As I write, there is still a lot of color left on the trees, although we are past peak. There are also plenty of leaves piling up on the ground so that when I walk on my favorite trails, my footsteps are noisy and crunchy.
Outside my window, the silver maple tree that looms over the house is sending many yellow leaves twirling and spinning elegantly to the ground. There’s barely even a breeze, so it must be the day the tree decided it’s time to let go.
It’s as if groups of leaves made a pact to fall at the same time: Ready, set, go! They make me smile because they look so playful. It’s their Big Fall, and they are twirling all the way down. Well, some are. Others just plunge down. But the twirlers and the spinners make me smile. If I were a leaf, I would want to do as much twirling as possible during my brief descent to the ground. I’d want my journey to be as artful, authentic, and inspiring as possible, like the plastic bag scene from American Beauty. Do it with gusto. Dance with the wind!
Yesterday, I had my morning all planned out. Then the sun emerged, and I had a feeling that the trees near the main village intersection would be particularly enchanting with the mid-morning sunlight shining through. If I were to adhere to my schedule and visit the trees later, the angle of sunlight would be different. Or clouds might roll in. If the leaves weren’t still brilliantly aflame by the time I arrived, I could try again tomorrow.
However, this time of year beckons us to take action now! Don’t put it off. Between today and tomorrow – or even now and an hour from now – a gust of wind could come along and bring all the leaves to the ground. You can’t assume the leaves will still be on the trees tomorrow or in an hour.
The dramatic, autumn foliage inspires me to take immediate action. Don’t just make lists and think about what to do. It’s time to actually engage that energy. What do you feel drawn to do right now? What impulse is arising from deep inside of you? Don’t ignore it! Write that letter. Send that email. Make that phone call. Go out for that drive. Follow up on that lead. Make a meal for that family, friend, or relative. Say those words you know you’d regret not saying if one of you were to die today. Do it! You never know when it will be your last chance or when following your intuition will open a door or build a bridge that would not have manifested if you had ignored it.
But that’s not all. Colorful, deciduous trees at this time of year also offer another lesson.
Many times this month, I’ve contemplated what the brilliant red, orange, and yellow foliage means to a tree. Leaves turn such vibrant colors as the tree begins its process of shutting down and releasing them, for they are no longer useful. Summer’s green leaves gathered sunlight like many thousands of cells in solar panels and were the means by which the tree received its energy for this year’s growth. But there’s a rhythm to trees and to the year. Now is the time when trees need to let go of all the leaves that provided them with energy and nourishment. For trees, now is not time to accumulate energy and grow. It’s time be wise about conserving energy and let go.
Here’s a small personal example: I’m taking an online “money manifesting” course because I realize that, as I embark on a new venture, I need to work on my attitude toward money and raise my “money vibration” before I can go any further. Part of the process is visualizing a new money persona and how it would feel to inhabit that persona. During meditation one morning, I noticed all the clutter was cleared out of the house of my “Thriving Creative” persona. Her living space was spacious and uncluttered, and it felt good to be there. I knew instantly that I needed to let go of a lot of stuff, beginning with several crates of teaching books that were taking up space in the living room. Instead of just knowing I need to get rid of stuff (and I’ve known for a long time), this time I had the energy and motivation to actually do it. I researched best methods of selling books and then followed through – and sold virtually all the books within 24 hours! At the same time, I cleared some space and made some money! So I’m working on letting go of both personal possessions and outdated beliefs and attitudes about money and am discovering that letting go of old stuff opens me up to a new flow of energy. Right now it might look barren and unimpressive, but I’m making preparations for future action and growth! Getting rid of books is only the beginning.
Soon, the deciduous trees in the Northeast will let go of all their leaves. We may feel downhearted when the brilliantly colored landscape fades to brown and gray, and the bare trees herald another long winter. But the greater cycle is about needing to shed what’s no longer useful to prepare for future growth. Trees will grow new leaves in the spring following a period of rest and reflection. We need to keep the greater cycle in mind and realize that we can’t lose anything that is integral to our wholeness. Anything that can be lost isn’t essential at this time or is part of a larger cycle that we might not even be aware of. There’s a universal rhythm we are part of, and what you think will kill you (i.e. letting go of what used to nourish you) is just part of the broader cycle of letting go, resting, being reborn or rejuvenated, and growing. So relax. It’s all good.
We have everything we need for this human journey inside of us, including the capacity to manufacture the strength and qualities we need when we need them. Just as a tree doesn’t die when it sheds its leaves, we are more resilient than we may believe ourselves to be. Every now and then, it’s beneficial to take inventory of our lives and let go of what no longer serves our highest purpose or surrender to the losses that life imposes on us. What looks like a mighty wind stealing the leaves from a tree is part of a greater process in which loss serves a purpose. Fall is a perfect time to follow nature’s lead and ask: What am I being called to let go of in my life? What can I let go of that is no longer necessary or useful? What losses am I being called to surrender to?
A couple weeks ago, I rode a storm all the way home from the grocery store. As I pulled in the driveway, a powerful gust of wind brought down a flurry of leaves from trees lining the back yard. Sometimes it’s a gentle process –a few leaves coming down over the course of weeks, twirling their way down. Other times, a strong gust comes along (in the form of either great motivation or external circumstances acting upon us) and removes everything we need to let go of. This great gust might throw us off balance and not be as pleasant as the gentle wind. It might even feel overwhelming! But either way, there are times when life calls or forces us to let go. That’s one of autumn’s greatest gifts. We can come to know both the gentle and gale force winds as grace operating in our lives and serving a greater cycle – which we may or may not yet be able to identify or understand.
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