Seasonal transitions have always been a challenge for me. At their worst, my emotions would consume me, my brain would get foggy, I’d have trouble making decisions. When I was younger, it made me confused, and I could not understand what was wrong with me. I couldn’t see it happening to others, and it began to make me question – WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? As I’ve become older, I’ve understood this recurring pattern to be part of my nature – loving the change that comes with the seasons, but struggling with the passage between. For me, a seasonal ritual provides a few weeks of eating well, taking herbs that focus on different parts of the body appropriate to the season, and incorporating self-care rituals that include meditation, movement, rest, journaling, self-reflection.
Seasonality allows me to let the earth, the planets, the plants be my guide in a more pronounced way. This is real – it’s available to me through my senses - through taste, smell, touch, appearance, and observation. I prefer the real to the google.
Earlier this year, my treasured practices to celebrate seasonal transitions were dislodged from my schedule when we began to hear about a mysterious virus. Normal life was detoured by daily announcements and briefings. My sense of time was lost, and I became disoriented. I experienced information overload and began to question what I believed to be true. My nearly perpetual optimism decided to take some time off. I ignored my treasured seasonal rituals during spring and summer, struggling to find my balance.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the season of autumn is connected with the emotion of grief. It was only recently that I was able to put this label, grief, to the disappearance of familiar connections that I’d never questioned – sitting at Sunday meals with my spouse, our children, my siblings, kissing my grandchildren, hugging my friends, celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday, smiling at strangers. I experienced a deep and profound sense of loss of things that are familiar. There is much study on grief, its stages, how it impacts our body and our spirit. Grief can never be forgotten or reversed, but what we learn through our experience of it can lead us to anger, or hope, or both.
TCM also teaches that the archetype of the season is the alchemist – who is able to distill what is pure and good from what is imperfect and coarse. The alchemist is seen as the defender of virtue, principle and beauty. We can interpret this as an opportunity to reshape the grief that sometimes overtakes us into something of beauty that can soothe us. I’ve found a new love in writing old-fashioned letters, and l am soothed and energized by putting pen to paper. They become small poignant works of art, at least for me.
This season of autumn has allowed me to resume my practices for transition between seasons. I find it fitting that this has coincided with the season of grief. Perhaps you may share my experience, and create your own ritual for this lovely time of the year. I hope that you find something in your own life that brings you hope, happiness and love.