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Moving soon? Watch your vata

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

One of my Ayurveda professors once told our class that moving is one of the most stressful events in a persons’ lifetime. As someone who has moved at least every couple of years, I was dubious about this statement. In my twenties, I could manage to move from state to state, country to country, with a couple of suitcases and a backpack on my back, and sell the rest of my stuff. I never kept many valuable possessions with me, I was living the adventurous artist life much of the time, so I never had trouble letting go of things. Perhaps at the time, a little more vata disturbance from moving was not going to greatly disturb someone habitually on the move.

New Zealand, the last frontier of my nomad life

After more than a decade of living like an aimless nomad, I had finally decided to settle down a little, make a home with my partner and our two cats, and grow some roots. We’d been in our previous apartment for over a year, but after having had things stolen on multiple occasions, having had my vehicle tampered inside our garage, and with the overall stressful environment in our neighborhood, we made the choice to move to a quieter neighborhood closer to the beach. Being completely cocky, I thought, well, we’re only moving 15 minutes away, we can just move our things over slowly while we continue to work and operate life as usual.

How very wrong I was. This move blindsided me like a truck. It turns out my professor had a point - whether you are moving across town or moving across the country, moving is a major life upheaval combined with a collection of barely coordinated parts, and things never really go as perfectly as planned. And the more people, possessions, pets, etc. you have to move, the more chaotic it gets. Because of this, moving is considered a major vata-aggravating event. Because of the mobile, light quality of vata, and with the actual physical movement of people and possessions from one place to another, moving can often come with anxiety, overwhelm, and even physical symptoms such as gas and constipation. Dealing with a new space can also be disorienting because of the etheric element in vata involved. Because of the busy schedule of moving, it is easier to neglect regular meal times and to forget taking in enough water. My self-care routine went out of the window, along with my yoga and capoeira practices. To make matters more complicated, I was counting on being able to transfer my internet service seamlessly from one home to the next, but due to wiring problems at our new apartment along with slow service times, we ended up having to wait nearly two weeks. There was a lot to handle!

By the grace and generosity of friends, family, and local cafe internet, I was able to carry out the majority of my workload while waiting for our internet technician. I spent a lot more time walking around our neighborhood, working out at the beach, visiting the local shops, and smelling the flowers. I looked at my phone less and even made a few new friends. And eventually, everything got moved over and all was well again.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from my last move, from an Ayurvedic perspective:

  1. Plan everything, and plan for the plan to not go according to plan - Moving aggravates Vata Dosha. This means that everything is moving, things are often unpredictable, routines go out the window, and life can seem temporarily disorienting. This makes us especially susceptible to overwhelm. How to balance this? Make sure to have a plan outlining when and how things will be packed and moved. Have solid dates and times for major transfers such as the internet and electricity. Structure your packing so that you don’t have to make extra trips to buy supplies, etc. The most important part? Have it in the back of your mind that things might not go according to plan. And that’s okay. At least you had one.

  1. Focus Your Attention - it is okay to put regular practices on hold so that you can transition smoothly from one home to the next. It is important during this time that you make the effort to focus your attention on the move. Vata dosha makes it so that you want to multitask and do everything at once. This only prolongs the stress and can lead to overwhelm because you’re trying to do too much.

  1. Maintain a basic routine - One way to ground yourself while moving is to continue a regular meal and sleep schedule. We may be putting our lives on pause, but we still have to eat and drink, and we still have to sleep. Food and Sleep are two of the Three Pillars of Life in Ayurveda. Make sure to get in some nourishing, grounding meals to balance out the light and mobile quality of vata. Try to get in a solid night’s sleep, and go to bed at the same time every night

  1. Let go of expectations - Much of our suffering comes from when our expectations differ from what really happens. There is a natural anxiety that comes with moving to a new place, having to adjust to a new environment, and wanting everything to go smoothly. Embracing the process of moving, adapting to unexpected twists and snags, and being open to other possibilities can turn a stressful situation into an incredible opportunity for growth and even fun!

Mr. Meow feels more grounded in his new digs

We can rise up to big challenges best when we know that they are coming. I hope this gives you some insight into how moving affects us from an Ayurvedic perspective. I know that next time I move, I will certainly be more prepared to balance Vata dosha.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts. What kind of lessons have you learned during big transitions such as moving? What do you wish you had done differently, and what did you do that worked?

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