By Aparna Amy Lewis, Lineage Educator
I recently got a chance to sit down for an online conversation with my friend and fellow Awakened Self Community member, Tracy Lakshmi Cunningham. Lakshmi is a longtime student of Acharya Shunya, and teaches on Ayurvedic Herbs, Beauty & Skin Care in the Alchemy Through Ayurveda course. She will be teaching us about Marigold and Tulsi at this summer’s Sacred Body, Sacred Herbs Retreat on July 17th, 2021.
A: Good morning Lakshmi! Summer is heating up and I’m already starting to notice lots of heat in my body. As someone who is also Pitta Dosha dominant, what are you noticing/experiencing/feeling this season?
L: The first sign for me that heat is building up in my system is redness in my skin. I start to feel more flushed in general and I find I can spend less time in the sun compared to other seasons. I also find that my body starts to detest hot, spicy foods and goes towards food that are cool to warm, and wants foods that are sweeter in nature. The last thing I notice is my mind. I find my patience becomes a tiny bit shorter, and I am quicker to feel frustrated with normal tasks - all that heat accumulation is creating heat/intolerance in my mind.
A: Years ago you came up with an "Ayurveda Survival Kit for Summer Festivals" to support your community in dry and hot and windy environments. I love this real-time modern use of the principles of Ayurveda. What are your favorite “Ayurvedic emergency response measures” for summer? L: My favorite Ayurveda emergency response measure is to head to the garden and start picking rose petals! They have a cooling quality and I follow Chef Sanjai’s recipe for making rose water. It’s my savior! I have a spritzer that contains pure rose water (without sugar) for my skin and it feels like an immediate cool-down, especially when my face is flushing. For drinking this same rose water, I add sugar (organic cane sugar or organic rock sugar ) and it becomes my #1 go-to drink. Instead of drinks like Gatorade, lemonade, or iced tea, rose water is my “summer drink” and acts like a mini-refrigerant in the body. My second response is shifting to coconut oil. It becomes my stand-in oil for cooking and it replaces sesame oil in Abhyanga (self-massage). My skin is so sensitive that there are very few sunscreens I can use without breaking into a mess of hives. So I use those store-bought sunscreens sparingly and rely on the coconut oil skin cooling, and I wear sun hats and SPF shirts to keep the sun directly off my skin. When the roses and coconut oil appear on the kitchen counter, my hubby knows Summer is officially here; and his food will also suddenly be decorated beautifully and sweetly, since he too is Pitta dominant!
A: Yes! I am not a big fan of the smell of rose until the heat starts and then magically I can't get enough rose water spray. It’s so good! You mentioned mental/emotional heat. How do you counteract that in your daily life? Do you have different seasonal meditation or emotional habits for summer?
L: Good question! I know I need to be particularly very mindful about my state of mind during the heat, and I naturally tend to do a few things differently. I tend to journal more in the Summer to help process any frustrations that come up. I even have a separate “anger” journal that I just quickly spew thoughts into but don’t look back on since I know it is a reaction journal, fueled by outside and inside heat, and not a wise journal. I also tend to use the pranayama Bhramari (a form of bee breath) throughout the whole day as needed - it’s an instant mind reliever for me for both anger and anxiety.
I grow lots of Aloe and have found that to also be a wonderful mind reliever. When I was at Burning Man, I put a small piece of fresh cut aloe on my crown area under my sunhat, wet side down, and found it helped my mind tremendously in the heat. The coolness of aloe in that particular area kept my mind more cool and clear. As I don’t wear hats in my office job, I modified the idea, and use that aloe on my crown during my morning meditation time. It’s like a 2-step verification process that my day will begin on a much different and better note!
I am also vigilant about paying more attention to my frustration levels during Summer. I do the “Mom countdown” (10, 9, 8, 7.....) before responding to something that has triggered me. Or I say a mental “OM TAT SAT” before responding. I know that I can tend more to a sharp reaction in the heat, and this helps me and that other poor soul (animals included) that I’m about to respond to. I’ll stop a project during the peak of the day that might be frustrating and try again in the afternoon or next morning when it’s cooler outside.
A: You have been a longtime student of Acharya Shunya, a sevite, and now a teacher for the Alchemy course. For many years you organized a monthly community Ayurveda sangha with Acharya Shunya and Vedika Global. You are also an avid gardener and beekeeper. It looks like your interests, strengths and skills are all in alignment. Do you feel like you have found your swadharma?
L: I absolutely feel I have found the path to my swadharma. I’ve always been a seeker and nature lover and struggled for many years trying to find that work in the world that felt the most natural and fulfilling. I was born an artist with a strong Gemini mind -- a combination that makes it hard to settle on just one thing when the World produces so many desires and offerings. In my own healing, it was important to have a living teacher who could guide me toward a path that aligned with my Soul and not my ever-curious mind. Being a student of Acharya Shunya and learning Vedic concepts like dharma and vasana (unnecessary attachments) has helped me ground and simplify.
In Ayurveda, the natural world is so important to health, for not just what it can offer the body, but also the mind. And here I found a calling and excitement to help others heal in the same natural ways and appreciate the smallest insect or plant for all that they have to offer. I am so grateful for this scientific system, grounded in nature, that Acharya Shunya has taught us from her lineage and through classic teachings. I am happy to help spread the word in the ways that I know how.
My only wish is that I found Acharya Shunya earlier in my life!
You can learn directly from Lakshmi and Acharya Shunya about the natural health knowledge contained in Nature at the Sacred Body, Sacred Herbs Online retreat on July 17th from 9am-4pm PST, also featuring teachings by David Crow, Wah!, and Sandra Summerfield Kozak.
You can learn more about the Alchemy Through Ayurveda program, where Laksmi is the admissions counselor, at www.acharyashunya.com/wisdom-school.
Catch up with Acharya Shunya's Advaita Vedanta teachings in her latest book, Sovereign Self.
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and Sovereign Self (Sounds True, 2020). Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she shares video teachings. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.