Today marks the beginning of Autumn, the fall equinox. It’s made a dramatic entrance, complete with thunder, lightning, high winds, and hail. Tonight, the gardens may endure a hard freeze, so we’ll be blanketing our mums to preserve their blooms.
Summer is definitely over.
We’ve enjoyed the last month’s blooms, having had to cut the buds from our midsummer plants to spare their energy during our 2-month drought. It broke my heart to miss all the lovely flowers, but the plants survived. Meteorologists and climate scientists predict more such summers, but for now, we’re enjoying the end-of-summer show and will try to prolong it as long as we can. Technically, the drought hasn’t ended, but the gardens still live, and some plants are thriving.
Yesterday, I shared a presentation on Spirituality and Aging, specifically addressing invitations life makes to our spirits in the “second half” of life, our own seasons of autumn and winter. Like the autumn garden, we may bloom in ways more richly colorful and distinctive than during our earlier seasons, and also consciously work to acquire habits that protect us against a hard freeze that would inhibit blooms we have yet to offer. While not denying or running from our deaths, wisdom counsels us to honor our mind-body-spirit integrity and its healing and wholeness in ways we may have ignored or not perceived when younger.
In her workbook for “sacred alignment,” The Spirit of Place, Loren Cruden outlines distinctive practices and ceremonies for traveling with the earth’s seasons and creating corresponding awareness, healing, and integration in our mind-body-spirit. I’ve been using the book as a resource and guide this year, and especially recommend it because of Cruden’s deep intelligence, eloquence, and educated understanding of both Eastern and Native American spiritualties. Her method of teaching and integrating these understandings with beliefs we may already hold dear and practices we may annually anticipate and repeat on our journey round the circle, is both inviting and respectful. Her work has deepened my passage through the year and enriched the path considerably.
Using the Native American medicine wheel as a spiritual model, Cruden guides us through the year from East to South, to West and, finally, North. The journey circumscribes our days, months, years, and lifetime, and seen this way, enhances each.
The East/Spring is seen as a time and place for spiritual awakening, for perceiving the vision quest with clarity and perspective.
The South/Summer invites us to engage with this purpose, test ourselves and enhance our creativity, while expanding our experiences and relationships.
When we turn to the West/Autumn quadrant of the circle, our energy best aligns with the harvest, the setting sun. We are invited to step into Mystery, integrate through introspection, reflection, welcome “non-ordinary” states of mind and deep acceptance of who we are. Cruden states that the “…West is a place of sorting and letting go and of conscious participation in acts of power. The vision perceived in the East and engaged with in the South now becomes multidimensional, and its broader and more subtle implications are made apparent.”
Cruden goes into much greater depth in her analysis of the wheel’s journey and offerings, offering weekly practices as travel companions and teachers, and I have come to deeply value her lessons on my journey.
Today, the equinox tells me that I have circled to the West/Autumn of the year, and of my life, and so I look forward to its inward, intuitive lessons and the release of what is finished and past. Now the work of the heart, deepening consciousness, and self-acceptance is engaged, and like the rest of nature, I “store energy” for the days and spiritual tasks to come. Like the autumn garden, I’ll finish engagement with the energy of blooming and retreat into the quiet time of sorting, letting go, and listening as my day, year, and lifetime grow more deeply into Mystery.
In our harvesting of the year’s gifts, in beginning the journey inward, in honoring the dying back and down, in recounting our losses and leave-takings, in creating our poetry of gratitude…in being with stillness and silence–May the gifts of the Spirit be rich in our hearts and wisely offered to the world.