The season is changing again. In the part of the world where I live, October means that autumn is here and summer is over. Leaves are turning crispy and the air is dry. It’s windy, and after a season of heat, coolness is starting to creep back into the daily experience. It happens every single year, yet somehow it still catches us off guard…so often we aren’t ready for the change, or we’ve been hoping for a change so dramatic that when things do start to shift, we are left feeling disappointed instead of satisfied. With autumn, though the modernization of life has led to fewer practical tasks for many people, there is still plenty of work to do: School and work schedules pick up speed, the lawn needs to be mowed one last time, the furnace checked, the groceries purchased, the house cleaned, laundry done. Yet alongside the sometimes overwhelming list of to-dos, there is a sense of stillness that wants to be acknowledged. It can be hard to let that quiet energy of the earth settling into a slower rhythm have a voice when there feels like there is so much left undone.
So while we work and plan and race toward the cooler months, checking things off the list and always adding more, how do we listen to the stillness?
I could say meditate for 30 minutes every morning, write in your journal for 20 minutes every evening before going to bed, and spend at least an hour outside connected with the natural world most days of the week. Doing those things would surely help, but then again, many of us have a hard time meditating for five minutes, let alone 30, spend the 20 minutes before bed checking email or doing the dishes and use that hour we might have spent in nature trying to accomplish something from the never ending to-do list. So where does that leave us? Always failing at taking care of our own needs? Never moving into the life we want because we are too busy making it through the day? Wondering what happened to that sense of peace we felt that one time, but couldn’t seem to hold onto longer that a moment?
There are no easy answers. If we want to be bleak, we could chalk life up to what we see on the surface and simply work on making it though. And we’d probably be ok, really. Maybe not truly happy with how things are, but we’d still find those little moments of peace now and then and we’d still enjoy those times we spend out in nature when we felt we could fit them in. But what if we didn’t let ourselves settle? What if, even while practicing accepting what is in the moment, we started with five minutes of meditation three mornings a week? What if we dusted off that old journal and wrote down three things we are grateful for every night, even if it was after doing the dishes and checking email? What if we made a point to step directly onto the earth everyday, feeling the outdoor air moving through us, even if just for a few moments during the workday? What if we tried again?
Sometimes those tiny things can pierce the resignation that this is all there is. And light has a way of shining through even the smallest pinpricks in the dark cloak of wondering.
So as autumn progresses, keep working on your to do list. Meet your obligations. Say yes when saying yes is the best choice. But take time to rest. Go to bed early. Give thanks for the sun that filters through the newly bare tree branches and remind yourself that there is life gathering strength under the sense of passing away. Be gentle, practice compassion and let gratitude keep you rooted in the knowing that change doesn’t have to mean fear. Know that you are part of the changing seasons, and when all else seems to fail, look toward where the sun rises in the east and remember to breathe into a new day.