Alchemy and ayurveda

Getting lunar in the garden

The comment from keshavapuri was “tell us about ekadashi and trayodashi in sasya yoga.” This needs more than just a comment reply, so here’s a full post. Thanks for the question, keshavapuri!

Ekadashi (eleventh day) and trayodashi (thirteenth day) are tithis (lunar days).

In vedic astronomy and astrology the month/lunar cycle is divided first in half: Krishna paksha (waning moon) and Shukla paksha (waxing moon); then each half is divided into 15 divisions (tithis). Each tithi is calculated according to the angle between the sun and moon in increments of 12 degrees.

Ekadashi and trayodashi occur twice a month and are significant as preparation points for amavasya (new moon, 15th day of Krishna paksha) and purnima (full moon, 15th day of shukla paksha) .

I must confess that I am fluent in western astrology, but not so much in vedic. Still, if you know how to work with lunar cycles, the translation is not too much of a problem.

Fundamentally all processes (cycles) can be broken down into two parts, as we say in the western alchemical tradition, solve/coagula – dissolve/coagulate, breaking down and building up. This corresponds with the lunar cycle’s waning and waxing moon.

In the garden, very roughly, the moon’s waning phase (Krishna paksha) favors “solve” activities, ie getting rid of what is not wanted, such as weeding, pest control, pruning, etc. The waxing phase (shukla pahsha) favors “coagula”, ie nurturing activities, sowing seed, watering, and feeding.

The smaller cycle of tithis refines our understanding of and our ability to work with the lunar cycle. New and full moon, the 15th and 30th tithis, have energies that can be problematic – it’s easy to get swept up in karmic vortexes at these points in the cycle, and what occurs on these tithis sets energies in motion for the following cycles. One way to steady and direct these energies is to prepare for them when the energies are easier to guide. So, ekadashi (about four days before new and full Moon) and trayadashi (about two days before new and full moon) are auspicious times for this preparation.

On ekadashi, we work with the solve aspect of preparation – we identify and remove what is not wanted. On trayadashi, we identify and nurture what we do want. Traditionally ekadashi is associated with fasting and meditating, and trayadashi with celebration.

In terms of physical tasks, for instance, for making compost, on ekadashi before new moon would be a good time to clear the space for the pile, and segregate and chop up materials, then on trayadashi before new moon, you would then assemble the pile. Ekadashi before full moon would be a good time to weed around plants in preparation for spreading compost, then on trayadashi before full moon, you would side dress your plants with compost.

But probably more effective than trying to physically perform all the preparation tasks that you might wish to get done on a particular tithi is to take time during the tithi to meditate on these tasks, and what you are trying to accomplish. With the tithi supporting your efforts, even a small amount of mantra and meditation can have strong effects, and lead to some very interesting insights.

I don’t really spend much time trying to schedule my gardening activities according to the lunar cycle – there’s too much to do in too short a time in our very short growing season. Still, as an astrologer, I am quite conscious of lunar, solar and planetary cycles and often notice how my gardening activities coincide with them anyway…

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