The change of seasons, for some of us, can bring to the surface any number of thoughts and emotions. Times like these are a perfect opportunity to stop and breathe, to unite our body and mind as we acknowledge that our true home is the here and now. In that lull between summer fun and the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and even in the midst of these things, we can always return to our true home. This is the heart of our practice.
Referenced In This Episode:
Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist
At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk's Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
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Music by The Wakeup Call
“One day as I was about to step on a dry leaf, I stopped. Looking closely, I saw that the leaf was not really dead; it was merging with the moist soil and preparing to appear on the tree the following spring in another form. I smiled at the leaf and said, “You are just pretending.”
Everything is pretending to be born and pretending to die, including the leaf…”
Thich Nhat Hanh
You’re listening to The Quieted Mind.
The change of seasons, for some of us, can bring to the surface any number of thoughts and emotions. With the arrival of fall or autumn, some of us may wish for just a little more summer. There’s a sense of freedom and lightheartedness than can come from our earliest impressions of summer as a season when school is out and we spend our days roaming the neighborhood on our bikes, playing video games with friends, going to the mall, to the beach, or on vacation. Others may look forward to the cooler temperatures, a change in wardrobe, and the coming holiday season. Images of pumpkins, falling leaves of red and orange, Halloween costumes, or a Thanksgiving feast can awaken anticipation and excitement in us. Maybe, for some of us, it’s a mix of feelings, and with the end of one season giving way to the beginning of another, there can be a bittersweet, almost melancholy feeling that comes with the realization that we ultimately live our lives in the in-between. Always on our way out of one thing and into another.
Times like these are a perfect opportunity to stop and breathe, to unite our body and mind as we acknowledge that our true home is the here and now. In that lull between summer fun and the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and even in the midst of these things, we can always return to our true home. This is the heart of our practice.
As we return to our true home, though, we must be mindful. For better or worse, things are changing and things will continue to change. The practice of impermanence helps to remind us that neither beneficial nor harmful conditions will last forever. The more we practice impermanence, the more fully we can appreciate where we are now as both a destination and a starting point. We can free ourselves of attachments, whether it be the attachment that makes us want to keep things as they are forever or the attachment to our suffering as we believe it will never end.
There’s a beautiful passage from American author Shauna Niequist that I think perfectly captures this season: “Use what you have,” she says. “Use what the world gives you. Use the first day of fall: bright flame before winter’s deadness; harvest; orange, gold, amber; cool nights and the smell of fire. Our tree-lined streets are set ablaze, our kitchens filled with the smells of nostalgia: Apples bubbling into sauce, roasting squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, cider, warmth itself. The leaves as they spark into wild color just before they die are the world’s oldest performance art, and everything we see is celebrating one last violently hued hurrah before the black and white silence of winter.”
As we move together into this new season, let’s use what the world gives us to remind us of the peace and beauty that is available to us in the here and now, to free ourselves of attachments to what we wish could last or believe will. To move through each day with gratitude and expectation that, regardless of our notions or concepts of the current season or those ahead: yes, winter is coming, but so is the Spring. Like the dry leaf on the ground, all of us are pretending to be born and pretending to die. Everything that ends gives birth to a new beginning.
Until we meet again: may you be safe, may you be happy, and may you be free.