As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Fall is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives. The last of the Niyamas…Ishvara Pranidhana.
Buddhist teacher Sharon Saltzberg, another of our Living Spiritual Teachers, writes in Lovingkindness about one of the offshoots of letting go: “Generosity has such power because it is characterized by the inner quality of letting go or relinquishing. Being able to let go, to give up, to renounce, to give generously — these capacities spring from the same source within us. When we practice generosity, we open to all of these liberating qualities simultaneously. They carry us to a profound knowing of freedom, and they also are the loving expression of that same state of freedom.” Fall, then, is the perfect season to give generously of your time and talents to others.
Autumn reminds us of the impermanence of everything. We have experienced the budding of life in spring and the flowerings and profusions of summer. Now the leaves fall and bare branches remind us of the fleeting nature of all things. “The poet Wallace Stevens once wrote, ‘Death is the mother of beauty.’ What those words say to me is that we cherish the beauty of a sunrise, of a New England autumn, of a relationship, of a child’s hug, precisely because those things will not be around forever and neither will we be around to enjoy them.”
Fall also brings home to our consciousness death and the challenge to live every day to the fullest. Susan Jeffers in Embracing Uncertainty gives us a spiritual practice to facilitate this twofold movement:
“I was once told that certain spiritual masters in Tibet used to set their teacups upside down before they went to bed each night as a reminder that all life was impermament. And then, when they awoke each morning, they turned their teacups right side up again with the happy thought, ‘I’m still here!’ This simple gesture was a wonderful reminder to celebrate every moment of the day.”
Finally, an open heart practice to carry with you into the fall.
When you are brave and have an open heart, you have affection for this world — this sunlight, this other human being, this experience. You experience it nakedly, and when it touches your heart, you realize this world is very fleeting. So it is perfect to say ‘Hello means good-bye.’ And also, ‘My hope, hello again.’ “