Each time fall starts to peek around the corner I have a real sensitivity to it - do you? Even out here in "no seasons" Cali! But I can feel the subtle shift to a drier, breezy, somewhat cooler feel in the air. Then darkness falls ever earlier. And if you're still with me, there's a natural turning inward. For years, that shift away from summer and into fall brought anxiety and even bouts of sadness, a depression. I had a pointed fondness for fall, but the change was at once romantic and full of melancholy. (God help me if I threw in some 2004 Sia - eye roll emoji).
But that was Before Yoga.
Enter: After Yogaaaaaaahhhhh
[Of course, what also comes with After Yoga is a few stints in therapy, the end of my 20's (praise the Lord), a career change, new relationships, better eating habits, proper self-care, etc. etc..... :)]
Now, when the air makes that slight, sharp, dry change as it blows across my cheek, through my hair, causing me to turn my face towards the sky and acknowledge that summer is suddenly behind us... I have a more mindful response. I know what is needed - and it is attention. I'm not afraid of turning in and really seeing what's happening NOW instead of feeling what happened when I was 10, 20, or 30 years old. I know what to do to ground down in a radical act of self-love instead of self-flagellation. Only after I see clearly and choose to love myself anyways - because that's what I would do for anyone I loved - can I finally lighten up. And in that lightness there is the boon of clarity, calm, and connection.
There's the shift of the seasons and there's the simultaneous reaction to that shift in my physiology. I've taken pains to understand why my younger self felt pain and sadness at this innocuous occurrence of nature. To be clear, there was actual pain to acknowledge and heal from and that work had to be done with another person (a therapist or professional healer).
"We don't heal in isolation, but in community." S. Kelley Harrell
It's quite a revelation to see how much of the discomfort I had experienced during this time of the year was simply old habits of thought and feelings replaying themselves on an unconscious loop cued by the shift from summer to fall. That's how our habits work. They are cued in (maybe your habitual thinking and feeling is cued by a person, place, or preceding habit - if you're curious read The Power of Habit) and our yoga is to see the cue and extrapolate the habit. Deciding if it's one that evolves us or binds us to our former, younger self.
She is always there. That younger version of us. But she is no longer driving the ship (unless, of course, she is). What she does need is to be heard and shown compassion. She needs to be mentored. If you've never done this work - try it. It's such a tricky practice to learn your lessons and stay open to the present. It's the epitome of the yoga of relationships. We want "beginner's mind" and to be able to see people and situations with fresh eyes. But without forgetting the wisdom of our experience. How can we hold that polarity in actual practice?
Here, the words start to fail me. I can grasp the truth just beyond the eloquence of writing but it is almost ineffable. When I start to layer a story of the sensation it gets degraded. The body just knows things. Deeply. At a visceral level. But it can get stuck in repetitive loops just like your mind - like a repetitive injury.
The practices I mention to honor the changes of seasons are real actions and rituals. It's not enough to say it. Exactly how do you go about seeing yourself clearly? Loving yourself deeply? Lightening up your physical experience? To start, you can create a sacred space in your home for a morning routine that involves meditation, grounding yourself with self-inquiry practices that hone the skill of loving compassion, take baths, rub warm oil on your skin, de-clutter your space.
Let's do this together soon.