By Sara Avant Stover //
Autumn is my favorite time of the year, perhaps because I grew up in Connecticut surrounded by the splendor of changing leaves. The season’s crisp winds, golden light, and first days of school instill a fresh, buzzing, alive feeling inside. I feel inspired to complete unfinished projects before the holidays, and I love bringing out cuddly winter sweaters, woolly scarves, and cozy tights. Long walks through crinkly leaves remind me of romping in leaf piles on my way home from school as a young girl.
The magic of the season extends deeper than our wardrobes, though, for during these crucial months, nature prepares for her long winter’s rest and teaches us to do the same. It is time to gather, store, organize, and wind down from summer’s high tempo and the relentless forward momentum that modern living usually demands. When the crisp winds of autumn start to blow, we need to tune in to the signal that it’s time to start slowing down. As leaves fall to the ground, they decay and merge with the earth once again. We too are in the process of letting things wither and fall away to gather only what is essential for the winter months. We’re reminded that, eventually, we have to let go of everything in order to die countless little deaths in each of our lifetimes, and this ultimately prepares us for the final letting go.
“When the crisp winds of autumn start to blow, we need to tune in to the signal that it’s time to start slowing down.”
Letting go is perhaps one of life’s most difficult lessons to learn. However, it’s the most crucial one, for everything in our lives, big and small, withers away to one degree or another. At some point we’re all going to have to say goodbye to everything and everyone that we love. The question is, then, how gracefully can you let go? How much can you give in to the way things are? How well can you honor yourself and that which is passing?
Considering the immense anxiety, fear, and sadness that we experience with even the thought of letting go of something we love, we can start to learn this lesson in simple, more manageable situations, such as our own breathing. With each cycle of breath, you’re letting go. Every time you fall asleep at night, your body surrenders deeply. When you’re entrenched in an argument with your daughter and choose to relinquish your stubborn position, you’re letting go. In your colon, constipation can be a sign that you’re too tightly wound, trying to control your surroundings so that you don’t have to surrender. Making larger changes in your life — that reveal your trust for the way things are — can help your body find its natural state of ease and flow.
Sometimes you need to let things wither away, like summer’s blossoms, before you can start on something new. Can you let yourself rest with reality, even if it’s not how you want it to be? Can you trust the larger timing and wisdom behind everything? Letting go also means allowing yourself to be completely as you are and to do whatever you need to do to loosen your grip. Sometimes, to do this, you need to let yourself feel completely out of control. We see this when we witness a friend experiencing tremendous grief. We hold space for her to wail, sleep all day, rant and rave, or do whatever she needs to do to move the energy of her pain and, in turn, move on. The process isn’t always pretty, but it’s real. Letting go asks us to be ruthlessly candid about what we feel and how much we have loved.
“Sometimes you need to let things wither away, like summer’s blossoms, before you can start on something new.”
Take a good look at what relationships, beliefs, and activities no longer serve you. You will see where you are ready to let go, and you can use the currents of saying good-bye and grieving inherent in this season to lead you gracefully to where new opportunities, people, and ways of being await.
Leaning into unsavory feelings doesn’t mean that you’re a miserable, pessimistic person who sabotages her happiness — just the opposite. Diving into the discomfort brings you directly into your heart and into a deep, abiding joy that’s always your essence and doesn’t depend on your mood or on whether or not things are going your way.
This is what the alchemy of the season teaches us: to strip away what is nonessential to reveal what is true and everlasting.
About the Author
Sara Avant Stover is a yoga and meditation teacher, best-selling author of The Way of the Happy Woman, and The Book of SHE, and an inspirational leader to tens of thousands of women worldwide. The creator of The SHE School and the Women’s Yoga Teacher Training, Sara has been featured in Yoga Journal, the Huffington Post, and on ABC, NBC, and CBS. // www.TheWayoftheHappyWoman.com