The Gift Of Autumn:
Looking into meditation, movement and nature’s wisdom to make the most out of this season.
Autumn has brought her soft blue light and morning mist to our doors these past few weeks and many of you have been feeling something stirring inside of you. In the Daoist tradition we study states of change. We do this by practicing stillness and observing change. When we become still, we notice the change all around us. When we become more still, we notice all of the change within us. When we become even more still, we notice the way in which nothing changes.
The season of autumn in the Chinese calendar begins in early August as opposed to the seasonal calendar many of us learned, in which autumn begins in late September. In the Chinese lunisolar calendar, autumn reaches its zenith, or peak, at the equinox, and in the days that follow we inch closer and closer to winter. (Click here to learn about the timing of the seasons according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar.)
Understanding Change Through The World Around Us
As humans we look to the seasons of our world and to the study of the universe to help us understand the nature of change in our world, which, in turn, helps us understand the nature of ourselves.
The classical statement, “As above, so below” teaches us to see that everything in this world is a reflection, and by studying the reflection we can see it revealed within us.
We see the moon through the light of the sun reflecting off of it. By studying the shifting of the light on the moon we come to know it over time. If we continue to observe we begin to understand things about the sun and about our planet. If we continue to observe, becoming more and more still, we begin to see the rising and falling of the ocean tide with our bodies energetically growing and receding each month.
On September 22, 2018, the autumn equinox occurs in a moment when the day and night are balanced evenly. In this way, the equinox is like a pause between breaths. It reminds of the static nature of before and after life. It reminds us of the power and dynamism of life’s constant change. It is a glimpse of what it would be like to step outside of time, outside of fear and desire.
It is why every time we take a breath we may find ourselves in the infinite.
Try This Pathfinder Breathing Practice:
“A lifetime in a single breath.”
Find a comfortable place to sit where you can have 5 minutes uninterrupted.
Let your breath become slow, smooth, and even.
Breathe through the nose as silently as you can with your mouth closed.
Initiate your breath, feeling the rising energy of the spring equinox.
Inhale until your lungs are full and your body feels at capacity.
Feel the yang (fullness) energy throughout your body coursing with energy like the summer solstice.
Exhale slowly feeling your body release from fullness emptying and relaxing.
As your exhale slowly releases, notice the movement of energy inward aligning to the autumn equinox.
When your exhale is complete pause in the emptiness and stillness of this place, this is the winter solstice the place of complete stillness, of the mountain and the root.
You can do this practice reflecting the energy of a single day, with midnight referring to the complete exhale and noon to the complete inhale. You can also do it for the month using the full moon for peak inhale and the new moon for peak exhale.
The Seasons Mirror The Lunar Cycle On An Annual Scale
When you look at the lunar cycle as it compares to the passing seasons, the new moon translates to the winter solstice and the full moon to the summer solstice. This is important to understand because it teaches us the nature of cycles which keep constantly arising as our awareness grows.
Cycles matter. They return us to places we have been before, bringing back lessons we still need to learn.
The autumn cycle is about releasing the exterior, aligning your thoughts and nourishing the body. The journey from late summer evenings, into the shorter days and cooler nights of fall is a fast and powerful transition.
Go Up To The Country And See The Foliage
It’s a cliche, but we are drawn to the beauty of the changing season. The leaves go from green to brown and gold and red in a matter of a couple weeks, and it is absolutely magical. Nature really knows how to tell a story and put on a show!
There is a story of autumn; a story of loss and transformation, of molting outer layers and seeking inner wisdom. You learn the story of autumn by becoming still and observing the changes all around you.
Autumn Is The Season Of The Lung And Large Intestine
In Chinese medicine, the lung and large intestine are deeply connected to the process of letting go and of relating to the world around you. Your breath keeps you alive by drawing in the air around you, absorbing oxygen and then releasing carbon dioxide. The lung is a superficial organ, but it nourishes the heart with oxygen which is then pumped into every cell in the body. The lungs draw in the energy of the exterior world into the body to heal you and keep you strong. They also exhale out the CO2, which keeps your body healthy and creates life in the trees.
The lungs can be like a bellows, strongly pumping energy into all the organs in the body and stoking the fire of life, or they can cool you down with long, slow breaths like a mountain breeze on a summer afternoon.
From the moment you arrive in this life to the moment you depart you are always breathing, always relating to the outside and the inside. The lungs are a bridge between the surface and your greatest depths. Autumn is the bridge between summer’s frolic and winter’s stillness. You heal old wounds by letting the energy of the season support you. The environment of autumn naturally shows you the way to release things in your life that are no longer serving you.
To release things that no longer serve you, try this is simple, four-part meditation. There are four steps on this part of the path that should help you on your way:
1. Quiet the mind.
The noise in your mind is the echo of your life, most of your thoughts are merely the sound of your brain relating to the world to strategize how to move toward desire and away from pain.
2. Observe your attachment to something or someone.
Notice the thought you are having about it pay attention to the way your presenting the story of this person or moment. Notice your desire to gain control over it. Remember, you are not your thoughts.
3. Interrupt your thoughts.
Shake your body or sound off a mantra 5 times. Movement, increased heart rate, and the frequency of sound are just a few of the ways you can use your somatic processor to release the mind and bring you into the present.
4. Attend to the moment.
When you open up a gap in your thoughts (also known as attending to the moment) you can “attend differently.” It is relatively easy to change the focus of the mind once it has been released from a holding pattern. Attending to the moment means experiencing what’s going on right NOW and then answering the simple question: “Wei Bu Wei,” act or not act.
Over time, this practice teaches you to recognize your attachment to things that you no longer need. It shows you how to identify them early in your thought process and then shift your cognitive frame. Here’s a short video on letting go to help explain the process. These techniques are some of the oldest and most effective cognitive tools available to you. The technology of stillness is how you create a container for your thoughts so that you can then remove your attachment to them.
Follow The Wisdom Of The Season
The trees appear on the outside to be in great movement and transformation, but the intent and energy of the tree is moving inward. Your thoughts are like the changing leaves rustling in the wind, your essence is the return of the sap, the nutrients of life, to the center of the tree.
Remember you are what you eat. If you find yourself struggling with the energy to meditate or a little fatigue in your day, the food you eat can quickly fortify your conviction. Support your body and mind with a diet of ancient grains, root veggies, bone broths and chrysanthemum tea. You can read my post on supercharging your bone broth with Chinese herbs here.
Enjoy this solstice and its potent reflection on releasing in the wisdom of quiet, the decluttering of the mind and spirit.