September 25, 2011

The Smell of Surrender

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

~Ecclesiastes 3:1

I love Autumn. It’s always been my favorite season. In the upper Midwest, we are fortunate to enjoy a full range of seasons and temperatures. Fall calls for harvesting squash, pumpkins, and apples, and the cooling temperatures bring beautiful fall colors as the leaves change. Eventually, those leaves die, fall, and decay, bringing my most favorite thing about Autumn: the smell.

Not a stink of death, decompose, or rot…not the odor of an impending long, deep freeze…but the sweet smell of surrender. Nature peacefully succumbs to its cycle of recycle as deciduous flora fodder blankets the surrounding soil, offering a protective cushion from winter’s harsh elements. That cushion will compost and cultivate new life in the Spring…continuing the cycle, the flow.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao Tzu

As Mother Nature submits to this slowing, this period of stillness and dormancy, it seems as if our Western “modern” society takes the opposite approach. After the summer, children start up with regular school, sports, music lessons. As holidays loom, retail stores go crazy with their sales and displays months in advance. Churches and faith organizations prepare for the season with more services, programs, study groups, and fellowships to participate in. Gyms and yoga studios amp up their programs with challenges and workshops and clubs to join. The listings of community programs in the local publications grow long with political appearances and civic assemblies to support, concerts and conferences to attend, and charitable galas to appear at. Don’t forget the veterinarian, dentist, and an oil change to take care of!

With the onslaught of activity we pack and pile more and more into our lives. More to do means we need more to get ourselves through it all. More caffeine in the morning, sleep aids at night, anxiety reducing supplements, more time management “tricks and tips”…more of this to get through more of that. More strain and stress leading to decreased immunity and eventually sickness, and disconnection from our Source.

Instead of surrendering to the stillness of the season, how many of us opt to experience this special time of year by doing through it, rather than being in it?

Mother Clare Watts describes in this program how the seasons affect our inner selves.

After the summer solstice, she suggests, “We need to start heading back in, we need to make sure we are taking care of the things in the world of feelings and relational issues.”

Moving into the fall equinox, the cycle deepens inward, “Busyness starts going down a little and we remember the values of the quieter contemplative times and how important that is to our spirits.

As winter approaches, many fear and experience seasonal affective disorder. Mother Clare observes, “If people understood more what was happening when they head into winter, inside them, they could actually not be frightened by it and not have to resist it, and go along with it. All of the energies are pulling us into our being. Even though it’s getting darker outside, our insides are lighting up!”

In years past, I’ve busied myself through the slowing seasons so I don’t have to be with myself. In the short term, this avoidance is sating, but as an addiction, destructive. And year after year…it wears heavily. The more I become aware of the suffering caused by the resistance of the earth’s intelligently designed cycles, the more I crave to connect with them…to balance my being with the whole.

So I’m starting by experiencing the smell of surrender this Fall.

As I’ve committed to continue to submit to these phases, the internal challenges run rampant. The “shoulds” weigh on my shoulders and the self-imposed guilt when I decline invitations and remove myself from generalized “busy-ness” of happenings, events, and ideas runs through my being. Even more challenging often are the fears of that being…being with myself, my needs and wants, my thoughts, the full gamut of ego- function in my head…as well as the space opening in my Soul.

I’ve accepted that acclimating to this “new” but actually deep-rooted earth-process may be uncomfortable at times, but I TRUST that the space in my “outer world” that I’ve allowed will aid that inner recognition.

Would you join me in slowing down this season? What, in your life, could you allow to “fall off the tree” in order to surrender to the cycles this year?

*Images by Clare Polencheck

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