autumn

In the first grade I knew a girl named Autumn.  I thought the name was weird and wonderful.  Now i just think it’s wonderful.  As is the season for which she was named.  I think I have been living in a perpetual state of spiritual fall if there is such a thing. I suppose there is now that I named it.  Anyway, translation= I feel as though consistently working on balancing light and dark, gracefully letting go (or simply letting go period- gracefully is pushing it), and accepting and acknowledging impermanence have been my inner-life’s work.  At this point all I know for “sure” is that it’s when i resist those things that I experience the most discomfort.

In honor of my fav season, here’s some stuff to ponder as fall takes over…

fall gold and red waterfall

Autumn: Reflections on the Season

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

The autumn equinox marks the arrival of the season of fall, traditionally seen as a period of changes leading to the dark of winter. In Holidays and Holy Nights, Christopher Hill points out that for Christians who observe the liturgical year, autumn is actually the beginning of the cycle. In an excerpt, he suggests that “the dynamics of the fall of the year have the sweep of a great symphony or an epic poem.”

That may explain why so many poets have reflected on this season. The Heart of Autumn contains 38 examples selected by Robert Atwan from such poets as Robert Bly, May Sarton, Carl Sandburg, Robert Penn Warren, Archibald MacLeish, and others. The excerpt from this book is “Leaves” by William Virgil Davis, a poem that conveys the mysterious qualities of fall.

What spiritual lessons and practices are suggested by the coming of autumn? Here are three areas for your meditations.

1. BALANCING DARKNESS WITH LIGHT

On the autumn equinox, day and night are of equal length. This signals the need to balance light and darkness within us. Far too often, we fear the dark and adore only the light. Joyce Rupp, a Catholic writer and poet who is one of our Living Spiritual Teachers, challenges us in Little Pieces of Light to befriend our inner darkness: “I gratefully acknowledge how darkness has become less of an enemy for me and more of a place of silent nurturance, where the slow, steady gestation needed for my soul’s growth can occur. Not only is light a welcomed part of my life, but I am also developing a greater understanding of how much I need to befriend my inner darkness.”

…”Sometimes there is no remedy for our situation than to begin from a point of absolute darkness. Turning off a television set and extinguishing a lantern have certain similarities; they are both abrupt and transition making, and can leave us in a different world. In darkness, we are always on our own.”

2. LETTING GO

As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Fall is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives.

sometimes let go

…Buddhist teacher Sharon Saltzberg, another of our Living Spiritual Teachers, writes in Lovingkindness about one of the offshoots of letting go: “Generosity has such power because it is characterized by the inner quality of letting go or relinquishing. Being able to let go, to give up, to renounce, to give generously — these capacities spring from the same source within us. When we practice generosity, we open to all of these liberating qualities simultaneously. They carry us to a profound knowing of freedom, and they also are the loving expression of that same state of freedom.” Fall, then, is the perfect season to give generously of your time and talents to others.

3. ACKNOWLEDGING IMPERMANENCE

Autumn reminds us of the impermanence of everything. We have experienced the budding of life in spring and the flowerings and profusions of summer. Now the leaves fall and bare branches remind us of the fleeting nature of all things. Jewish rabbi and writer Harold Kushner in The Lord Is My Shepherd suggests that when we contemplate fall’s changes, we grow more appreciative of all the beauties that surround us:

“The poet Wallace Stevens once wrote, ‘Death is the mother of beauty.’ What those words say to me is that we cherish the beauty of a sunrise, of a New England autumn, of a relationship, of a child’s hug, precisely because those things will not be around forever and neither will we be around to enjoy them.”

Fall also brings home to our consciousness death and the challenge to live every day to the fullest. Susan Jeffers in Embracing Uncertainty gives us a spiritual practice to facilitate this twofold movement:

“I was once told that certain spiritual masters in Tibet used to set their teacups upside down before they went to bed each night as a reminder that all life was impermament. And then, when they awoke each morning, they turned their teacups right side up again with the happy thought, ‘I’m still here!’ This simple gesture was a wonderful reminder to celebrate every moment of the day.”

Finally, Cynthia Kneen, in Awake Mind, Open Heartshares an open heart practice to carry with you into the fall.

“When you are brave and have an open heart, you have affection for this world — this sunlight, this other human being, this experience. You experience it nakedly, and when it touches your heart, you realize this world is very fleeting. So it is perfect to say ‘Hello means good-bye.’ And also, ‘My hope, hello again.’ ”

autumn heart tree fall

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speaking of earth day

Under the title, Trash is Not Trash, photographer Gaby Herbstein worked with illustrator Pablo Bernasconi to come up with this wonderfully whimsical series which asks us to reflect on the importance of recycling and think about what we can do to reduce our ecological footprint. (Ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It compares human demand with planet Earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate.)

With sweet children as her models, Herbstein does a great job in delivering an important message, gently reminding us who we’re ultimately leaving this world to. The series was created for a 2011 calendar.

Gaby Herbstein’s website

VIA

it is both

there is no light without darkness… there is no darkness without light… everything is everything… my joy only runs as deep as my sorrow… it’s all good…

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both.

Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.

On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple.

Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

Excerpted from “Start Where You Are”

by Pema Chödrön

who is leading your army?

The following is excerpted from:

Pema Chödrön and Dzigar Kongtrül: Let’s Be Honest

A discussion led by Elizabeth Namgyel

…Dzigar Kongtrül: Self-importance is having too much attachment to one’s own well-being and freedom from suffering, without having the same kind of care and concern for others’ well-being and freedom from suffering. When we have a great deal of self-importance, we will never be able to enjoy whatever we possess that we have gathered through our hard work, wit, and cunning. It will always bring a sense of dissatisfaction. We will never feel quite ready to enjoy it, because we carry the burden of being attached to it. However, if we apply to others the same sense of loving and caring that we have in cherishing ourselves, we reduce the self-importance.
When self-importance is reduced, a door opens to your positive qualities. As you continue to reduce the self-importance, the positive qualities take deeper root in your mindstream and your heart. At that point, you have real discipline and you begin to sustain yourself with your innate positive qualities, rather than the drive to become important. The ability to love, to care, to be concerned, to be compassionate—these were all there from the beginning. Previously, they were guided by self-centeredness; now they are guided by the needs of others.

This innate love is a powerful force that is now being led by a completely noble, incredibly dignified leader. Before, this powerful force, an army with the richness of a whole kingdom behind it and the loyalty of the subjects, was being led by a crooked king, and that crookedness created a state of confusion that spread everywhere. When that crooked leader is replaced by a noble leader, with a genuine sense of dignity, everyone in the kingdom can reap the benefit of the positive qualities that are the basic nature of the kingdom in the first place.

Pema Chödrön: Is the leader self-reflection?

Dzigar Kongtrül: The noble leader is altruistic mind, and the crooked leader is self-centeredness. Self-reflection is what discriminates between the qualities of self-centeredness of the bad leader and the altruistic mind of the good leader.

Pema Chödrön: It is interesting to consider the nature of the self-centeredness that seems to be prevalent in the West. I don’t think the term “self-cherishing,” for example, is all that helpful here, because the ego twist in the West isn’t that we love ourselves too much. Rather, we tend to have a negative preoccupation with ourselves. We might go shopping, not so much to feather our own nest, but to try to overcome some very bad feeling we have toward ourselves. Rather than cherishing ourselves, we hate ourselves. So, loving- kindness toward oneself needs to be developed as the basis before you can spread it to other people.

Dzigar Kongtrül: The loving-kindness is directed to your mind, not to the self. When you redirect the love and compassion from the self-centered approach, which has never produced good results anyway, to the altruistic approach, you find you have positive feelings in great abundance. Even though these are extended outwardly to others, they don’t leave your mind and end up somewhere else. They fill your mind and sustain it.

Pema Chödrön: Shantideva talks about all the ways that we are willing to hurt ourselves, including suicide. He says, if you’re willing to hurt yourself that much, it’s no wonder you’re willing to hurt other people. It seems to me the verses in the Bodhicaryavatara that discuss this issue are key for the West, because we’re much more into self-degradation than what you call self-cherishing.

Dzigar Kongtrül: The use of language in this case is interesting. When we say self-degradation, it sounds like we don’t have much self-importance. But in reality if one were not holding tightly to the self, there would be no reason to feel such aversion to it.

Pema Chödrön: Yes, I see self-degradation as one of the main ways that self-importance manifests in the West. You are still “full of yourself,” but you are full of yourself as a negative thing.

Dzigar Kongtrül: We come to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. But if you really study, if you really practice, you will find that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong. So you need to commit to a course of study and practice, and until you do that, whether one is in the West or anywhere else, there is going to be the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with you. When you wish to be happy and free from suffering, and yet your mind is not supporting you, it’s very easy to resort to thinking that there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.