Personally, I love autumn, and not just for the beautiful colors. Mostly, I appreciate the metaphors for my life and the things they make me think about.
“The summer ends and it is time to face another way.” ~ by Wendell Berry
Three of autumn’s metaphors that speak to me are darkness, letting go and rest.
As autumn progresses our daylight hours continue to get shorter and shorter and we lament the loss of that light. It is true that our bodies and spirits crave the light. Our bodies create Vitamin D from exposing our skin to sunlight. We need 10 minutes of exposure everyday – through a window, clothes or sunscreen don’t count. That Vitamin D affects many, many things including our mood and energy levels. It’s also true that many of us were afraid of the dark when we were little. I know I had to have a nightlight on to save me from the creatures under my bed and the monsters in my closet. Well, I no longer need or want a nightlight for the darkness in my bedroom, but sometimes I wish I had a spotlight to illumine the scary things in the dark corners of my soul.
The increasing darkness outside during this time of year reminds our psyches of the darkness inside of us. Some call it our shadow side. That part of our subconscious that houses our anger, fears, insecurities, mistakes, grief, hurts and more. By and large, we don’t really like to deal with the darkness inside of ourselves and so we find ways to avoid it. We become workaholics, alcoholics, food-oholics, tv-oholics, hobby adicts, we make sure there is always noise around us… anything to keep from being still long enough to find ourselves face-to-face with the darkness. How many of us have actually sat with the darkness to see what comes? But the gift of the darkness is in the invitation to plumb the depth of our inner darkness, to learn, to grow, to heal.
As the leaves die and let go of their hold on the branches, our souls recognize the metaphor as one that speaks to our lives. Perhaps this is the cause of the melancholy and nostalgia we feel at this time of the year; a reminder that all things pass away, everything is impermanent. We typically rail against letting go because we see it as a negative, often painful thing (probably because sometimes it is). However, refusing to let go keeps us stuck, swirling around in an endless whirlpool of anger, grief, shame, guilt, hurt, self-deprecation, or desire for something that can’t be.
Approached from a different perspective, letting go enables clearing. When the leaves are gone from the trees, suddenly it opens space for you to see new things – maybe a nest that was up in the tree, maybe the stars that you couldn’t see before or a dead branch. This is an important lesson… when certain things fall away, you can see other things more clearly. Letting go of relationships that are not healthy makes room for the heart to grow. When we move or change jobs, we let go of places and routines, but clear space for new people to come into our lives with their gifts. When we let go of things, clean our closets, live more simply, clear away things that no longer give us joy or serve our spiritual lives, we clear space in our lives for our spirits to experience freedom and grow. Our lives can be greatly enriched when we take that leap and let go.
And, finally, rest. There are many farmers fields near me and the last of the crops are now being cut down and tilled under. We can lament the loss of summer and the passing of the fresh vegetables and farmer’s markets. Or we can recognize that the earth shared a bountiful harvest for our benefit and it now has time to rest. The lesson here is obvious. Everything needs to rest – us included. Yet we are much more likely to push and push and push ourselves, stubbornly ignoring our own need to recoup our energies and strength. Instead of trying to produce one bountiful harvest after another in our lives, can we grant ourselves a time to rest? To give our inner land a time to be restored and recover our inner resources? It is not selfish, it is essential.
There are many gifts of autumn – deep spiritual gifts – but it is up to us whether we will chose to honor these gifts and take them into our lives. They are not necessarily easy… they require us to come face-to-face with our own darkness, our own shadow side. They require us to let go of things that no longer serve our highest good (and humans typically have a hard time letting go, even if it is the best thing for us). They require us to seek a new perspective… to be aware of what the clearing away/letting go might be offering us. And they require us to STOP, and stop in a way that is nurturing and restorative, which goes against the grain for many of us.
Embrace the gifts… they are the Divine’s gifts to you for your growth, health, healing and wholeness.