This past weekend was filled with seasonally appropriate themes of autumn and winter, of harvest and death: a Harvest Faire (complete with pumpkin patch, hay rides and a children’s play celebrating the time of year), a memorial gathering for a dear college friend who left us too young at 38, and a performance piece about my father’s passing by my friend and father’s wife Adriana Marchione that, in her own words, “is a performance project that chronicles the loss of a spouse and the dreams that guide the path of the one left behind.”
Culturally we celebrate the flowering, fruiting, youth and fertility of spring and summer. Not so celebrated are aging (autumn) and death (winter). But in autumn is the wisdom-pearl of aging gracefully and embracing Yin, moving toward winter where the veil between the worlds grows thinnest and many cultures honor those that have come before us, that helped to bring us to where we find ourselves now.
Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. Yin swells as Yang recedes. The gifts we can give ourselves this time of year are slowing down, allowing more time for rest and nourishment. We can calibrate our physiology by simply noticing when it gets dark out and going to bed a little earlier, following the lead of earlier sunsets. Less doing, less productivity. When the sun sets, try turning some of the lights lower or off so that you can feel that it is getting dark earlier. Light a candle in the evening – we humans have a long relationship with fire and have fewer opportunities these days to feel its flickering light and warmth.
We also can give ourselves the gift of letting go of what is not needed, paring down to the essentials: a little less social activity, more time home indoors and outdoors in nature, cherishing unscheduled hours throughout the week. Sip warm tea or broth and experiment with not getting much accomplished. This non-doing supports our bodies to accomplish physiologically the deep replenishing that is needed this time of year.
Sometimes slowing down can be challenging- we get used to the sense energy we feel from staying active, and when we slow down we may feel how fatigued we actually are, discovering that it is actually a false energy and we are running on fumes – a phenomena my mentor Dr. Johns calls “wired and tired”. I’ve observed this “wired and tired” phenomena in adults for years, but no where is it more clearly demonstrated than with a 2 year old who, late for a nap, runs around wildly and frenetically, fragile and emotionally vulnerable. Give yourself permission to slow down, to feel tired, to find yourself where you actually are.
In this way we nourish our bodies and minds, like a well-stocked pantry, storing what is essential, preparing for Winter’s time of utmost Yin, and letting go of everything else.