Autumn is a time of letting go. Facing all the uncertainty of this strange year, I’m wondering if you’re feeling as I am that it’s time to let go of what’s not been working?
We all seem ready for a real change. And fortunately we’re helped right now by a rare moment of synchronicity with the natural world during this short season when our ancient foremothers believed the veils between the worlds were thinnest.
No one is trick-or-treating anyway, so I’ll be using Halloween to hallow what wants to die in me.
You see, I’ve been noticing lately an old pattern that’s ready to go. Like all habits, it began innocently enough. And it made me feel really good at first. But I’m realizing now that it’s actually ensnared me for too many years! I know it’s time to let it go.
My life has been run for way too long by a need to feel special.
I felt special sitting on my daddy’s lap as a toddler as he read to me every night, before my other four siblings came along.
Special with my mother’s effusive, “GOOD GIRL, Mary!” learning that obedience could earn me that special feeling.
Special in my 4th grade class of 35 kids, when my teacher caught me whispering, and with a mock scolding smile chanted, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary.” (It’s amazing how strikingly clear that memory still is!)
Special getting good grades, when I realized that I could earn specialness.
Special winning blue ribbon rosettes at the county fair for my meticulous sewing.
And intoxicatingly special when Randy held my hand in our 9th grade assembly. That began decades of striving to be special to men.
. . .
But trying to earn all that specialness came with a price. My happiness was dependent on someone else letting me know how special I was. Or me striving to prove it to myself. When I didn’t feel my partner’s adoration, life felt dull and uninteresting. No one was feeding my special appetite.
I’ve spent half a century chasing approval to feel valuable and worthwhile. With years of good therapy and spiritual development, and oodles of self-development workshops, I know the roots of all this. And at my core I know I really am good enough, whether or not someone else or my successes make me feel that way.
But this fall I know I want the help of something wiser and more powerful than my intellect to really let this thing go.
That’s why I’m turning to Nature’s guidance and a wisdom that lives in all of creation. Like the leaves falling right now — letting go of the life they’ve known all summer as they surrender to the wisdom of the seasons’ cycles — I can feel the impulse to let go, too. And the encouragement.
Nature lets go every autumn. She can show us how when we let her in. Her example can help us trust that what’s dying now will make space for new life to be born.
. . .
I’ll be building a fire in my backyard firepit on Sunday evening, November 1st, using ritual to support me in helping my worn-out grasping to be special die. We don’t like to think about death. But autumn has always been a time to honor the dying, even if our materialistic culture has reduced it to a children’s cartoon-ish Halloween trick-or-treating. Still, if you’re willing to take it on, there’s a deep and powerful opportunity now to use this brief season for a broader view of the transformation it invites.
Are you curious about what’s wanting to let go in you? Something likely just below the surface right now? That troubling pattern, belief, or situation you know is old and not serving you anymore, but is comfortable because you know it so well.
Take a moment now or sometime in the next few days to begin to listen for your own inner wisdom. Then journal your discoveries before the end of the month, when Nature is uniquely supporting you to allow real change to find you.
Ask yourself what is ready to die?
- Write about a habit or way of thinking that has lost its usefulness and is holding back your happiness or potential?
- Remember FIRST how this old pattern might have served you. How did it bring you what you needed so badly? How did it benefit you? Can you allow yourself to acknowledge what was good and what came your way because of this old strategy? If you can acknowledge its benefit, you’ll also be able to more easily let it go.
- During these few liminal days when cultures all around the world honor the dead, follow their ancestral wisdom to guide you as you create your own simple ritual. Tear off a small piece of paper and, in a few words, write what you’re ready to let die.
- The ancients used fire to symbolically burn away what was no longer needed. Light a candle or, if you can, a bonfire and speak your intention as you burn the slip of paper and the words you’ve written to call out this old pattern. Watch the flames eat your sacred offering.
- Then, notice how your body and being feels. There may be regret or confusion or a sense of freedom. Honor whatever is there and be gracious with yourself, allowing all the time that’s needed to integrate.
The darker days to come will offer you time to let what’s old decompose. And it’s likely that between now and the solstice, you will watch flare-ups of this old pattern before its dying embers completely smolder and extinguish themselves. Allow this letting go have your attention in order to take the time it needs, just as seasons compost leaves into rich humus and fertile soil.
I hope you’ll join me next weekend — in person here in Western Massachusetts or in your own private ritual. Allow the mystery of this liminal season, nighttime darkness, and the full moon’s brilliance to help you honor and let go of what wants to die in you. Then you’ll be cleared out for what you want to be born!
As always, sending my love,