It’s the time of year when nature leads the way in harvesting what it’s produced during the year, storing what it values to tide itself over the Winter & shedding what it doesn’t need back to the earth for nourishment.
I find it helpful to do the same, to take stock of what I’ve grown & achieved in the previous months, to let go of those which didn’t work or don’t nourish me, so I can move forward in the knowledge that the seeds I’m planting to sprout in Spring are in line with my beliefs & values.
For many of us, life has changed a lot in the past 3 years, some things & friends have dropped away & maybe what we want from life is different, so I encourage you to question & evaluate what’s important to you.
It’s been a big year for me too; in January I turned 60, I let go of writing specifically for childless women, I’ve tried 6 new crafts & several new experiences. Basically, I’ve had a period of saying yes. Also, a few weeks ago a dear friend passed away unexpectedly, an event which, once I’ve worked through the grief, will encourage me to evaluate my life to ask whether I’m getting the most out of my time.
Clinging to what we no longer need causes suffering
In my meditation practice I’m learning through experience about the transient nature of thoughts & how, if we don’t cling or grasp onto them, they move away on their own but holding on & not wanting things to change causes suffering. I believe you know this.
When we let go & are left with what we truly value, we appreciate everything so much more. And we also create space for new things to enter. Just like overflowing cupboards can’t take any more, so it is with dreams & it’s only by letting go of those dreams you know won’t come true that you make space for new dreams to come into your life. So, it’s time to harvest what’s important & clear the clutter.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we’re in Autumn & the element is Metal. What helps me is to imagine my life being like a rotten apple, I’ll be taking a knife to cut away what’s rotting so I can move forward with what’s vibrant & alive.
Where to start?
I do this by asking myself a series of questions which prompt me to look back over the last months. I change them slightly each year as my life changes, & at first glance there’s quite a long list. I encourage you to work through them, allowing yourself to keep coming back to them over a few weeks so you can get deeper & deeper into the roots.
- What brings happiness & joy to my life? Or what gives my life meaning, inspires me, enriches my life, what do I love?
- What have I achieved/created?
- Which were my favourite moments/when did I feel most alive/how have I stretched myself/what am I most proud of/what surprised me?
- Which things were negative/didn’t work (& why)?
- How did these moments change me?
- What do I value & want to keep?
- And what do I want to let go of/or maybe what am I holding on to which is stopping me from moving forward?
- Is there anything missing in my life (& how will I add it)?
- I’ve answered the questions, now what do I do?
I love this exercise &, as I said above, by coming back to it over a few weeks I dig out a clearer understanding of what’s of value to me & what I want to let go. I like to think of my answers as seeds I’m planting, some will sprout in Spring & some won’t, & until then I’ll be patient & wait to see what emerges.
As I was searching through my catalogue of photos to use for the quotes I was drawn to images of rocks which seem the perfect metaphor for what we’re doing here, because it’s only by stripping away the soil that we expose the beauty of what’s underneath.
Being in the moment
Like many of us, my mind is often occupied by plans for the future or trying to analyse & rewrite the past. When you hang on tight to those things you know in your heart will never come to pass, you’re cutting yourself off from the preciousness of the present moment. The only real thing is what’s happening in this moment, now is all there is, there is nothing but now.
As Eckhart Tolle says, we recognise that ‘Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be.’
This is a challenge for me, & sometimes I feel I should have the phrase ‘be here now’ always within sight. When I struggle, I remind myself constantly of the breath, that many times a minute, without me thinking about it, my inhale draws in nourishment & my exhale lets go of what I don’t need.
The question of grief
The tricky question of grief always rears its head when we talk about letting go. I’ve written about it previously (see my other TCM posts on the link below) so I don’t want to say too much this time. I would, however like to quote these words from Mimi Kuo-Deemer
‘Grief enables us to remember that something of immense meaning & vale remains with us, despite our loss. When we lose those we love, we can be reminded that our time on this earth is precious. Their passing can make us appreciate the limited time we have to live & value moments with loved ones more fully.
Grief wakes us up & can give us strength & determination to make the most out of life. We develop the fierce courage to accept that all things change, & there is no better time than now to appreciate what we have.’
Value & determination are on the other side
When we admit grief into our lives, we find that it creates strength & brings gifts, crystalising what’s most important to us & giving us the opportunity to redirect our energy towards what’s of value.
Resolve is one gift which comes to us on the other side of grief as we recognise what we have & are determined to move forward with it.
These concepts really resonate with me, the loss of our friend reminds me that my time on this earth is precious. Working through the questions brings into sharp focus who & what’s of value to me & what I need to let go of so I can appreciate & make the most of the life I have.
Do you have the determination let go of what’s holding you back so you can do the same?
Thank you for reading & I hope you find what I’ve written & the questions helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I took Inspiration from John Kirkwood’s book, The Way of the Five Seasons, Mimi Kuo Deemer’s book Qigong & the Tai Chi axis, Gail Reichstein, Wood becomes Water, Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life & Emma Peel’s teaching & training.
You can read my other TCM writing here