Nature as Teacher

Despite the temperatures and extreme weather in parts of the country, the calendar tells us we are firmly rooted in Fall.

The shifting light, the shortening days, there’s no denying it.

Our first ever 40 Early Mornings group is on day 11, now entering the second cycle of our time together: dissolution, when the invitation for our daily practice becomes the work of letting go of what no longer serves us.

I wanted to give the rest of you a tiny taste of what this work feels like, informed largely by the seasonal wisdom from Parker Palmer, which has deep resonance in my own life and work in this moment.

I couldn’t help but share it here too…

Today, we begin our second cycle during our 40 Days together:

D I S S O L V E.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent many, many moments of my life, hanging on with white-knuckled-closed-fists to what’s familiar and comfortable. What made me feel more certain, like I was in control. Or to whatever impulses were a guaranteed quick hit of dopamine (I’m looking at you online shopping).

So lest you begin this next 10-day cycle already wrapping yourself with a defense blanket of resistance to giving up what you love, even if it no longer serves you … let’s see if we can find a different way in.

Today, I invite you to turn to one of our greatest teachers, the natural world around us, for an example so wise and infinite, there’s no use in arguing.

This season of fall teaches us so much about letting go.

Our familiar teacher of the week, Parker Palmer, has this to say about the lessons of the season:

“Autumn is a season of great beauty, but it is also a season of decline: the days grow shorter, the light is suffused, and summer’s abundance decays toward winter’s death. Faced with this inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? It scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring — and scatters them with amazing abandon.

In my own experience of autumn, I am rarely aware that seeds are being planted. Instead, my mind is on the fact that the green growth of summer is browning and beginning to die. My delight in the autumn colors is always tinged with melancholy, a sense of impending loss that is only heightened by the beauty all around. I am drawn down by the prospect of death more than I am lifted by the hope of new life.

But as I explore autumn’s paradox of dying and seeding, I feel the power of the metaphor. In the autumnal events of my own experience, I am easily fixated on surface appearances — on the decline of meaning, the decay of relationships, the death of a work. And yet, if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad possibilities being planted to bear fruit in some season yet to come.

— Parker Palmer, Let your Life Speak, p. 98-99 (emphasis my own).

When we were kids, my mom would send we three sisters out to roam our neighborhood to “look for signs of fall” (or whatever the season was at hand).

Now a mother myself, I can imagine she was, herself, looking for a few moments of solace. But I have to believe her invitation held deeper wisdom.

Today, before you even begin to try and mine the depths of decay and decline with your mind, take yourself outside and look for signs of fall.

Whether you’re “officially” meditating or not, see what signs of fall you can collect to arrange in a special place in your home — your practice space or altar if you’ve been able to create a sacred corner for yourself (or maybe today is the day!).

Dried, crunchy leaves. Acorns. Sticks.

Whatever nature is letting go, let that serve as a reminder that you can too.

Because the seeds for new growth begin with the great beauty of scattering what we no longer need to carry.

all love, Cath

p.s. Our next 40 Early Mornings begins December 21. If you’re interested in early info (and early bird pricing!), make sure to put your name and email here!

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"