Autumn Awareness and Seasonal Impermanence
Many of the spiritual arts in Japan such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, archery, aikido, pottery, and lacquerware are associated with autumn, this time of the year when ‘letting go’ pervades the air. In Japan, this season rolls around with a color and intensity that is rare to see, especially in urban settings where air pollutants have diminished the brilliance of the hues. And fall is represented by the turning colors of maple trees. Bright green maple leaves slowly transform into a golden, then bright red. In Japanese, this stunning red foliage is called momoji.
But in this transitional period, as days shorten and temperatures cool (slowly in the southwest US) we are also fortunate to experience the abundance of the summer’s child : the fall harvest! How interesting that in the process of decline we first fill up.
This is a great time to meditate outside as the weather cools, go up to the mountains and pick a walking meditation as your mindfulness practice: listening to the sounds of crunching leaves under your feet; hearing the “wind in the pines”; gazing at the free fall of leaves; and appreciating the color displays as nature reveals so many artistic panoramas.
This time of year when most flora gradually lose their leaves, begin to wither, and transform into becoming bare in the drying air is a natural process. What manifests and shines in the fall is rustic and simple. A mood of ‘loneliness’ or solitude emerges that is as subtle as the fading of the green of summer. In meditation, we can use this seasonal gift to return to the bare facts of just ‘sitting’. The business and activity of everyday life pull us away from “just being with what is”. This is dharma practice at its essence: emptiness or Sunyata.
For some of us, this shifting of nature from expansion to coming inwards may bring a mood of sadness or melancholy. This is a manifestation of the letting be – letting go, and an invitation to allow things to change as they will. Autumn’s mark is a heightened perception of impermanence. Our formal meditation practice and our daily practice of awareness, loving friendliness, and integrity can be an enjoyable blessing that brings contentment and fulfillment to our lives. Can we gracefully embrace the changes that occur in our lives, without interfering? Can we be mindful of the need to release without a struggle, just as the leaf effortlessly falls to the ground?
“With the Moon – Rising…Leaf After Leaf, After Leaf, Falls Fluttering Down” – Shiki