New Moon Newsletter vol 7: The 11th Day

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Can you believe that it’s already New Moon again?  Time flies, and the only way to slow it down is to stop and acknowledge it.
 
When we can identify individual moments of time from each other is when we feel that our lives have some sort of meaning and beauty.  In fact, all sacred ritual exists in part to give us an opportunity to pause and honor what is before it’s gone!
 
Daily rituals help us mark the passage of time each day.  However, if you’re not there yet, you can start by pausing and reflecting every fortnight on the new and full moon – twice a month.  (And luckily you’ve got these newsletters to help you remember! :b)
 
Traditionally, seekers actually devoted 3 days to spiritual work during this time.  It would begin on the 12th day of each fortnight and culminate with either the new or full moon on the 14th of each fortnight.
 
Why three days?  If you’ve ever been on retreat, you know that it takes at least 3 days to really shift from your normal everyday mental chatter and limited perception to something deeper and more real.
 
And you probably also know that it’s pretty hard to just shift gears from all the less-than-conscious activities you might have been engaging in.  So the first thing is to give yourself some time to clean and wake up your insides.
 
Amazingly, the tradition actually has a special day set aside just for inner purification.  It’s the 11th day of each fortnight and in Sanskrit it’s called Ekādaśī.  On this day, it’s highly recommended that you fast lightly and commit to concentrating your mind and energy on the sacred.
 
It isn’t necessarily easy to do, but pays off tremendously as you enter the three-day full moon/new moon experience.  This fortnight has the most significant Ekādaśī of the year, so it’s a particularly great day to try the practice!
Practice: Honor Ekādaśī
This month the auspicious Ekādaśī falls on August 25, 2015 in the Western Hemisphere, and August 26 in the Eastern Hemisphere.
 
The primary practice is fasting, which helps the entire body rest since most of our physical energy revolves around digestion.  This also helps easefully rest and focus the mind.
 
Fasting in this tradition is less about starvation than about discipline and rest – eating less and foods that are very gentle, natural, and easy on the stomach.  Think about what our earliest ancestors ate – the foods that human bodies have been easefully digesting since forever. I.e. fruit, and small quantities of nuts and [ideally whole, raw, organic] milk or buttermilk.
 
If you have a high metabolism or that feels too challenging, you can eat some vegetables around midday.  Typically, this would mean squashes such as pumpkin or butternut, or yams, sweet potatoes, and organic non-GMO potatoes (good luck finding these).  Tapioca is also ok.
 
We want to avoid:
-beans or grains or other heavy protein sources
-onions, garlic, or excessive spices, (i.e. nothing overly stimulating)
-excessive salt/sugar/oil
Remember that the purpose of the fast is to clean and clear both the mind and the body – so watch the impulse to overeat and obsess over fasting foods!
 
It’s also a good idea to let your mind fast: let yourself stay quiet and inwards, so part of a mental fast might mean limiting unnecessary conversation, media/internet use, reading, or television. If your mind is still hungry, give it “pure food” – i.e. read and reflect on the scriptures or other works of wisdom, or journal your own thoughts.

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