Here in Aotearoa the autumn rains have fallen — without a doubt — and the season has shifted abruptly.
What is your response?
I breathed a sigh of relief when the autumn rains first began (not knowing at that stage just how torrential and persistent they would be). For me this is always the signal of the seasonal change into autumn.
And why relief? Because my body knew it was time to slow down, to enter a different rhythm.
Autumn, according to Chinese medicine, is when warm yang energy diminishes and cooler yin energy begins to increase. This is when the life force moves downward from leaves to roots, bringing us into groundedness and stability.
Outer to inner, autumn is here
That was the phrase uttered by a friend many years ago, when she led a seasonal ritual with a group we were in. She passed around a goblet of grape juice, for us each to sip from as we repeated the phrase.
I’ve never forgotten that moment: simple words, combined with symbolic action created a shift inside me. I turned towards autumn and the season of inwardness, with gratitude and acceptance.
There can be relief from accepting the body’s wisdom, in making a shift from outer to inner, or in the case of my northern hemisphere readers, from inner to outer, as you open to the emergence of the next season, whether it is autumn or spring.
Outer to inner, yang to yin, and vice versa: these shifts are part of the rhythm of life. To try and stamp our own pattern over these rhythms can lead to protests from our bodies and disconnection from the natural energy flow.
What eases that shift?
Sometimes we don’t feel ready to accept change. Something needs to be relinquished: maybe a compulsion to keep being busy without a pause, maybe ideas about how things ‘should be’, or resistance to entering the flow of the seasons, expecting yourself to be in one rhythm all year round.
There are two things I’m thinking of that can ease this seasonal shift. First, to cultivate an increased awareness of what’s happening in nature — because birds, animals and plants have their seasons of shedding. Kereru (wood pigeons) and tui drop their feathers now, from March to April, and I’ve often found these offerings from the bush floor (as in the photo above).
You and the trees have this in common
Trees are always shedding bark, just as we keep shedding skin cells. If you look around a tree after windy or rainy weather you may be surprised how many bark flakes you discover.
These are from a maple tree that I visit in a nearby park:
And here are some from a totara tree at my bach:
The second thing is to find a symbolic action of shedding.
Ritualising the seasonal shift can help us readjust to the new season and fall into a rhythm that is in harmony with nature.
You might like to try this, or your own variation on it. Perhaps you can incorporate these suggestions into your equinox celebrations:
1. Wander among trees and notice how they are responding to the season. Look around the base, and start collecting bark. At the same time, contemplate what you need to release in order to move forward into autumn (or spring).
2. Take a crayon or piece of charcoal and mark on the different pieces of bark, words or signs for what it is that you need to release.
3. With some friends, or even by yourself, sit quietly and set a fire in a grate. If you don’t have one, you could place a tea-light candle into a large cooking pot or wok, and set it up in a safe place.
3. Say the words aloud as you burn the bark pieces, one by one, in the fire or from the candle flame that you have lit.
4. On a piece of paper, draw an image for what you are welcoming in with the new season.
5. Complete by drinking from a goblet of grape juice or red wine, saying aloud, ‘Outer to inner, autumn is here.’
[Or, for the northern hemisphere, ‘Inner to outer, spring is here.’]
May you find pleasure in making the seasonal transition mindfully, and may autumn bring you its own richness and flavour.
Autumn falling on the garden grass
hearing the sound of the night cricket
I know autumn has arrived.
—8th century, from the Manyoshu
This post is an excerpt from my Seasons Newsletter. To receive the Seasons Newsletter, you may sign up on the home page of this website and receive a free audio meditation.