We’re nearing the end of one of my favorite times of the year, Autumn and with that comes change. The intoxicating smells of rotting leaves mix with rich earth to create a heady perfume unparalleled anywhere else. Death and life seems to be everywhere at once: bare trees with their recently lost leaves swirling in the sky while little warm spells cause flowers to blossom in a last ditch effort to continue their species. It’s a paradoxical season for an often paradoxical world and it’s beautiful. Now that summer’s high energy has wound itself down and cool weather approaches more by the day I find my energy, like that of the plants around me, moving downward and inward. I seek more solitude and more quiet time, time for reflection and introspection.
In Chinese medicine Autumn, ruled by the element Metal, is characterized as a time of letting go as well as of inspiration. It is ruled by the lungs and the colon, both organs of elimination and so is an appropriate time for gentle cleansing (look for a future post on fall cleansing!)
It seems to me that so many people these days are caught up in the “what can I take for X mentality” that they forget an integral part of true healing: awareness. Awareness comes in many shapes, sizes and forms and it is of course impossible to be aware of all things at one time. However, cultivating awareness, awareness of self and of one’s body, can be deeply rewarding and healing to those suffering from illness or even a simple lack of connection.
I try to be aware of my surroundings, of appreciating all that’s around me but I admit: I’m not perfect. In the height of summer much of my attention is devoted to finding plants, making medicine or otherwise having an agenda. As I seek more solitude from this fast paced life I find myself wandering more through some of my favorite trails or taking naps in a favorite meadow with no real goal or purpose in mind, no task or pretense, just being. This is the time to throw all that away, lay face down on the ground and roll in the leaves until their intoxicating perfume is permeating your very being. Relax, have fun and let go.
Cultivating this awareness can deepen one’s connection to self and to one’s surroundings. It can allow you to have a more complete understanding of what’s happening with your body, something that is too often missing in this modern culture. Don’t get overwhelmed, nobody understands everything in a day. Learning one’s body is an ongoing process, it’s dynamic not static and the body goes through many changes; as we grow so does the body and its needs. Start simple: visit a favorite meadow under a full moon, whether with a friend, a lover or yourself and just be. Watch the sky, smell the Earth below you, feel the wind in your hair. If you’re cold feel it. What does it really feel like to be cold? What sensations or memories does it provoke? Feel your body’s response to it. Try finding some woods or a river near where you live and take a long well deserved nap under autumn’s dying sunlight. As the amber light filters through the trees and brushes your cheeks, feel that last bit of warmth from the fading sun. Soak up the smells and feelings you get and laugh. Laugh at the silliness of the world, laugh when you take yourself too seriously, laugh and feel inspired.
As flowers give way to seeds, herbage dies back and energy descends into roots to be stored for the winter take this time to let old things go, old habits die and assess how you are feeling in this season of transition. Take time to be with yourself, nourish yourself and love yourself and you’ll find not only a deeper connection with the world around you but with yourself as well.