I used to find the rapid pace of a city exciting. It was exhilarating and stimulating. However, lately I’ve been finding it to be incredibly exhausting. I returned home in the suburbs where my parents live this past weekend. I was inspired and awestruck by the changing color of the trees. The hues of brown, orange, and green stood out as my parents drove me through the corners of the suburbs I’ve known so well since childhood.
As the weather changes, I’m no longer facing winter with a fear and hatred of the cold. Since I was a child, I thrived in warm weather, but always ran away from the cold. As an adult, I went to India where I had felt a deeper connection to myself as well as the warm weather. Growing up, the only thing exciting about the winter was when I woke up in the mornings only to find my home’s surroundings enveloped in white.
This year it is different and maybe it was time away which led me towards the newfound beauty I now see in the changing seasons.
Since it has gotten colder, I’ve felt like slowing down. When I’ve ignored my body’s callings and resisted, I became ill. It was my body telling me to slow down and listen. I was in a yoga class last week when the yoga teacher mentioned that as the winter comes around, our bodies go into hibernation mode. We’re meant to slow down, sleep more, and store our energy. I found I was doing the opposite. I was running the same speed as when I was in warmer surroundings. It won’t work for me this winter unless I want to find myself getting sick over and over again. This has meant saying no to many things which has been a blessing in disguise. When I take advantage of my youthful energy, I’ve found myself saying ‘yes’ to almost everything, thus falling victim to burn out.
However, this time, Autumn and the upcoming Winter are slowly teaching me how to accept the weather, as well as the impermanence of life. While I’m still working at it, my utopian dream of living in a place that is consistent in warm weather seems to be diminishing. I still think for a short or long period of time, I’ll find myself spending time in warmer climates. However, my attachment to the notion of consistently being in those environments is slowly diminishing. It is only now that I’ve realized my desire for consistent temperatures comes from my attachment to consistency.
I used to believe the changing months, the cold, was unproductive and inconvenient. All of a sudden we had to prepare for the winter with different clothes. We would need to change schedules if the weather got too bad. I used to think of it as inopportune, and sometimes a waste of time. However, during my time away I awoke to a deeper wisdom within the cycles of nature.
When I speak of these cycles of nature, I don’t just mean the outer world, I also mean our inner world, the functioning of our bodies. The first that comes to mind are the cycles of a women’s body. As you read on, you will find similarities between the cycles of the women’s body as well as those of nature we see in the visibly changing of seasons. Similar to nature, the woman’s body also represents the cycle of birth and death.
Women’s menstrual cycles are said, by ancient traditions and wisdom, to be connected to the moons and the tide. While we live in modern society, away from nature in the world of artificial light and technology, we are still in tune with the moon. The ancient cultures believed in the women’s cycle as holy and they worshipped the feminine behind these cycles.
The first day of bleeding represents the old lining shedding, and the healthy lining taking its place. The stage of shedding, much like autumn, is linked emotionally and physically, so it is during this time of the month that is important for letting go on unnecessary baggage. You can read more about the stages here.
Lastly, I’ll end with Parker J. Palmer, one of my favorite authors. Similarly, he describes nature’s cycles. I often quote him in these blog posts because he has been one of the first (after nature, of course), to teach me the great wisdom behind the changing seasons:
Autumn is a season of exhilarating beauty. It’s also a season of steady decline and, for some of us, deepening melancholy. The days become shorter and colder, the trees shed their glory, and summer’s abundance starts to decay toward winter’s death.
I’m a professional melancholic, and for years my delight in the autumn color show quickly morphed into sadness as I watched the beauty die. Focused on the browning of summer’s green growth, I allowed the prospect of death to eclipse all that’s life-giving about fall and its sensuous delights.
Then I began to understand a simple fact: all the “falling” that’s going on out there is full of promise. Seeds are being planted and leaves are being composted as earth prepares for yet another uprising of green…It’s easy to fixate on everything that goes to ground as time goes by: the disintegration of a relationship, the disappearance of good work well-done, the diminishment of a sense of purpose and meaning.
But, as I’ve come to understand that life “composts” and “seeds” us as autumn does the earth, I’ve seen how possibility gets planted in us even in the most difficult of times…And yet deep-down, amid all the falling, silently and lavishly the seeds of new life were always being sown.
The hopeful notion that new life is hidden in dying is surely reinforced by the visual glories of autumn. What artist would paint a deathbed scene with the vibrant and vital palette nature uses? Perhaps death possesses a grace that we who fear dying, who find it ugly and even obscene, cannot see. How shall we understand nature’s testimony that dying itself — as devastating as we know it can be — contains the hope of a certain beauty?...
In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.” In a paradox, opposites do not negate each; they cohabit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and breathing out.
Because we live in a culture that prefers the ease of either/or to the complexities of both/and, we have a hard time holding opposites together. We want light without darkness, the glories of spring and summer without the demands of autumn and winter, the pleasures of life without the pangs of death. We make Faustian bargains hoping to get what we want, but they never truly enliven us and cannot possibly sustain us in hard times.
When we so fear the dark that we demand light around the clock, there can be only one result: artificial light that is glaring and graceless and, beyond its borders, a darkness that grows ever more terrifying as we try to hold it off. Split off from each other, neither darkness nor light is fit for human habitation. The moment we say “yes” to both of them and join their paradoxical dance, the two conspire to make us healthy and whole.
When I try to fabricate a life that defies autumn’s diminishments, I end up in a state that’s less than human. When I give myself over to organic reality — to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising — the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so.
Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.
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