Create an Evening Ritual for a Good Night's Rest.
By R.R. Shakti, PhD
Oh the magic of a sunset.
We have all witnessed the radiant blast of glory just as the sun descends behind the horizon.
The ancient Egyptians celebrated this daily phenomenon as an epic journey of the Solar God, Ra, as he sailed into the Underworld, leaving the luminous and nourishing powers of the Moon to govern the night sky. The Underworld traverse was considered an auspicious event, necessary for confronting shadows and defeating monsters so that the sun could rise again the following day.
In the ancient Sumerian myths, the heavenly Goddess Inanna descends into the underworld to confront her recently widowed, and completely heartbroken, sister. Although Inanna must face terrible hardship, the story expresses the value of compassion for transformation and ultimate freedom.
The Underworld descent has been interpreted by Jungian psychologists as an archetypal symbol of the spiritual journey each of us must take into our heart's wisdom. Only by encountering the depths of our inner knowing may we become truly balanced and whole.
Sunset is therefore a sacred time to turn inward and center your awareness upon the wisdom flame of your heart. Within the traditions of Yoga and Ayurveda, the evening provides a time for lunar practice, or Ratricharya. When you establish an evening ritual you set yourself up to enjoy deep benefits:
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Soul Artist Evening Ritual for Vata Season
According to the Indian wellness system of Ayurveda, each season is governed by different elements. Autumn is the season of wind and space and therefore is honored as a time of movement, creativity, and spontaneous change. When imbalanced, however, these winds can feel more like a tornado than an inspirational breeze. Excess vata in your mind can make you feel anxious, restless, and worried. Physically, you may feel dehydrated, constipated, and depleted. Insomnia is common during this time of windy change and busy holiday schedules. Follow these practices from Yoga and Ayurveda to cultivate a restful sleep pattern.
SUNSET VINYASA & MEDITATION
As the sun sets, enjoy a fluid asana vinyasa (flow of yoga postures) that moves your energy from the active charge of the day into the calm nourishment of darkness. Conclude your movement practice with a deep and quiet meditation. This is a sweet time to light a candle at your altar, chant mantras, and turn your attention toward gratitude. Focus your awareness on your breath as it expands within your belly and let your mind follow the exhalation out of your body, as you settle into stillness.
Water soothes the windy vibes of vata. The elements of fire (heat), and earth (salts) will also counterbalance the influence of the vata qualities of air and space. Add some soothing bath salts (earth) to a tub of hot water, then soak away tension to help you ground. Drink warm tea to maintain your internal hydration. (Ashwagandha, Yin Chao, and Chamomile are all good options for vata-balancing herbs.) Relax. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Rest.
Massage your entire body with warm oil to purify and nourish your system. Enjoy circular strokes over your heart region, belly, joints, and limbs. Be sure to massage your feet thoroughly, then cover the oil with socks to maximize the moisturizing benefits and keep you warm and cozy. Make this a nightly ritual to release stress, tone tissues, and soothe your nervous system. Add essential oils of clove and/or amber to calm and warm your senses.
Once a week, you can also apply a scalp oil and massage the marma (pressure points) around your skull, neck, and ears.
SLEEP BEFORE 10 PM
Save all your computer work and social media surfing for the morning. Spend your last waking hours with your family, reading a book, or writing in your journal. I like to take time, just before sleep, to jot down any ideas or goals I have for the following day, so I can let them go until morning. I say a prayer of gratitude and peace.
The SHANTI MANTRA (Peace Chant) is a favorite lullaby chant in our household.
Then I set an intention to be open to whatever messages come through my dreams, and put my dream journal on my nightstand so that I will be ready to record any remembered dream images upon waking.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
(Salutations to Ganesha, also called Ganapati, the archetypal Remover of Obstacles).
May you drift off peacefully into the underworld of sleep, face and embrace your heart's wisdom as you dream, and rise rejuvenated with the new Sun.
Amen, Aho, and Swaha!
R.R. Shakti, PhD