Lately, each morning I wake up and pull my blackout curtains back to a blinding, relentless sun. I squint at the glare and I moan and I groan. Happy first day of summer!
I love being outside, crave the sun on my skin. But lately that sun is a lot. I feel a bit crispy, both inside and out.
Living in the Midwest, I appreciate summer’s fleeting nature. Summer makes parenting easier, with it’s warm weather, splash parks and what-not. Instead of shivering in the driveway kicking the ball around in 20 degree discomfort, we are at the parks, we are at the pool, we are walking places. Our world is small. I purchase iced coffee.
Something about summer makes me flounder. At other times of the year, structure and routine keep life chugging along predictably. School, work, nap-time, various holiday prep. Pitta Heaven. But summer invites idle moments, and sometimes I get lost. I don’t know what to do with myself, with the pace. I probably would have done well in a monastery or military school.
It’s Pitta Imbalance Season
Our library opened again to browsing (thank heavens) and I stayed up WAY too late reading two page-turning memoirs: one by a woman who developed a mean opioid addiction and wound up in jail, and another by a woman whose parents are both addicts. These women’s stories wrenched the hell out of me. I related to plenty of their stuff (the feelings).
And now I find myself out-of-balance. I have an emotional hangover. I have gone all intense. I can’t sleep. I focus on getting endless tasks done. I try to control everything and everyone around me (they love that). There’s always laundry in.
Pitta imbalance, major.
Pitta! Come on, man!
I do well in the spring and fall; I love the turning inward of fall and the shedding of the extraneous in the spring. I’m always ready for the liquidation of old habits. But sometimes I crash and burn into summer. I find myself frantically grasping for habits that I thought I had outgrown. Falling backwards.
I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. Forts were made. My “cottage” (rooms delineated with rocks on the soft pine needle ground) was hidden in the pine trees that bordered our yard. The trees were miles high, solid, quiet and clean. Good for climbing. I was a koala bear up there.
Ah, Pitta, my old friend.
The pitta dosha, made of fire and water, is our digestion (agni), and it is our worker bee. Pitta helps us feel satisfaction at a job well done. It helps us feel sharp and on our game. But when it’s hot outside, fiery pitta can get a bit pissed off. Pitta has hot, oily, sharp, light, sour, fluid, and pungent attributes—many of the same sensory qualities that surround us during summer. Like increases like, so when the weather is hot, we can get “hot” on a number of levels. This can lead to bothersome things (symptoms) like irritability and indigestion. But we can work to bring our doshas into balance so that our pitta can work for us, rather than against us. Always working gently towards doshic balance.
Is My Pitta Raging?
- Super hot and sweaty
- Acid reflux, gas, indigestion, swollen tummy
- Inflammation of the joints – aches and pains
- Nausea, diarrhea or constipation
- Anger & irritability
- Being controlling
- Acne, rashes
- Red Eyes
- Bad breath
- Body odor
- Perfectionism gone wild
OMG Get this Excess Pitta OFF! How to chill the eff out.
Pitta can be immediately pacified by working to surrender rather than control.
Ayurveda treats imbalances with their opposites. When we are hot with pitta, we have to treat it with cool remedies. Shade, cooling foods (cucumber, watermelon), cool drinks (not iced – eek, I drink something iced practically daily). Consciously mellow out. Be in air-conditioning or shade during the hottest part of the day. Watch water or get into water. Drink water. Become water? Seems interesting that the other part of pitta is water (fire and water). I think the water tempers the fire.
Food Options to Reduce Pitta
- Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, coconut, dates, pear, papaya, plums, pomegranate, mango, orange, melons, watermelon, strawberries, figs and grapes
- Avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, peas, pumpkin, radishes, cabbage, sweet potato, spinach, lettuce, okra, cucumber, potatoes, leafy greens, and mushrooms
- Barley, couscous, oats, quinoa, granola, wheat, tapioca, wheat bran, pasta, amaranth and rice (basmati).
- Black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, soy beans, tofu, lima beans, mung dal and black-eyed peas
- Unsalted butter, cow’s milk, cottage cheese, goat’s cheese, ghee, ice cream, yogurt and goat’s milk.
- Almonds (soaked & peeled – guilty of never ever doing this), flaxseeds, coconuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and popcorn (unsalted & plain)
- Chicken, shrimp, rabbit, venison, fish (freshwater), eggs (white) and buffalo meat.
- Coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil, primrose oil, sunflower oil, soy oil, ghee and walnut oil. Basil, black pepper, coriander, ginger, fennel, mint, orange peel, saffron, peppermint, cinnamon, dill, cardamom, parsley and vanilla
- Maple syrup, dates, barley syrup
Eat sweet, bitter, and astringent foods. These tastes are pitta-pacifying.
The Sun and the Moon
Sunlight—in moderation—is essential to our health and well-being, and, according to the great Ayurvedic scholar and teacher Dr. Vasant Lad, so is moonlight.
Dr. Lad says, in the evening, go for a walk on the beach or in the cool green grass. Wear white clothes and white flowers in your hair to help with absorbing the moon’s cooling rays, which are soothing to the pitta dosha. This sounds so fun! Makes me think of A Midsummer Night’s Eve. Mischief and promise.
Don’t push yourself to the limit in the summer! Take it easy with exercise. Swimming is good, hiking during the cooler part of the day works, light biking, and of course, there is always yoga.
Good cooling yoga postures are fish, camel, boat, cobra, cow, and tree poses. Take an extended savasana. Do a breathing practice. A good, cooling one is sitali pranayama. And meditate—it will lower your mental/emotional temperature.
Summer-time tends to be Adventure-time
Going on vacation might be a family summer staple for us. We might be getting back out there post-COVID. This may either energize or deplete us, but either way try to keep up some healthy habits while adventuring. Just a few easy practices should do it, dealer’s choice. Or even just a refrain from the excess that is usually wrought during summer holidays. Try to meditate while on vacation. It’s when we think we don’t have time to meditate that we need it most (I’m talking to myself).
They don’t call it a “summer-read” for nothing. We gotta keep the intensity down. The fantasy world of Harry Potter (re-reading for the fourth time) is far less harrowing for me to digest than cycling through someone’s addiction with them (not that the stories aren’t necessary and healing, and not that I don’t cry my eyes out at Harry Potter). You know what I mean. Keep it light. Watch Fawlty Towers. Eat cool foods (currently eating hot salsa, oops). Sit in the shade – and just sit there (noooo). Admire the view. Avoid icy, bubbly drinks and skip the alcohol. Sip on cool lemonade or tea (lavender and/or chamomile sun-tea is nice). Listen to mellow music: reggae, classical, yoga-ish (think sitars).
There is lots of summer to be had, lots of adjustment time to make improvements, lots of small practices we can do that add up to big results. Enjoy this most bountiful, exuberant season. I keep trying to remember to play life like a game. Intent on it, but not overly attached to outcomes. Chuckling about it.