Autumn and Letting Go
tom walsh


There are many wonderful lessons that we can learn from autumn and the turning of the season.  It's heartening for me to see just how many people see autumn as their favorite season, for it's a season of change, of peace, of conversion, and of hope.  In its falling leaves and dying flowers and plants and the disappearance of the frogs and insects and animals that keep us company during the summer we can see the greatest hope, the greatest trust, and the greatest faith of all.

Imagine this:  you've spent vast amounts of time making a tree.  The leaves are beautiful, perfectly shaped and a lovely shade of green.  Every time that you look at your creation, you feel a surge of pride and accomplishment, and it's one of your favorite things in the world.  Then someone comes up to you and tells you that you have to make your tree lose all of its leaves, and you have to put the trunk through an ordeal of cold and severe weather that will last several months, and the tree may not make it through.  How would you feel?  Would you be able to let go of your creation easily, exposing it to the elements and the threat of time?

That's what happens in our world every year.  Nature knows that in order to maintain its vitality, it must go through austere periods, periods when it gets by with a bare minimum of everything, when its normal riches aren't on display for the world to see.  

Every autumn, it must "lose" the beauty that it has put so much effort into creating and becoming, and it must spend time lying dormant, waiting for the time to come when it can once more burst forth in its splendor.

Autumn reminds me of my own life, and my own need to simplify that I feel very strongly from time to time.  If I heed those times when they come to me, I find that eventually, I end up much richer, if not in a financial sense, then in a personal sense, a spiritual sense.

Sometimes, autumn isn't a choice.  Broken relationships, job layoffs, the death of loved ones, and many other things can push us into a period in which it seems as if we're losing everything.  But we aren't losing anything, for nothing on this planet really is ours.  Instead, we're being pushed into a winter in which we need to lay low for a while, fulfilling our responsibilities and obligations, but realizing all the time that spring is right around the corner, just waiting for us to be ready for it.

Winters can last a very long time, and we often get tired of the cold weather if it extends itself too far into what's supposed to be the spring.  But spring always does come.

When life tells the glorious maple tree that it's time to shed its leaves, the maple tree does so, and as a result of the winter for which it's preparing itself, it's able to give forth the sap that gives us maple syrup.  It doesn't spend time arguing that it needs the leaves for the photosynthesis that keeps it alive.  It trusts that even though it's letting go of a very important part of itself, that part will return and be even stronger and more beautiful when spring returns.

When life tells us that it's time for change, that we lost the job that we just lost for a reason, then it's time to shed that part of ourselves that we identified with the job and move on.  When a relationship ends, it's time for us to shed the part of ourselves that we identified with that relationship and move on so that we can find the rebirth of spring--with new leaves and new flowers--somewhere in our future.  Most importantly, we need to be ready for that spring when it appears, and we cannot ready ourselves by holding on to parts of our past that we need to let go of.

Our lives are full of cycles, possibly even more than those of nature.  We go through chapters in our emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and other types of development.  But we have to let chapters end if we're to move on to the next chapter, and we have to let seasons run their course if the next season is to come on time.  Spring can't make its way into our worlds if we're still trying desperately to hold on to the previous summer.

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There are things that we never want to let go
of, people we never want to leave behind.
But keep in mind that letting go isnít the end
of the world; itís the beginning of a new life.




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Letting go doesn't mean we don't care.  Letting go doesn't mean we shut down.
Letting go means we stop trying to force outcomes and make people behave.
It means we give up resistance to the way things are, for the moment.
It means we stop trying to do the impossible--controlling that which
we cannot--and instead, focus on what is possible--which usually means
taking care of ourselves.  And we do this in gentleness, kindness,
and love, as much as possible.

Melody Beattie


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