other than where I was, where surely I could go through my process in a more uplifting environment.
But alas… there I was… here I am. Seeing no other option, I embraced the uncomfortable spectrum of my human experience, eyes wide open. As the days became shorter and the on-set of darkness enveloped much sooner than I was prepared, I felt the threads of light hanging on, somewhere deep beneath the surface. I am graced with presence of an amazing support system, which fueled my resolve, to not only sit with what was going on with me internally, but dive head first into its depths, with the intention to stay with my suffering until I learned it’s lessons.
As I released my resistance and moved into acceptance, I found myself more liberated and present than ever. That’s when I re-discovered the gifts of winter. What better time to serve my process! A season that allows–and in some parts of the world forces–us to rest, reflect, hybernate, germinate, retreat into the cave and sit in the slow-time, looking within while planting the seeds for the new patch of ourselves that we will harvest in the spring. The dark-time, the winter time, became just the healing I needed. The cycle of death that Winter holds, whispers a promise of rebirth as the light once again emerges.
Darktime by Shae Savoy
So the way the lip of night
curls protectively around starkling moon-grey days
doesn’t have to be
Winter isn’t evil
The dark gives rise to cusps,
a sweetly nestled seedling cupped and precious
in the Dark Mothers
We revolve too hotly around the sun,
value the detached transcendence of
incandescent bulbs and a certain maleness
of solar authority.
The Dark half of the year suits me just fine.
Winter time. The Dream Time.
Worms and calligraphy.
A quiet turning under, the underbelly
A rich velvet basket,
stars and fog tucked around the edges.
The Dark, my love, is a
When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness. But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.
- Carl Jung