You probably don’t know who Janus is, but he has influenced your life and psyche more than you realize.
Romanticized as the god of beginnings, transitions, and time by the ancient Romans, Janus gave his name to the modern month of January. When those deep thinkers of the Roman Empire were putting together their version of the calendar, they decided to align the beginning of each new year with their annual celebration of Janus. It makes sense to begin a new year with a celebration of the god of new beginnings, right? But how much practicality does it have for us now, especially in a culture consumed by goals and productivity?
I’m not proposing we shift the date of the new year. I would much rather tackle the annoyance of daylight savings time if we are going to pick a fight with the calendar. But I do want to explore what impact a new start in the dead of winter has when it comes to making resolutions to kick off the new year.
Before the Roman Empire and Christianity spread their heavy influence, tribes and communities across the globe marked the new year in correlation with the spring equinox. Choosing a spring-based new year makes perfect, instinctive sense: in this moment of rebirth and new beginnings in the natural world, trees and plants begin to bloom, seeds break beneath the earth as the snow melts, ecosystems activate, and life begins to flourish.
If this resonates with your instincts about your own change and growth, let’s go a little further together with this idea.
The 2,000-year-old science of Ayurveda teaches us about doshas, which are essentially combinations of the elements air, fire, water, and earth within the body. Each of us contains varying degrees of these doshas.
First, there is Vata dosha, or the air element. Vata is cool and dry, light and airy. It is the governor of our mental processes—our dreams, our anxiety, our worry. It’s often scattered and hard to pin down. Imagine that from an air element.
The second dosha, Pitta, is a combination of fire and water elements. It is hot and spicy, but also fluid and malleable. Within our energetic and mental bodies, Pitta reigns over motivation, courage, and power. I see Pitta as the fire we get in our guts when we are excited about creating something.
Kapha, the final dosha, expresses the elements of earth and water. It is heavy, cool, steady, and grounded. Kapha is like the dude from “The Big Lebowski.” It prefers low-key and mellow. Consistency is key for Kapha when it comes to energy. A white Russian is such a Kapha cocktail.
Doshic constitutions vary from person to person and from season to season. This is because we are a part of nature, so we are subject to its evolution, timing, and cycles.
According to the practice of Ayurveda, late summer into early winter is Vata season. I can imagine Vata in the crisp air and the chaotic way the leaves dance in the chilly autumn wind.
It’s easy to see why winter is labeled Kapha season. Everything seems heavier, darker, more rooted, and even more silent. Nature shuts down during Kapha season. It retreats. Plants and insects become dormant, bears sleep for months in their cozy dens, and we humans spend much more time indoors.
As the world awakens and the snow melts, we see the intuitive timing of nature: sprouts, blossoms, bugs. It’s Pitta season. The momentum of change comes quick but steady throughout the summer. Nature is alive and active, and work must be done before the first leaf falls.
Now, just from this brief explanation of doshic seasons, when do you think would be the best time to set new goals, make changes, and try new things?
It’s sure as sh*t not in the dead of winter’s Kapha season.
So, instead of making New Year’s resolutions this time around, I encourage you to honor the intrinsic cycles of nature and of yourself as part of nature. Drop inward for a change, honoring what is—instead of rushing with the rest of the world to change it.
Give yourself some time to feel nourished and complete. Give your goals some thought and musings, but don’t let them consume you in this time of rest. Sit in the dark. Become friends with yourself, exactly as you are. Follow the lead of all other species on this planet and connect to this cycle of nature. Connect to your body, connect to your mind, connect to your spirit.
Save your energy for spring. You will know when it’s time for action. You will see the bright green buds appearing on the branches of trees and insects will start to appear. You will feel the buzz in the air and Pitta season will ignite the same fire in your belly. You will notice that spring supports new beginnings, change, and evolution in a way that January first cannot.
New Year’s Eve is a social event, not a natural event. We have been tricked into thinking this is the start date—and an expiration date of sorts, too. Really, it’s just the day of a big-ass Roman party. As such, I’m all for a bit of deep-Kapha celebration. I wonder if they served white Russians.
Whatever you decide the first day of January means to you, be sure to give yourself grace and compassion as we move through the rest of winter. Even though New Year’s is a social event, it still packs a lot of energy and cultural resonance for many of us. Kapha season is a perfect time to make those inner shifts in beliefs and resonance that will support the ignition of our goals in the physical world.
May your blankets and chai be warm and comforting this Kapha season.