Autumn is my favorite time of the year, perhaps because I grew up in Connecticut surrounded by the splendor of changing leaves. The season’s crisp winds, golden light, and first days of school instill a fresh, buzzing, alive feeling inside. I feel inspired to complete unfinished projects before the holidays, and I love bringing out cuddly winter sweaters, woolly scarves, and cozy tights. Long walks through crinkly leaves remind me of romping in leaf piles on my way home from school as a young girl.
The magic of the season extends deeper than our wardrobes, though, for during these crucial months, nature prepares for her long winter’s rest and teaches us to do the same. It is time to gather, store, organize, and wind down from summer’s high tempo and the relentless forward momentum that modern living usually demands. When the crisp winds of autumn start to blow, we need to tune in to the signal that it’s time to start slowing down. As leaves fall to the ground, they decay and merge with the earth once again. We too are in the process of letting things wither and fall away to gather only what is essential for the winter months. We’re reminded that, eventually, we have to let go of everything in order to die countless little deaths in each of our lifetimes, and this ultimately prepares us for the final letting.
Beginning with the fall equinox on or near September 21 (March 21 in the southern hemisphere), when the dark and the light live in equal measure, the days grow shorter and shorter until the longest night of the year arrives with the winter solstice. In the Jewish tradition Rosh Hashanah calls in the new year, and for Muslims Ramadan is the holiest point in the year, a time to purify and strengthen connection to God. Hindus mark the coming of winter with Narvatri, or “the nine nights of the goddess.”
Just as people of these faiths step out of their lives to pray and honor the larger cycles of life, we too intuitively respond to this season’s changes by spending more time at home with our families and immersed in projects and study. This contracting quality draws us not only into our homes but also deeper into our inner, emotional worlds — a big difference from the playful, carefree exuberance of summer.
Here are some simple ways that you can start to align with and embrace the autumn:
1. Harvest. Now’s the time to look back on the summer and the spring. What were your accomplishments? What dreams came true? What projects came into fruition? What feels full and abundant in your life right now? Really pause, congratulate yourself, and reap the benefits from the past six months. Yay, you!
2. Go Inside. As the days get shorter, it’s time to become more introverted. Autumn is a good season to deepen (or initiate) your meditation practice, spend more time journaling, soak in a hot bath with a good book before bed, and schedule quiet evenings at home. Start saying no more often and start spending more time alone to see how those outward expansions from the past six months translate to your inner spiritual and creative life. What’s essential? What will you take with you into the dreamtime of the winter, and what will you leave behind?
3. Get Warm and Cozy. How you care for your body this season will directly influence how robust your immune system will be as you head into the cold, dark winter. Spend more time cooking at home — especially warm soups (like butternut squash or chili), stews, oatmeal, and stir-fries. Sip on hot cider, ginger tea, or hot water with lemon. Start to replace the raw foods of summer with cooked foods spiced with cinnamon, black pepper, curry powder, onions, garlic, and ginger.
Sara Avant Stover is the author of The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life (New World Library) and a teacher and mentor to women around the world on wellness, spirituality, and lifestyle. Steward of her own bliss, she’s truly happy some days and fakes it till she makes it on others.
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Adapted from the book The Way of the Happy Woman © 2011 by Sara Avant Stover. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com