It is officially fall in this area of the world, the time of year I might love the best, if one were inclined to play favorites.
Maybe I have fondness for this time because I always loved school so much and so celebrated its return, or because the summer can be an overwhelming time of activity for my often-introverted self. Whether it's the leaves or the coolness or the sensation of 'settling in' that happens at this time, there is something magical about the descent into darkness that draws me.
And then perhaps it's just that exactly that I love so much: darkness.
The depths. The underworld. The place of possibility from which all things are born and to which all things go to die. That great unknown revered and honored in both my teaching traditions--Buddhism and Shamanism--as the source of all, and the place where wisdom sleeps, waiting patiently for us to return.
Like Anais Nin once said, "I have no fear of depths but a great fear of shallow living."
I love darkness. I want to plumb the depths of my being and ego of all fear of it--and there has historically been much!--so that I am comfortable with the spaciousness of it at all times, as well as the fall and the decay that leads to it, knowing that all death only suggests new future growth.
We are often conditioned in modern culture to fear the descent, the decay. We are told that things that are 'good' are things that last forever: jobs, relationships, our defined sense of self, even life itself. We rally and rage against the ending of things, against allowing the natural impermanence of existence to cycle through death, birth, growth, and death again, illogically attempting to hang onto everything , hoping to keep it all eternally and losing the possibility of living fully in each moment as we do so.
No more than the trees hesitate to release their tired leaves do I intend to hold onto old definitions of myself that no longer work, to non-functioning work or relationships, to detrimental habits or played out personal practices. In the fall I release these things, allow for the death of them, and in doing so allow the nutrients--the wisdom--of those old things to fertilize and nourish the new growth that will occur in the spring, the rebirth. I seek to utilize the time of darkness to investigate what space is there and trust in that space, and to find pleasure in the cocooned state of me where so much can be in flux.
It is our ego that resists darkness and decay. The ego wants permanence of self and other, and control, predictability. The ego fears the darkness for that is where we lose our attachment to all our definitions, for if we cannot see ourselves what is it that exists? Do we have meaning?
But it is in this state, this place of allowing unknowing and spaciousness to take over that we can truly understand the basis of what being grounded as a human being really means in this world:
We are not the divisions we make between ourselves an others (taller, whiter, poorer, less intelligent, funnier) nor the labels we give ourselves, nor our species definition nor patriotic affiliation nor planetary home base.
We are the universe experiencing itself through a single unique and beautiful perspective, consciousness projected into a single body that is simultaneously 'separate' and yet not separate at all, breathed and supported as it is by the whole that surrounds it.
True happiness--that which goes beyond our often limited experience of fleeting happiness--lays in allowing our self definitions and sense of separation to release. Each fall and winter we are offered this possibility, but so also with each life-threatening illness, each heartbreak, each job loss, each massive decay. Life is continually asking us to soften our separations from 'us' and 'the rest of it', and see that we are, just as a tree, part of a process that is occurring in perfection. That we need not worry about labels so much as about allowing and trusting, and...even that we don't have to worry about!
Soften yourself this winter. Soften yourself this fall. Soften yourself at this moment, taking an inhale and softening your shoulders and facial muscles as you let it go, sinking into being yourself fully right now. There is amazing possibility waiting for us all in the darkness, the place from which we can be born anew without our armor and limitations. We just have to be willing and fearless enough to go there.