September 22, 2010 marked the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall. The Autumnal Equinox, as the day is termed, occurs when the Earth's Equator lies in the same plane as the center of the sun creating a 24-hour period of balanced daylight and darkness before a subsequent journey into Fall and Winter, marked by nights that are longer than days.
Every 3 months the end of one season creates the beginning of another. Watching the cyclical patterns of nature, I am reminded that everything is subject to birth, to change, and to death. Whereas Summer is a time of heat, daylight, activity, and the coming to fruition of seeds planted in the Spring, the Fall is a time of slowing down, releasing, and clearing space. These shifts are apparent as the days become shorter, the weather cools down, and more time is spent indoors. Leaves begin to fall from trees and the grasses and flowers in the fields begin to wither, preparing for their journey back to the soil. Autumn is a time for releasing that which has already fulfilled its purpose in order to create space for the new. Recognizing ourselves as part of this natural cycle is a necessary step in our spiritual maturity.
Endings are easier to accept when they do not directly affect us. It is obviously much easier to deal with leaves falling from a tree than to accept the end of our relationships, the death of our loved ones, or termination from our jobs. We want to bask in the eternal sunshine of summer, to always be joyful, to celebrate life, and to be amongst our loved ones always. The Yoga Sutras call this Raga, or attachment. While enjoying the beauty of life is a good practice, holding onto anything too tightly is unhealthy because inevitably everything changes and everything ends. Resisting, avoiding, or ignoring difficult situations (like the ones we are faced with when our pleasurable experiences come to an end) is called Dvesha. Both attachment (Raga) and aversion (Dvesha) lead to unnecessary suffering.
I remind myself regularly that beginnings are only made possible through endings. Looking back, I realize that often the things I struggled so stubbornly to hold on to in my life were actually impediments to my growth. As pleasurable or comfortable as they may have seemed at the time, I see in retrospect that only by releasing them did I clear space to let something new and wonderful in. Life seems to work that way. I have come to recognize that the reason I attach to things is out of a basic fear that I will not ever find anything as good or that I will not be taken care of if I let go. On the other side of that, I see that the more I trust and relax into life, the more smoothly things run. I remind myself that I do not know the big picture, and so although what is happening to me now might not be what I wanted, it may be opening the door for things better than I ever could have imagined.
With this in mind, I make a dedicated effort to practice Aparigraha, or non-hoarding, by letting go of items, thoughts, feelings, relationships that have run their course and no longer serve me. I liken this to a snake sloughing off its old, outgrown skin with the faith that a better-fitting skin will return in its place. While the beginning of Autumn is a fitting time of year to practice letting go, it need not be the only time we are conscious of the cycles of life. Indeed, every breath is a perfect reminder. Each exhalation is necessary to clear space for the next inhalation. The in-breaths and out-breaths do not exist in competition with each other, but rather coexist in perfect harmony.
Playlist: Deep Meditative Flow
Gayatri Mantra - Tina Malia & Shimshai
Om Namah Shivaya - Dharma Mittra
Hum Sa - Dharma Mittra